My father and I have this thing where, most afternoons, we call each other and see how the day went. The conversation is predictable: An ‘A’ day, not an ‘A’ day, or even worse – “a Day”.
Today was a Day.
My fat pants didn’t fit. I’ve been reduced to pants and skirts with drawstrings and stretchy waistbands.
I teach seniors who have three official school days left.
I had to grocery shop after 5 p.m. without Colby (he is THE best grocery shopping companion of all time).
Two important decisions need to be made pronto. I can tell nearly anyone exactly what I think they should do. I tell them to take care of themselves, to make a list, to prioritize, to think. For me to do these things, well, a totally different story.
My two decisions may directly address the problem of ill fitting pants, though. I need to decide whether or not I’m going to sign up for this triathlon (I’ve been dreaming about it all year) AND if I am going to apply to yoga teacher training (which I’ve wanted to do since I was 10 and saw an article on yoga in my mother’s Redbook).
Both decisions have financial implications for my family. Both events will *hopefully benefit me, my health and my sanity.
This evening will find me grading, folding laundry, taking a creative look at our budget, and making up my mind.
The afternoon sun hits our living room just right, and when I sit down on our dog-pawed and dusty leather couch, I can extend my legs into the spot warmed by sunshine. I did this today.
Eventually I had to get up and do what I do whenever I’m feeling the slightest bit overwhelmed: breakfast for supper.
My diet has been restricted for awhile now, so I know how to find uncured (no preservatives, artificial flavorings, etc.) bacon, but I stumbled onto the best.
Trader Joe’s ‘W’ brand uncured bacon is one of the best things I’ve eaten all year. I had time to kill (read: hash browns in the oven) so I got my cast iron frying pan nice and warm and let the bacon cook gently (it can be done) for a really long time. It probably took about 15-20 minutes per batch. The end result was thick, deeply browned slices of bacon that were to bacon what al dente is to pasta. Not the crispy-break-your-teeth hard of the regular bacon.
I gained approximately 80 lbs during my pregnancy with Colby by eating pounds and pounds and pounds of ribs, so this felt like an old, comfy food sweatshirt. Really. You should see how much I ate before he came down the stairs.
I’ve already wrapped up a little paper towel covered bundle to make tomato and bacon sandwiches out of tomorrow.
This was so much better than traditionally cured bacon that I’m already thinking of my next move.
Early in our courtship, Matt and I found a strong common thread in the importance of family in our lives. Family dinner, for us, was non-negotiable. This happened early enough for me NOT to know how weird he thought my vegetarian chili was, but far enough in to know we were both serious about the idea. Fast forward four years and a million (good, bad and ugly) dinners, and you can find us at 6:30 on any school night; Matt outside planting bulbs, Colby still stinky from baseball practice and upstairs finishing his homework, and mama on the couch, drinking a beer and looking up the recipes. With luck, the table is set before 9 o’clock.
The concept of eating together was easy to embrace. The act of creating a family meal every.damn.night took some time (and many nights of cereal or PBJs) to figure out. Notice I didn’t say master. However, in the cyclone that is modern working life, I’ve been able to shake out some basic rules for family dinner. See Jenny Rosentrach’s 100 Rules of Dinner for the best advice ever (especially rules 24, 26, 49 and 50).
Sunday – Big, green salads all around. Leftovers for Colby and Matt – baked beans and beans and rice. Do give yourself one night a week to get rid of whatever is ready to go in your refrigerator. Try to find one big, unifying ingredient like a loaf of good bread, a soup or ‘whatever’s left in the crisper salads (see above). Let everyone else pick and choose from the contents of the refrigerator. You get a family meal, a clean refrigerator and a clean conscience (nothing’s wasted!).
Monday – Baseball practice. This macaroni and cheese served with three huge heads of broccoli (roasted in oo, s&p).
Don’t be afraid to eat later than everyone else in America. Keep a box of granola bars and a bag of apples handy for the in-between hours. Eating late is better than eating in shifts. Also, don’t feel guilty if this just.isn’t.going.to.work on any given night. Life demands flexibility. If we eat before 7 p.m. it is a miracle comparable to the virgin birth.
Tuesday – Baseball practice. Tacos with all the fixings Colby changes in the car after practice and goes straight to watch his school’s speech competition. It is now buffet style nacho night. Don’t be afraid to change plans.
Wednesday – Baseball game, Rx appointment. Parmesan breadsticks with Portland Pie Rosemary Garlic pizza dough and big salads. Do plan easy meals for busy days.
Thursday – Baseball practice. Faculty meeting. Grill all around: chicken thighs, corn and veg kabobs. Dochoose something to do at the table when everyone is grumpy. I refused to let anyone watch television during dinner because I was SURE it would ruin the whole fucking point of family dinner. I mean, aren’t you supposed to bond? Talk about work and school and life? The short answer is: In your dreams, mama. I’m convinced that watching tv is less damaging than watching mom and dad give each other the stink eye from across the table or demanding an answer to “how was your day” from a surly teenager. Last summer we watched The Walking Dead on Netflix. Now we’re watching X-Files. If we feel like talking, we talk over it. If not, we bond over our shared disgust at Scully’s refusal to believe. Also, delegate. Matt grills, I bake.
