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Posts Tagged ‘feeding my family’

It is the last week in January. Somehow. I know time goes faster as you age, I know it. I understand the intellectual concept behind it. And yet it still feels shocking, like loose gravel slipping out from under your feet as you try not to fall down the side of a hill. 

We have snow and sunshine right now, which is my favorite combination. February is right here, knocking on the door, and I love February. It’s so short, it makes it seem like spring is right around the corner. Plus, it’s my birthday month. (And Lisa’s!) One of my aspirations this year is to get a massage, and I think I’ll schedule it for my birthday. That sounds like a good way to start my forty-third year on this planet.

Time to stop delaying. Let’s get to the meal planning.

Dinners for the Week of January 30-February 5

Garlicky Spinach and Chickpea Soup: My husband wants to try this, so try it we shall! I do admit that I am a little wary of spinach in soup. Cooked spinach already has an unpleasant (to me) texture, and I can’t imagine that making it wet will improve things. 

Szechuan Stir Fry: Tried and true favorite. My grocery store has been flush with beautiful bell peppers lately. I have been eating the green ones raw, filled with cottage cheese, but I also really want all the stir fries. I think I will make this with steak for my husband. I like to stir fry the meat in a little garlic and ginger and oil, put the meat into the bowl I will use, add it back into the stir fry at the appropriate time, and then enjoy the essence of meat it leaves behind. 

Sheet Pan Pesto Salmon with Lemon Thyme Potatoes: I love a good sheet pan meal. I don’t know if I can persuade my husband to eat salmon though – it seems like every time we eat fish, he gets a piece with bones in it. 

Crispy Slow Cooker Carnitas: I snagged a big ol’ pork butt on sale the other day. Carnitas seems like a good thing to have on hand for tacos and burrito bowls and salads. Plus, it’s delicious and easy.

What are you doing, this final week of January 2023?

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It’s a new week, which means that another 21 meals stretch before us, waiting to be planned and created. That both sounds like A LOT and not that many, although it feels endless and insurmountable. It’s also an appointment-heavy week, which I am not looking forward to. So much driving. So much trying to squeeze in Normal Life around these holes in the schedule. Why do I do this to myself? I think what happens is that, as I’m scheduling the appointments (which is usually months in advance of the actual appointment), I either think, “Oh, it will be so nice to just get everything over with at once!” when in fact I do not find that “nice” at all, but overwhelming and disruptive. Or I get all flustered on the phone and feel like I am being A Pain if I continue to request different dates/times. Probably it is a combination of the two. Either way, Past Suzanne is a jerk. 

Dinners for the Week of January 23-29

Lemon Chile White Fish with Chickpeas: I think I have shared my rule of thumb with you before, which is, if my husband suggests a meal, I make it. I hope that this encourages him to suggest more meals because coming up with meals is so tedious. (Once again, I fervently wish that I had A Mostly-Fixed Weekly Rotation, like Nicole… or a handful of tried-and-true recipes that we eat regularly, like NGS. Alas.) We do not own “Aleppo pepper,” but my husband is confident we can use chipotle powder and no one will know the difference. Probably we will have something green on the side – steamed broccoli, maybe?

Greek Chicken with a Big Salad: I am going to use this marinade as the dressing. Alert alert: I do not use a mortar and pestle with the marinade/dressing ingredients: I blend everything up in the blender. My Greek salad will have feta, Kalamata olives, red bell peppers, red onions, and cucumbers. My husband will have tomatoes instead of olives. I may also make some pita bread, just because it’s not too hard and it’s so fun to see the little pitas puff up. 

Japchae (inspired by this post from Birchwood Pie Project): Birchie eats this meal with gyoza, but says steak would probably be a good accompaniment. I may make steak for my husband and shrimp for myself, or just load it up with veggies and eat it without meat.

Farro with Garlic and Roasted Vegetables (inspired by this post from The In Between Is Mine): This sounds so wholesome and wintery and versatile. I will not be using tomatoes (quelle surprise), and I don’t have any potatoes on hand. I think I am just going to throw in whatever I can find rolling around in the house: mushrooms, red onion, zucchini, maybe a sweet potato although I’m trying to decide if that would taste weird with the other ingredients or not. I don’t really like sweet potatoes, but they are supposedly pretty healthful and my husband likes them and I have one languishing in the pantry. Hmmm. It will be a game-time decision.

Black Bean Burritos: I have been in a burrito sort of mood, so I’m putting this on the list. My favorite kind of burrito is a simple one. On the inside: black beans, a little cheese, a lot of hot sauce, a sprinkling of cilantro if I have some on hand. On the outside: copious amounts of cheddar – no, more than that, maybe just a little more – heated in the oven until it’s all bubbly and melty, lettuce, onions, sour cream, and so much hot sauce the whole thing looks more like an enchilada than a burrito.

What are you looking forward to this week?  Or not looking forward to, as the case may be?

