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Category Archives: Why Do I Put Myself Through This?

Nice and Easy

A couple of posts back, I made mention of my recent adventures cooking with the kids. Now, if you’re someone who naturally digs cooking with your little ones, you are not going to be impressed; trust me on this one.

However, if you — like me — tend to get a little frazzled, and were not born with that super useful ability to unclench a little because they’re just kids and this is supposed to be fun for all, well, this post is for you.

Also: if you like delicious chocolate, this post is for you. We’ll be covering both.

So, my kids love to go through this book and make their requests. I like that, since I’m all too happy for new lunch ammo, and the recipes we’ve sampled have been hits. This time around, my son lit on the oatmeal bars. I told him that we’d give them a shot one day. Ah, that mythical day, when we have some free time, and I’m in the mood to get everyone into the kitchen with me and the table is clear….

It just doesn’t happen that often. And why? Because I totally overthink it! This time, after he went to school, I looked at the recipe again, and realized that we had everything in the cupboards. And the table was 80% cleared off. And we had free time in the afternoon. Oh, and it is a super easy recipe. Why not just make the darn cookies? No reason not to. I did, however, try to think of a way to make it less stress-inducing for me, because it just makes sense.

Brace yourself — here it is:

  1. Prep all the ingredients and have them all set up before calling the kids into the kitchen. Yes, this takes some of the fun learning out of it, but it’s a process. We’ll get to more fun hands-on stuff down the road. Probably way down the road.
  2. Pick something easy!

I can’t stress that second one enough. The oatmeal bars were as easy as they read, not to mention delicious, and took about ten minutes to put together. I thought it might have been too easy, and they’d be kind of let down by the experience, but no! They were happy to have cooked, happy to be done, and didn’t fight for the rest of the afternoon.

Oh yes. Best ten minutes ever! I could not believe the difference.

Fast forward to yesterday. I love a couple bites of tasty chocolate at the end of the day, but always feel a little guilty when I throw the “good” bars into the cart (especially since I don’t like to share. Shhhh.) Also, we have been eating A LOT of dessert lately, so I thought that having a nice nibble of something sweet at the end of the meal might wean us off somewhat without all the ruckus. What about chocolate bark? I found this recipe on Pinterest and figured that it would be a good one to try sometime. Doh! Here we go again! See how ingrained this tendency has become? So my little buddy and I stopped at the store for a bag of Ghirardelli chips, rummaged through the pantry for fancy add-ons, and made us some bark.

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(I meant to take fancier step-by-step pics, but then I forgot, what with all of the excitement over actually doing something.)

We added chopped salted almonds and flaked coconut to our chocolate. I spread out the chocolate puddle, and Bridget rained down the toppings. And then I rained down some more, because she totally refused to get out to the corners. Teamwork!

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Here it is after it’s chill time, all nice and shard-y. It’s quite delish, and it sure has done the trick as far as making everyone forget their nightly cries for ice cream cones (mine included), but next time I think I’ll stir some of the toppings into the chocolate to add more flavor. We’ll see.

I’m going to need a lot more of these quick little projects before the summer is upon us.

 

Seriously — Out With the Old

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My mom gave me a lovely set of metal mixing bowls for Christmas. (Thanks again, Mom! And it’s an old photo — the tongs are no longer wrapped, although you know I do like to savor a gift fully before putting it into use.) Metal totally trumps plastic in a lot of ways, but the key to me is that it’s so much easier to clean when you’ve used any kind of grease. Have you tried washing a plastic bowl after eating buttery popcorn? Ugh! Drives me bonkers. Also, they look nice in an industrial way when used as serving bowls, especially considering that they’re replacing a bunch of mismatched green ones.

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I mean, they are all green, so they can be considered a “collection”, I guess? But they weren’t making me particularly happy. Yet, when it came time to swap them out for the shiny new ones…that was a little hard.

Might they come in handy some day?

Don’t I have some little smidgen of space in the pantry where they could be stashed? You know — in case of a bowl emergency?

What constitutes a bowl emergency?

Am I my own grandma? Because I hold onto things like someone raised in an orphanage during the Depression.

The Greens headed out the door to Goodwill this morning, along with a few other beautiful, perfectly good things. The load is lightening every day, friends!

Whatever

What day is it? With all the crazy “snow” days interrupting our regular schedule, and all of the other stuff making our days a little cuckoo, I’m feeling even more scattered than usual. But that’s winter for you.

Still, we press on! This weekend we made ninjabread cookies (thanks, Ms. Heather!):

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Later, I gave new life to one of Bridget’s old faves, thanks for this tutorial:

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She was so happy. I, of course, spent the next hour wildly looking for more ruined long-sleeved shirts in my stash to try that trick again.

