Family Game Night and Other Pleasantries

I’ve had several insane weeks in a row at work – mostly because there was a bit of a snafu re: overstaffing. There is a central staffing office but several folks put my on pitches without notifying the staffing office, and when they got awarded to us, I suddenly was on a billion cases. Since then, several have settled, which helps. A couple are in a lull right now. The leader of my practice group told me Friday that I was under no circumstances to bill this weekend, or she would take me off some cases to make sure I was able to get adequate rest. So I haven’t billed a minute!

Instead, we did family game night on Friday, per the Prof’s request. It was a good request. Typically I use my Friday Evening Exhaustion as an excuse to veg out with my phone on the couch for a million hours and do an easy dinner, shoving the kids in front of the tv/video games for a little break. But because I was sort of forced to, I put the screens away and got out the games with the boys. And it turned out that Screen Free Family Time was not too exhausting – we did have to manage the 3 yo’s careless destruction of the game board on occasion, and working out who would play which game with whom was something of a chore. But we got out checkers and a game called Pirate vs. Pirate, while Craig tinkered around with Marble Run.  And a merry time was had by all, though we played the games laying on the hardwood floor and the Prof and I both were a bit creaky in the joints when we finally got up.

(Speaking of hardwood floor – we want to get some area rugs, and I think finally we are in a position to afford some reasonable ones – as in hundreds of dollars, not thousands. Any recs?  How do we decide how big it should be? How do we make sure that the living room rug doesn’t clash with the dining room rug, since it’s really just one big room? I’m very nervous about this rug-buying process. WHAT IF I GET IT WRONG AND I’M STUCK WITH A RUG I HATE. This would be . . . ok not the worst thing ever, but for some reason it gives me anxiety.)

(Speaking of buying things – I did finally buy the handbag I promised myself after getting this new job! And it was on clearance from Macy’s, and my mama got me a gift card for my birthday, so I only paid $45 for it! It’s not this one exactly, but close – same color, same designer, same general price, slightly more pursey and less totey than this, if you get what I mean. I love it.)

Saturday I did a 5.5 mile run (I was on track for 7 miles but it turned out to be 9000 degrees and I wilted a little more quickly), then took the boys to a birthday party, then took a nap. Saturday night I made the halibut dish (it was excellent – I made it with cod bc I couldn’t find halibut, and we had it with couscous which were perfect.)  I read a book a while, then went to bed early.

And now it’s today, Sunday. We have Boy Scouts and another birthday party today, and I am going to work a tiny smidge because I have to give a presentation to about 300 lawyers on Tuesday and I haven’t even STARTED working on it. It’s only about 20 minutes, though, and I can get our marketing department to make my power point slides look pretty, so not terribly stressful. I may take another nap. La di da.

As for meal planning – the neverending chore that I mostly love but sometimes don’t – here are the plans for the week. I never got around to the tuna casserole or the Korean beef  bowl last week – we had a leftovers night and a macaroni and cheese night because the week was so busy, plus I made a brisket because Trader Joe’s brisket is so reasonable.  So those two dishes from last week remain on this week’s list.

  • Korean bowl
  • tuna casserole – tuna, cream of mushroom soup, egg noodles, plus oregano and breadcrumbs on top. Simple, cheap.
  • sausage and pasta bake – I have sausage, pasta, and pasta sauce – sounds good to me!
  • This Thai carrot soup

That’s all I’m putting on the menu this week. We’ve got leftover brisket and may make burritos with that, we’ve got frozen soups in the freezer – we can put something together for the other nights.

Here’s hoping for a week that’s tame enough for more family game nights. 😉

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*Blearily Blinks Eyes*

Hello, internet friends!

I cannot believe it is mid-September, I really can’t. The weeks zoom by, the children’s limbs shoot out, and I occasionally look up from my computer screen and go outside for a walk before returning to my billing.  It was lovely weather for a walk here in NOLA for a few days, though now it’s back to boiling hot again. Nothing more offensive than boiling hot September weather.

