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!

 

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Rain

It’s raining now – it’s been raining all day. In my new office, my entire exterior wall is a window, which floods the room with light on most days – but today, it was dim as twilight all day long. Below my window is one of the busier streets in the city – I can see tiny people and cars tootling along the street, more than a dozen floors below me. I look out over the river every day, where blue water vessels churn the mighty Mississip. The small slice of river I can see peeking through the skyscrapers seems to be a place where giant container ships make a turn – it is easy for me to be distracted by their maneuvers in the seemingly too-tight space, the angles and rudder manipulation so precise, the water choppy and brown around the propellers.

I don’t know if I’ve ever mentioned this, but most days I fill a glass pitcher with ice, water, and sliced lemons, and drink the whole thing, sometimes two. I like having a glass to hold in my hand as I numbly page my way through documents on the screen. I like seeing the lemons and ice, floating together, seeds settling on the bottom. I have also taken to eating a salad for breakfast every day. This was borne out of necessity, as I am basically the only one in the family who eats salad with any regularity, and at Costco you can get romaine heads in a package of 5. I have to eat ridiculous amounts of romaine to get through it without it going bad, and so I’ve taken to having a giant salad with tomatoes, carrots, hardboiled eggs, and a dollop of chicken salad on top. It’s actually a great breakfast – lots of protein, some roughage, not so heavy that you feel sleepy. Sometimes on weekends we’ll get donuts and I will enjoy the heck out of a Boston creme with my coffee, but I never feel well afterwards. Breakfast salads go down easy. They may become a staple.

I’m just feeling like describing my workday, I suppose, without describing my work of course, not in any detail. I’ve been at this firm – my third – for a month now, but it’s all the same. Wander in, look at a screen, make some phone calls, ten hours later wander out. Occasionally shove forkfuls of food in your mouth while you scroll through document after document. One funny thing about my firm is that our phones are all video phones, so if you call anyone in the firm, you can see each other on a screen – kind of like Skype or facetime, but with no buffering delays.  I’m used to it now but at first I’d always forget, and my conversation-companion would spend the whole call staring at my ear, or watching me as I stood up and stretched or fiddled with my hair or picked my teeth, completely forgetting I could be seen.

I like the work well enough, and my coworkers. I like the abundance of money. I’ll probably never make partner at this firm, but it’s somewhat soothing to know that they are rolling in money. I’ll never be laid off (and there are several associates with many years more than me under their belt, so there isn’t a hard cutoff for make-partner-or-leave). Also, our office makes the least salary in the firm, but has a pretty high billable rate, and so I feel pretty protected. There are numerous non-partnership tracks, actually, and I foresee landing on one of those. I am already well liked. Partners are asking for me to work with them. This is all fine, and what I expected.  A sixth year lawyer is a pretty valuable contributor to a firm’s bottom line.

The dog hates the rain. I will go and cuddle with him. August begins. School starts soon.

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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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