Plans for Today

Drop off Flora, and get coffee and breakfast with Kate and Michael.

A parent-teacher conference for Kate.

Lunch with Flora. Yes, at her school cafeteria. (I’ll be packing a lunch.)

Some shopping at Bed Bath & Beyond. (I have a gift card.)

I need three pairs of shoes. So: shoe shopping, although I won’t buy all three pairs. I desperately need sneakers, though. I can’t even begin to exercise — and I definitely need to start exercising — because I don’t have sneakers. It’s a little ridiculous.

And foundation. I need a new, cream-based foundation.

Cake, probably after dinner with my children. Maybe brownies instead of cake. But something delicious that can hold a candle or three.

In other words, a quiet day full of treats. Exactly the kind of day a birthday should be as far as I’m concerned.

What do you like to do on your birthday?

Meatless Monday: Cabbage

I’ve mentioned before that I am the only one in my household who likes eating cabbage, including sauerkraut — which if there is a more perfect food with mashed potatoes, I don’t know it. I was asking Dan about this dislike of cabbage, and he said, “Well, I like coleslaw.”

Which, ew. If we’re talking about mayonnaise based coleslaw, anyway.

I happened to stumble on a cabbage recipe at Slate that I thought I would try. I asked Dan to try it too. Maybe, I thought, the issue is cooked cabbage.

Turns out he liked it “okay”. He wasn’t ecstatic about it, but he ate cabbage and didn’t hate it (my ILs both liked it very much).

Red Cabbage Salad

1/4 head of red cabbage, shredded
2 oz gorgonzola, crumbled
1/3 cup chopped walnuts
1/3 cup raisins
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
Salt and black pepper to taste

Mix everything together and serve. I let it sit for about an hour, and it held up fine, and I am eating some leftovers today, so we’ll see how it’s held up overnight. The cabbage hasn’t gotten salty or soggy. And it tastes a lot better than mayo-based coleslaw, IMO.

I “shredded” the cabbage by simply slicing it with my chef’s knife. You could probably shred it more finely with a mandoline or food processor.

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As much as I love my haluski recipe (butter! noodles! cabbage! what could be better?), I may have found another cooked cabbage recipe that I love even more. This recipe for roasted cabbage with lemon is simple and tasty. You could find a million recipes like it. If you are a fan of cabbage at all, and you haven’t tried roasting it yet, I encourage you to do it.

I think that cooked cabbage is very much the issue in my household. Yes, it has a distinctive odor. So does cooked broccoli, so do boiled eggs. And my family like those things, so I have hope that (the kids at least) will come around to cooked cabbage, too.

Got a vinegar-based or other non-mayo-based cabbage salad recipe I can try for Dan? Link me up in the comments!

Down with Nice Girls!

I don’t want to raise “nice” girls.

Don’t get me wrong, I want to raise nice girls, where nice means respectful of self and others, responsible for one’s words and actions, considerate.

I also want to raise strong girls, girls with real voices, who know their minds and aren’t afraid to speak up, speak their minds. Girls who can assert themselves confidently.

I will admit I no more want to raise “nice” girls than I want to raise mean girls. I have a theory that mean girls are really “nice” girls in that in relationships with authority figures (teachers, coaches, parents, and so on) mean girls are nice. But in interactions with their peers, they are “nice”, which amounts to actually being mean.

I don’t want to raise children who apologize left and right (warning, graphic language ahead). I don’t want to raise girls who will be easy to “gaslight” (or, for that matter, who will pull that shite on others). I don’t want my girls to turn into timid women more afraid of being seen as a bitch than concerned about getting what they want or need—out of a job, out of a relationship, out of life in general.

A few rules for not-nice girls:

1. Not everyone has to like you. Believe it or not, there are worse things in the world than people not liking you.

2. Don’t be mean to people who don’t like you.

3. If people who don’t like you are mean to you, you are allowed to defend yourself. The trick is not to be mean in return. It’s not easy.

4. You do have to apologize when you hurt someone’s feelings. If you call Suzie a name, you can’t shrug it off as a joke when she calls you on it. That’s not Suzie’s issue; it’s yours.

4b. If, however, you mention that you’re not crazy about the color purple, and Suzie bursts into tears because her favorite color is purple, and cries, “I knew it! You don’t like me!” you don’t have to apologize for not liking purple. You don’t even really have to apologize for her getting upset, although it might be nice to say, “Even though I don’t like purple, I still like you.” Providing, of course, you really do like her. If you don’t, why are you pretending to?

