Friday, April 3, 2015

NMF: Spring Break Edition

It’s officially Spring Break. Even Fella is "taking a spring break from work,” as the Mayor is calling it. I’m sure Miss Thang will have some Toddlers Gone Wild moments over the next week, as we attempt to actually have a family stay-cation that involves more than just tackling projects around the house (that never seem to get completed anyway).

When I used to daydream about being a SAHM, I imagined our weekends being filled with day trips rather than endless errands and chores. Instead, these things remain endless.

But unfinished projects be damned! We are going to go to the beach one day and who knows what the rest of the days (I really ought to start making some kind of a plan for the week).

Speaking of planning, this is the last week of Lent. Which means it’s the last installment of NMF. As always, I’m somewhat relieved that I don’t have to plans around this restriction, but it’s been easier to do so sharing my recipes here. There will still be recipes to come and maybe someday I’ll learn how to take pictures along the way.

Without further ado…

Spaghetti with Tuna and Cherry Tomatoes

1 small onion, chopped
2T extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1lb cherry tomatoes
3 cans tuna, drained
Spaghetti or noodle substitute of choice

In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add onions and sauté until slightly golden. Add garlic and sauté until fragrant. Add tomatoes and let cook until the tomatoes start to burst. Stir in tuna and heat through. Toss with cooked noodles and serve (I like mine topped with grated parmesan cheese).

Friday, March 27, 2015

NMF: Clam Spaghetti

Long before Fella and families, we used to have a standing dinner night at our friends' place. We would all bring a course and the hosts (usually the same couple) would handle the main course. The tradition actually started sometime after I went away to law school, so I didn't get to attend until I was home for a break at some point.

That first dinner I was on for dessert. My mom is an amateur baker (sometimes I fondly refer to her as Betty Crocker) and while it's not necessarily my forte, I know my way around a pan of brownies. A la mode, natch. Smothered in caramel sauce. Perfection.

We were kept if civilized for the first round that night, but the wine was going down easy (were shots, too?!) and by the time we went back for seconds, we had zero penchant for pleasantries, devouring what was left of it all straight out of the baking dish.

I haven't hosted a dinner party in awhile. I should rectify that.

It was a rarity that we could have fish or seafood at these dinners, but when we could my friend would throw this together and mangia! I had to watch him make it once or twice before I felt comfortable recreating it on my own. And now, thank goodness, it's memorialized here for posterity.

I chopped up the clams for the kids when I served it. Miss Thang held up a piece and asked "Dis for? Meat?" The Mayor, surprisingly, had no words. He must have been too busy slurping the spaghetti noodles I'll take that as a ringing endorsement.

Clam Spaghetti

3 T butter or ghee
1 T extra virgin olive oil
8 green onions, sliced (measured out to a heaping ½ cup)
3 cloves garlic, crushed
2-6.5oz cans clams, drained (reserving 1 cup of liquid)
Spaghetti or noodle substitute of choice

Heat butter and oil in skillet over medium heat; add green onions and sauté until slightly opaque. Add garlic and sauté until fragrant. Add reserved liquid from the clams and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and let reduce while the noodles cook. Add clams and heat through for the last 5 minutes. Toss with noodles and serve.

Monday, March 23, 2015

The Gambler

I walk the line between wearing my heart on my sleeve and keeping things close to the vest. I’m sure I’m not alone on that line. One of the things that I’ve had on my heart lately is babies. And I’ve been keeping very much to myself about it.

I have always wanted a bigger family, at least more than 2 kids. My brother and I are 4+ years apart and were never very close. Sure, we had our childhoods together, but at some point it felt like we were two only children whose paths sometimes crossed, usually at our shared bathroom in the morning. And growing up Catholic, I saw enough bigger families than mine and the grass over there looked a little greener to me.

So I had it all planned out: meet Mr. Right (no later than college, of course), get married young, have lots of babies, live happily ever after.

God had a good laugh at my plan!

So when Fella and I started getting serious and making our plans for the future (God wasn’t laughing as much this time,) we settled on more than one (Fella is an only child and he didn’t want any of that for his kids), but no more than three.

It took awhile after the Mayor was born to get back on the more babies bandwagon. There were times that I would have been totally OK if he had been the Only. Even if the Mayor himself was telling me that he wanted me to have 15 (or was it 20?) more babies (that kid LOVES him some babies!) But Fella being the only of an only child, he didn’t want the Mayor bearing that burden.