I had a major filing yesterday and it was one of those high-stress, nail-biter kind of days, leaving me fairly exhausted even still this morning. We all went to a friend’s fortieth birthday party last night, and I was just so wiped. Friday nights all I want to do is flop on the couch, and especially so after a Filing Day. I love these friends so I womaned up and left work at 6:30, swung by the grocery to grab some yellow roses and wine for her gift, then headed to the house to meet the Prof and the boys. These friends own an old blow up waterslide (one of those huge ones that you usually rent, they bought secondhand an old ripped up one and then painstakingly patched it together). The kids played on that (in the dark!), while I sat on a couch and stared into space, holding a beer and hoping nobody would talk to me. We left on the early side, shoved the children into bed, and went immediately to sleep.

Now it’s Saturday morning and College Game Day is on the tv, the boys are playing Legos upstairs, I billed just a handful of minutes (cleaning up the email inbox, mostly), and now I’m doing a meal plan and grocery list. I have high hopes that there will be time this afternoon for a nap. I definitely am feeling the need for a siesta, after a series of 50-60 hour weeks.

I’ve been buying Christmas presents little by little, which means we’re going super cheap with meals and barely eating out right now. However, we have had friends over three weekends in a row and fed them on a Saturday or Sunday night while our children play upstairs – mostly grilling out salmon, occasionally burgers. We had the neighbors across the street come over for Labor Day, our former landlords and close friends came over the weekend after, and last weekend some of the Prof’s colleagues who just moved around the corner from us. This weekend is taken up with Boy Scout stuff, so we are taking a weekend break from cooking out for friends, but it’s been fun to have guests and introduce them to the amazing salmon that LagLiv introduced ME to, and also letting the Prof dust off the charcoal and be a Manly Grilling Man.

This week’s meals will be nothing fancy. We’re getting the boys hair cut today and the haircut place is by Trader Joe’s, so I’m going to swing by there and see what I see – it may change the menu a bit. For now, this is what I’m planning –

  • Tuna noodle casserole. The Prof HATES this, but it is so easy to make and so cheap and we have all the ingredients so SORRY CHARLIE. I do try to fancy it up by topping with breadcrumbs, mixed with melted butter and oregano, so it has a nice crispy topping.
  • Pork chops and potatoes. The kitchn’s perfect pork chop is pretty much the only way I do it – so good.
  • Chicken Bakobs – as my niece calls them!  (Kabobs! or Kebabs, if you’re English.) I’ll buy some sauce from Trader Joes and mix them with red onion, chicken chunks, and red bell peppers. Possibly skipping the sticks and just broiling.
  • One pan Mediterranean halibut with baked vegetables – this is a new one, we’ll give it a try.
  • Lasagna. I just make it up, usually with ricotta (mixed with one egg and a sprinkle of nutmeg), wilted spinach, mozzarella, and sausage but no ground meat, but we’ll see what’s in the freezer.
  • Spicy Korean beef and quinoa bowl. Another new one – doesn’t this look divine?

As a quinoa addict, and having found quinoa for sale at Costco that does not cost its weight in gold, I am going to wade my way through every one of these recipes that I haven’t already tried. Except the shrimp ones, sigh (my oldest has as shrimp allergy).  This one looks pretty good, too, but the kids will be less into it and I’m not feeling up for a dinnertime fight this week.

 

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College Game Day Begins

It’s too hot for football, but here we are watching College Game Day. Staring down a three day weekend, and thrilled about it. No doubt I’ll be billing a little time over the next three days, but I have an absolute mountain of work coming my way next week and so I’m going to do my best to rest and recharge. We aren’t going anywhere and don’t have any particular plans, and for this particular Labor Day weekend that’s just what we all need.