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Well, January is half over. I swear, January used to feel so interminably long and now it goes by in a flash just like all the other months. I do not care for the speed at which time passes now that I am 40ish. 

Part of what is making things go by so quickly is that we are so busy. Activities have resumed, but now we’ve added performances for my daughter’s instrument lessons, plus skiing lessons. We have two vacations coming up, which seemed – just two weeks ago, when we bought the plane tickets – so far in the distance, and which now are rapidly approaching. I have been much too social, which is good but also bad. And there’s the day-to-day normal on top of it all. It’s all good, it’s just… busy. I was under the impression that staying busy helped time feel like it passes more slowly, but maybe that’s just if you’re doing novel things? I don’t know. I do know that it feels like none of us have gotten back into a normal sleep pattern, after our two-week holiday of extremely laissez-faire bedtimes. And sleeping in until unholy hours on the weekend does nothing to lengthen the days. Perhaps this is the week we will get on top of that.

Despite time’s maelstrom swirling around me, I have to take a minute to slow down enough to answer the ever-pressing question: What shall I feed my family this week?

Dinners for the Week of January 16-22

  • Slow Cooker Pork Al Pastor: This sounds yummy and different from our usual, although I am slightly suspicious of pineapple. I craved fresh pineapple during the last trimester of my pregnancy with Carla and ate probably two entire pineapples each week, all by myself. In the decade since then, I don’t think I have eaten more than two bites of pineapple. Certainly not cooked pineapple. 
  • Quinoa Salad with Apples and Sweet PotatoesI am on a half-hearted mission to divest my husband of his belief that a meal must contain meat in order to have enough protein. I know quinoa and sweet potatoes don’t have as much protein as chicken, but they do have quite a bit. And this salad sound fresh and hearty and filling. I may swap out the dressing with this hummus dressing – I have hummus in my fridge and it sounds yummier than boring old oil and vinegar.

Follow Up: I lost my nerve/energy to make the hummus dressing, so we stuck with the boring old oil and vinegar. I think the salad would have been better with more interesting dressing. Aside from that, this salad was AWESOME. I included goat cheese and chopped walnuts as toppings, and the salad was very hearty and satisfying. PLUS it produced enough leftovers for at least two more meals. So good! Definitely a keeper.

For the rest of the week, we can eat leftover pork with whatever we can dig up from the depths of the fridge/pantry and leftover quinoa salad. 

What’s on your meal plan this week? Are you feeling the same way about January’s speed?

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The other day, I saw a headline that said something like, “People Living in [My State] Should Expect to See Higher Food Prices in 2023.” That was a head scratcher because we have been seeing higher food prices for quite a while thanks. Can’t wait for the grocery bills to climb more steeply, I guess.

(The container of honey we have is leaking. But it’s doing so in a way I cannot figure out. I have tried having it rest on its top and on its bottom, and both ways seem to leak, but not in any discernible way, i.e. the top isn’t swimming honey. But I am constantly scrubbing honey off our spice cabinet which is not my favorite. Anyway, my husband discovered the honey leakage yesterday and after hearing my explanation his solution was to throw the entire jar of honey away. Um, no???? It is 3/4 full???? And honey costs a million dollars $4.99 on sale???? I will scrub honey off the shelf every day if it means I can delay paying eight dollars for honey by even a couple weeks.) 

That’s all I have in the way of preamble this week, so let’s get to the dinners.

Dinners for the Week of January 9-15

  • Brussels Sprouts TacosThis is a very specific craving I’m having lately, based on the memory of the amazing spicy Brussels Sprouts tacos I ate with a friend at a local restaurant this summer. I like the sound of the one I linked in the headline, but I also think this smoky version with black beans, sweet potatoes, and crema sounds amazing.
  • Thai Larb: Last week, my husband and I tried the Lemongrass BBQ from the sampler of Southeast Asian sauces he got me for Christmas; it was delicious. I want to try the Thai Larb this week.
  • Beef with Snow Peas: This is one of the simplest stir fries in our rotation, but it is so delicious. And all the peas make it super crunchy and green, two characteristics I find very appealing.  
  • Creamy Chicken and Orzo SoupYum, this sounds so good and hearty and nourishing.
  • Soy Ginger Salmon Rice Bowl: I could probably swap out the salmon for chicken on behalf of my husband. I am just not in the mood for chicken lately, plus if there is an egg shortage a chicken shortage must not be far behind, right?

What are you eating this week?

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First dinner planning post of the new year! 

That exclamation point is sure doing a lot of work back there. I do not feel nearly as excited about meal planning as it implies. 

My family is home with me today – one last hurrah before we all get back to normal – and we are finally, finally going to dismantle Christmas and I am giddy! My family, for some odd reason, is not nearly so enthusiastic.