So along comes wonder of wonders: Miss Thang. And everyone thinks it’s perfect: two—that is, one of each. So you’re done, of course…right?

When I was pregnant with the Mayor, I dreamed about having two boys. Maybe that was just another funny thing my brain was doing while the rest of me was sleeping. Regardless, pretty soon after Miss Thang, I still felt like there was still another person to add to our family.

However, I’ve been crunching some numbers. OK, maybe not exactly numbers, but time. There’s too much going on in the near future that I would rather be not pregnant for. And besides that, there’s the whole being host to another human being for 9 months (although I do love being pregnant. Mostly). Then the next year/+ on this side of the womb before they can eat real food and walk on their own. Hell, MT just hit two and she’s like the toddler version of a Stage 5 Clinger.

You know, autonomy is a really, really nice thing.

I didn’t think I’d be thinking about this much before MT turned two. But certain events accelerated the process a little bit and here I am, elbow deep in wondering if I still have it in me to have another baby. Not only have another baby, but to have three kids! I mean, that’s just crazytown! There is just no way. And as soon as I think I’ve decided that I’m done--enter crisis mode. 

So we know about the quarter-life- and the trusty ol’ mid-life crises. But this is something different. I focused so much energy in my life on getting to the part where I would have kids, the prospect of not continuing to have more kids’s an existential crisis all of its own.

Let’s call it: the Post-Reproductive Crisis.

I mean, what is my purpose in life if not making more tiny humans? Yeah, yeah, I’ve still got those two other little people I’ve already breathed life into to tend to. But their childhood is finite. As is the family planning stage of life, I keenly realize. But to still be in my child-bearing years, looking my lady parts dead in the ovaries, and giving them the finger? I just. WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN???

So that’s where I’m at right now: between the proverbial know-when-to-hold-‘em and know-when-to-fold-‘em.

Meanwhile (in heaven)…God holds the cards and laughs heartily.

Friday, March 20, 2015

There's No Need to Fear!

I love a good underdog. And although I like most sports, I'm not really into the March Madness thing, but it's kinda ground zero for underdog stories, no? Were any of the "bracket breakers" from this round among your picks?

I guess I've often considered myself a bit of an underdog. Whether it was academics, athletics, or the arts, no one ever considered me to be anything but middle of the pack. While it might not have been by leaps and bounds, I always seemed to exceed expectations if even just a little. Admittedly, it was kinda gratifying.

So, this week I had hoped to exceed my expectations and present you with an amazing Paleo fish taco recipe. What I ended up with was definitely more middle-of-the-pack. But maybe I have set my expectations too high; sometimes that happens trying to replicate foods (I never met an "oven fried" anything that could touch its deep fried predecessor).

Here it is anyway, because we totally ate it and didn't hate it (even the Mayor). It just wasn't "the same," KWIM?

Paleo Fish Tacos (based on Ancestral Chef's recipe found here)

1 lb cod, cut into ½ inch by 3-4 inch strips
1/3 cup coconut flour
1tsp taco seasoning
Salt & pepper

1 egg, beaten
Coconut oil* for frying

Add enough oil to a pan so that it is at least 1/2 inch up the sides and heat over high heat.

Mix together the coconut flour and seasonings in a shallow dish (I use a pie pan), the egg in a second shallow dish. Coat the fish in the egg, then dredge in the flour mixture. 

Carefully place in the fish in the hot oil and fry until golden brown (about 5 minutes). If the oil does not cover the fish, flip the pieces over to brown on the other side. Remove fish from the oil with a slotted spoon and place on a cooling rack lined with a paper towel.

Serve on lettuce or tortilla substitute of choice. Garnish with a lime wedge and your favorite toppings.

*I didn't have enough coconut oil to use when I made this, so I actually used ghee/clarified butter, so maybe that's how we got robbed this time around.

No need to fear! Underdog is here!

Monday, March 16, 2015

Two AND a Centennial?

We celebrated Miss Thang (some more) with family and friends this weekend. I try to make things low maintenance (by Pinterest standards, anyway.) Inevitably, some little detail seems to get overlooked. Not that anyone but me really knows better.

I admitted to my fellow moms that the older my kids get, the less I worry about so many of the details. And that the details were definitely more elaborate when I was still working outside of the home. Working Mommy’s Guilt? Perhaps. A testament to having more time to think, plan, and shop online while being a desk jockey? Absolutely.