And then yesterday we had Cold Day (which is when they close the schools on account of the weather, and then it doesn’t actually do anything), so I decided to make good on the beef bones in the freezer and whip up another batch of stock. Oh, it simmered away all afternoon, and I had big plans for french dip sandwiches and pot pies in our future. Finally, I lovingly strained it into my largest bowl, and caught the bottom of the pan on the edge of said bowl, tipping it over and dumping the entire contents down the drain. I mean straight down the drain, as though it were being vacuumed down the disposal. AGH!! It was just disgusting. So I washed the nasty, greasy dishes and closed the kitchen for the night. Or maybe FOREVER! Ugh.

 

Getting Ahead?

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Alright –

Let’s just establish right off the bat that this is something of a lament, or maybe I’m just trying to fancy up that it’s a whiny complaint, but not a complaint in the “oh, could it get any worse?!” sense. No. This is more of a “have you ever wondered why you bother?” variety of rant.

And, ultimately, a tale of resilience! But — again — not in a way that would be anything impressive; just a minor personal victory.

You’re glad you stopped by today, right?

OK, so a couple of weeks ago, during VBS, I came home and decided to try to cook up some extra meat for the freezer. You would think that summer would be a time when one has more time and energy to whip up lovely feasts every night, but I’ve not found that to be the case. I have found that taking the fully cooked main component out of the freezer makes dinnertime at least feel like it’s totally do-able, even on the busiest day. (This book is definitely the flavor of the month around here. I love it!) So, back to the meat: I browned up three pounds of chuck roast and set it to simmer away in the crock pot. Then I went to pick up the kids at my sister’s house, and proceeded to hang out for a couple of hours. It shouldn’t have mattered one way or the other, except — what do you know! — the power blinked off for a minute and shut down the crock.

Yes. We came home to a stone-cold crock filled with three pounds of spoiling meat. The hour I spent browning all that meat? Could have cut that down to thirty seconds had I just cut out the middle man and thrown the whole roast in the trash.

So, live and learn. The next time I tried it, which was a week ago, I stayed home while it was slowly cooking. And it’s a good thing I did, because when my husband shut off the breaker to the dishwasher…yeah. It shut off the crock pot. But I saved that batch — score!

Also last week, I planned a whole feast which required the grill. Roasted corn (and I had twelve ears shucked, so that there would be plenty for the freezer), marinated chicken — delicious. Oh, but the grill had run out of gas. But we replaced the gas! But…I still couldn’t get the grill to turn on. So I waited for my hero to return home from the salt mines, aaand of course it was a night where he had gotten hung up and was running late.

Super late.

And then he did get home, and discovered that the grill was actually dead.

No feast. Chicken: to the freezer, raw. Corn: bagged, in the fridge, getting dry.

By Saturday, new grill. Kevin really wanted to make pizza on the grill. It’s never worked out for us, but we were feeling good about the new grill and the crusts have been coming out nice and thin in the oven — maybe we were ready to kick it up a notch!

Or, maybe we thought that cinders would taste better than they do. I don’t know. It was disgusting.

Also, the sun-dried tomato pesto that I made to spread on that hot mess just about killed the food processor. Who knew those leathery little suckers were steel-belted?

Tonight started out with a bag of pita that had gone moldy (despite the fact that today was the sell-by date listed on the package) and a bowl of potatoes that I forgot to roast for the roasted potato and steak salad until it was too late. Not only that, but when I realized that I’d forgotten to roast the potatoes, I also remembered that I’d forgotten to even bag up the potatoes when I went to pick up the veggies from the CSA drop this afternoon. Doh!

And this is where what passes for resilience comes in, because I so wanted to just get some takeout and call it a day at this point. I ditched the potatoes, pitched the pita, and went to the freezer for a loaf of ciabatta. Crostini would be great with the salad! So many good spreads in the fridge!

What’s this? No ciabatta in the freezer. Well, sure.

What I did find was a heel from a loaf of rustic sourdough. And croutons it was, and the salad was fine without the potatoes, and everyone is fed and happy and out of the kitchen.

So, there you have it: a tale of good intentions, poor execution, and questionable organizational management. An everywoman story? I like to think so; please don’t rob me of my delusion.

 

Don’t Bother — They’re Here

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For two weeks, I listened — over and over — to the things my child absolutely would not wear for the clown act of her class’ circus performance.

(What? Your preschool doesn’t have the kids put on a circus for the parents? Well, I find that very strange.)

It started off with the basics:

“I don’t want to wear a red nose!”

Sure.

“And I’m not putting on a big wig!”

Alrighty.

“And what about those shoes?”

I don’t even know how she knew about the shoes. Whatever. Like I’m going out hunting down extra wide child-sized clown shoes anyway — am I new to this girl?