Two things will stay up: my beautiful wreath, which is still fragrant and lovely and outside, and my collection of holiday cards. We sent out 93 cards. Two were returned for wrong addresses but I am assuming the rest made it to their destinations. We received 43 cards (not counting the card from the insurance agent). This number is lower than last year (45) but I am fairly confident we will get at least two more; I can think of at least two families who typically send their cards out sometime in January. As it is, that’s about a 46% response rate which isn’t too shabby. Getting cards is one of my favorite aspects of the holidays, so I am not ready to say goodbye just yet. Especially if we might get a couple more (I hope, I hope).

Card wall in the background. Poor Rockin’ Robbie looks absolutely devastated at the prospect of being boxed away for another year.

You see how I am delaying the inevitable? Despite it being a brand-new fresh and airy year, we still must adhere to the daily ritual of preparing food and consuming it. 

Dinners for the Week of January 2-8

  • Southwest Salad: I am linking to this recipe mainly for the dressing, which I love. I always think it is chipotle lime dressing, though, instead of chili lime. So I am going to replace the chili powder with chipotle powder this go ’round and see how it turns out. I think my husband will have chicken breast with his salad and I will have shrimp or just stick with beans as my protein.
  • Lentil Soup: I am really craving a big bowl of lentil soup. While I trust Nagi completely, I am nonetheless a little wary of adding tomatoes (in my case, tomato puree) to a lentil soup.

What are you eating this week?

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Oh, hello there. I didn’t mean to just disappear for nine days. But sometimes you have lots of things to post about and sometimes you don’t.

Let’s see. I am feeling chatty, but don’t feel like I have a whole lot to chat about. The massive scary storm that affected so much of the country didn’t do a whole lot around here. We were very fortunate. It was cold and quite windy – though not windy enough to knock out our power – and we got plenty of snow to admire from our warm and cozy house. How did the storm affect you and your family? I hope you and your loved ones are all warm and safe.

Hannukah was lovely. Carla got Monopoly which we all played together. After an epic multi-day game, I crushed my husband and daughter into bankruptcy and we were finally able to clear off the kitchen table. 

Our Christmas was lovely and quiet and perfect. We all, I think, got everything we wanted and more. Santa brought the cotton candy machine and we made several batches of cotton candy. It is a beast to clean, but other than that it is quite fun. I also think that perhaps we have now exhausted our collective desire to make cotton candy. 

My husband is off this week, so we have been puttering around the house. He and Carla have been building robots and Pokemon block figures and playing video games, and I have been writing and reading and writing about reading. It’s been very relaxing and delightful.

We have been completing some tasks, like making plane reservations for upcoming trips. I am excited about the trips but very unexcited about the plane rides. My plan is to continue to wear masks on the plane from now until forever more, but I am still feeling pre-anxious about any or all of us getting sick, and then carrying the germs to and from our destinations. Well, there are still a few months left to fret about it.

Even though you haven’t seen any blog posts, I have been writing them and thinking about them. I dredged up Carla’s birth story, which I wrote on the eve of her third birthday. I’d like to post it at some point, even though it is growing a little stale, nine and a half years post-actual birth. But it was so stressful for me, even though it obviously all turned out okay, and I can’t seem to approach it with the clinical distance that time and Everything Turning Out Okay should afford. Oh well. Maybe I just need to post it as it is. 

I have also been considering very gently and glancingly things like goals and New Year’s plans. I haven’t yet given a single look at my aspirations from last year, not even when I collected that link, and have only in the most general terms considered aspirations for the year ahead. This is, in part, because I really only take a very loose approach to setting any sort of goal-adjacent objectives. Also because my biggest aspiration for 2022 (find an agent) remains unmet, and is so lofty a goal I feel like there’s no way I can achieve it. (Not with that attitude, missy.) Also because I keep feeling this strident, tears-hovering-under-the-surface desire to make goals around friendship, when honestly there is only so much I can control in that sphere. And in final part, it is because I feel like so much of my feelings about change for the year to come evolve around my body and my relationship to it and with food. Sounds like a real downer, honestly. So I keep playing delay and avoid. 

One thing I have been doing, with perhaps slightly more intention, is thinking about a word of the year. I love reading about people’s word of the year and how (and why) they choose a word to guide them. It’s something I’ve done for myself the past two years and I find it fits really well with my more laissez faire approach to “goal setting.” Having a word as a guidepost is something I really like, and it doesn’t feel super aggressive or overly intense. In 2021, I chose the word “forward” and in 2022 my word was “light” and I liked how both sort of cast a warm glow over the year without being scoldy or insistent. So I’ve been mulling over what I might choose for 2023. Allow me to get a little woo-woo for a moment please: The words really come to me unbidden, so I feel almost that they choose me rather than the other way around. Some of the candidates, so far, are “nurture,” “joy,” “gratitude,” and “cultivate.” We’ll see which one of these – or of options yet to make themselves known – rises to the top. Do you choose a word of the year?

