Dinners This Week

In Ongoing Weird Shortages news: I cannot find Diet Rite (my mother-in-law’s preferred beverage) anywhere, and finally had to mail order it from WalMart. Orders for Lunchables, according to my grocery store, are no longer being filled by the distributor. When I ordered more Lysol from Target, there was a one-bottle-per-customer limit on the order. 

Have you come upon any weird little shortages? I can’t even really work up a good froth of worry about this stuff right now. I just feel tired. 

But! Meal planning waits for no woman.

This week is a weird week. I have two back-to-back nights of easy/crockpot meals. One night, my in-laws will be eating with friends. And then they are leaving Thursday, to return again at a currently unknown date for a currently unknown duration. Thursday is also Yom Kippur, but I don’t think we will be doing anything special for the holiday. We ate literally ZERO of the meals I had planned for last week, which is fine, and I guess I will put a couple of them back on the meal plan for this week. I feel kind of tapped out, honestly. But also not in the mood for takeout. But ALSO very hungry. Good times.

Let’s at least TRY to plan some meals for this week.

Dinners for the Week of September 13-20, Supposedly

  • Crockpot Chicken TacosGuys, I spotted this packet of Old El Paso seasoning at the grocery store when I was looking for taco seasoning… and it has a recipe for slow cooker chicken tacos, using this very spice packet and a can of enchilada sauce. And an onion. Seems like it doesn’t get easier than that??? I’ve always been envious of simple slow cooker recipes like “throw some chicken breasts and a jar of salsa in the crockpot and voila! Dinner!” because I don’t like tomatoes. But this sounds just as simple???? We’ll see if it’s edible.
  • Greek Chicken Chopped SaladThis sounds fresh and yummy. And we bought a LOT of feta from Costco so I need to find creative ways to use it. 
  • Lebanese Chicken with Charred Cauliflower: This is one of the meals I did not make last week. But I do have a head of cauliflower that needs to be eaten.
  • Steak and Potato Skewers with Rosemary Chimichurri: The steak is in the freezer, so it will keep indefinitely… but I do have peppers to deal with. Maybe I will roll them into one of the other meals and save the steak for… later. But what to do with the potatoes?
  • Chili: The return of football season makes me crave chili. Maybe we’ll have it Sunday.
  • Takeout? Leftovers, if there are any?: Any leftovers lately – and we’ve had a lot because I don’t know how to calibrate recipes appropriately for two extra people – have gone down the disposal. Well, I’ve eaten some of them, but I am only one person. But maybe I will force people to eat them by putting them on the meal plan. We shall see.

Digital Grouse

Technology and I are not getting along.

My WordPress blog – which I have had since 2009 (am v. old) – is now suddenly not working correctly. The platform claims that I am trying to access WordPress via an unsupported browser, but when I click on the list of supported browsers, the link does not work. If I google which browsers support/are supported by WordPress, I am assured that Safari, which I use, is in fact fully supported. Do I have to update it or something? Maybe. But that opens a whole other can of worms wherein my computer claims it has no memory left and then I spent 80 hours trying to clear everything off of my hard drive even though the portion of the bar graph that is taking up the most memory is invisible stuff I cannot access or erase.

Yes, in fact, I DO feel very unsupported. (For this post, I have switched to Chrome, which I dislike for unknown but very strongly felt reasons.)

While we’re badmouthing WordPress – which I don’t WANT to do; I have been happy with it these long years – it is also doing a thing where I will create a post and then suddenly it says there has been an unexpected error and I cannot access the post nor edit it. There is no further information offered; none of the buttons next to this message go anywhere or do anything. Well. This finally justifies my long habit of writing posts in Word first, and then copy/paste-ing them into my blog – and I have not lost any content as of yet. But it is STILL ANNOYING.

That’s all I get: “unexpected.” And yet it keeps happening… so… at what point does it become expected?

On to the next grouse: There is too much spam. Many of my blog followers are spam accounts. I delete them and they sign right back up. Why? Why? What are you getting out of following my blog, moneybiz2020 and Buy CBD Oils UK?

I mean, Dickie B looks super nice but his email address, and, frankly, the fact that he is subscribed to my particular blog, leads me to believe he is NOT A REAL HUMAN.

Bots are constantly following my Instagram account, too. They are all the same: names like “the_agile_walrus893” and then there’s a profile image of a beautiful young woman who has a very American-Sitcom-Character-type name and lists her Totally Normal City and her astrological sign and something Totally Normal (umbrella lover! anorak collecter! beet sniffer!) about her. And then the account is filled with dozens of exotic travel photos – featuring zero people who look remotely similar to the woman pictured in the profile – and the photo captions are always emojis. And the bots follow lots of people! And lots of people follow the bot accounts! And I delete/block them every time I see them but ARRRRGGGGHHHH. Why? WHY? What in the name of Jeff Bezos are the bots getting out of these interactions?????????

This is not a real human. Right? RIGHT?
Why do these bots have SO MANY followers??? Are they all just following each other? And if so, WHY?

And I am getting TONS of spam emails lately, too. Not just the normal emails from Athleta and my local library and Barnes & Noble – the ones I signed up for, which nonetheless sometimes feel like spam. But emails from websites I definitely did not visit nor give my information to. Like GQ Magazine. Or some life insurance company I may have requested a quote from once, via telephone, a literal DECADE ago. Clicking unsubscribe, of course, does NOTHING. The emails keep coming.

I don’t have a photo of my inbox because I think you might faint if you see the number of unread emails I have.

