Sometimes lessons come in unexpected places.  Actually, that is more often the case than not.  On Friday evening, I had a few little lessons in a meal for my brother-in law’s birthday.

1) Quality counts

If Fast Food Nation didn’t scare you into thinking twice about what you put in your mouth, well, I both envy and fear for you.  Personally, I get a little crazy about food stuff sometimes, especially meat.  (BTW, did you read this?  Hilarious.) So we just have a lot less of better quality meat.  That being said, I don’t mind paying a premium for grass-fed filets.  And, yes, they are worth it.  If only for my peace of mind, but additionally, the flavor is really fabulous.

2) Waiting has its rewards.

When I first opened the wine I chose for this evening, it was dry.  The kind where you can imagine your tongue shriveling as you take a drink dry.  But I decanted and waited. And it was lovely.  Cranberry red with a touch of violet.  Notes of cherry, woodsy vanilla, and some allspice.  The fruit and tannins were subtle, dark fruits, cocoa bean.  Both deep and light, which sounds contradictive, but that’s how it came across.  The 2010 Robert Mondavi Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon was a great pairing with filets and mushrooms.  It is common for a young Cab to need  little time out of the bottle, so keep that in mind when you plan on opening one.

3)  Just Enjoy It

I am really bad about, or maybe really good about delay of gratification.  I save that lotion for a special occasion.  But then I wind up throwing out ¾ of the bottle because it has turned. I don’t put on a dress I love because it isn’t the right occasion.  And I found I’ve only worn it a few times and it’s out of style. I judiciously measure the custard in an éclair to make sure that there is enough for every bite.  But then I get to the end, and there is too much custard for the petit choux.  Now, that sounds like I eat éclairs all if the time.  I haven’t had one in years.  But tonight, that is what my BIL wanted so that is what we had.  And I realized a pattern.  Frugality and measure has its place and its merit.  But so does enjoying something while you can.  I think I’ll use my “special” shampoo today.

4)  You need to be in control 

When having a dinner party, we will often feed and bathe the kids, get them quasi-settled and then have dinner around 8.  But when we have company staying with us, the kids sleep in the same room.  When we have more company, they sleep in our room.  After all, they generally end up there at some point in the night anyway.  The added excitement and partner-in-crime factor does not bode well.  And when I am really D-O-N-E for the day, I don’t always respond well.  My husband can somehow ignore the direct disobedience when convenient; I cannot.  As most couples do, we fall into “good cop, bad cop” sometimes.  So after many reminders I went into my room with a glass of wine and sat on the floor being “bad cop” until they settled down.  Generally, I slip into mother-martyrdom, an inner dialogue filled with “always” and “nevers.”  I silently fume and fuss and just want them to listen and GO TO SLEEP.  ( I spared you the expletive.)

5)  You are not in control

Remember that glass of wine?  I thought twice about bringing it into my room.  After all, we recently redid the room and bought a white duvet.  When they were finally slipping into dreamland, I leaned down to kiss my bunny’s cheek, JUST as she decided to rollover.  The duvet JUST caught the base of the wineglass and splashed the wine on the WHITE sheets and duvet.  Which meant that I had to quickly remove the cover to spray it with stain stuff.  Which meant I had to awaken the just-drifting cherubs.  Which meant I needed another glass of wine.   So much for taking control of the situation.

So , perhaps the bigger lesson, from all of these mini-lessons, is that sometimes, you need to let go, stop trying to control everything, and enjoy yourself.  You know the phrase about being bottled up?  The same vivacious and friendly spirit that I love in my children, makes it hard for them to settle down sometimes.  My husband’s ability to ignore some things and enjoy himself is as enviable as it is infuriating.  It is also one of the reasons I fell in love with him.  The firm tannins and bold flavors you need for a steak, can be a little harsh just out of the bottle.  But when you JUST WAIT, it is exactly what you want with a filet.  It is a lesson I’ve learned before as written about in Time to Breathe, and the evening was a reminder to give the same grace and space to my husband and my children.

*{Disclosure: I was provided with this wines from PR Firm, Folsom & Associates. All statements and opinions expressed in this article are my own.}