Since we have all been home together for a very long time, the house has degenerated into chaos. My family refuses to consider putting the tree away until January 1, so I have resigned myself to living with the detritus of Christmas for a few more days. But I am now at the point where the urge to tidy and clean is no longer suppressible, although I have yet to erupt into the nagging that is still bubbling under the surface. I have made piles of gifts and books and treats that need to be tidied away. I have piles of laundry that need to be whisked into the washing machine. And that’s where I’ve stopped and have escaped to the treadmill where I am writing this post. 

As far as exercise goes, in the New Year, I want it to include time on the treadmill but also time outdoors. And I have loose ideas about maybe trying a Pilates regimen. If you do any online Pilates courses, especially if they are beginner friendly, please let me know. 

I realize that I completely skipped my Dinners This Week post. We have so much food in the house that I haven’t had to set foot in a grocery store since last week. (Fortunately, because my last two trips made my husband squeak with concern about how much I spent. THINGS ARE PRICEY, MY DEAR.) (He wasn’t mad, he just literally has no idea that most things are twice what they used to cost. Did I pay $20 for six chicken breasts? Yes, because that’s what it cost.) (That will get us four meals, though. Sounds better when you say $5 of chicken per meal. STILL OUTRAGEOUS.) 

New bullet, same topic: We had chicken paprikas for dinner one night, and leftover steak one night, and leftover egg and potato casserole one night. This casserole – our make-ahead Christmas morning breakfast – was delicious. This from a person who really avoids eggs if possible. Even better, it was SO EASY and didn’t involve peeling a single potato, AND it heated up the next day to be just as delicious. My husband and I going on a double date with friends one night, so dinner is sorted for that. I am not sure what we will eat for New Year’s Eve. We have some leftover crab cakes in the freezer, so maybe those? My husband wants to make these Swedish kanelbullar one day, but that’s not exactly dinner food. Well. I am sure we will figure it out. What are you eating for New Year’s Eve / New Year’s Day? My mom used to make a ham for New Year’s Day, but I’m not a big ham fan so haven’t continued the tradition. 

That’s all I have for today, Internet. 

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Oh hey, I am so late to the Dinners This Week party! Party of one, but still. Instead of planning dinners, I made cookies. Lots of cookies. Well, lots for me. (A person in my circle makes these gorgeous cookie plates with A DOZEN varieties of cookies on it, in all different styles and colors and textures and flavors. That is a whole different level of dedication.)

Anyway. Doing a great big baking binge was the only way I could see to making ALL the cookies my husband and I wanted to make this season. And even so, we sacrificed two items: 1. sufganiyot, which I really wanted to make again, but which are kind of fussy and 2., zimtsterne, which I make every year and which I adore, and yet they didn’t seem as fun! and interesting! as trying some new things.

We ended up making:

Gingerbread Latte Cookies with Browned Butter Icing:  The cookies were good and had a nice spice balance. They were a good texture – crisp around the edges but nice and soft in the middle. But the frosting was impossible to make and completely NOT spreadable. It sort of rests in a dollop on top of the cookies. It had a decent flavor, I think, but the browned butter was not very discernible. I think this is because the instruction for browning the butter was “Add the butter to a pot set over medium heat. Allow the butter to brown lightly until it smells toasted, about 2-3 minutes. ” While there are specifics in that instruction – medium heat, 2-3 minutes – the “smells toasted” is extremely subjective. My husband asked me if I’d browned the butter enough and I gave him a huge shrug because who the hell knows? Clearly not, if we’re going by the taste of the frosting. Also, I just now in finding that link for you discovered in the body of the post that I was supposed to use milk to thin the frosting. THERE IS NO MENTION OF MILK IN THE INGREDIENT LIST OR INSTRUCTIONS. But that would have been very helpful in the moment!

Taylor Swift’s Chai Sugar Cookies with Eggnog Frosting: These were good, soft sugar cookies. I love the eggnog frosting, which was wonderfully nutmeggy and nog-eggy. Although – again – it was too much and overly sweet. My husband also mentioned that he thought it was supposed to be a glaze rather than a frosting – and indeed the recipe text does refer to it as a glaze – to which I said, “I followed the recipe and this is what resulted.” My daughter made the frosting, and she added twice as much eggnog to the powdered sugar as the recipe called for, so it would thin out enough, and yet it was still quite thick.

Cranberry Crumble Bars with Orange Glaze: I made these for the first time a few years ago and I love them. They are so good – just the right mix (for me) of crumbly, lightly sweet shortbread and tangy cranberry. Carla and I ate one for breakfast today and yesterday. Yum! I like this batch much better than I did last year, and I think the difference is that I used fresh rather than frozen cranberries. (Well, I had to use a cup of frozen because this calls for four cups of cranberries and one bag of cranberries was about three cups. Sigh.) I washed them and let them dry on a towel completely before I used them in the recipe, and they seemed more tart and less wet than last year’s batch.