Last week also marked my Gramma’s 98th birthday. She and Miss Thang were born on the same day 96 years apart! Upon hearing their ages, a friend of my dad’s remarked that they have 100 years between them. Crazy!

Friday, March 13, 2015

NMF: Salmon Cakes with Basil

We’re in full-blown party prep mode here. This is probably the last year that we can get away with a party that’s more about us than it is about Miss Thang. I mean, it’s totally about her, but there’s no character décor involved whatsoever. The Mayor has had a party theme every single year and in retrospect I wish I hadn’t done it that way so soon.

Most of my shopping is done for the party (surprisingly!) and I don’t think I’m going to have to go to Costco for anything, which is...odd. But I guess it’s because we are not, to the Mayor’s dismay, serving pizza at Miss Thang’s brunch party.

Speaking of, there aren’t many things in the prepared foods section at Costco that I will venture buying. Rotisserie chicken: yes. Spinach salad: maybe. Roll-up sandwiches: occasionally. But several years ago my MIL turned me on to the salmon with garlic basil butter. It’s heavenly. Except they use farmed Atlantic Salmon, which isn’t the best for you, so this, too, has been relegated to the “occasional” category.

So as I was looking around for Paleo fish cakes recipes, I came across Nom Nom Paleo’s Spicy Tuna Cakes. Regardless of the fact that I didn’t have the proper ingredients on hand to make this as-is, it has already been an uphill battle to get my kids the Mayor to eat seafood and fish with us, so I didn’t need to add in the spicy-factor to his arsenal.

So I wandered around my kitchen a bit, hoping for inspiration to strike. And holy mackerel did it ever! 

These are spectacular. The Mayor even gave a glowing endorsement (no morsel left behind!) And the cooking in a muffin pan, GENIUS!

Garlic Basil Salmon Cakes

3 x 6 oz cans salmon
1 cup mashed sweet potato
2 large eggs
3 T melted ghee/clarified butter, divided
¼ cup minced onion
2 cloves garlic, minced*
2 T basil, chopped*
Zest of small lemon
Salt & pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 350° and butter a 12-cup muffin pan with 1T of ghee.

Combine the ingredients in a mixing bowl, adding the eggs last (you can taste for seasoning this way).

Scoop a quarter cup into each muffin tin and gently press into the pan. Bake for 30 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Serve with a green salad and boom: dinner. Makes 12 cakes.  

*Do you know about those garlic and herb cubes in the freezer section at grocery stores? They are a godsend and worked flawlessly in this recipe. Get them. Use them. Love them. I regularly use the garlic, basil, and cilantro. I think I have ginger in my freezer, too, but have yet to try it.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

On the Eve of a Second Birthday

You’re speaking more and more clearly these days. I keep thinking how much I will miss hearing you work your way through words. Like how you still say "ssshicken” instead of kitchen (and chicken, for that matter), or “ogurt” when you want yogurt, among others that I fear I’m already forgetting.

I feel a sense of guilt both when I correct you and when I don’t.

And I can’t quite tell the difference when you’re asking to go potty or go party. The past few days it’s definitely been the latter, though you refuse to be pigeonholed as a party girl. Already making good choices!

"Oh gosssh," you say and shake your head from side to side.

Just two days shy of your birthday, you really pulled out the big guns with the first “love you, Mama!” Here, have ALL the presents. Don’t think for a minute I didn’t notice you working on your dad with a “love you” at bedtime tonight.

That hair!

Those eyes!

She’s so smart!

Not a day goes by that we don’t hear these things lauded about you. Based on this alone I could say you’re a triple threat, lest I be forgetting that you are already quite a songstress (that little ditty you made up about your shoes today? Grammy worthy!) And whether it’s Toddler Tunes or Party Favorites that we’re listening to, you always keep the beat (perhaps a Tony in your future?)

ETA: We've definitely hit this milestone right here:

I’ve lost track, but last I checked you were spontaneously counting to 15+ the other day. Funny, no one remembers teaching you so many numbers! Colors, on the other hand…well, we’ll work on those, along with the last 2/3 of the alphabet. Don’t worry girl, you got this.

I’m guessing you picked most of these things up from the Mayor. It helps in the learning department to have a big brother. I can still remember spontaneously learning the state capitals when I still shared a room with your uncle. And play the piano. I’m sure he thought I was a snotty little show-off when I’d sit and play by ear what he’d just been toiling over in an hour of practice.

Don’t let that deter you, though.

Sassy Pants. Lady Lu. Missy Mae.

My girl…TWO!