Somehow I accidentally clicked the Apple TV app on my computer and now it refuses to leave. I have regular quit. I have force quit. I have turned my computer off and on again. It is always in the background, doing… whatever it is doing. (Something nefarious, I’m sure.)

Likewise with Adobe Flash Player. It constantly pops up on my desktop even though I SWEAR I have deleted it from my hard drive multiple times. It’s hiding somewhere deep in my computer, though, and I cannot root it out, and it keeps popping up and telling me to update.

Speaking of updates: My password manager asks me to update it weekly. At least. HOW does it require so many updates? HOW? And why? Just pick a version and stick with it! For a month, at least! (Edited to add: After I drafted this and tried to shut down my computer, the password manager asked me to update it again. It reads my blog, y’all. SIGH. I did it, but we’ll see how long it lasts.)

Last grouse (at least, for today): when I go to the Instagram website via my laptop, it quite frequently pretends as though I have asked it to display something mythical and non-existent. I am simply typing “Instagram.com” in the browser and hitting enter so please do not pretend like this a site that does not exist.

SOMETHING’S BROKEN, ALL RIGHT. Also, I love how it says “go back to instagram” as though I am not already there.

If I didn’t use technology every second of every day, I would say goodbye so fast

Actual grouse, whose incredulity mimics my feelings exactly. (image from Wisconsin Dept. of Natural Resources)

Thank you, first of all, for your kind words; my mother-in-law made it through surgery with flying colors and we will know more about next steps soon. 

Are you up for talking about the pandemic a bit? Cases are rising and school is back in session and, while it never went away, not by a long shot, the topic of COVID is much more front-and-center in my brain space lately.

The other day, when I was posting about our weekend activities, I had a moment of panic: we are doing TOO MUCH. We are still in a pandemic, and we are acting as though we are not!

I talked it through with my husband and we both looked at each other with fearful eyes, but ultimately agreed that this is where we are. We are still wearing masks in public spaces. We are still limiting our interactions with other people – outdoors, mainly people we know and believe to be handling COVID the way we are. We are still saying no to things that seem “unsafe.”

And yet. We are doing SO MUCH.

Our lives are nowhere near the same as they once were. But we are doing so much more than last year. I don’t know if this is the right way to do things. I don’t think we are being completely devil-may-care about the whole thing, but I do recognize that we are expanding our bubble. No – we no longer have “a bubble.” And that’s a little unsteadying. Part of me thinks we should keep as tight a lid on things as we ever did, considering Carla is still unvaccinated. But the other part of me believes that COVID is now a part of our lives, going forward, forevermore. And while I feel like we are still being prudent, I also feel like we are trying to find a way to live our lives in this new way. 

Ugh. I hate it when people say “we’re just trying to live our lives” or “we’re just learning how to live with COVID.” Because that so often is accompanied by behaviors that I find appalling. And maybe you find my increased activities appalling! And maybe they are! Heavy, bewildered sigh.

And UGH. It is so hard. Because there is no One Right Way, and I know that I am being less stringent than some (who have good, valid reasons to be stringent!) and more stringent than others (who are probably feeling some less-restrictive version of my own “we are trying to find a way to live our lives”!). So if you read my posts with distaste, please know that I hear you, and I’m sorry if I am disappointing you, and I have felt that way in the past and in the current time and I really have no idea what the “right” thing is. 

Not exposing other people, of course, is at the top of the list. And Carla goes to school, so I feel anxious right there about the potential of infecting others. But also… when we hang out with other kids, they already go to her school. And I know that many of her classmates (not to mention many, many of the students who are in her grade, or other grades at the same school) are nowhere near as careful as we are. But that doesn’t mean we should be incautious! Argggggghhhh! Circles of pandemic worrying! 

Anyway, I thought I would post about Where We Are in the Pandemic Currently, considering I used to post pandemic-related things more frequently, and it’s been awhile. Here’s what I’ve got for you. 

My Target is looking very bare these days. An acquaintance mentioned that toilet paper is going to be in short supply again, and I haven’t bought any toilet paper for myself (mainly because I have a Costco toilet paper in the guest room closet, purchased last fall when toilet paper seemed more abundant but I was less confident about the duration of said abundance). But I have noticed occasional rolling shortages. The big one, for me, was when my grocery store was out of my preferred brand of sriracha  for three weeks in a row… and then my target was also out of it… and then when I mentioned it casually to a stocker at my grocery store, he shrugged and said, “Yeah, we keep ordering it and it keeps not coming.” So I did order a BUNCH of sriracha and now I am well-stocked and of course my grocery store now has plenty of sriracha on the shelves. That is a desert island food for me; I use sriracha the way most people use salt; I could certainly live without it if I HAD TO, but I prefer not to thankyouverymuch.

Speaking of shortages: my grocery store was COMPLETELY OUT of boneless skinless chicken breast. Boneless skinless chicken anything, in fact. As BSCB is a staple of my family’s diet, I was quite miffed by this turn of events. 

* * *

This past July, Carla and I flew on an airplane (four airplanes, to be technical) to visit my parents. As I am sure you understand, my husband and I made the decision to risk putting our unvaccinated child on an airplane after much discussion and weighing of various risks. My husband did not join us; one reason was work and another reason was that HE is not ready to get on an airplane yet, so I think you will understand also that I was Very Jumpy about traveling. 

Our plan for the air travel was this: Double mask on the plane and in the airport. Stay away from crowds if at all possible in the airport. Eat and drink only FAR away from other people. Eat and drink as little as possible on the plane. 