Peppermint Chocolate Crinkle Cookies: I have not actually tasted these, because after tasting three varieties of cookie I was and still am completely sugared out. But my husband and daughter like them!

Gingerbread Cutouts: The Gingerbread Latte cookies came with instructions for making cutouts in addition to the drop cookies, so Carla was all over that. She made a simple powdered sugar/milk glaze (which acted like a glaze) and she had a wonderful time choosing the cookie cutters and decorating the cutouts. She’d begged me to buy her a package of candy eyes back in October, but we never did a Halloween baking project, so I handed her the box and told her to go wild. There are some deeply creepy angels that resulted from the eye application, but I think the stockings and stars are cute with their big googly eyes.

Note: I made all the separate doughs on one day and allowed them all to rest in the fridge overnight, and then I made all the cookies into balls and rolled them in whatever sugar they were supposed to be rolled in and put them back in the fridge for a second night, which I think results in smaller, thicker, softer cookies. But I can’t say for sure because I did no testing whatsoever.

Since I made so many cookies, I put together a few cookie plates to share with friends. I gave one to the person in my circle I mentioned above – even though her cookie plate is a carefully orchestrated work of art, this was what I had to reciprocate. She mentioned that she gets very tired of all her cookies after spending so long making them, so she enjoyed tasting something new. I also made cookie plates for our neighbors and for a friend I saw earlier this week.

My friend was so delighted and surprised by the cookie plate. She’d never had one before! That surprised me, because they were so ubiquitous when I was growing up. And we’ve gotten a few cookie plates here in the Midwest as well, which is quite far from where I grew up. But maybe they aren’t A Thing everywhere?

They were definitely A Thing when I was growing up. We often got cookie plates from family friends. My family’s tradition was to make hand-dipped chocolates, which we would deliver in person to friends on Christmas Eve. For years, my mother would keep an eye out for inexpensive but pretty plates on which to display the chocolates.  Then she would wrap the plates beautifully in cellophane and put a little label on them so everyone knew which chocolates were which. They do this even now; Carla and I have attempted chocolates once or twice, but I hope once my parents move here we can make it an annual tradition once more.

My friend was concerned about the plate (I found adorable white ceramic plates with silver snowflakes at the dollar store and snapped some up to give to people who don’t celebrate Christmas; I got plaid ones from Target for the people who do celebrate Christmas): she wanted to return the plate, and was a little befuddled when I told her it was hers to keep or pass on. I ended up telling her it was from the dollar store, and I think that made her feel better about keeping it.

In my mind, a cookie-plate plate is very different from other food-sharing occasions in which you expect the dish back. For instance, if you make a casserole for a grieving neighbor or a lasagna for a new mom. In those cases, the dish returns to you. Since “returning the dish” is How It Is around here, I always use either disposable bakeware or specify to the recipient that I don’t need it back. Some people feel strongly that you should never return an empty dish: it should come back with something you made in it. This is not how it went when I grew up (the dish was part of the gift), so it makes me a little stressed. How do you know what to fill it with??? We got a little Tupperware container of peanut brittle from someone at my husband’s office, and I am wondering if we need to fill it up with something and send it back. But what? And when?

Are cookie plates A Thing where you live? Do you participate in cookie plate making or eating? What is your feeling about the dish the cookies arrive on?

While it has been very cookie heavy around here, we still must eat non-cookie food. So here is an abbreviated Dinners This Week.

Dinners for Christmas Week 2022

  • White Bean Enchilada Soup: Yum. I reserve a can of Great Northern beans from the recipe, as well as the corn, and blend everything in the pot. Then I add the final beans and corn for a little texture. It makes the soup very creamy and rich.
  • Thai-Style Pork Tenderloin with this Quinoa: My husband said that he is tired of soup, so this is Not Soup.
  • One Pot Parmesan Pasta: I think I found this via The Birchwood Pie Project and it looks delicious. Maybe I could add some chicken for my husband. I have this strong urge to add some peas, too? Who knows where these urges come from.
  • Christmas Breakfast: This is on my husband to figure out. I do not care for breakfast and have no preference. Whatever it is, and I am assuming it will be Full Of Carbs, we will probably also have berries and bacon.
  • Christmas Dinner:
    • Cranberry Relish: Although maybe this will be a week-after-Christmas snack instead.
    • Caesar Salad: I make my own dressing, using my dad’s recipe. This will, of course, depend on whether I can get any romaine at the grocery store. We have had alarming lettuce shortage signs popping up all around the produce section for weeks now.
    • Bouche de Noel: Usually we make sticky toffee pudding cake for Christmas, but this year the same baker who made my (high-quality, even if it wasn’t what I wanted) birthday cake advertised that she is making bouche de noel. We haven’t had one in years, but they are fun and festive so I ordered one immediately.

I take it back. They are all deeply creepy.