Monday, March 9, 2015

As Real As It May Seem

I had the funniest dream last night. 

A boy I'd known since about the Sixth Grade was in it. Except we were in high school. We earnestly expressed our mutual "like" for each other. The following day we would meet an alumni-sponsored event for Chico State. We both knew we weren't remotely interested in going to college there, but we would go anyway, if for no other reason now than to have a sanctioned event at which to see each other (as if our puppy love were somehow forbidden? Possibly. You got me.)

When I arrived the next day, the boy was already there, politely sitting on the couch, waiting for things to get underway. Instead of nervously avoiding the boy out of insecurity (which would have been a classic me move IRL) I sat down next to him. He sweetly held my hand without reservation.

More people started to arrive, including one of my besties from law school, who sat in the empty spot on the couch next to me. Apparently California had quite the effect on her: the blushing brunette southern belle was a radiant golden blonde in my dream. We joked about it, but actually, it looked pretty fantastic on her (in case you were considering it any time soon).

Of course she was the only person to notice the hand-holding. She gave me a knowing look, but saved her goodnatured teasing for another time and place.

Though a handsome and nice kid, I don't recall ever having an actual crush on the boy (which is surprising because I am was pretty boy crazy). He came across as shy, but he also had this quiet assurance about him. As if he knew what his future had in store for him and he was merely biding his time in that forsaken place we call high school.

This dream highlighted things I wish most for my kids: may they always have treasured friends (the gold and silver kind), the quiet confidence to pursue their heart's desire, and faith in what their future holds.

Friday, March 6, 2015

NMF: Thai Pumpkin Curry with Prawns

I’m not exactly what you’d call an exotic eater. I grew up on the Standard American Diet with some strong Midwestern and Scandinavian influences. (I won’t get into the “I’ve-been-on-a-diet-longer-than-I-can-remember” influences, which are fodder for innumerable posts more). So a Lawry’s taco seasoning pouch and chop suey were about as exotic as it got for me growing up.

It wasn’t until I was in my mid-20's that I had sushi for the first time. An acquaintance bet that I would like it or he would buy me dinner. I didn’t hate it, but…he still paid for dinner. I wonder if he would cry foul if he knew how much sushi I have eaten since.

I mean, I've had Kansas sushi and lived to tell!

And it was in Kansas (maybe actually Missouri, come to think) that I first had Thai food. A friend had an extra ticket to a Bob Dylan concert in Kansas City and I figured it was pretty much a bucket list kind of show to see, so I went. We met up with a friend of his at a Thai restaurant. They assured me, the should-have-been-laid-back California girl, that I was going to like it. I don’t remember what I had to eat (only that it was not Pad Thai) but I’ve since come to enjoy the cuisine, especially pumpkin curry. I often make this with chicken, but my latest obsession is prawns.

I adapted my recipe from a super simple one I found on Taste of Home. While I’m guessing purists might scoff, it does in a pinch. Made even easier using prepared stir fry vegetables from the produce section. Frozen will work, too, but they have a tendency to get overcooked quickly, so you will have to adjust a bit.

Thai Pumpkin Curry with Prawns

1lb prawns (large or 31/35)
Stir fry vegetables
4 tsp yellow curry powder
¼ tsp pepper
2 T olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
1 cup canned pumpkin
½ can coconut milk
¼ cup pumpkin or apple butter
Prepared rice (or substitute)

Heat olive oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Saute vegetables to desired doneness and add prawns, cooking until pink and slightly opaque. Add garlic and cook until fragrant. Stir in the pumpkin, pumpkin/apple butter, curry powder, and coconut milk. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for about 5 minutes.

Serves 4

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Thankful Thursday

When my family moved to California, I was nine. My parents didn’t worry about my transition to a new school, new friends, and new life. After all, I was textbook Social Butterfly. But for whatever reason, I could not navigate this new social terrain, where we no longer had a “village” and my parents were too busy, too overwhelmed, too timid, too…everything to make an effort to build one.

I was involved and made friends, but they changed year-to-year depending on who was in my class or on my soccer or softball teams. I floated, never settling into any one clique. Come middle school, there were even more people and cliques to explore, but never any that were quite the right fit.

By high school, I was still on my quest to find where I fit in. It wasn’t until Junior year that things started to come together. I made a best friend and we were inseparable...until she found herself a boyfriend. In the interim, I had forged relationships with some other ladies and by Senior year we suddenly all “cliqued.” We shared inside jokes and spent Friday and Saturday nights graduating from wine coolers to six- and, all too soon, twelve-packs of cheap light beer. Eventually, our activities crossed the line from socially acceptable to downright illicit, shocking even our own sensibilities at times. But of this, there was no doubt: we were birds of the same feather.