(Our plan for being with my parents: No eating in restaurants, no crowds. Very simple to stick with because they live in the literal middle of nowhere.)

We did okay, I think. We didn’t really eat anything on the way THERE; the flight times worked out that we ate breakfast before we left, and then ate a very early dinner when we arrived. Carla is a champion traveler and a champion masker. And the airport in which we had a layover had an outdoor space! So we spent our time between flights outside. Still masked, because there were a decent number of people out there, but we technically could have removed our masks and been okay, which made it feel better.

On the way HOME, our departure airport also had an outdoor space. We had arrived two hours early, as recommended, but it is a small airport and we have TSA pre-check, so we got through security in about five minutes. So we sat outside for ninety minutes, enjoying a mostly-empty space (it was raining lightly, which kept other people indoors), and eating some snacks. 

But once it got close to time to board, we went inside. And. Sigh. Even though masks are REQUIRED, so many people were either wearing them below their chins or just not wearing them at all. 

There was a college football team on our flight. And SO MANY OF THEM just didn’t wear a mask. 

When you are flying, the flight attendants have added a little “Masks are required by the FAA” spiel to their pre-flight commentary. On the flight with the college football team, the flight attendant looked especially stern as she recited the rules – “you must wear a mask over your nose and mouth” – but STILL I could see at least one footballer sitting there mask free. And OF COURSE I don’t know his life; maybe he has a legit reason to be going without a mask. But I meanly wondered whether he is just aware that he is an enormous, intimidating football beast of a man and is pretty sure no one is going to press him to do anything he doesn’t want to. Harrumph. 

(My coping thought was that, of ALL people, a college football team must SURELY be vaccinated.) 

We did not pay for first class seats, so I sat in the middle seat on all flights while Carla got the window. I felt this gave her at least a LITTLE separation from all the germy strangers. On our very last (three-hour) flight, the woman next to me was… not exactly mask-averse, but certainly mask-relaxed. She knew the person in the middle seat in the row in front of us, and would occasionally chat at him, pulling her mask down to do so. She ordered a drink and snacks when the flight attendants came around and did not pull her mask up in between bites/sips (which is what I did, and instructed Carla to do – although she ate a few Hi-Chew and that was it). And then she pulled out a snack pack she’d brought. And then just didn’t put her mask on at all. 

I fretted and fretted and wrote and revised a million little scripts in my head, trying to come up with the perfect, friendly, non-judgmental way to ask her to put her mask back on AS REQUIRED BY LAW. Before I could say anything, she asked me if I could turn on her overhead light for her and that was my chance! So I said, trying to smile brightly behind my masks, “Would you mind putting your mask back on? My daughter isn’t vaccinated.” It was not the perfectly scripted and breezily-stated request I wanted to make, but we do what we can with the tools we have, and my tools are anxiety and blurting. Thankfully, she did so without comment and I turned on her light and she kept her mask on for the rest of the flight. 

* * *

A good friend and his spouse got COVID, even though they are both vaccinated. Fortunately, they recovered quickly and fully. We know that the vaccine is not 100% effective; what we are aiming for is to keep people out of the hospital/alive, not to eradicate COVID completely. And yet it is still scary. 

* * *

Some friends recently invited us for dinner. The parents are fully vaccinated, but the kids are not (they are Carla’s age). Before visiting, my husband and I fretted over how to address mask-wearing. We finally settled on saying something like, “We have been having all the kids wear masks when Carla has playdates, but the grownups have been going mask free” when we  responded with our delighted, “yes, we’d love to see you.” But then they replied, “Oh, our kids are terrible at wearing masks… we can try to force them to keep one on while you’re here if you prefer…” My husband wanted me to respond that yes, we DO prefer. But ugh. I felt really squicky about that because 1) they had invited us to THEIR house, and it feels really weird to demand that people do something new/different in their own house and 2) if their kids aren’t used to wearing masks, would they even be able to do so effectively? and 3) UGGGGHHHHHHH. The whole thing is SO AWKWARD. 

We ended up making Carla wear a mask in their house, and then encouraging all of the kids to play outdoors. Everything worked out okay. But it all felt So Fraught. 

* * *

Carla and I had doctor’s and dentist’s appointments a few weeks ago. One doctor’s office has, in big letters on the door, a sign saying, “MASKS REQUIRED” and then below that in medium letters, “Because we are a healthcare facility, the CDC guidance says everyone should wear a mask regardless of vaccination status.” 

Carla and I opened that door, went into the waiting room, and stopped… because two patients were sitting there without masks on at all. Both facing the door into the exam rooms which also featured the same sign.

We waited in the hall. And then when the doctor asked if Carla wanted to wait for me in the waiting room, I said, “My daughter is unvaccinated. Is there someplace she can sit where she doesn’t have to be around other people?” and the doctor said of course and let Carla sit inside the exam suite. She cringed when I asked and said, “We have all these signs!” But of course if you don’t enforce the rules, the people who don’t want to follow them AREN’T GOING TO, see above Re: college football player.

When I had to return to this same doctor’s office last week, another person was maskless in the waiting room. This time, I said something passive aggressive – like, “Oh, I’ll just wait outside while people aren’t wearing masks” – and when I was called back for my appointment, the unmasked person had put a mask on.

* * *

Carla’s school is requiring masks of ALL people in her school this coming year. I am so relieved. Even though most (though, as we discovered during the same announcement, not all) of the teachers and staff are vaccinated, I just feel better knowing that everyone is wearing masks. (Some parents complained that vaccinated teachers/staff have to wear masks around our unvaccinated children. To which I give a long, weary sigh.)