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We had a very productive weekend, in terms of holiday prep. It makes me feel like my to-do list is complete… but… I am sure there are still items yet to do. Let’s do a little check in:

Complete:

  • I have a beautiful wreath on my front door, courtesy of my mother. It smells so Christmassy and festive. 
  • My holiday cards are in the mail, except for three that require address updates. 
  • I have still only received six cards, so I haven’t yet begun taping them to the wall as is my typical manner of displaying them. 
  • Nearly all the presents are done – including all of Carla’s beautiful drinkware – and I have boxes for my parents, my brother and sister-in-law, and my aunt-in-law all packed with wrapped gifts and ready to go to the post office. 
  • As of yesterday, the Christmas tree is UP. It looks so lovely and warm, with all the golden lights. 
  • Carla and I have finished The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, and I think she liked it more this time, and the end – where Imogene cries and cries, so gobsmacked is she by the miracle of Christmas – still makes choke up. We have just started The Naughty List by Michael Fry, which is so far fun to read. 
  • My Winter Break To-Do list is still 75% baking projects. We have added these chai sugar cookies to the list, courtesy of my husband.
  • I attended and survived my husband’s office party. 
  • Carla and I went through all her holiday-themed picture books and made two piles: books to keep for sentimental reasons and books we could give to our next-door neighbor, for her granddaughter. 

Still to do:

  • In terms of presents: I am waiting on a gift for my mother-in-law, one for my niece, and one for my father-in-law. The one for my mother-in-law got stuck at the post office some time last week, and the manufacturer agreed that it is probably lost and has sent us a new one. The gift for my niece arrived in a box that had clearly been opened. After MUCH back-and-forth with the company, we determined that all the parts are in the box and they are sending me a replacement box, which is kind of ridiculous… and they also can’t give me a timeframe to expect the box, so I am vacillating between just sending the broken box to my niece or sending a picture of it in the box of other gifts for her and my sister-in-law or just continuing to vacillate until there is no time to ship anything to her at all. My husband discovered yesterday that a gift we chose for his dad is not appropriate, so we ordered a replacement; I’m pretty sure it arrived already, but the box has my husband’s name on it so I can’t open it.
  • My husband and I are still trying to figure out if Carla needs one more present or not. He thinks the alarm clock I want to get her is “not a present,” but I am all for practicality. The other idea I had was an adjustable bar stool for her craft area. So far we haven’t made ANY decisions, and time is ticking away. 
  • I usually buy pine boughs to put on the mantel. I love the way they look and smell… but maybe I am okay without them this year?

  • Only three of my husband’s gifts are wrapped (and he wrapped one of them; we are giving each other new Apple watches this year, so he wrapped them both at the same time), and I haven’t wrapped any of Carla’s gifts or done any of the Santa wrapping. In part because Santa chooses TERRIBLE wrapping that is very difficult to fit around boxes and which lasts forever because he uses it for only a handful of gifts. So I need to do some more wrapping.
  • I need to figure out what to get for Carla’s activity instructors. Ugh. There are so many of them this year. And what to get for our housekeeper and my husband’s assistant???
  • I need to clean the menorah. Although maybe I cleaned it after Hanukkah last year, and I won’t need to clean it? I can’t remember. It would be so easy to check and yet I continue playing Schrödinger’s menorah instead.
  • I am trying to figure out if I should send a gift to my friend. We don’t normally exchange gifts, but sometimes we send things to one another out of the blue. I saw a T-shirt the other day that reminded me of her but I didn’t buy it. I really want to buy it, and send it to her… but also I don’t want to overstep or seem like I am forcing her to acknowledge me in some way. (She sent me an ornament the other year, and we put it on the tree yesterday and my heart is just so swollen and painful.) Ugh ugh ugh. 
  • I want to listen to more Christmas music. There is so much of the same, when I play it on Alexa or on the TV. Perhaps I need to try making a Spotify list? I don’t really know how to use Spotify? 
  • There is still nothing really fun or special or holiday-specific on our list (aside from cookie making). What else can we do during the long days of Carla’s winter break? 
  • I need to cajole Carla into making the final two mugs for the final two mug-recipients (our across-the-street neighbors, who have been kindly letting her play with their puppy for months).
  • Carla and I need to take presents and books next door to our neighbor.
  • I need to take the packed boxes to the post office and mail them. 

I suppose, since it is Monday, that I should be thinking about dinners. And yet I am not? Even though we all need to eat, daily. We have plenty of leftover soup in the fridge, along with a TON of leftover ragu (it was really good), so that should tide us over for a few days. Plus I never made the slow cooker garlic chicken from a couple of weeks ago, so that’s still an option. Or I could make burritos. I think we’re covered. It’s a call week, so I like to be less structured as it is. 