5. Apologizing when you’ve made a mistake is a sign of strength. Apologizing to make the other person forget about the mistake is not. Apologizing preemptively or for situations not in your control is a sign of weakness. Don’t do the last two.

6. Stand up for yourself and what you believe in, and what you want. (Corollary: Know what you believe in and why, and what you want and why.)

7. Stand up for others.

8. Don’t be passive aggressive. It’s easy, easy, easy to do. Don’t do the easy thing.

What else would you tell girls so they grow up strong and true to themselves? And nice, but not “nice”?

Project: Food Budget, Week 17

Food Budget Piggybank

Actual $ spent this week:

Grocery: $320
Costco: $156
CSA: $34 (beef was sold out! Hope to get on the order next time.)
Eating out: $62

As simple as that, we were under budget overall, by $62. We ended up spending less at the grocery store because of planning, planning, planning, list making, and making menus. Of course, conversely, we ended up spending more at Costco because we put off shopping there (for weeks), and kept running out of our Costco staples. By the time I went last night, the list had gone from “bread, chocolate milk for lunches” to about 20 items.

It seems simplistic, but sometimes we run on auto-pilot when it comes to eating and feeding. I know as a busy, work-outside-the-home mom, this is particularly true. For a few months, I am sure I was shopping off the same list, throwing together the same meals, and wasting a bunch of food, especially produce — which is a particular shame, because I get some damn tasty produce from my CSA — and, as a result, stressing about feeding my family.

Joining this project has made me aware, again, of the importance of menu planning and using the food in my kitchen. I’ve become mindful of my shopping list again, mindful about what I want to teach my children about eating healthy food and liking it. I feel very fortunate to have kids who will try everything, and like almost anything (cabbage being the current exception to the rule!).

Let’s see how everyone else did!

* Emily Levenson
* Dairy-Free Cooking
* Test Kitchen Tuesday
* Acquired Tastes
* Fit Flexitarian
* Warm As Pie
* Katy Rank Lev
* My Inner Healthy
* Little Blue Hen
* xox, b
* What da Health?
* Project Food Budget 2.0
* Fresh…A New Chapter
* Chandeleah
* Two Eggs Over Easy
* That’s Just Me
* Eat Whole Be Vital
* Four Happy Violets
* Naturally {Un}refined
* Pgh Dad
* yogabeautylife
* Charmingly Modern
* NaMAMAste

No Reason II

The anxiety builds throughout a day sometimes.

Your car needs new brakes, which requires time and money.

I’m making commitments at Flora’s school, which require time and a reliable babysitter (or two).

I’m constantly monitoring bank accounts, bill due dates, deadlines (at work, for school), appointments, homework, housework, pick ups and drop offs.

Our house needs a lot of work, which requires (say it with me!) time and money.

I stand sometimes in the kitchen and wonder how it’s all going to happen. On a drive home, I feel overwhelmed by the fact that I need a babysitter five times over the next two weeks — so I can keep school obligations, so the girls can go to gymnastics, so we can have a date night. I wonder how our son, who is having some separation anxiety, who is so very tired in the evenings, will react to mommy always on the run.

You have days or nights at work that we’ve invented an acronym for: DITH, Deer In The Headlights. When you (or I or we) have so much to do, so much to deal with, we can’t do anything. We freeze, we can’t move.

And then, you walk through the door, and that knot of anxiety that has nested in my chest for the last hour or day or week, loosens up a little bit. I find it easier to breathe, even though we haven’t solved any of these problems quite yet.

Just because you are there, again, at the end of my day. With a hug and a kiss. Yeah, sometimes you want me to make you a sandwich after I’ve just finished cleaning the kitchen, and yeah, sometimes you get the dirty dish to the sink but not the dishwasher.

I do things that bother you, too. I don’t put the clean laundry away quickly enough, I leave my shoes in the middle of the floor.

But I can breathe, I can let go of the anxiety a little bit, I can keep the panic at bay because you are with me, my teammate, my “clumsy boy” who will make me laugh, my love. Because just having you on my side, at my side, makes it okay.

I don’t say it enough: Thank you. And, I say it all the time, and I really, really mean it: I love you.

Who’s got your back?

Meatless Monday: Creamy Mushroom Sauce

Every now and again, I have a preconceived notion about what a recipe should look like. So when I go out on the Interwebz looking for it, I get confounded by the recipes I often find.

