Category Archives: Food

What I Learned from Meal Planning

I got this idea in my head that meal planning is a grown-up thing to do. I remember as a kid having a weekly (or monthly??) menu posted on the fridge, and then I think that for the most part we actually followed that menu.

I have said before (loudly and frequently!) that the hardest, most tiring part of being a parent is being in charge of someone else’s meals every single day, particularly when that person is a 2-year-old who primarily wants pappunoni pizza, watermelon, meenut butter and jim, or cake. So when meal planning, I tried really hard to take this opinionated little guy into account, and plan things that we could all actually eat together.

We did one week of following a meal plan, and here’s what I learned:

You can’t actually shop for the whole week at once.

This was my original grand plan. I had a gift card to Safeway and I went and stocked up on basics and necessities, and I was really proud when all I paid was $18 over the gift card amount. But the truth is, you can’t always buy produce on Sunday that’s for eating on Friday. We lost a couple things that way, and I had to do a second trip partway through the week.

I guess I should have known that. I’m aware of how quickly produce goes. But I got so caught up in the money-saving, time-saving, health-conscious extravaganza that I was taking on that I didn’t really think about all the logistics.

Cooking meals each night takes a lot of time.

It was really nice to have the pressure off at 5pm when the “What’s for dinner” conversations started happening. But, here’s the thing: Usually, B eats at 6pm and we just hang out with him, and then Drew and I eat after B goes to bed. So not only was one of us spending a bunch of time each night preparing a more elaborate meal than usual…but that time was happening between 5-6pm, prime play time.

Also, Drew and I probably forage for dinner 2 or 3 days a week. For example, last night he had eggs and chicken-apple sausage, and I had a sandwich. These took 10 minutes to prepare concurrently. So just in general, cooking a family meal every night added a lot of time to the in-the-kitchen schedule.

…But it is nice to have leftovers.

It was really nice to have interesting leftovers for all of us to take for lunch the next day. B gets a lot of repeat meals, so being able to throw something new in there was probably nice for him, and made me feel like I was being a good parent. Also, since I went on a big grocery shopping trip, I wanted to be able to parlay that into lunches so I didn’t have to spend money during the week.

There’s actually an element of “planning.”

I didn’t realize how to manage the details. I just threw things on different days, and tried to space out all the chicken. But now I know, if you have two meals that use basil, maybe put them closer together so your basil doesn’t completely wilt between them. Or, if you know Survivor is on on Wednesday nights, don’t plan something elaborate that you’re going to have to be either cooking or cleaning up while the show is starting. And give yourself an “egg sandwich” night in the middle of the week, as a break from all the “shepherd’s pie” nights.

Sometimes something comes up.

There’s a lot more life getting in the way than I realized. When planning, I had to work around such things as Easter, dinners out with friends, and other events. We ended up doing this on the least busy week possible, so that we could really give it the old college try, but there always seems to be something coming up.

We also have a slight disadvantage in that Drew doesn’t get home before 5pm, and I am usually at least half an hour behind him. When I think about my parents or my friends, many of whom are teachers, I realize that they have a major heads up over us in that they are home earlier in the day. One friend of mine posted a recipe on Facebook, saying that it was super easy because you could just stick it in the oven and come back 2 hours later. While I do appreciate the ease of that, and plan on taking advantage of it on a weekend, I just don’t have 2 hours’ worth of cooking time on a weeknight.

Overall

It’s really nice to just have a plan in place. And to have that plan include vegetables, which are already in the fridge and ready to be cooked. Without a plan, we have nearly nightly conversations that go, “What do you want for dinner?” “I don’t know, do you have any feelings?” “I don’t know, I just want you to pick something.” “Well, I don’t know…” So going a week without having that conversation was really nice.

Some nights, B would eat what we were eating and it was like this magical curtain of “we’re doing it right!” fell around us. Some nights he was not interested at all and we had to settle for “oh well, we tried.”

I tried to make another weekly schedule but then it just kind of fell through. Maybe next week we can get back on the wagon, because I think overall it was beneficial, albeit tiring.

Help me out with next week, and leave me a comment with your favorite plan-in-advance weeknight meal! (Bonus points if a toddler will eat it.)

2 Comments

Filed under Children, Drew, Family, Food, Humor, Nonfiction

Here We Lent Again

Happy Ash Wednesday! It’s time to frantically figure out what to give up for Lent this year!

