Sunday, June 14, 2020

May















May was another month spent at home cooking, admiring the flowers, distance learning and making treats. I think getting to spend the school day with a cat in your lap is the best perk of having to stay home.

Sunday, May 10, 2020

A Different Spring











 



Hi there. My first round of peonies are blooming and I am glad. We are having a warm week and they went from tight buds to fully open quickly.

This week the kids' school district announced that they were cutting back the school week by one day for the remainder of the school year. Aside from it changing some of the curriculum, which is unfortunate, not having online school on Fridays anymore is a welcome change. By Friday, I am really over trying to get them motivated for school. On our first no-school Friday we hauled lumber for a new fence that Vincent is building in the backyard (because the old one is literally falling apart) and cleaned the house. It must be a universal rule that within 24 hours of mopping the floors something must be spilled on them, right? Saturday the kids made ice cream in a bag and dripped salt water all over the kitchen. They dried the floor with a towel and now it has a white, salty sheen. At least they were busy and happy for a bit, right?

I'm still cooking a lot, like everyone else. It's so strange. Other than preparing lunch for everyone almost everyday, I probably am cooking the same amount as I was in the Before Times. It feels so different though. It's probably because it is unrelenting and there isn't a choice. Before, when I was planning out the week's meals, I would see what was on sale at my favorite grocery store and try to plan something delicious and nutritious. Now, my goal is to provide comfort and to work with what food we already have on hand and what I can order ahead and pick up at the farmer's market. We have eaten more homemade burgers in the time we've been home than we ever have. We bought a share of beef last summer from Kookoolan Farms, so the meat is readily available in our freezer, and a burger is one of my favorite comfort foods. I like to mix grated cheese into the meat instead of putting a slice of cheese on top. It's great to eat comforting foods, but I'm also starting to get tired of it. In a week and a half the CSA we signed up starts so hopefully that will inspire me again.

I made Alison Roman's famous Salted Shortbread Chocolate Chunk Cookies. They weren't my favorite. For me, the cookie wasn't sweet enough to balance out the bitterness of the chocolate. I had one that hardly had any chocolate in it and I really liked it. I could make them again with less chocolate, but really I'd rather make a different cookie altogether.

Friday, March 27, 2020

Home Life



 



 







We are on Day 14 of being home during this corona virus social distancing time. My husband is working from home out in his studio in the backyard. The kids and I, and our newish kitten, spend our days in the house, the backyard, and go for the occasional bike ride or walk. Last week the weather was beautiful, which was so nice for our first week at home. This week it's 15-20 degrees cooler and rainy. Monday morning was a lot harder this week.

I jumped into this time with a bunch of gusto. I am a stay at home parent already and I love to cook. I loaded up my Libby App (digital library card) with books to read and listen to. I started dreaming about all of the knitting projects I could finish. This wasn't going to be hard. I thought it would be similar to Summer for us. What I didn't count on is that a lot of our Summer is built around little excursions; to the library, to the park, out for ice cream, swimming at the community center, swimming in the inflatable pool on our back patio. All of that isn't available right now. I usually make up a daily schedule during the summer, mainly so I can point to Snack Time when a kid tells me they're hungry. I've got a schedule now and you know what? I've been so busy that I haven't done any reading. So many kid squabbles to break up. Trying to help with online math? Yikes! This is hard.

Most days I break up the day into half hour increments, focusing on that chunk of time and not the unknown length of time this is going to go on for. I tell myself that I used to spend the majority of my day at home, so this isn't really that much of a change.

Over the last year or two we've maybe gone out to breakfast once or twice, but over the last week I've been craving a big diner breakfast, with crunchy hash browns and sausage links and a bite of something covered in syrup that my kids would order.  If we weren't stuck at home I would be dismissing thoughts of going out to breakfast because it's such a hassle, but here I am thinking about what I can't have. Sure, I can make all of that at home (and I'm sure I will) but it's just not the same.


Cooking is my Love Language. Here's what I've been cooking:

Baked Oatmeal with Caramelized Pears
Bananas Foster Upside-Down Cake
Parmesan Broth
Mushroom-Farro Soup with Parmesan Broth
Meatloaf
Spatchcocked Chicken
Slow-Roasted Salmon with Harissa 
Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins
Pizza
Muddy Buddies
Citrus-Braised Pork
Teriyaki Chicken
Pasta with Meat Sauce
Many plates of fried eggs and toast
Many quesadillas
So Many Snacks

I've also been doing a lot of dishes. So Many Dishes.


It is so easy to focus on what is hard right now, so here's a little list of good things:

-Everyone I see while out walking in my neighborhood smiles and says hi
-Flowers and trees are blooming
-I turned over one of our garden beds and sowed some seeds
-I listened to one of my favorite books again
-Kitten snuggles
-I'm so glad we added on a second bathroom last summer
-I picked up an old knitting project and started working on it
-My youngest learned how to ride a bike last week!