Take today’s recipe for example. I received a nice bag of cremini mushrooms from my CSA last week, and so I wanted to make a creamy white sauce with mushrooms to serve over pasta. For some reason “creamy white sauce” in my head equals “roux + white whine + heavy cream”, but I couldn’t find a recipe like this. Although some recipes included white wine, none of them started with a roux, and most had plain yogurt or sour cream.

So I made one up.

Creamy Mushroom Sauce for Pasta
an rpm original

1 pound pasta of your choice (I used whole wheat penne)

2 tablespoons salted butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
four cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon rosemary
2 teaspoons dried basil
2 tablespoons whole wheat flour
2 1/2 cups cremini mushrooms
1/4 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup vegetable stock
3/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
ground pepper, salt to taste

1. Prepare the pasta according to package directions.

2. In the meantime, in a heavy-bottomed saute pan, heat the butter and olive oil together. Add the garlic and saute for 5 minutes.

3. Add dried herbs (the amounts here are approximate). Slowly sprinkle in flour, stirring continually.

4. Stir in mushrooms and saute for 7 minutes. Stir in white wine and stock, then slowly add heavy cream. When mixture starts to thicken, stir in parmesan cheese, ground pepper, and salt.

5. Serve over hot pasta.

We had this with a green salad, chicken for the meat eaters (had my ILs to dinner), and Quorn nuggets for the rest of us. Oh, and the kids had marinara sauce. They don’t like mushrooms (yet). It was a simple and filling meal!

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Other stuff I cooked this weekend: I made my haluski, and I plan to eat every single bite of it. So good. These people in my household who don’t like cabbage are nuts! I also made this delicious and pretty beet soup (at the suggestion of @XTREMELYSERIOUS Justine), and I can’t wait to finish off those leftovers. It’s a nice change up from plain, old roasted beets!

What did you do in the kitchen this weekend?

Thinking Aloud: Equal Opportunity

As I mentioned recently, I follow politics. Usually to the detriment of my blood pressure.

And here’s the epiphany I had yesterday as I was driving home (I have a lot of drive-time epiphanies): I don’t really understand how Republicans expect — if they expect — to close the humongous gap between poor people and rich people. The middle class is shrinking, and I just don’t understand how Republicans propose to end that. If they even care.

Truth be told, I’m not 100% sure how the Democrats propose to close this gap decisively in the long-term either (or if *they* care). I am in the camp (is there a camp?) that firmly believes that government aid is an unsustainable solution in the long term.

Anyhoo, here’s where my mind went:

To Michael.

Let’s do a comparison of Michael and, say, two other babies born in America on December 1, 2010.

The other two babies are, for the purposes of this exercise, an African American boy and an Hispanic girl.

Michael is the son of two white, college educated, married people. We are in the still viable middle class, although, as much of the still-viable middle class, rather in debt. Some of the debt is good (i.e. a mortgage we can afford); some not so good (but shrinking — i.e. credit card debt). We are currently employed; we have employer-subsidized health care; we are sending our children to private school. Seems to me, Michael has some pretty good prospects ahead of him, due to no more than his situation at birth.

(I realize that this could all change, literally in a heartbeat, and the way we raise our son — so that he stays healthy, doesn’t choose to do drugs, doesn’t have a child out of wedlock, etc. — will all factor in as Michael gets older. That is, how our choices and Michael’s choices will factor into whether or not he continues to thrive, and even possibly becomes wealthy, is still a crap shoot. But the baseline is fairly solid, I’m thinking.)

Now, the other two babies in this hypothetical situation, by simple dint of their births, may not be on the middle class baseline. Maybe our African American boy is born to a single mother already living on social aid. Maybe she is working three jobs to provide for her child or children — at least so they can be fed and clothed. She’s not there to help with homework; she’s depending on the public school system to educate her child, etc., etc. Totally different situation from Michael’s.

And our girl. Maybe she’s the child of immigrants, illegal or otherwise. Maybe her parents are married, but live below the poverty line because of their immigrant status.

So, it seems to me these other babies start off at a disadvantage.

What — if anything — equalizes those disadvantages? As much as I would love to believe the myth of “hard work” alone and “pulling oneself up by his/her bootstraps”, I have my doubts. Michael’s education, if we are able to continue to send him to private school in a safe neighborhood (knock on wood) is going to be better. (Feel free to argue this point, respectively of course — I’m not trying to assert anything, I’m really trying to explore the question.) By seeing the examples that we, his parents, provide for him, he is likely to be a hard worker, loving and respectful toward others, and, probably, religious.