The class sizes are larger than they were last year (Carla’s grade had a maximum of ten kids in each classroom last year, for instance, and two of those kids were remote), but they are as large as they were originally. They are enforcing three-foot distancing. Kids eat in classrooms as they did last year, behind three-sided shields. There are cohorts, and the scheduling of non-core classes (language, PE, music, art) has been rearranged to limit “mixing” of those cohorts. We know from last year that if we need to go remote (please please please no), we can do so fairly easily. And everyone is wearing masks.

I am very, very, very grateful that we chose to send Carla to this particular school and that we have the ability to continue to send her there, and I am very, very, very aware of what a privilege it is to do so.

* * *

A dear friend – one who was one of the two families we got together with regularly last year – has invited us to a special birthday event… and my husband and I want to decline, because it is so far removed from our particular comfort zone. (Which, as I have said, is much expanded from last year!) But this event involves multiple people together in a vehicle, and multiple people together inside a restaurant, and we are just not comfortable. It is especially hard/weird because our families were so aligned last year on COVID protocols… and now somehow we are not. It is so hard to say no in this instance and blame it on COVID! I think they will understand, because they are wonderful people, but I also think their feelings will be hurt. ARRRGGGGHHHH.

* * *

think I am seeing an uptick in mask-wearing in public spaces. When the mask mandate in my state expired earlier this year, I was often the only person wearing a mask at the grocery store. (I went mask-free for about three stores, and then immediately went back to wearing a mask in public spaces.) Now, the number of masked customers is MUCH higher. Which is a relief. 

* * *

A person who lives in a very COVID-relaxed state invited us to visit. When we declined, this person reacted in a way that made me think they were very put out by our response. 

In almost the same breath, this person – not a medical expert in any way – advised that we not vaccinate Carla. Sigh of exhaustion. 

* * *

As you are, I’m sure, I am so very tired of dealing with all this. 

We are having an especially long weekend, what with Rosh Hashanah following Labor Day. That’s just one thing I am feeling thankful for, this morning. I am also thankful for the beautiful weather – sunny and warm-but-not-hot, with that characteristic rim of cold on the edge of the breeze that signifies the beginning of fall. We have had a lovely weekend so far – I saw a dear friend on Saturday for my second-since-the-pandemic-began attempt at dining at a restaurant (we ate outside and sat at a table that was blissfully distant from any other diners), Carla stayed home with a babysitter (a vaccinated student at Carla’s school who was one of her counselors at camp this year) and had a blast, and then the three of us went to a friend’s house for (outdoor) dinner, which was so so lovely. (This particular friend is an amazing cook.) (Also I still feel compelled to note that everyone is vaccinated except the kids, all of whom attend the same school anyway.) I am thankful that I got to go to a salon and have a professional dye my hair for me, and that she also kindly offered to trim my single, enormous white eyebrow hair. My husband is no longer on call as of this morning, for which I am DEEPLY grateful. And tomorrow, Carla and I will have the house to ourselves as my mother-in-law undergoes surgery. I am grateful for the alone time, but I am also grateful that my mother-in-law is getting such quick treatment. If you can spare some good thoughts for her, please do; we are all expecting the best, including her doctors, but obviously we are all also QUITE ANXIOUS. 

I am grateful, but anxious. While it felt so wonderful to see friends and do “normal” things this weekend, I still get this breathless giddy feeling of getting away with something. And then comes the worry that we are pushing too far, doing too much. I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know. 

I am grateful that we can provide a home base for my in-laws while they are in town, that we can offer comfort and love and support while my mother-in-law is preparing for surgery and recovering from surgery and determining next steps. But I am not accustomed to extra people in my home. I feel like all I do is vacuum and wash dishes and scrub counters and tidy and unload the dishwasher and prepare meals and clean up after meals. I cannot tell you how many times I have buffed the stainless steel into a mirror sheen this past week.  Why a gleaming refrigerator should do anything to soothe my anxiety is beyond my powers of comprehension. My mother-in-law, bless her, always offers to help with food prep and clean up. But even as I want help, I DON’T; I want to do it my way, and we have very different ways of doing things and I feel like I get (gentle, well-meaning) push back when I try to explain my preferences. And beggars can’t be choosers, right? Why should I even have preferences when the help is being offered? 

I am trying – really, really trying – to be laid back, to go with the flow, even though those things are contrary to my nature. Even though my means of restoring equilibrium is to be alone with my thoughts for long hours. Right now – with Carla crafting ten feet away, her audiobook playing another endless round of Socks by Beverly Clearly – is as close to “alone” as I can get these days.   

And, of all people, this period in our life affects me least. Everyone is worried, everyone is stressed. My in-laws are living out of their suitcases, worrying about my mother-in-law. My husband has been working nonstop for the past seven days; he too is an introvert who needs time alone; and this is his mother who is undergoing surgery and perhaps other adjuvant therapies. My daughter, accustomed to our quiet, three-person home, has had her routine – freshly readjusted, now that school has begun – upended yet again, and she too is worried about her beloved grandmother. My father-in-law was set for knee surgery when my mother-in-law’s health needs popped up; he’s climbing up and down our stairs every day on a bum knee, having to stuff his own pain and health concerns down while he worries about his wife of fifty years. 

Well. I am trying to be a good host, a good daughter-in-law. Trying to be welcoming, and warm, and doing what I can to make the house comfortable and to address my family’s needs. 