Tuesday, December 31, 2019

~~December~~





















 We had a wonderful December, full of ups and downs, just like it is every year. Last year I was so overwhelmed by the time Christmas came around that the day after Christmas I made a plan for the following year. Starting with September I put holiday to do list post it notes on the calendar. It was very helpful and a huge improvement over the previous year. I got my shopping done a lot earlier and it helped me not buy extra stuff. This year every time I walked through a shop and saw something little and cute I thought, "I don't need to buy that. Christmas shopping, especially stocking stuffers, is done already." This year, like last year, I helped organize the school Book Fair at Annie Bloom's Books, a local bookstore, in November and did a bunch of holiday shopping at that. The post it notes ensured that I had shopping and wrapping mostly finished early, the holiday menus planned early, and Christmas cards in the mail before Christmas. If I had followed all of my instructions I would have also baked and frozen cookies and lasagna in November and not saved making the teachers' gifts (jam) for the day before they were needed. As it turned out I made and froze the lasagnas less than a week before Christmas, made spritz cookies (my favorite) two days before Christmas, and still have yet to bake and frost traditional sugar cookies. Next year I will do the baking in November; lesson learned.

This is our kitty's first Christmas and he has had so much fun climbing the Christmas tree. Some days he climbs it multiple times, other days he doesn't even look at it. We have also discovered his love of white bread products, finding bite marks through plastic bags into rolls and tortillas. So strange (and annoying). Every evening he curls up on the floor of the kitchen while I make dinner and try not to step on him. Dean made him a last minute stocking this year, complete with a drawing of him on it.

Every year my mom makes ornaments to give to everyone. Last year her ornaments were pieced out of paper, the year before she collected seed pods, painted them and added ribbon, a few years before that she repurposed cat food can lids (the funniest!), and this year she used buttons and pins. They're all unique and so beautiful.

For Christmas Eve I made Cornish Game Hens, mashed potatoes, and roasted brussels sprouts. Even with all of my earlier planning, I was still overwhelmed and in tears on Christmas Eve morning, staring at a huge list of things still to do. The previous day I had listened to a podcast from The Lazy Genius titled "A Christmas Pep Talk" and I totally needed it. As I was feeling overwhelmed I remember her saying something like, 'remember what matters and put your energy toward that.' I told my family I needed help. My husband smiled, said this happens every year, and asked how he could help. I scrapped the plans to bake and frost cookies (sorry kids), and sent my husband to the store for rolls and cinnamon rolls in a can. I just couldn't do it all from scratch this year. I still had to do some cooking, yes, but also enjoy the day which is the whole point of it.

We wouldn't have had mashed potatoes that night if I hadn't already made them in advance. Also, I learned that if russet potatoes are gently boiled with their skins on, the skins can be easily peeled off once they're cooked and cooled a bit. My least favorite aspect of making mashed potatoes is peeling them, and now I don't ever have to do it again. Hooray for small wins!

After dinner we watched "Will Vinton's Claymation Christmas," our family tradition and drank hot chocolate. The kids reluctantly went to bed. I put on Love Actually, sadly one of the only Christmas movies we managed to watch this year, and started getting everything ready. I loaded the dishwasher and finished wrapping gifts in the garage. My mom always spends the night on Christmas Eve so she can be with us Christmas morning. I missed many parts of the movie but got to see Hugh Grant do his dance, which is my favorite part. It's so awkward and funny!

Christmas Day was busy and great. We thoroughly enjoyed the cinnamon rolls from a can. Dean got lots of craft projects and started putting them together as soon as possible. Gianna got a polaroid camera and had a lot of fun documenting the day. In the late afternoon some friends and family joined us for lasagna (freezer to oven!), kale/brussels sprouts slaw (more about that in an upcoming post), and rolls. Dean's gift from Santa was a beyblade arena and a bunch of beyblades. They're basically spinning tops that battle each other. Kids and adults were taking turns with the tops in the arena and having a great time. For dessert I made a Baked Alaska Tree. I chose it mainly because I could make and freeze it three days ahead and then apply the meringue and torch it right before serving it. Because I didn't do a trial run, it came out lopsided. We joked that it was a crooked santa hat, a tipping tree, or the sorting hat from Harry Potter. It was hard to slice into but it was delicious. It was filled with peppermint ice cream (vanilla ice cream that I added crushed candy canes and peppermint extract to) and chocolate chocolate chip ice cream. My husband had gotten some very nice tequila as a gift and after dinner we all had a taste. It was a wonderful, gluttonous couple of days, as it should be.

In the days since Christmas we have mainly been at home. We took a hike and grilled some pork chops. I finished a book and started another. Today is New Year's Eve and we are going to a party tonight. The family hosting it has a wood fired pizza oven and I'm excited! Usually we do a First Day of the Year Hike the morning of Januray 1st. We'll see if any of us have the energy for that tomorrow. Happy New Year Friends!