I had a great recent birthday this past week. The boys made me breakfast in bed (really the Prof and Liam, though the others took full credit). I went to work and took a facetime call from my 3 month old nephew and my sister – it was fun, he’s reaching the age where he’s really interactive and pudgy and adorable, and I enjoyed seeing him and his mama. I billed a couple of hours, and then my boss took me for a lunch of giant steaks and an eighty dollar bottle of red wine. We shared a medium rare THIRTY SIX OUNCE porterhouse – rest assured we did not eat it all, but it was one of the best steaks I have ever had. It comes out still mostly rare, but they serve it sliced on a cutting board, and you get a boiling hot plate covered in melted butter. You spoon a couple of slices onto your hot plate and it cooks it a tiny bit more, so it’s absolutely perfect. This boss has been a law firm partner a while and he knows how to live well, let me tell you. After this two hour marathon lunch, I went back to work and sleepily fielded a few more calls from siblings and parents, and then went home early to nap.

I managed to digest enough to be able to eat dinner out with the boys – an Italian place in mid-city that serves meatballs as big as your head. Jack, Craig and I split a thin crust pizza – about all I could handle – while the Prof and Liam shared spaghetti and meatballs. Then we walked three doors down to an old fashioned gelato place, where Craig bathed in his chocolate cone and Jack and Liam devoured strawberry and vanilla. (We should start buying Neapolitan ice cream, the boys can each eat a stripe of it).

The boys gave me a puppet show when we got home – a giant squid eating a swimmer, they are obsessed with giant squid right now – and then we put them to bed and watched tv in bed before falling asleep for ten hours. Awesome. I’m thirty nine now, and that’s just about the exact birthday celebration I want these days. Although next year – we’re partying hard. Bring on those forties with a bang.

This week’s meal planning will be abbreviated and lovely, since I made most of last week’s meals and we didn’t end up eating them! So they’re frozen and ready to re-heat this week. The boys have piano lessons one night a week now, and so that night was McD’s this week until we can figure out how to get them fed between school and piano (complicating this is that I also have choir rehearsal around the same time, so we’re all running in a million directions). And then my birthday night I didn’t cook. And then one other night I discovered an approximately four hundred pound bag of potatoes I’d bought at Costco and forgot about, so I made a million gallons of potato soup and we had some of that one night. We did have the gumbo (SO GOOD), kale and quinoa bake (essentially macaroni and cheese, but sub quinoa for macaroni and throw in some kale, it was tasty), and the homemade pizzas (yum). We also had friends over last minute on last Sunday, and so I grilled some salmon for them. All good stuff.  So this week’s meals are mostly last week’s meals, plus a few extras:

  • Green chile soup – already made, just gotta reheat
  • Oven fried chicken cutlets and roasted broccoli – didn’t get to this one
  • Liam’s spaghetti with sausage
  • Black bean and potato enchiladas – I’ll make this up, but we have to do some serious potato eating to get through this giant bag, ya’ll
  • Potato latkes, pork chops, and roasted brussels sprouts
  • Leftovers, or some kinda somethin’ for that piano/choir night.

Last note – while it was a good week for us, it included one bonus day off school for the boys. We were on alert for the remnants of Hurricane Harvey to hit us, and while we got some wind and rain, there was no flooding here. But the pictures from Houston . . . they hit you in the gut. We aren’t Katrina survivors, but we know a lot of them, and they are all being essentially re-traumatized through Houston’s pain. The loss of human life will be much less in Houston, it seems clear, but the devastation to property is as bad (and the lives that rely on that infrastructure to function, it isn’t “just stuff” of course, it’s memories and refrigerators and schools and churches and groceries and baby books and instruments and wardrobes and family heirlooms and all the tools for living in a community, ruined for everyone at once, which complicates replacing everything as well). We do know how long it takes to come back, and I feel so keenly for Houstonians. We’ll help how we can, trusting that if it comes back here someday, we’ll get that help in return. It’s hard to watch and feel so helpless. We’ll do whatever we can, and we’re thinking of our Texas neighbors.