The main thing I have control over is food. Which brings us to dinners this week. 

THANK YOU, by the way, for all your suggestions about what to feed my houseguests. I have been asking literally everyone this past week what they serve to houseguests, and I have discovered two things: 1. Talking about food is, for me, endlessly fascinating. 2. It is very hard to turn wonderful, delicious-sounding suggestions into usable options for my particular family. (My in-laws don’t really eat pasta; I hate tomatoes; my husband and his whole family don’t really think of soup as a meal.) 

I still LOVE to hear suggestions, though. And want to visit ALL OF YOU so that you will make me your delicious houseguest meals. Please and thank you.

Here’s what I’ve come up with for this week. 

Dinners for the Week of September 6-12

Hamburgers: For Labor Day. Burgers are easy and everyone will eat them. My husband wanted potato salad from the grocery store, so I got some. I have the ingredients for my favorite chickpea salad, which I prefer to potato salad, and may or may not make it for myself (and whomever else wants it). We have no dessert, but I could whip one up if necessary; I even have a box of brownie mix if it comes to that. (I happen to love brownies from a mix.)

Lebanese Chicken with Charred Cauliflower: I may attempt to make this for the family, although I tend to avoid experimenting with new recipes on my poor unsuspecting in-laws. It sounds yummy and fairly easy, and I am fueled by Nicole’s love of cauliflower to eat more of it.

Steak and Potato Skewers with Rosemary Chimichurri: I made this once before and it was yummy (and surprisingly easy). 

Charcuterie Board: These are SO fun to put together and I tested the idea with the family and everyone was receptive. I have happy anticipation at the prospect of searching through the grocery store for fun little treatsies to include on the board.

TAKEOUT. God bless all the restaurants that offer wide ranging options and delicious food.

What are you eating for dinner this week? 

Everything continues to grow more terrible and worrisome in the world and I hope you and your loved ones are safe, healthy, and coping okay. 

Here, I am dealing with my own very-small-in-the-grand-scheme frets and stresses, including, as always, what to feed my family.

I had dinners for the week all planned out as of LAST MONDAY and was feeling very smug about the whole thing… but now my in-laws are coming for an unspecified amount of time, and they are staying with us, and so that whole list is OUT THE WINDOW. For one thing, I do not want to experiment with new dishes when it not just my very forgiving, very agreeable husband who is trying them with me. For another, having guests is so stressful that I want EASY and prep-ahead-able. 

I have not come up with much, let me tell you. I think my plan is going to be “mainly takeout.” But there are a couple of nights where that is just not possible, because we have Evening Commitments. 

Oh, I guess now I am going to do some fretting.

My husband asked his parents if there were any things we could get at the grocery store, to have for them to eat while they’re here. They requested milk and cereal, which are obviously things I am happy to provide… But… what else??? What do they eat for lunch??? I feel like I have purchased deli meat in the past, so that they could have sandwiches, and it ended up going bad and I had to throw it away. But I think they were staying at a hotel, which makes it much easier to go grab lunch elsewhere. I don’t know if they will be meeting friends for lunch while they are here (which ACK is a Whole Other Topic that makes me very nervous, because I think we all have very different ideas of what it means to “be careful” during a pandemic ACK ACK ACK), or if they just assume that we will have lunch meat in the fridge? But we don’t EAT lunch meat. Why am I spending an entire paragraph fretting about lunch meat? Should I just go get some ham and turkey and plan to throw it out? Probably the cost would be worth ridding myself of this particular anxiety. 

Currently, the plan is that my in-laws will be leaving the day before Labor Day, which is two days before Rosh Hashanah, so ostensibly I do not have to plan Labor Day/Rosh Hashanah meals for them. BUT they are here for health reasons, and so it’s possible that they will change their departure date. Which means I may have to plan Special Meals at the last minute. Obviously, I do not want to do that. I fretted about the Labor Day point to my husband, and he said, “hotdogs and hamburgers, done” and that made me feel MUCH better. So I guess Labor Day is taken care of. I do not even KNOW what to make for Rosh Hashanah, because I am not Jewish. I suppose I could make a brisket, but I don’t like brisket, nor do I know how to cook one. Okay. I am going to think about this later. 

While I am glad that we can host my in-laws while they are dealing with the health stuff, and obviously volunteered to have them come stay with us, I am still stressed about it. Having extra people in my space is never easy. And it has gotten LESS easy since the pandemic. 

Also did I mention that this is a Call Week? Which means my husband will be working longer and more unpredictable hours? 

Well. We do what we can. 

Dinners for the Week of August 30-September 5

  • Mahi Mahi in Lemon Garlic Cream Sauce with Sautéed Zucchini: This is a new-to-me recipe, but it’s one my husband sounded interested in, so I put it immediately on the list.
  • Tacos: This was Carla’s request for Tuesday, and I need an easy meal for Tuesday, and my in-laws seem fine with tacos, so done and done.
  • Crockpot BBQ Pork Tenderloin with Coleslaw and Roasted Potatoes: This is for soccer night, when Carla has practice during the dinner hour. I got some slider buns for the people in my family who like sandwiches (not me), and some pre-shredded cabbage, and some baby red potatoes. Easy to put together, and the potatoes can roast while we put Carla to bed. 
  • Grilled Pork Chops with Some Sort of Vegetable: Pork chops were on sale. I will deal with the vegetable later. Probably corn on the cob or zucchini. I do need to go refill our propane tank for the grill, though.
  • Takeout: Bless all those hardworking people in the restaurant industry. I plan to lean on their services a LOT this week. 