So far, I can report that I am feeling much more full of the Holiday Spirit than I did last year. It’s a relief, honestly. I like enjoying the holidays. And even though I wish we had snow, I am really pleased to be able to walk around outside. (I really need to find some snow boots that are good for walking.) I feel, overall, happy and on top of things. My only real “problem” (not a problem) is that I keep thinking of little things I want to get my husband and/or Carla, and then thinking, “but I already got them plenty of things…” and then thinking, “or did I???” But that’s not unpleasant, and hasn’t (yet) reached the level of pre-Christmas panic. I think we’re in pretty good shape!

What do you still have yet to do on your holiday list? What am I missing? Surely I’m missing something important.

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As is usual in December, I feel as though I’m whizzing down a very long, very steep slide. Every now and again, if I concentrate very hard, I can jam my heels into the slippery sides and slow down a bit – complete with loud squeaking of sneaker on plastic and the fear that someone is going to ram into me from behind – but gravity inevitably pulls me forward again. 

My mind wants to be consumed by finalizing shopping (just a few things left), wrapping, mailing, card sending… but there is also the other normal day-to-day stuff required of a typical week. 

Dinners for the Week of December 5-11

  • Chicken and Wild Rice Soup: This is one of my favorite soups, and it is a crockpot meal, and I am pretty sure my mother-in-law will like it. Usually I make a loaf of Miracle No-Knead Bread to go along side it, but I may just buy a loaf at the store.
  • Shredded Beef Ragu: I saw this on Instagram and it sounds so warming and delicious. But it calls for a 28 oz can of crushed tomatoes, which I will not eat; I wonder if I could replace it with a 28 oz can of tomato puree?
  • Some Other Sort of Soup: We are still in the thick of after-school activities, which means that we eat dinner together very rarely. I am in the mood, lately, to make soup that we can eat for several days. I may be butternut-squash-souped out, and I know my husband doesn’t consider soup to be a meal unless it includes meat. This Creamy White Chicken Chili sounds delicious… as does this Cream of Mushroom Soup. (The mushroom soup would be only for me, since it is meat-free.) 

That’s it for today, Internet. Hope you have a happy Monday.

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For some reason, I woke up at 1:27 this morning and could NOT fall asleep. I don’t recall dwelling on anything specific, or being worried or anxious about anything, I just couldn’t sleep. 

This was good (????) because I heard Carla get up at 4:00 and then I heard her sweet little voice call out, “Hello?” (Does she do this on nights when I’m not awake? Breaks my heart a little to think of that.) I went into her room and she was in tears because her leg was hurting so! much! I rubbed her leg for awhile and then she tearfully informed me that it wasn’t helping, so I gave her Tylenol and offered an ice pack. She declined the ice pack because the pain was in her entire leg, not in one specific spot. 

Poor kiddo. My diagnosis is growing pains (after shooing some very unpleasant frets about blood clots – why does my brain hate me?). Did you ever have growing pains? I remember getting them, that awful deep ache in both legs. The medical sites say that the pain is largely muscular, and that doctors don’t think growing hurts – despite the fact that the pains occur largely in growing children and tend to stop when the children stop growing. But whatever, nameless heartless overly literal doctors. 

Carla agreed to try some stretches, so I led her through a few knee bends and some downward dog. She had to show me child’s pose and cobra as well, even though I doubt those did anything for her pain and she ran through her “flow” at such lightning speed I don’t see how it could have been at all relaxing. At 4:37 she was still Wide Awake. I suggested she try one of my getting-to-sleep strategies (I have taught her getting-to-sleep strategies multiple times, but she never remembers them and has, until last night, mainly refused to try them), which was retracing the steps of a favorite walk. I suggested she think about going over to our neighbor-with-a-puppy’s house, and think about each step she takes to get there in as great detail as possible. She closed her eyes and was quite still for awhile. At 4:52 I whispered that I was going back to bed, and she told me that she was at the point in the walk where she was putting on her shoes. Great. 

“If I’m not asleep by 5:30, can I come get you?” she asked. She was so pathetic, and her leg still hurt. Against my better judgment, I said, “Do you want to come sleep in my room?”

Surprisingly, she declined. (Actually, what she said was, “I don’t think that would have any effect” which was a very surprising sentence to hear from a sleepy nine-year-old.)

I went back to bed and lay there, awake, waiting for her to come get me. (She never did!) I finally fell asleep shortly after my husband’s alarm went off at 6:00, only to have a nightmare that my mother-in-law, who is supposed to arrive next weekend, had instead arrived today. It was extremely stressful, as though the worst possible thing would be for my mother-in-law to show up when I had some clutter in the kitchen or had not yet washed her bed linens. She would be fine and cheerful about the whole thing, honestly. But in the dream, it was A HORROR.

Somehow Carla and I made it out the door to school, and then I went for a four-mile walk with a friend I haven’t seen in weeks, which was a very good second start to the day. Then I went to Trader Joe’s and then to the library, where I picked up my copy of The Accomplice, on hold after Birchie spoke so highly of it. (I know literally nothing about it, except that Birchie recommended it. It’s quite fun to dive into a book that you know nothing about, except when your husband asks you what it’s about and then screws his face up into perplexed concern when you say you don’t know.) 