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Guitar Fixed! And Other News

I’m not sure if I shared here, but somehow the neck of my guitar was broken . . . by children, no doubt. It’s a cheap guitar and I don’t play anywhere but for myself, so I was distressed at the prospect of having to pay for a new one, but turns out it’s not too hard to fix a guitar with a snapped neck. (Who knew?) $60 later and it’s playing just fine. There was a more expensive option that would have made it look good as new and involved sanding and re-staining, but that seemed silly, so I now have a guitar that plays just fine but has a big scar on the neck. Which is fine by me. Chicks dig scars.

I had it re-strung as well, and boy these new strings are way nicer. My fingers don’t hurt as much, it sounds better . . . all in all, a good investment. I’m keeping a running list of songs that I’m teaching myself, on both piano and guitar, so if I sit down and can’t think of what to play, I can flip to it. So far My City of Ruins, Girl on Fire, and Almost Lover are my three most polished piano pieces. (I’m working on picking out a couple of Patty Griffin pieces now).  On guitar, I play Every F*ckin’ City, tons of Liz Phair, some Simon and Garfunkel, Fats Domino’s Whiskey Heaven, and Patty Griffin’s Rowing Song and Trapeze. (Simplified version of all these – I have no picking ability, right now I’m just trying to build on the chords I know and get quicker at switching my fingers from chord to chord).  Now that these kids are bigger, I’m rediscovering old skills, and it’s fantastic. We just (finally!) got the boys started back on piano lessons as well. Jack – JACK, WHO SPENT THE ENTIRE SUMMER IN IRELAND AND SIMILAR TRIPS – has told us his life is empty and he needs something interesting to fill his listless after-school hours. So after heartily rolling our eyes, we finally got off our keisters and signed them up for piano and are looking for a sport. He’s desperate to do gymnastics but – I know my son – as soon as we get him in there and he sees it’s all girls, he’s gonna want out. So not sure what we’re going to do about that. Soccer or baseball would be great but these days it’s hard to join a kid sport without committing your entire life and wallet to it. Jack would love dance but that’s all girls too, and while the Prof and I obvs don’t care, he definitely would. (While this annoys me, and we work on it, I’m also not going to force my kid to do a thing he feels uncomfortable doing as a means of furthering my own social agenda, you know?)  Liam, of course, would happily play the iPad every hour of the day and night, but we’re putting him in some sort of after school activity as well. He’ll be a pasty, skinny IT geek one day I’ll bet, but while he lives under my roof he’ll get some Vitamin D and cardiovascular exercise if I’ve got anything to say about it.

This past week was another flat out week at work. I’m sort of accepting that maybe this is my life now. . . I did take one night off, but every other night of the week I billed from about 9 to 11 or midnight.  I think I’ll have a 200 hour month. I’m tired but so far handling it ok. Since I’m a sixth year, I now know what I’m doing, so while the volume of work is heavy, I know how to do it all. None of it gives me panic attacks like it used to do when I was a second year lawyer and everything was unfamiliar and terrifying. It’s just, you now, sort of CONSTANT.  I have a meeting every three hours or so, I swear, and so often I finish one meeting and have an hour to frantically prepare for the next one, lather rinse repeat. At least I’m on track for hours . . .

This weekend is Hurricane Harvey. We’re not a direct hit, so it’ll just be rain rain rain. That means flooding here. Our house won’t flood but the streets will, so who knows if we’ll be able to get out. I can walk/wade to numerous grocery stores so I feel like we’ll be ok no matter what, unless we lose power for a long period of time. I have tons of Texas friends and family in Houston/Dallas/San Antonio, so I’m keeping a wary eye on their conditions. Prayers that it weakens and diminishes more quickly than the forecasters say.