I am also going to make my favorite plum cake at some point this week. Because we haven’t had it this summer, and I feel like it is a quintessential summer food, and because cake is such a soothing, comforting food.

What are you eating this week, Internet? And what are the go-to meals you feel houseguests? 

My husband and I have a general plan to look for a new house sometime in the next couple of years. The thing is, there’s no REAL reason to leave this house. It’s a good size for three people (even if it feels MUCH too small for all our stuff), it’s got everything we need (three bedrooms, two office spaces, a laundry room, a non-creepy basement), it’s close to Carla’s school and my husband’s offices, and, most important, it’s in a lovely neighborhood with lovely neighbors who all have dogs and who are all extremely generous with their time (and their dogs’ time). 

And yet sometimes we do dream about finding The Perfect House, the one with allllllll the things we love about our current house and all the things that would make it so much better. (Recognizing, of course, that owning a home at all is a privilege and having enough space for our small family is a luxury that many, many people do not have.)

One of my biggest wishes for a new house would be a real, honest-to-goodness mudroom. Right now, all we have is a tiny square between the garage and the kitchen.

It has a small closet (although the door no longer works) and that’s it. Our shoes and bags and coats are always spilling out of it. My husband stores his work satchel on the floor of the kitchen because it doesn’t fit in the entry space. My daughter’s backpack is usually on the floor as well. There’s no space for grocery bags or my purses or anything, really. So I would love a beautiful single-purpose mudroom. Maybe one that has those tall cubbies, with individual hooks for coats and cubbies for shoes. But my ideal mudroom would also have a closet or shelving for storing hats and mittens and sports gear, and it would have a hook for my purse and a hook for Carla’s backpack and another for my reusable grocery bags (which inevitably hang on the garage door knob until I return them to my car, falling off the knob and onto the floor several times per day). 

Another wish would be a separate space for Carla. If money were no object, I would want her to have a playroom and a separate craft room with a long table and lots of storage. Her bedroom is fairly small and she has WAY too many toys, and they spill into the dining room, living room, basement, kitchen. I am constantly bothering her to clean things up. Maybe if she had a designated room for her stuff, I could simply shut the door. 

In general, I don’t think I have overtly extravagant, MTV-Cribs-style wishes for my dream home. I don’t need a movie theatre. I don’t want a bowling alley. But I would like a swimming pool. Only since the pandemic began have I understood the value of having a pool. Before the pandemic, I would have said never in a million years. But now that we are home so much more often, and now that the preferred way of interacting with other humans is in small groups in outdoor spaces, I totally want a pool. In my ideal, make-believe world, the pool would be in an enclosed, heated space for year-round swimming but could be completely opened up for entertaining. 

While we’re dreaming, I would like a dedicated library. Happy sigh. A room with shelves and shelves and shelves of books… and some comfy, well-lit seating areas… heaven!

Oh, and it would be wonderful to have a separate space for guests. A real mother-in-law suite (or, why the hell not, mother-in-law outbuilding) with a small kitchen, a full bathroom, a bedroom, and a small sitting area. Our parents stay at a hotel when they visit, for a variety of reasons, and it would be lovely to be able to have a separate place for them to stay with us.

Of course, no house will ever be Completely Perfect. I doubt that any house at any price has the exact specifications I would want (not to mention what my husband and Carla would want) in m dream home. I think even if you designed and built your own house, it wouldn’t be perfect perfect. Some of the things that end up driving you nuts don’t reveal themselves until you have lived in a space for awhile. Sometimes you don’t realize just how much you want a big, beautiful mudroom until you find your entire family crammed into a tiny square, all trying to remove their muddy boots at one time.

I want to know the things you dream about, in your wildest house hunting dreams. And I also want to know the things you love – and hate – most about the place where you currently live. 

At Sea

Carla has begun third grade and by all reports, it is going swimmingly so far. While I miss having her sunshiny presence in the house, I have been eager to get my days back. I have writing to do and edits to make and housework to complete. 

But I haven’t quite been able to get my sea legs yet. I feel a little directionless, drifting on an ocean of possibility, but not finding anywhere to drop my metaphorical anchor. 

Part of my aimlessness, I think, is that the house is a mess. It’s cluttered with all the flotsam and jetsam a busy eight-year-old produces. So, I think, start there: clear the house of clutter and you’ll feel accomplished and free to sit down and work on all the other items on the to-do list. I did a first pass, pulling things off the walls (Carla’s long-abandoned reading tracker, an old poster from second grade, a few pictures she’d taped to her door) and wiping down the whiteboards that held our summer schedules and to-dos. I did a bunch of laundry and folded much of it. My husband, without being asked, went through the towering pile of mail that clings barnacle-like to the little sideboard near the garage door. 

Somehow, this did very little to free the house of its cluttery, oppressiveness. And even though I have settled in my writing chair, with a good idea about what to write, my brain feels unsettled and overcrowded. I keep thinking of things I could do that I don’t want to do: put the new fall schedule up on the whiteboards, finish folding the laundry, clean out the bucket that Carla filled with exploded water balloon fragments after last week’s playdate, tidy my desk or my bathroom, paint my toenails, take out the trash, get dinner started in the crockpot, finish unpacking the suitcases from our trip of two weeks ago, implement the edits I painstakingly made to my manuscript, exercise. 