But when I got home, things took A Turn: I had six emails from my bank, all saying in their typical panicked way, “You recently made a large transaction” followed immediately by “Card Alert – Review This Transaction.” The bank does this – sends two apprehensive emails – for every transaction, and I have learned not to get terribly stressed. But this time, I had NOT made any transactions, especially not with the M*** Store in Washington State. 

The thing is, I had also not made any transactions with the M*** Store in the first week of November, when two charges of $.99 each hit my account. After scrutinizing both my memory and my account at the M*** Store (from which I cannot recall ever having purchased anything, although perhaps I did once a million years ago since I do have an account), I called my bank and they cancelled my card and sent me a new one.

So the card that was charged today was a BRAND NEW CARD. And I know for a fact that I have only used it at two places, one that rhymes with GayGal and the other that rhymes with Glamazon. 

I have cancelled this brand new card – and disputed the three charges of $.99, $.99, and $9.99 respectively – and I guess now I wait for the new card. Hopefully the holiday gifts that I charged to it this weekend will go through. SIGH AND ARGH. And also, HOW? How is someone accessing my card? How did they get it so soon after I cancelled the previous one? Why are they so hell bent on buying things from the M*** Store?!? My husband suggested that the fraudster had put some sort of recurring charge on my previous card, and that the card company automatically updated the number once I got the new one. So I have talked with my bank about THAT. I hope we communicated clearly about the possibility, but honestly I’m not sure. Fortunately, it is my personal account and has only a little bit of money in there, and fortunately I check my email way too frequently, so I caught the unauthorized charges early both times. But it sure is ANNOYING.

On to dinners.

December starts this week, people! It’s happening! 

We have three measly weeks left of school until a two-week winter break. Three weeks of all the activities. One week of my mother-in-law visiting. One call week. We’re going to POWER THROUGH.

Dinners for the Week of November 28-December 4

  • Mulligatawny Soup: Per my mother’s suggestion, I am going to make this with leftover turkey instead of chicken. Even if I don’t like the result (I hate turkey), my husband will eat it.
  • Spicy Chickpea Bowls: I have some chicken breasts I can chop up for my husband. I do need to whip up a batch of the ginger garlic sauce that this recipe calls for, which is a pain. But it is SO NICE to have a bag full of ginger-garlic sauce cubes in my freezer, and they last quite a while. 
  • Slow Cooker Lemon Garlic Chicken with Steamed Broccoli: We haven’t had this in a very long time and it’s good and it’s a slow cooker meal. Enough said.

I am also going to make another batch of butternut squash soup because it is easy and delicious and I am in a Soup Mood. Plus, Trader Joe’s had a lot of very nice looking, pre-cubed butternut squash at a very good price. 

Trader Joe’s also had a big container of cubed sweet potatoes, which I bought on a whim… but now I don’t know what to do with them! Roast them? But then… do what with them? I have tried roasted sweet potatoes on salad before and I do not care for it. What would YOU do with a huge container of cubed sweet potatoes? (I am not adding them to my butternut squash soup – I prefer my soup to be pure.) 

Also: I forgot to buy iceberg lettuce until the last possible second. (This was at the other grocery store I went to, specifically to buy bell peppers for the chickpea bowls. I cannot eat the chickpea bowls without bell peppers. And Trader Joe’s peppers were all soft and wrinkly. Ew. I need a nice crisp, unwrinkled pepper.) All my stuff (more than just bell peppers, I’M SORRY I HAVE A PROBLEM) was already on the belt; there was a woman behind me in line. I did the thing where I speed-walked over to the produce section and grabbed the first head of lettuce I saw so I could get back without anyone feeling like I was abusing the checkout section. But then I put the lettuce down, because it was very light, and grabbed another. ALSO very light, but now I was panicking, imagining the woman in line behind me tapping her foot and sighing in my general direction. I should have just put it down and survived ONE SINGLE WEEK without iceberg lettuce (I have baby spinach! I have green leaf lettuce!) but I didn’t; I ran back to the checkout line and paid for my groceries and only then did I discover that my very small head of iceberg, which will probably turn out to be three or four outer leaves and nothing else, was THREE DOLLARS AND FIFTY CENTS. That is ridiculous. That is a ridiculous price for a giant heavy head of iceberg! That is a ridiculous price for a plastic clamshell of pre-washed, pre-cut gourmet lettuces! Ridiculous! And yet I paid it! Maybe this is why I am a target of fraud; clearly I am not all that careful with my money. SIGH.

This is my present and my future, folks. Screeching in disbelief about the absurd pricing of lettuce.

Okay. That was a much complainy-er post than I intended, but there you have it. It’s a post-holiday Monday, after all.

It seems as though I am doing NaBloPoMo this month, which is 30 blog posts in 30 days. (Will I make it??? Only time will tell.) Details at San’s blog here.

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