This week’s meals are a mix of old recipes and new. I flipped through some old Southern Living magazines to get a few ideas, and of course Liam had to pick his one meal to be in charge of. I’m steadily working toward my goal of having Liam cook one or two meals a week without my supervision, so it’s on the table when I get home. Is that evil? 😉 It’ll be several years before that happens but it’s a chore he really digs and so I don’t feel like a slavedriver mom. I’ve also found that I can use this cooking connection somewhat get him to be less picky (he eats what I serve, but he whines about it). If he’s whining about a meal (squash soup, for example), then I’ll ask him what he thinks it needs next time to make it “less gross.” I’ll tell him in detail how I made it and the spices I included, and ask him to taste for those spices and see if maybe I should switch one out. And he gets into it – he’ll roll it around in his mouth and put a finger to his pursed lips and say, with furrowed brow, that he recommends more pepper or perhaps to blend it more finely so it’s not so chunky. Then he goes back to whining, but it does interrupt the flow of complaints for a minute or two.

Spaghetti with sausage – This is Liam’s pick to make. We’ll saute chunks of sausage and then throw them in some jarred spaghetti sauce, plus spaghetti and maybe some green peppers.

Oven fried chicken cutlets and roasted broccoli.  I’ll skip the Parmesan cream sauce as this seems fine without it. This somewhat makes up for our fried chicken strips last week . . .

Creamy kale and pasta bake. I may try to switch out quinoa for the pasta. The kids like it fine and I do too. I like pasta, too, don’t get me wrong, but I try to switch it out once in a while for health.

Chicken gumbo. I have made a great chicken gumbo in the past, and I flipped through pages of my archives to find the link to it, but I couldn’t find it. I don’t think this link is it, but we’ll give this one a try.

Green chile chicken soup. This is in a November Southern Living as a thing to do with all the extra turkey, but I’ve got tons of chicken breasts and chicken stock, so we’ll switch up the poultry.

Homemade pizzas. Or maybe DiGiorno. we’ll see what I’m feeling.

Until next time – stay dry, stay safe, have a great week.

Posted in Bitchin in the Kitchen, Jack, Lawyerin', Liam | 1 Comment

Tuesday Evening Retroactive Meal Planning

It is a Tuesday evening. Every work-night last week – including Friday – I worked until midnight-ish, after giving the children my dinner hour. It’s been a lot of nights on the couch, dialed into the network and typing while the children snore upstairs. I’m a little tired but now that I’ve sort of accepted this as status quo for the time being, I’m just pleased that I’ve quickly become quite popular with the partners and am essentially drowning in work, all because they keep picking me for assignments.

I did a handful of hours on Saturday morning as well, while the children watched Saturday morning cartoons and fetched their own breakfast, and then we all proceeded to have an overbooked, super fun, kind of exhausting weekend. Saturday (after I billed some time), we did house projects all day. The children lingered in their pajamas and cleaned their room and spent almost zero time on screens – choosing instead to play cards, board games, and have “drawing competitions,” while I tidied and laundried and swept the floor and the Prof did various outdoor house projects. Saturday evening, a babysitter came and we spent the evening with friends in the French Quarter. It was a stormy evening and we dashed from bar to restaurant to bar, cringing at the lightning and swapping wedding stories. We had a delicious authentic African meal, then had a few drinks at a bar, and then the Prof and I dragged one of the couples to our house to have one last drink on the back porch. It was a great night.

The next morning I woke up after about 4.5 hours of sleep, and dragged everyone else up to go have brunch with friends in town from Mobile. We ended up getting burgers at a bar, since brunch on Sunday is a 2 hour wait in New Orleans and the boys certainly didn’t have that amount of patience in them. They shared news that they were expecting a girl – a very special surprise! – and we enjoyed each others’ company for a couple of hours. We went home for about half an hour before meeting another set of friends for a tour through the WWII museum.  I admit, I ended up overbooking the weekend, as I was thrashed by the end of Sunday night and facing a long week of work with no rest – but boy, was it great times. The WWII museum was with a single friend and her 7 yo son, and the friend knows a LOT about WWII. She gave the boys a lot of context that I would not have known, and Jack in particular really absorbed a great deal of what he saw. It was disturbing – we did the European theater (skipped Pacific theater for now due to time constraints), and of course the Nazi lessons were timely. Jack saw pictures of the Holocaust – bodies piled on top of bodies – and the ruined cities of Europe. He had some really pretty beautiful responses. Liam and Liam’s little 7 yo friend were less attentive, but that’s to be expected. After going through the March on Berlin exhibit, we took them to see the planes for a little break, and they had a great time checking out all the mannequins staged inside as pilots. Afterwards, we took them to the soda shop for slushies, and then we all went home and I flopped on the couch. Before making dinner because after a weekend like that, we need to put the wallets AWAY.