I actually started thinking about this a couple weeks ago, when I noticed at work that someone had brought in some Mardi Gras-themed pastries from a board meeting. But it’s nowhere near Mardi Gras! I thought. Then I looked at a calendar. But it’s not quite — well there’s still a little time — I mean, who even likes King Cake? Well, the colors ARE nice.

In the past I’ve given up Facebook, and arguing with Drew. Last year I gave up chocolate, and although that was an appropriately difficult thing for me to give up, I didn’t want to just repeat something from last year. So, after some hurried thought (and finishing some Ben & Jerry’s Coffee Toffee Bar Crunch last night), I think I’m going to give up ice cream.

What are you giving up this year? (Or, as I know some people do, are you taking on something additional during Lent?)

Leave a comment

Filed under Beginnings, Food, Holidays, Humor, Nonfiction, Religion

Giving thanks, 2014 style

Happy Thanksgiving!

I’ll be honest with you: this year has kind of sucked.

Every New Year we say “This is gonna be OUR year!” And sometimes we’re right: 2009 was a good year. As was 2012.

But 2014 was not kind to us. But the silver lining – because I always have to look for the silver lining – was that I spent much of this year being actively thankful for specific things in my life. Because I had this idea that, if I spent too much time dwelling on the negative things, God and karma and the universe would say something like, “Guess you don’t care about all this good stuff then.” And it would be taken away.

So I’ve thought a lot this year about the people in my life, the ways I’m blessed, and the things I’m grateful for. And there are plenty of them. At the top of almost every list are my husband and my son, two people I couldn’t live without. There are my parents, who are consistently supportive and loving and who make the 3-hour drive from Lakeport to Pacifica over and over and over, just to hang out with us. Drew’s parents treat me like one of their own and I have literally ZERO crazy “in-laws” stories (and I know that other women out there have some crazy in-laws). There are my friends: the real-life ones who have put up with me for years, and my online mommy friends, all of whom are invaluable. I have a job I love, with people I love. I get to live by the ocean in a neighborhood and an apartment that I really, really like. (There’s even ample street parking.)

And on top of all of that, this year I’m also thankful that 2014 is almost over. Rather than ringing in this New Year by saying “I can’t BELIEVE it’s already 2015!” I’ll be saying, “Thank God. Now, bring on a fresh start.”

Just to make sure I don’t end on a downer, here are some really specific things I’m thankful for at this exact moment: My kid is napping, and he apparently knows who Elmo is, which surprised both Drew and me this morning. I made a German chocolate pecan pie for dessert tonight and while it looks a little, um, “homemade,” the filling part tastes good. We’re actually going to finish our Disney Project this year, which was a grand undertaking, and I’m proud of that. It’s a really pretty day right now…but I hear it’s going to rain all weekend, which would be really nice.

See? Still an optimist. Happy Thanksgiving.

2 Comments

Filed under Baby, Children, Drew, Endings, Family, Food, Friends, Holidays, Memoir, Nonfiction, Religion, Sentiment, Writing

The special beans

I gave up chocolate for Lent this year. It hasn’t been too bad so far. It’s only been 9 days. Only 35 more days to go. (Or something like that.)

There’s plenty of other sweet stuff that I can find to try to fill the void. Including (but not limited to) dried pineapple, popsicles, and vanilla lattes. It’s both a blessing and a curse. (PS. It doesn’t completely fill the void. I cannot wait for post-Easter half-priced Robin Eggs.)

Every year I ponder Lent – what exactly is the reason that I’m giving something up? I have to re-justify what I’m doing, and figure out how to frame it. I have read different theories for how the tradition came about, and I think that the one that suits me best, and makes the most sense, is that I’m making a sacrifice, albeit small, to honor God’s sacrifice for me.

So even if giving up chocolate feels like a superficial thing to do, I suppose there’s a point to it. I don’t know if I’ll necessarily come out the other side of this a better person, but all introspection is good introspection, and I’ve never heard of someone regretting going 6 weeks without eating chocolate.

Now if only my coworkers would stop leaving bowls of it out on their desks all day…

3 Comments

Filed under Food, Holidays, Memoir, Nonfiction, Religion, Self improvement, Writing

A 1-year-old is an unreliable wedding guest

A couple weeks ago, we took B to a wedding. A francy wedding.