I am fretting about a work thing, a family thing, a friend thing. The news is, once again, still, endlessly, terrible and disheartening. I am dreading Carla’s first soccer practice, during which I will surely be expected to talk to strangers. I keep trying to listen for the air conditioner, which decided to stop working yesterday for several hours, until our house was 82 degrees inside. (It came back on just in time for my husband to come home, ask why it was so hot inside, and then squint at me uncomprehendingly when I told him the air conditioner was broken.) I have a head cold, or a sinus infection, or something that makes me feel foggy and drippy and cranky all at once. I have a giant, inflamed mosquito bite smack in the middle of my forehead. Everything feels rumpled, troubled; ill-tempered waves lashing at me from all sides.

I think what I need to do is make an old-fashioned To Do List and start crossing things off. But the prospect of doing such a simple thing makes me feel limp with I don’t wanna. 

Surely you have felt adrift in this way before. What do you do to restart your engine and coax your ship forward, in any direction at all? 

Dinners This Week

Wow, you really came through on the veggie front. THANK YOU. I feel bolstered by all the options. My normal veggie go-tos are grilled or sauteed zucchini and steamed broccoli with lemon juice, so I am really excited to try some new things! Woo! Veggies!

Somehow we did not eat the Chicken Shawarma Bowls that I had on the menu for last week, so if the arugula has held up okay, I will be serving those tonight. 

And! This is the first week of school! I am excited and panicked all at once, which seems like a reasonable way to feel about school starting. 

Dinners for the Week of August 23-August 30

  • Breakfast for Dinner: This is Carla’s request for her first-day-of-school dinner, and of course I am happy to oblige.
  • Chicken Shawarma BowlsWe shall surely make the effort to get these on the menu this week. 
  • White Fish Baked on Potato Rafts: I swear I made this once before (although I have no record of it on my blog so did it really even happen????) and my memory is that it was yummy. Elegant but simple. Plus: potatoes. I think I will sauté some haricot verts to go alongside the fish. (My husband doesn’t love haricot verts, but TOO BAD BUSTER.) (It is fun to be married to me.)
  • Southwest Chicken with CCR’s No-Tomato Salsa: This salsa was one of last week’s suggestions, and I, a bell pepper luvah, am Here for It. 
  • Mulligatawny Soup: My husband’s suggestions this week were all fall-weather foods, not foods fit for the 90-degree humidity we’ve been having. But! He suggested something! So onto the list it goes! I will probably either do a quick salad on the side or crudités, another of the suggestions from last time! We have some hummus and some ranch dressing on hand, so I think we are set for dips.
  • Roasted Salmon with Simple Salad: The last time I made this, I fortunately left myself detailed instructions on how to do it. I should do that more often because it is very helpful. I will forego the creamy avocado dressing and just use the rub in the linked recipe. Then I will make a salad with mixed greens, quick pickled radishes, green pepper slices, and a sprinkle of roasted sunflower seeds and dress it with this quick lime vinaigrette
  • Pork Chops with Nicole’s Roasted Veggies: Per Nicole, I will roast some zucchini, mushrooms, bell peppers, and onions (that last was not per Nicole, but per me and me alone) in 1/2 cup olive oil, 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar, 2 tsp honey, 3 cloves garlic, and salt and pepper. I don’t yet know what I will do to the pork chops, but I’m sure I will find something. 

That’s all I have for you today, Internet! What are you eating this week?

This was one of those mornings in which I woke up promptly at 5:00 am and then couldn’t fall back to sleep, even if I had Zero Reason to be awake at that time; it’s the last week of summer for sleep’s sake! I should be enjoying every second of sleeping until 7:00 while I can. 

As usual, I kept pretending that reading things on my phone would lull me back to sleep (what? it works sometimes, often enough to convince me, lab-rat style, that it WILL work again), instead of using those two extra hours as the precious resource they were. They never SEEM precious, when I’m not planning to wake up early. Especially when I stayed up past eleven the night before watching Bachelor in Paradise

I only fell asleep again once my husband’s alarm went off. You know. To taunt him. 

He hit the snooze button and I snuggled into his warm body and sank immediately into a horrible nightmare: I was at a party, which my supervisor from my prior job was attending, and he told me gravely that someone from my prior job was making terrible accusations of sexual impropriety about me. Not harassment, I don’t think. Just, like, hooking up with this colleague who was not in my chain of command. In the dream, my supervisor never outlined what these accusations were, or how they would affect me besides making me out to be an adulterer, but I was alarmed and outraged and got very yelly and sailor mouthed (apologies to sailors) and indignant because it seemed like my supervisor didn’t believe me, even though he claimed he did. I couldn’t even remember meeting the person who was accusing me – his name was Noah Centineo, which is apparently the name of a real live actor person, a fact I discovered when I googled the familiar-sounding moniker after waking up – and I was shaky and angry and wanted more details so I could call my mom and sue the husk out of Noah for slander. (My mother is a retired lawyer and I don’t know if slander applies in this case, or really what the issue was; I think I was afraid that I would lose the only recommendation from the only job I ever had, even though that is NOT the only job I’ve ever had.) While I was waiting for my supervisor to go get details, I was angrily chewing an enormous piece of purple gum and it got very sticky and I tried to spit it out and it got stuck to my teeth, and I had to pry it out of my mouth long stringy strand by long stringy strand and it got spiderwebbed all over my hands and face and hair. 