There are other advantages, too, like those of genetics, those of environment. If Michael gets sick, we don’t have to worry about taking him to the doctor. I mean, we just consented to have ear tube surgery — right there, he’s got an advantage over a poor, Hispanic girl who also may be plagued with ear infections, but unable to get the treatment that will stop them and, in the long run, contribute to successful language development and learning.

I could go on and on, but I think you get the idea, right? How do these children end up in the middle class, or end up wealthy, as business owners for example? From where Michael starts, it seems like a not-difficult climb to me. But for these other two babies… I don’t know, I have my doubts about the obstacles they may have to face through no fault of their own.

I no more want a governmental nanny than I want anarchy. From where I am standing, Republican policies look cruel, and Democratic policies look naive (or idealistic). But neither set looks particularly helpful to those other two babies, and potentially none of them is good in the long run for all three.

Project: Food Budget Week 16

Food Budget Piggybank

We spent $0 this week on food. Didn’t eat out, didn’t shop, didn’t go to Costco.

And, obviously, we didn’t starve.

We ate much of what I had said I was going to prepare last week: black beans and rice, roasted cabbage (that’s all me), roasted beets (only one family member, my 7yo daughter, does NOT like beets), vegetarian chili and mashed potatoes, and baked oatmeal (finally! It was good. I’m going to play around with it). Additionally, I made a delicious broccoli cheese bake that pleased me because it was tasty and I used up food instead of wasting it. I’m getting *much* better at that.

Although still not perfect. See: kale from two weeks ago. Forgot I had it, and never incorporated it into a meal plan.

Now, also obviously, eating in and packing lunches has put a huge dent in our pantry and freezer supplies. This week I am setting the budget for grocery shopping high. I need staples (from beans to butter) as well as some specialty menu items. I haven’t made the list yet (or the whole menu) because I pick up my CSA box tonight, and I need to see what’s in it.

I’m debating the Costco trip this week, too. I better evaluate what I have for lunches, and go from there.

Grocery: $400
CSA: $134 — this is higher than usual because we were offered local, grass fed beef. Even though I am a vegetarian, my husband is not. It’s a 20 pound lot that I am splitting three ways (with two other households). I’ll be curious to see what Dan thinks about the taste of it!
Costco: $50
Eating out: $50

Baked Oatmeal
Adapted from this recipe on allrecipes.com

4 cups milk
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 cups old-fashioned oats
2 cups chopped, peeled apples
1 cup dried cherries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a saucepan heat milk, brown sugar, butter, salt, and cinnamon. Add remaining ingredients; mix gently. Spoon into a greased 2-quart casserole. Cover and bake for 45 minutes.

This made *too much*, and that’s saying something for my oatmeal-loving family. I’ll make it again, only half the amount.

Partial menu:

Vegetarian Haluski (Cabbage and Noodles)
Lentil Stew
Beet Soup with Creme Fraiche

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Let’s see how everyone else did!

* Emily Levenson
* Dairy-Free Cooking
* Test Kitchen Tuesday
* Acquired Tastes
* Fit Flexitarian
* Warm As Pie
* Katy Rank Lev
* My Inner Healthy
* Little Blue Hen
* xox, b
* What da Health?
* Project Food Budget 2.0
* A Nice Heart and a White Suit
* Fresh…A New Chapter
* Chandeleah
* Two Eggs Over Easy
* That’s Just Me
* Eat Whole Be Vital
* Four Happy Violets
* Naturally {Un}refined
* Pgh Dad
* yogabeautylife
* Charmingly Modern
* NaMAMAste

Random Thoughts: The Children’s Updates Edition

Michael continues to develop apace. He is in constant motion — the child just walks and walks and walks and walks. Oh, and if there is something to climb, he climbs. He has no fear.

He is trying to run, which is too funny to even try to describe.

His superpower is finding the exact thing in the room he shouldn’t have. Often this is the TV remote or a phone; sometimes, it’s a pen or marker; most of the time, it’s whatever choking hazard he stumbles upon. So that plus the climbing thing is a lot of fun.

He STILL won’t say mama, although he’s starting to realize I am not “da-deee”. He sometimes says “Ta-ta” (Tadone) and I swear he said “Bella” the other day.

Every bird is a duck and says, “kack kack kack.”

He says, “Hi” but not like that, he says it like a breathy teenage girl who’s just run up to me: “Hhhaaaiiii.” He says it with his mouth wide open and his arms reaching up for me. Maybe that’s what he’ll call me now: “Hhhaaiii.”