The suggestion of a ruffled collar? Met with a polite shake of the head. A floppy hat, perhaps? Absolutely not. A polka-dot skirt?

Bingo!

So, we agreed upon that, and I was going to shoot for the moon with a fun bow tie (clownish!), but she still wasn’t confident.

A week later, from the back seat, I hear the end of her happy tune:

“…and no red nose, and I won’t put white cream on my face…”

Oh, are we still on this?! I GOT IT!

Know what? How ’bout I don’t waste my good time on something that is clearly going to be hit and miss?

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Instead, how about I tack some pom poms onto a dress from your closet and we call it a day? Sound good? Yeah, I thought so, and we’re done.

[Thanks to Mom for the inspiration: B. was wearing this dress while listing her grievances, and good old Grams said, "Too badĀ  you can't just put her in that dress", and then we both looked at each other like, "Wait a minute...."]

Thankfully, this is a really low-key school, and the teacher had told us over and over not to go buy costumes. From the looks of it, everyone complied — my kind of people! I bought the pompoms, and it was totally worth it not to have to have the “how about” conversation for one more minute. As it turns out, I probably should have taken a little more care in attaching the pom poms: every time she ran back past us during the performance, another one was missing. By the end, it was down to the blue one hanging off like some sort of strange belly button. Oops. Not like anyone cared, including me.

And now her school year is over, and Joey’s is winding down, and summer is officially right around the corner. This, my friends, is when the real circus begins.

Old School

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I can’t be blamed for losing track of the day. Instead of simply celebrating Teacher Appreciation Day at its appointed time, my son’s school instead opts for Teacher Appreciation Week, complete with suggested assignments for exactly who to honor each day. It’s a touch overwhelming for the overthinkers among us. Anyway, the “specials” teachers are — aw gee, was that today? No, wait — that’s tomorrow; today was for the nurse. So art/music/P.E. are tomorrow, but the main teachers are to be honored on Friday, which to my mind meant that I didn’t even need to have my act together til mid-week.

Imagine my surprise when I woke up Tuesday morning and was informed my the morning news that it was the real Teacher Appreciation Day. And I didn’t have anything prepared for my daughter’s teachers. And we really do appreciate them, and I have to admit that it does stress me out a little bit to show up empty-handed after having been treated to years and years of complaints about parents who can’t be bothered to show their appreciation. (Yeah, y’allĀ  — yes, all of you –know who you are. Save the commiserating for your colleagues! I’m one of “them”!)

Nobody panic, though. There’s still time to offer a token of thanks without breaking the bank or having a nervous breakdown:

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You mean you don’t hoard glass jars? Well, then you may be out of luck. I, however, had two beautiful olive jars and some tulle. The youngest artist-in-residence decorated the cards with her trademark rainbow, and we were off to the store for the prettiest daisies you ever did see. And we were so pleased with our offering, and so were they. Happiness for all!

Teachers really are a deserving group, and my kids teachers — all ten of them — are terrific. Hopefully, Joey’s won’t hold it against me if they don’t all get something wonderful…or anything at all. ["Specials", I'm sorry! My act is not yet together as of this printing....]

 

 

 

No Big Deal

One of my more unfortunate tendencies is to treat every little thing like it’s major. Creatures of habit can be that way, and I’m nothing if not routine-driven. On the one hand, I’ve come to accept that I need to take a minute to really spin things around in my mind for a while before committing to an answer. I’m okay with that. But I’m not okay with constantly leading with a “no” (just ask my kids if you didn’t know this about me, but I’m pretty sure you know it, too), or completely blowing things out of proportion when it comes to timing.

For example:

Last week was the AWANA Grand Prix at church. I bought some cupcakes to add to the dessert table, and was really thrilled with myself for dropping them off early in the day so that I could check it off of my list of obligations. Really, anything I can do to reduce the noise level in my head is a good thing, and I already told you that the last few weeks have left me feeling a little out of control. (Not that I have control issues. Surely not.) Anyway, as the afternoon went on, I thought about making some cookies or something. Ooh, but would there be time? And then I spied the lovely jar that had been sitting on my counter for a whole week (after I spied it in the pantry and decided that there was no way I was wasting such a sweet gift…and then promoted it to the counter to wile away a few more days.)

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Really, how long does it take to add butter and eggs to pre-mixed dry ingredients? And then to drop and bake the cookies?

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Not long at all, as it turns out. They were delicious, by the way, and we were all sad that there was only one left when we got home. I’m kind of becoming a fan of small batch baking; it’s so much more manageable! Anyway, I’m trying very hard to adopt more of a new “just do it” attitude, and pop-ups like this won’t be such a shock to those who live here.

Here’s hoping.

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