Melting

July in New Orleans.

Gross

July through September down here is like living in an equatorial jungle, except the riotous jungle-like foliage is interspersed with lots of asphalt and charming iron-balcony’d buildings. (Though the bugs and reptiles and rodents are just as big as in the Congo, I’d bet). It’s sauna-like all hours of the day and night. It also rains here  for about an hour every afternoon. It’s kind of soothing, up in my office on the 20th floor, to see the rain come down while I read depositions and tab up binders. The rain does nothing to cool things down, but it’s lovely and peaceful.

The boys have been going to arts camp, and enjoying it. I missed both of their little theater performances, which kinda bums me out, but I had conference calls. (I have soooo many conference calls at this new job. All day spent in calls, I swear). The Prof got to see one and they did well.

However, to bolster my Non-Neglectful Mother Points, I did spend all Friday evening in the sweltering kitchen making chicken and dumplings with them. I got home at 7 and was prepared to heat up the leftover sour cream noodle bake, per the meal plan, but they were desperate to do something with me and were really committed to doing more than setting the table and microwaving leftovers. So we did from scratch chicken and dumplings, in 95 degree weather, and we didn’t eat it til like 8:30 pm. After a long week of billing this took some self discipline, but I mustered up some enthusiasm for them, and we had a good time.

I was impressed with their skills – Jack peeled about a hundred carrots and cut them carefully with a very sharp Wusthoff knife. Liam made the dumplings, reading the labels on the baking supplies and selecting the right stuff (baking powder, baking soda, cornmeal), then reading the teaspoons and measuring cups, carefully measuring out the right amounts. I helped him cut in the butter, and he snipped fresh parsley from our backyard container garden and then carefully tore it into the mixing bowl. I showed them both how to make the roux, and they made a mess trying to roll up the dumpling dough and drop it into the hot broth. Craig was distracted upstairs for most of this, thank heavens, though he did end up “rolling” a lump of dough when he waltzed into the kitchen right at the end (squishing it between his fingers and getting it absolutely everywhere – but cheerfully!) They ate it all up, and we had a special mother and sons cooking night. Next week, Liam plans to make spaghetti and meatballs. Pretty soon, he’ll be guest posting here with HIS meal planning, while I put my feet up and let them serve me. 😉 #goals

Now it’s Saturday morning, and they are building lego creations at the kitchen table while I contemplate making myself some sort of breakfast. We have a kid birthday party later today. No other plans for the weekend, and that’s good. It’s too hot to do much of anything.

As for the week’s meals . . . here we go.

Spaghetti and meatballs by Sir Liam.

This Southwest black bean casserole – I bookmarked this a while ago after reading about it somewhere, and I’m eager to try it.

Creamy caprese quinoa bake – my basil outside has grown as tall as my oldest child, so it’s time to use some of it up.

Pork chops, sliced and sauteed brussels sprouts, mashed potatoes – the boys really do enjoy a meat-and-three sometimes!

Turkey tetrazzini, only with chicken bc we have a ton of chicken breasts in the freezer

The chicken gyros we didn’t end up making last week

Stay cool, friends!

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Blog Title

I titled this “Blog Title” because sometimes just getting past the title is a pain, especially if I don’t know what I’m going to write (beyond the meal plan, oh yes!)

This was my first full week at work, and it went just fine. I’m getting to know people, I have billable work, everyone seems nice. One girl just quit for another firm, but I already knew she was looking before I came (I did my homework/research before making the move). So it’s not a surprise, but it is a bummer, as she’s pretty cool. Also, you always get that little sick feeling in your stomach when someone else rejects what you just joined . . .

On Wednesday night I went with a friend to see Roxane Gay speak during her book tour for Hunger. She was really great, really funny and clever and honest. Purchase of the book was my “ticket,” and I read it in about three days. I’m reading Bad Feminist next. Good, difficult stuff. She’s breathtakingly honest. There are whole passages that just floored me. Afterwards, the friend and I went for a drink and a bit of food at a lovely old seafood place in uptown New Orleans, and talked of this and that. I had a frozen French 75 and crawfish macaroni and cheese, and did the math wrong on my tip, accidentally underpaying the waiter. I still feel embarrassed by that – having been a waitress for years, I always over-tip to make up for the inevitable cheapskate table. I almost want to swing by and hand the guy a fiver to apologize. Tonight, the Prof and I are going to a dress-up dinner to watch the Game of Thrones premiere – except we’ve only seen the first episode of the first season, so we’re going to have dinner and then sit and have drinks on the back porch during the episode itself. The wife doesn’t watch, so she’ll sit on the porch with us – the husband and other friends will watch. I know it’s weird but whatever it takes to be social.