(I meant fancy, but I accidentally typed francy, and I immediately fell in love with that new word I just created.)

This francy wedding took place at St. Dominic’s Catholic Church in San Francisco. Drew and I were a little nervous about the whole day, for the following reasons:

a. wedding of a medium-close family member who might not be forgiving of 1-year-old antics;
b. ceremony at 3pm, reception at 6pm across the city;
c. our particular 1-year-old doesn’t always behave well in francy situations;
d. also we have to dress up

As a bonus thing to worry about, our car situation meant we were taking my parents’ bug, which is stick, so I had to drive.

We left plenty of time to get ready, get everything in the car, and get to SF. We got there about 10 minutes before 3:00, which was perfect. We parked right outside the church, which was perfect. I hopped into the backseat to pull B out of his carseat…and was greeted by an absolutely remarkable smell.

We opened the trunk (do you realize how small a VW bug trunk is??) and laid him down in it, button down shirt and all, to change his diaper. It wasn’t until I had the diaper half off, and Drew was digging through the diaper bag looking for the wipes, that I remembered I had used up the last wipe and forgotten to put a new package in. There were some exclamations of dismay. I mean, we were on the side of the road, outside a francy church, dressed in our best, trying to change our squirmy child in a trunk, and we had no wipes.

Luckily we had pacifier wipes, so we survived.

We got everything put together and went inside. The church was beautiful. We sat down in the back row, on the outside aisle, ignoring the waves from Drew’s family to come up and sit with them. Through a mixture of mouthing and mime, he told them, “Our kid is going to lose it so we need to be able to slip out quickly.”

We were sitting down for about 4 minutes, and the family members were being escorted in, when B opened his mouth and let out a “Aawwwk?” And then his eyes got big and he looked around, as he realized what a great echo there was in here. I jumped up and tried to jiggle him to keep him occupied, but once he started squawking, there was no turning around. We saw the bride come in, and then I ended up taking him out to the narthex, where we walked back and forth for the entirety of the service. Sometimes we went outside.

But B was smack in the middle of wanting to walk everywhere but needing to hold hands, so I spent an hour alternating between being kind of hunched over, and tossing his 25 pounds into the air to make him laugh.

After the service, we had all this time to kill, and we thought if we drove around he might take a nap in the car seat. Well, we were wrong. So we drove all around San Francisco, went up to Twin Peaks and got gas, and got caught in the worst ever traffic on the way downtown to the financial district, where the reception was.

Despite being the most anxious about the reception, it was actually really lovely. As soon as we got to the table, one of the waitstaff came over and said, “Do you want a high chair?” and Drew and I were both like, “YOU HAVE HIGH CHAIRS??” Also, the first toast of the evening was by the bride’s father, and rather than being champagne, it was a tequila shot with cinnamon and orange. So good. B lasted for a really long time before he started melting down (like 9pm – like 2 hours after his usual bedtime) – although right at the moment when we decided it was time to get him out, they started other toasts, and then one of the bridesmaids gave like a 15-minute toast and were trapped on the side of the room opposite the door.

Anyway. B’s first wedding, and it was francy, and it was inside a Catholic church, and it was late at night. And he did great!

francy2

Blurry backwards camera!

Leave a comment

Filed under Awesome, Baby, Beauty, Being a girl, cars, Children, Dreams, Drew, Family, Fashion, Food, Humor, Love, Memoir, Nonfiction, Religion, Sentiment, Travel

First birthday party

Dear B,

We had your first birthday party on Sunday. We planned for it for weeks (dare I say months?). We made multiple trips to multiple stores to secure the decorations. We ordered things from different sites to supplement the store bought stuff. We did not one but two trial runs for your birthday cake. The day before the party, during both of your naps, we raced to the kitchen to bake EIGHT CAKE LAYERS (in batches of two) to ensure we had enough cake for everyone at the party (two four-layer cakes). After you went to bed, we made a vat of fruit salad, and I used three cans of frosting to put those cake layers together.

You probably had very little idea what was going on. You didn’t know who most of those people were. You won’t remember anything about the day. But trust me: it was great. It was a completely successful party. There were nigh on 40 people there, including 8 kids, 6 of whom were under the age of 5. There were your peninsula aunties and uncles, your BFF Tom, mommy’s coworkers, and of course family from both sides.