He is a good, good baby boy. He has transitioned well to the new day care, where, according to the women there, “all he wants to do is play.” He is quiet, they tell me, not fussy, and he eats and naps without trouble. God bless him.

As well as he is doing at day care, I have to say, he’s definitely having separation anxiety at home. I can’t leave the room. He has also been *crashing* at night, much, much earlier than previously. Which I’m not complaining about, because it means 7 to 8 p.m. I can devote to the girls (mostly), so that’s nice.

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Kate, my Kate, turned 5, and went to her well-child visit in good spirits. She was cheerful, goofy, and cooperative. She’s tall for her age — not surprisingly. At 45.5″ she’s in the 94th percentile.

And in good health. Shots were traumatic, I think in part because she wanted so much to be brave, and ultimately she was startled by how much they hurt.

And let me tell you something about Kate: for a tall, skinny belle, she is freaking strong.

The good news is: no more shots for six years. Whew.

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Kate also proved her strength at gymnastics. She hung from the uneven bars, chin-up position, for 35 seconds. Her teacher said, and I quote, “She’s really got it. She’s a beast.”

Now I would like to encourage Kate to continue on with gymnastics (or try tae kwon do or karate) instead of signing up for soccer. Not quite sure how to do that just yet. Not sure if I *should* do that. But I kinda want to.

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I can describe Flora in one word these days: hair-trigger. (Okay, one hyphenated adjectival phrase.)

I’m working on it, because I need the two of us to get along better. Especially evenings, when it’s 3-on-1.

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Flora is learning the art of the suck up, I will give her that. She’s been practicing on her pushover father for *years*, so I shouldn’t be surprised.

Friday night, we were at Bella and Tadone’s house. My MIL (aka Bella) had picked up Flora because she had a half-day of school, and had offered to cook dinner. As we were eating, Flora asked me, “Can we have a sleep over?”

I told her it was up to her Bella.

“Bella, can we have a sleep over? By the way, this dinner is delicious. I love your chili.”

Bella said yes.

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As a stark contrast to our evenings, mornings when I drive Flora to school are delightful. Sometimes she reads books (she is especially enjoying Everything On It by Shel Silverstein — she recited a whole poem from memory the other day), and sometimes she’ll sit in pensive silence broken by urgent questions.

“Mom, are there diseases that make you see spots?”
Answer: “If you are going to faint, you can see spots in front of your eyes. Sometimes if you have a high fever, you can hallucinate — that means to see things that aren’t there.”

“Mom, how come monkeys’ feet look like hands?”
Answer: “Because that’s how God made them. So they can hang onto tree branches while they eat.”

“Mom, can I go sponge jumping?”
“What is that?” I was thinking it was something maybe they do in gym.
“You know, sponge jumping. You jump off something on a long rope and when you reach the end you bounce up.”
“You mean bungee jumping.”
“Yeah, bungee jumping. Can I do that?”
OVER MY DEAD BODY. No, that’s not what I said. What I said was, “When you are an adult. And don’t tell me about it if you’re going to do it. I’ll worry too much.”
“Why will you worry?”
“I will worry that you will get hurt” AND DIE, FLORA. YOU DON’T WANT TO DIE, DO YOU?
“Okay. I won’t tell you.”
Fantastic.

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What conversation or observation made you laugh this week?

Meatless Monday: Broccoli Cheese Bake

This recipe is proof positive that I am dedicated to using what I have in my refrigerator to cut down on waste and stay in budget. I didn’t have to pick up a thing at the store to make this! *And* it’s delicious!

We had a vegetable tray at Kate’s birthday party, and we had a bunch of veggies left over. I thought a nice broccoli cheese sauce would be good over noodles.

So I adapted this recipe from allrecipes.com.

4 cups fresh broccoli
1/2 cup butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 bag Morning Star Farms Meal Starters, Chik’n Strips
1 1/4 cups milk
salt and pepper to taste
4 cups shredded cheddar cheese
2 eggs, beaten

Preheat over to 325 degrees.

Steam broccoli until just tender (6 to 10 minutes on the stove in a basket steamer).

Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat; stir in flour. Add chik’n strips and cook until thawed.

Gradually add milk. Cook until bubbly. Remove from heat and add salt and pepper. Stir in cheese and eggs; mix well. Combine mixture with steamed broccoli.

Transfer to greased 9 x 13 casserole dish. Bake in oven for 30 minutes.

Serve hot over whole wheat pasta or brown rice.