I’ve been working out 3-4 times a week at least. It feels pretty awesome. I continue my running, although my mileage is slightly lower now that it’s boiling hot outside and I go to the gym instead. Treadmill running is harder to do 6 miles – so boring – so instead I run sprints on the treadmill for 3 miles or so, and then lift weights. I don’t feel any stronger, though I am able to continually increase the weight, so I must be stronger . . . I don’t know. I just know it feels good to go, to have been going about six months, to have a good healthy base again. Although I still have bouts of back pain, it’s helped my back a lot, too. I do lots of yoga moves and stretching at the beginning and end of each workout, and it helps. I also have pedals under my desk (and have for a while), and that helps the old granny back as well.

I also went to a dermatologist at last. Due to what I believe to be a mixture of stress, increased working out/sweat, and the hormonal changes of being almost-forty, the skin on my face has suddenly begun looking terrible. Scaly, simultaneously dry and oily (yes, this is possible somehow), breaking out, lots of spots and dark patches and just a mess. So in a bow to my vanity and a slight bit of worry over possible hormonal issues, I finally saw a dermatologist. The waiting room was full of incredibly rich, beautiful, thin women talking about how ugly they are and how many wrinkles they have (THEY HAVE NO WRINKLES). The two dermatologists at this practice are stunningly gorgeous, thin women who clearly practice what they preach and also have DEFINITELY had lash extensions, and who tiptoed around telling me that I’m getting older. “As we add time to our lives,” “as time goes by,” “when we hit a certain season in life.” It was quite funny. Like, YES I’m nearly forty and that is ok with me, it’s ok to say I’m getting older. The “O” word is fine! I left with a bag full of samples, a skin care routine, and a prescription for a hormonal thingy that should help. The routine is simple enough – they told me what facewash and night moisturizer to use, let me stick with my daytime spf30 moisturizer, and gave me some vitamin C cream for the morning and Tazorac cream for the night. I have a follow up in three months to zap some things on my face and double check that the regimen is working.

Last update in this random stream of consciousness – I continue to play guitar. I add a song or two a week, and try to make sure each new song has a new chord so I can add to my list of chords I know. The boys want to learn and for some reason this annoys me. I’m very uncharitable about it. I just want one thing that is MY THING that I don’t have to be a patient, gentle, self-sacrificing mom about, but every time I get out the guitar or start to play the piano, they surround me and ask me to teach them. We’re going to figure out how to get them back in piano lessons for sure, and I said if they practice their piano really well, we will think about getting them a kid-sized guitar for Christmas (mine really is too big for them to play, so they just bang on it and knock it out of tune). Meanwhile, occasionally I give in and show them a thing or two, but mostly I tell them to back off and listen (and sing along, if they want), since playing my instruments is a stress-reliever for me and it’s just gotta be ok once in a while to tell them no. Although, I really want to encourage music! Catch 22.

Now for the meal planning portion of this mess of a post: As for last week’s meals, it was fun to cook again after a month off. The stir fry noodles were delicious – Jack had about 4 bowls, no lie. In addition to the recipe as is, I also marinated some pork chops in homemade teriyaki sauce and cooked them over the weekend, and then the night we had stir fry noodles, I sliced the cooked chops thin and threw them in at the last minute, so they would warm up with overcooking and totally drying out. This would be fine without chops, but the chops bulked it out. I will say soaking the rice noodles in cold water did not work for me. I soaked them a long time and they never got soft enough to chew without feeling like you were eating straw, so I put the pot on the stove and heated it up. It took only a minute or two of heat – didn’t even get to boiling – for them to soften, and they didn’t glop together as she warns in her post, though I watched them closely.