There was way too much food (of course) which neither daddy nor I really had time to eat. But don’t worry, we brought a lot of it home. (Two days later, we still have 2 gallon ziplocks of fruit salad to eat…so, get out your spoon…)

When we put your birthday cake in front of you and sang to you, everyone gathered around and you looked a little overwhelmed, and at the end of the song everyone clapped, so you clapped too, and then a wave of 40 people went “AWWWWW” and it startled you and you started crying, which made them laugh. We put a giant slice of rainbow layered cake in front of you, and it took some coaxing but you got your hands into it and you even ate some. You calmed down from crying, but we still seem to have a million pictures of you crying while clapping and cake-covered.

Daddy and I were so preoccupied during the party that we neglected to take many photos. But luckily our family members and friends are camera-happy and willing to share, so we’ll have plenty of visual memories.

You got so many presents that we don’t really know what do with all of them. We have hidden some to give to you later, when you’ve gotten used to the ones you have out now. (But your favorite things, of course, are still wiffle balls and plastic stacking cups.)

Everyone had a great time, and (of course) the party ran over the planned 2 hours. But despite me waking you from your morning nap around 10:45 so we could leave for your party, you were a total trooper, staying awake and mostly happy throughout the entire party, then the entire clean-up. On the way home, I sat in the backseat with you and tried to soothe you into falling asleep. You managed to stay awake until we got to the airport, at which time I watched you melt into sleep. You woke up 10 minutes later when we got home. Oops.

I think you had a lot of fun. I know I had a lot of fun. I’m glad so many people came. I’m glad we went all out for your first birthday. I’m glad everything went well. I’m glad it’s over and we made it through.

I’m not saying that parties or material possessions are an indicator of love. But, based purely on actual love, you are loved, little guy. Happy first birthday, and congratulations to all three of us for making it through your first year!

Love,
Mommy

Leave a comment

Filed under Awesome, Children, Family, Food, Friends, Games, Holidays, Love, Memoir, Nonfiction, Sentiment

Sleep Talking 26

We’ve had a couple late nights and a couple of super early mornings, so is it any wonder that we’re both a little out of it lately? But I’ve been having a hard time actually shutting down and falling asleep at night (the upstairs neighbors vacuuming from 10:15-11:30 probably didn’t help) and so I decided to read a chapter or two from my book club book to unwind. When I finished, Drew (who had fallen asleep 10 minutes prior) asked me,

“Do you like your book?”

“It’s wonderful,” I said.

“How did you like the strawberries?”

“The strawberries?”

“How did you like the fruit thing?”

“The fruit…thing?”

“How’d you like what you had for lunch today?”

“It was good. Why did you ask me that?”

“I dunno. My train of thought.”

I can only assume he was thinking (dreaming?) about Jocelyn and Kevin’s wedding shower, where we ate strawberries and fruit salad, and although it was dinner, it was like 6pm and outdoors in the sun, so I can see how he confused it for lunch.

Leave a comment

Filed under Books, Dreams, Drew, Food, Humor, Sleep talking

Make Me

One of the best things about being an adult is ice cream for dinner. Not literally (well, okay, sometimes), but I mean that sense that you can do whatever you want and there’s no one checking up on you.

On the other hand, one of the worst things about being an adult is that you can do whatever you want and there’s no one checking up on you.

There are a lot of things that I want to accomplish this year. (See: New Year’s Resolutions, 2013). Unfortunately there’s also a lot of internet to explore, friends to chat with, articles to read, and thin air to stare into.

I think the missing piece of the puzzle that turns staring (whether it’s into thin air or at Facebook) into actual productivity is accountability. If I don’t have anyone to answer to except myself, then what’s driving me to complete anything?

Here are some things I’ve tried to accomplish in the past: Bicoastal book club. Writing club. Dieting. Here are some things I’ve failed at: Bicoastal book club. Writing club. Dieting.

The problem with a bicoastal book club is that, without the regular meet-ups to talk about what you’ve read, what is forcing you to finish it? And if your book club happens to be made up of other people who aren’t determined to finish – then you might as well quit before you’ve even begun. A good way to assess the commitment of the others in your potential book club is by how long you’re given to finish the book. More than a couple months and I say your club is going to fall apart after two books, tops.

Ditto writing club. It’s all well and good to pick a prompt and off you go, but if you don’t have at least one other person emailing you something at the end of the month and expecting something from you, then you’re doomed. I’ve tried this in the past, and we made it exactly one month.