Friday – Baseball practice. Buttered and toasted English Muffins and poached eggs with fruit. That chardonnay I’ve been eying all week. Don’t plan a difficult meal for a Friday night. You work, right? Don’t do this to yourself. End your week nice and easy and plan a beverage pairing.
Saturday – Drum lessons and travel soccer try-outs. Take out. Put take-out on the menu. This usually happens on game days for us, but I’m sick of take-out pizza and if I want anything else I would have to drive. So – take out day is Saturday this week.
This meant-for-Monday-night post is finally ready for you. Have a great week, enjoy the sunshine and take it easy.
Colby so rarely gets sick that I tend to give him one preemptive day “off” per school year. Usually this comes when he is exhausted or overwhelmed. This year, though, the boy is sick.
He was out-of-sorts toward the end of last week and I made the executive decision to skip our annual extended family Christmas party. By Sunday night he was sporting cheeks redder than Rudolph’s nose. We parked him on the couch for the night with the ubiquitous puke bucket, a water bottle, and a towel. Monday morning brought a temperature of 101.
He’s sick enough to accept the 2 ibuprofen he would normally scoff at (because according to him, REAL men deal with their headaches, they don’t take medicine!) and allow me to put Vaporub on his chest.
We’re into day #2 and the fever is still going strong. His doctor (who is, may I add, the best pediatrician of all time) gave us a timeline of 8-10 days before he’s 100%. I secretly wished he had just had strep so I could give him some antibiotics and we could get back to business.
While at the doctor’s office, my little boy weighed in at a whopping 130 lbs and stood 5’6. While I so badly want him to feel better, there is something about being allowed to mother him, even when he takes up the entire length of the couch, that is so, well, nice.
Stay healthy out there. If you or your family members do fall prey to what we’ve dubbed ‘the plague’ (lower case plague not uppercase Plague), I suggest you whip up a big pot of Jenny Rosenstrach’s Chicken Soup with Orzo. You can find the recipe in her book Dinner: A Love Story.
All members of your family, sick and healthy, will thank you. AND you will get a chicken soup facial while you cook. AND you have an excuse to have a glass of white wine while you are cooking since the recipe actually calls for it. But please, take my advice here. Do not, under any circumstances, omit the parmesan rind. This advice can go for nearly any brothy soup. If you don’t have a rind, just cut off the driest chunk of parm you have and chuck it in when you add the broth.
Have a great day all. Between the dog that peed on my bed last night and a sick kid — I feel the need to disinfect my entire house while my red-faced boy sleeps on the couch.
Inspired by Catherine Newman’s chicktons, I set out to make a quick, tasty, wholesome supper for both Colby and myself. It was a total win, and I assure you that all experiments in my kitchen do not end up as wins.
From Newman’s recipe, I omitted the garlic powder (didn’t have any) and used onion powder instead. I used her stove top method instead of the oven, though I’m tempted to try the oven for a crunchier, snackier snack. Yum. Wanting a one-bowl meal, I cubed up a few day-old slices of this delicious roasted garlic rustic loaf we get at our local grocery. Colby stirred them around a hot cast iron skillet with some olive oil until he got bored. Then we took them off direct heat to finish cooking on their own. In ten years when he regains his attention span I’ll charge him to cook this meal on his own. Until then, it’s a family affair. Roasted Chickpea Panzanella
(serves two, but can be easily adjusted for more)
1 can organic chickpeas (props to you if you cook your own)
salt and pepper
good olive oil
garlic or onion powder or spices of your choice
Rinse and dry chickpeas (spread over dish towel or paper towel while heating OO). Heat OO in dutch oven, cast iron pan, or heavy-bottomed pan. Add chickpeas – let them hang out a bit before you start stirring them around. Liberally salt and pepper. Toss around the pan a good while till they look crispy and crunchy. Add more salt if needed (kosher or coarse is a good addition). Spread in single layer on paper towel to cool.
Meanwhile, add more OO to pot. Dice a few slices of good, day-old bread and add to hot oil. Toss around till desired crustiness. Take off heat and leave on stove.
Prepare two large bowls. Add whatever fresh, clean produce you have. We went with broccoli, lettuce, a huge tomato a cucumber and a bunch of green onions. Divide bread and chickpeas between the bowls (depending on taste you may have some leftover chickpeas to snack on). Throw a sprinkle of feta or a few crumbles of goat cheese on. Scour the refrigerator for anything that looks good.
Now, on the topic of dressing. This really doesn’t need any, but will accept whatever you put on it, which is a good quality in a salad for family eating, I think. My favorite, though, is to drizzle the salad with a mixture of lemon juice, olive oil, and salt and pepper. Colby is happy to drown it in Wishbone Italian dressing.
Make it. Love it. Catch your kids sneaking leftover roasted chickpeas after they tell you repeatedly that they HATE chickpeas. And hippie food.