The buffalo chicken salad was fine, though I marinated the chicken overnight and it still didn’t taste very buffalo-ish. It was fine, but sort of plain – perhaps I need to marinate, cook, then re-soak in sauce for a while? The salmon was delicious, and the chicken enchiladas are a repeat old favorite and they were a hit this time as well. We also ended up having tacos last night from the leftover chicken, and I made homemade guac. Mmmm.

This coming week, I over-indulged on Costco-sized bags of produce and so I’ve made lots of soups. This was a hot afternoon, getting all of these soups prepared, plus cutting carrot sticks and chunking squash (one of my favorite breakfasts is squash chunks sauteed briefly in butter, then a yolky fried or poached egg on top, with perhaps a slice of cheese and/or halved tomato – based on this recipe). Always worth it for the ease of weektime cooking when I don’t get home from work til 7pm . . .

Summer squash soup – the spices in this soup make it soooooo good.

Chicken and dumplings – I asked Liam to choose a meal to make and he chose this (he’s made it before). I boiled some chicken breasts today to get ready for it.

Broccoli cheese soup – I tasted this when it was done and WOW. The nutmeg I think pushes it over the edge.

Costco ravioli with jarred pasta sauce

Sour cream noodle bake – this is leftovers that have been in the freezer for heaven knows how long, finally chipped it outta there. I hope it tastes ok . . .

Steak, roasted potatoes, asparagus

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Saturday! Morning! Meal! Planning!

The boys are home from “I-luh-rund.”

It is very noisy here now.

Jack is giving Craig piggy back rides. Liam has spent some quality time with his Skylanders video game. Happiest among us is almost certainly Virgil, who has an exasperated air of “Finally, these crazy humans are in a herd-able group again!” He has been flopped atop the Prof for the entirety of the morning.

I have lots of pictures to share but my iPhone and Mac are not talking to each other currently, so until I work out their irreconcilable differences, this blog will be temporarily picture-free.

My fridge is bare, though the freezer and pantry are stocked with staples since I haven’t really cooked much since they left. Craig and I mostly grazed – I had a toddler sort of meal plan, snacking as much as eating defined meals. Craig ate 2-3 bananas a day, no lie. I had a lot of meat+cheese+olives kinda dinners. However, now the bottomless pits have returned, and so it’s back to weekly meal plans and real dinners. Meanwhile, it is nine thousand degrees plus five hundred percent humidity here, so light/fresh/preferably chilled foods are preferable. It is the “fine sheen of sweat at all times” time of year down here in the South. My deck chairs are literally sprouting mold. I sometimes feel like I could grow a nice layer of mold if I went a day without showering, it’s so humid and damp and warm.

With that lovely mental image, here is our first meal plan in a long while, yo:

Saturday: Pork chops, stir fried singapore noodles with garlic ginger sauce. I’ve never made these and always looked at ’em and thought “THOSE LOOK SO GOOD.” So we’ll give it a try. Though that last ingredient on the list – not sure if I’d even know where to look for that.

Sunday: Springtime pasta salad, sausages, lemonade

Monday: Some version of this buffalo chicken salad – let’s be real, I’m just going to buy a salad dressing to go with this, and the kids would hate bleu cheese – but we’ll make something approximating this

Tuesday: Crock pot chicken gyros, couscous

Wednesday: Spaghetti bolognese – I have some frozen from when the boys were here before, so I’ll defrost and YUM!

Thursday: Garlic butter salmon, asparagus, roasted new potatoes

Friday: Chicken enchiladas with greek yogurt sauce.

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Fourth

His little swim things are drying on the back deck rail. I’ve gathered the various sprinkler attachments that I’d put on the hose for him this morning, and they’re in a somewhat muddy, grassy pile on the stone pavers to the side of our house. He’s asleep upstairs, and I’m about to lay down here on the couch for a minute. The heat wears me right out.

I didn’t sleep well last night – I had a stress dream about, of all things, cleaning up a room. It was some sort of preschool room in a church basement, and a friend and I had to get it cleaned up before we could go, and the glitter and toys and scraps and mess just kept multiplying. I have distinct dream memories of a futile attempt with a push broom. Of all the things.