All I’ll say about dieting is that, without a good plan, someone to support you in it, and some kind of goal, it’s basically impossible.

But there’s hope! I am now in a book club, made up of real-life friends, and we meet up about every 6 weeks and discuss the book that, for the most part, all of us finished. When we started, I didn’t know how long we would last, but we’ve been going strong for over a year.

A couple months ago I started a new writing club. There are four of us, and while I’m not sure of everyone’s commitment, there is at least one other person who seems totally into it. So I’m clinging to that connection and hoping that she motivates me to write something every month.

Which brings me to dieting…which also brings me to Lent. I’m no stranger to Lent – I’ve been giving things up (off and on) since I was a kid. At some point I decided that Lent shouldn’t be about using the church to diet, so I started giving up things to make myself a better person. One year I tried to give up saying bad things about people behind their backs. A few years ago I gave up fighting with Drew. Last year I gave up Facebook.

This year I was thinking about giving up judging people, but when I suggested that, Drew shut it down. Remember, I need support in whatever I do. We finally decided to go with giving up most carbs. I figured this year I’ll be a happier person if I can stick to a diet, so I’m still technically improving myself.

I know it’s only been a couple days, but I already feel more committed, more confident, and pretty good about myself. In an “I can do it!” way, and not in an “Ice cream for dinner!” way, which is a refreshing change.

Lake County Record-Bee, 2/19/13

Leave a comment

Filed under Beginnings, Being a girl, Drew, Food, Humor, Nonfiction, Self improvement, Writing

Three years of marriage

This week, Drew and I celebrated our third wedding anniversary. How did we celebrate?

My parents came down and babysat:

And they sent us out on a date, where we promised each other not to talk about the baby. (We had occasional lapses. But overall we did way better than I’d expected.) I knew the evening was a special one, because I used two different colors of eyeshadow, and put on jewelry.

We went to the Melting Pot, which we have talked about doing for ages but have never quite gotten around to it. Neither of us really knew what we were getting into – for instance, they prepare and melt the fondue on a burner at your table. And you cook your meat in a pot on a burner at your table. And there’s a burner on your table.

We had spinach artichoke cheese fondue…

…Salads; then a variety of meats we attempted to cook; and then a white chocolate/banana/caramel/cinnamon dessert.

It was a fun, out of the ordinary experience that we might not have had if we hadn’t been pushed out the door…so thanks, Mom and Dad!

In a weird way, this year’s anniversary felt somehow more significant than past anniversaries have felt. Maybe because this year we really took the time to plan something, make a reservation, get a babysitter (or two), and go somewhere. It was really good to get out. And I think the timing (baby B is just over 6 weeks old) worked out well also.

Happy three years! It feels like an eyeblink, or maybe a decade. Let’s go on more dates.

3 Comments

Filed under Awesome, Baby, Being a girl, Children, Dollars, Dreams, Drew, Family, Food, Holidays, Love, Memoir, Parents, Sentiment

Cupcakes

Drew and I have been making the most of this time off together, and trying to take baby B out for lots of walks. Of course, now that the weather has taken a turn for the wintry, that’s tapered off, but we were really enjoying the California fall for awhile.

There’s a little cake place near us, that we drive by all the time. They have a sign up, saying that they’re celebrating their one-year anniversary, so one day last week we decided to walk over there. We didn’t have any cash on us, which could be either a good thing or a bad thing depending on how you look at it.

It’s a little store, with just a few cupcakes and cookies on display, and maybe only one person (the owner?) working there. It seems they mostly take orders for custom cakes. But the cupcake flavors looked good – from carrot cake to rum to banana. The owner(?) was pleasant and talked to us about our baby and about her two boys – she made it sound like boys are a handful, which I’m sure they are…just as I’m sure girls are a handful.

Then on our Friday walk, we decided to go try a cupcake or two. The mother of two boys seemed happy to see us back (with money this time) and she admired B and sold us cupcakes. We walked down to the pier and back along the beach, and then home.

The cupcakes were pretty good. And, while more expensive than making cupcakes, they are reasonably priced for a cupcake shop. I like walking to and supporting local businesses. We decided to order B’s first birthday cake from there…but you know, that’s almost a year away. So we’ll have to go back monthly and taste the different cake flavors.

Leave a comment

Filed under Baby, Food, Holidays, Nonfiction