I haven’t written in a while, and I want to record (for my own remembrance) my good times from a couple of weeks ago as well. The Prof took the boys out of town and it was just me for a week. I billed about 60 hours, but also managed to squeeze in a happy hour with one friend Toni, three lunches with other friends (Ellen a rushed sandwich, MaryJo and Tootsie a long leisurely buffet and chat), met other Mobile friends with their toddler for a morning at the park and some coffee/egg sandwiches at a local coffee shop, and a night out dancing with other friends. I spent the boy-free Sunday binge-watching (literally for HOURS) old episodes of Sex and the City, and folding laundry. It was lovely. The Prof brought just Craig home that Sunday night, and then left himself a couple of nights later to join the big boys on another adventure, leaving me and Craig alone again for a couple of days. It reminded me of our Ireland month together – just him and me, hanging out, barely eating since he barely eats and I don’t bother cooking when nobody’s going to eat it. On the weekend we had a frustrating morning trying to fix our jogging stroller (managed to fix it), did a gym visit including an hour workout for me and then a half hour playing shuffleboard together, and when the boys returned the following Sunday, ended up going to a neighbor’s for swimming and hanging out.

I billed 60 hours last week too and I’m sort of tired already of billing 60 hours, but a lot of what’s driving this level of work is an upcoming hearing and once I’m past it, hopefully it will slow down to a more manageable 50 or so.  Still, it’s nice to so quickly be needed, valued, consulted, even in a new place. It’s been going well, aside from the lack of sleep.

Anyway, the last couple of weeks I have not planned meals because the boys were out of town. This week, however, we’re back to meal planning. And we’ve already eaten some of this and it’s delicious so I want to preserve it here for future use!

Squash Casserole, plus jalapeno sausages: I made this tonight and it was GREAT. These jalapeno sausages have been in the freezer forever, part of a variety pack that I saved til last because I wasn’t sure the boys would dig the jalapenos. They were spicy, but went perfectly with the fluffy, divine squash casserole. Really good. Rich – I won’t make it often – but soooo tasty.

Chicken pasta bake. Nothing fancy – I seared chicken pieces in some butter and oil (the butter for flavor, the oil keeps the butter from burning so you can get it nice and hot and sear the chicken without overcooking). I threw the cooked chicken with some cooked penne and sliced tomatoes, and cooked down some cream cheese (ancient, been in my fridge forever) with some red sauce, mixed it all up in a casserole dish and heated for twenty minutes.

Chicken strips, boxed mac and cheese, frozen veg. I made this on the weekend, homemade chicken strips. Slice raw chicken, dredge it in flour mixed with pepper and cayenne, then fry it in oil in a heavy duty skillet. Not very healthy but oh so delicious. Kind of the theme of this week’s meals.

Slow cooker Corn chowder. I haven’t made this one yet. We’ll probably skip the bacon. I have a go to corn chowder recipe but I thought maybe we could branch out with this one.

Hamburgers and hot dogs and macaroni and cheese. Liam is in charge of making one meal a week, and I let him pick. This is what he picked, so this is what we’ll make.

Sausage, green peppers and onions, and rolls. We’ve got a sausage/hot dog heavy week but I’m cleaning out the freezer.

So that’s the week. This week promises to be as busy as the last few – at least I’m billing ahead, so around Christmas I can take time off without guilt/worry!

 

Posted in Bitchin in the Kitchen, Dear Friends, Lawyerin' | Comments Off on Tuesday Evening Retroactive Meal Planning