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Gratitude & Anxiety, in Equal Measure

My week+2 days off is drawing to a close, and I feel (as my title would suggest) both anxiety and gratitude. Sometimes it can be hard to relax, even with a week off, since I have been conditioned to experience time as a scarcity, to be jealously hoarded.  I am used to stressing about how to fit exactly what needs done in exactly the time allotted – like one of those sliding puzzle games where tiles are trapped in a groove and you have to slide them around each other to put them in place.

A visualization of management of my typical daily schedule

A visualization of management of my typical daily schedule

It’s hard to turn this off like a switch. I tried rationally to dole out relaxation time and “catch up on stuff around the house” time in equal measure, but emotionally it was not easy to know if this was THE ABSOLUTE BEST USE OF THIS PRECIOUS TIME. Doling out time feels so high stakes, always, even when it needn’t be.

Fortunately or unfortunately, in the 24 days the Prof has been gone, Craig has gone to daycare for only 6 of them. Having a tag-along 3 year old definitely impacts your productivity and adjusts expectations of what can be accomplished (especially when said 3 year old has a fever for a whole darn week). I got less rest and relaxation over my week off due to his constant presence (he is Peak Three right now, lots of arguing over alternative facts with this one, and every single interaction involves negotiation). But I also couldn’t go overboard on closet-cleaning out, either. And there’s something to be said for that, I guess.

So, my week off.  When last we checked in, I was collapsed after an awful final week of work when Craig was sick and I was losing my mind. Craig drastically improved, and we went across the street to visit neighbors and swim in their above ground pool, we took scooter rides to the park, we took the dog on long walks. We had a decent weekend, and then I sent him to daycare on Monday and Tuesday and I swept and mopped the floor (including chipping play doh out of floorboards, thanks kid), went through all of the bills/mail/end-of-school piles, and did a full clothing swap for the boys’ out of season/size clothes. Along with gym trips, laundry, cleaning out my own drawers, and a few other things, that essentially filled my daycare hours.  Wednesday, we spent the day driving over to Texas to meet my newest nephew – I’ve held each of my nieces and nephews in their first month of life and wasn’t about to let that streak die. He’s a precious guy and we spent a lovely, chill two days there – it was fun watching my sister and her husband being parents, and seeing the house they’ve lived in for a while but I had not yet visited.

We came back Saturday, arriving late after a long drive among angry holiday weekend drivers. Sunday after crashing out (Craig slept until the ridiculous hour of 9am), I bought an hour of babysitting at the campus gym and did my workout, then picked Craig up from the very disinterested student who was “watching” him and we got into our swimsuits and swam at the campus pool. He took a late nap and I did more laundry and actually napped myself, and then we went out for dinner at an overpriced hot dog place in town. It was very cute – I dipped my fries in his ketchup and he said “Mama! We sharing!” And then he took a lot of burst photos with my phone.

Today, Monday, Craig woke at 6 am (a more typical hour for him), and I dropped him at daycare right at 8. He was NOT PLEASED, after so much mommy time, but this is my last chance for a day “off” since daycare is closed for July 4, and so off he went. I went straight to the gym again, and after a good hard workout, I’m home, showered, and checking in with ya’ll!  Next comes bills, filling in my new hire paperwork, doing a few last minute items. Tonight another friend is coming over for porch wine. Tomorrow, I hope C and I can find some 4th of July thing to crash. And then . . . the job begins Wednesday.

I’m super nervous about this job, ya’ll. Literally every single person at my last firm heard where I was going and then sucked their teeth, rolled their eyes, and said “good luck with THAT. And if it crushes your soul and makes you miserable, you can always come back.” So . . . I hear this a lot, as a working mom – the “there’s no way your gonna be able to do that, but good luck” kind of comments. It’s usually well-meant, but even so, the anxiety mounts as I start to wonder – are they right? I do wonder if these partners at my old firm, who regularly write me emails on Saturdays and Sundays and midnight and with whom I have spent many holidays in the office, are overestimating how “easy” and “awesome” my work at their firm is? I’ll note this, too – the Yale Law Women rate firms every year on family-friendliness, and my new firm is in the top ten.

All this to say, I’m excited and a little sick. Anxious and grateful. Hopeful, with guarded optimism. And trying not to worry that Craig gets another fever during this, my first week, while the Prof is still out of town. 😉

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