The only reason I woke up from this awful dream was because I got a text message. It was from a person with whom Carla and I are having a playdate I am dreading. The mother has many good qualities but she is also an Extreme Extrovert and I am even more of an Introvert since the pandemic began than I was to begin with. (This mother had, at one point, suggested TWO playdates this week but fortunately stopped pressing when I told her one playdate was stressful enough that I couldn’t even FATHOM two playdates without breaking out in hives.) (I am not yet at the comfort level of leaving Carla alone at someone’s house for a playdate.) It wasn’t the best text message to wake up to, is what I’m telling you. Out of the gum-web and into the fire of forced interaction.

The nightmare clung to me, much as the dream-gum was clinging to my teeth and hands, but I managed to awaken Carla and strip the bed. (Let’s blame the sheets for my sleeplessness. I mean, clean sheets can’t hurt.) I did not manage to put the detergent in the right place; there is a little drawer with specific compartments for detergent and fabric softener and bleach, and instead I threw a cup full of detergent directly onto the sheets in the drum of the washer, which is surely some sort of terrible laundry faux pas, and I am fully expecting a tsunami of bubbles to erupt from the washer and onto the floor at any moment. 

Carla had requested sour toast and ants on a log for breakfast, but first the dirt (??? what is the role of peanut butter in this concoction???) wouldn’t stick to the log; the halves of the banana seemed wet somehow, though it was a nice fresh banana, and the peanut butter wouldn’t spread properly, and I had to kind of drape it in unappealing plops across the banana, which continued to glisten wetly. I eat neither bananas nor peanut butter, so I don’t know if any of this is acceptable or not. Carla didn’t comment, so we’ll assume it is fine.

Worse, though: I couldn’t find any ants. In this case, chocolate chips. I dug around in the pantry for a while before giving up and offering dried cranberries (pass) and fresh blueberries (keep) as insect alternatives. Then I discovered that I had been carrying around an unopened bag of tortilla chips, on my hip like it was a baby. 

That was when I decided I needed to sit down and allow the fog to clear a bit before I attempted anything else. Which is why you are getting sentences like the first one of this post, in which the phrase “in which” sounds completely hatpin crazy to me, but I cannot for the life of me figure out how to rephrase the sentence. Hmm. I suppose I could just take it out and make it into two sentences, but I will leave it as an illustration of the state of my mind.

This is one of those rare occasions where I find myself wishing I drank coffee. I love my morning cup of tea, but it doesn’t provide that jolt of clarity that supposedly comes from a cup of hot black coffee. Perhaps I will have to chug a Mountain Dew instead. 

Dinners This Week

The school year is about to begin, so, after a very long and yet somehow not refreshing at all hiatus, I am giving this whole “meal planning” thing another go. 

One thing I am going to actively try to do – for however long it lasts, which may well be the time it takes to go to the grocery store – is to pack our meals with MORE vegetables. The combination of my general meal-planning malaise and our subsequent over-reliance on takeout this summer has resulted in a bad pattern of not enough veggies. We need MORE VEG, people. It seems easy enough to accomplish… yet putting this plan into action is surprisingly difficult??? Have I ever cooked a vegetable before? What vegetables are edible? It’s like I have no idea how any of this works. 

Which is why I am prevailing upon you today for your favorite veggie-heavy sides. Yes, I know, I go weeks without posting and now I am ASKING FOR HELP. I am very needy. Please help me reintegrate vegetables into my life, Internet.

We avoid tomatoes and eggplant around these parts (although I will of course add tomatoes to salads and things, for the benefit of my child and husband), but otherwise I am open to ideas. 

Here’s what I’m planning for this week. Wish me well, Internet friends. 

Dinners for the Week of August 16-August 22

  • Chicken Shawarma Salad Bowls: This is a new-to-me recipe, but my husband and I both like shawarma and the salad bowl aspect of the meal means I don’t have to think about a separate vegetable.
  • Slow Cooker Chicken Tortilla Soup: I need a slow cooker meal and this is one of my favorites. Maybe I will whip up a little side salad to go with it? My side salad spirit is usually pre-crushed by my husband’s disdain for easy salads… but perhaps I don’t care?
  • Tacos: It is the last week of summer and Carla has requested tacos, so I shall acquiesce. 
  • Mahi Mahi with Mango Salsa and Roasted Green Beans: I don’t know how I will prepare the fish yet – grill? bake? – but a mango salsa is easy to make and we somehow haven’t had green beans in literal months, so that will make a nice veggie accent.
  • Follow Up: I put blackening seasoning on the fish and roasted it. It was cooked just fine, and I thought it was FINE, but my husband did not care for this that much.
  • Charred Shrimp, Pesto, & Quinoa Bowls: This is something I have never made before but it sounds new and different and worth trying. I hope. 
  • Follow Up: This was okay. Obviously, the overriding flavor was pesto and that was… too much pesto for me. It’s main selling point was its novelty. Maybe once every year or two.
  • Chicken or Salmon plus Zucchini or Brown Rice with Peas and Onions: I have chicken and salmon in the freezer. I will buy zucchini because it is one of my favorite veggies and because it will survive an extra week if we don’t get to it. We have plenty of peas in the freezer. These will be my backup, little-planning-required meals, for if I can avoid the siren song of takeout.
  • Follow Up: I used leftover quinoa instead of brown rice, and it tastes so good with peas and onions. It’s such a simple side dish but I really enjoy it. And I roasted a pork tenderloin instead of chicken or salmon. The marinade was quite yummy.

We also have a new neighbor who is moving in this week. So Carla and I will make her some chocolate snickerdoodles (Carla’s choice) to welcome her to the neighborhood.

That’s it for this week, Internet. Please don’t forget to tell me your favorite veggie sides and/or let me know what you’re making for dinners this week.