You just wouldn't understand.

That is, until we graduated. After I spent a week away for my brother’s college graduation, I returned home expecting to pick up where we had left off just before Grad Night. To my dismay, my friends didn’t feel the same. While I was gone, they had decided that they would be better off without me. I no longer had a place with them.

I got dumped.

Fortunately, my summer was saved by some gracious souls whom I had sang, danced, and/or worked with, and was welcomed to run along with their pack as though I had been one of their kind all along. Unfortunately, there was still college.

My exes and I were all going away to the same place. They arrived ahead of me to attend community college, while I followed a month later to attend the university. And better yet, we were to be neighbors: my off-campus dorms were next door to their apartment complex, which doubled as a shortcut home from campus. It didn’t take very long to run into them walking to and from the first parties of the school year.

There were empty apologies given and received, but despite our proximity to one another, it was pretty clear that we were in different worlds already. Besides, I was still nursing my wounds and utterly incapable of being myself around them any longer (I was, after all, the reason they broke up with me).

Now deeply entrenched in those things that were once naive experimentation, my exes became something of a cliché to me and we mostly went our separate ways, only crossing paths when I needed to prove my moral superiority to myself. I eventually lost touch with all of them but one.

At times I am reminded that there is a bigger plan for me. In a given moment, I’m not likely to understand why I was dumped or rejected or turned down for some opportunity, but in time I am able to see the forest for the trees.

So today I am thankful for blessings in disguise.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Focusyn or Forget It?

Do you ever have so many ideas in your head that you can’t focus? And then you start to worry about getting them all out before you lose them all? Then even if you do get a thought down on paper before it’s in the ether, there is still the matter of finding the [choose your own adventure: time, energy, enthusiasm, inspiration, etc.] to follow through?

So I’ve started carrying around a notebook with me, since I seem to be plagued by great ideas at just the right time—while I’m making dinner, or at the grocery store; sometimes in the middle of a diaper change. So far there are a lot of quasi-coherent notes jotted down, but at other times words flood out of me. I’m not quite sure what Fella thinks of this new accessory yet, but I’m sure to him it's just one more of these devices I’m tethered to.

Fella doesn’t read this. He feels that it is private, although he very well knows it’s very much public, and if I want him to read something, I will ask him to. Along with not wanting to intrude on my publically private affairs, I’m pretty sure that unless we can cash in on this little sideline, he’s 100% Honey Badger about it. So I absolutely drew some parallels to Margaux Daughtry when I read her post 6 Reasons Why He Doesn't Care About Your Blog.

So maybe I won't be able to choose my own adventure for each indecipherable chicken scratch inside my folio, but at least it’s a start in the right direction. And one less excuse for not writing.

How do you manage the editorial schedule in your mind?

Friday, February 27, 2015

Oh, Hey Friday

I almost didn't see you there. It's movie night tonight, although we almost didn't make it. Fridays are probably my toughest of the week, but for very different reasons than they might have been after I grew accustomed to the mantra "Thursday starts the weekend" in college. The Mayor doesn't have school, so it's an extra challenge to keep both children off the streets and out of trouble occupied. So I use up all of my allotted babysitting time at the gym and sometimes, like today, I enlist the help of grandparents.

Despite my village playing a major role in my Fridays, by the end of the day I'm done. And tonight, after the Mayor had used up the last of my patience complaining about how awful dinner smelled, a family movie night was the last thing I wanted to do. Thank goodness it was Miss Thang's first time seeing Toy Story and she is absolutely giddy over it.

So my "Mikey Likes It" kid is no more. The Mayor used to eat just about anything. Now the mere smell of something fishy makes him something of a king crab. And it was especially bad today since I not only cooked for us at dinner, but this morning I made a batch of today's recipe to bring to friends, so it was an all day affair with the accompanying histrionics from the Mayor.

Which brings us to our No Meat Friday recipe this week: Crab Chowder! And it's almost Paleo and totally Whole30 compliant!

The impetus for this recipe is one that my mom tipped me off to a number of years ago from none other than Paula Deen. It was quick, easy, and damn delicious. But now that I've moved away from processed foods, I want a version that doesn't include canned condensed soups, which kinda creep me out when I really think about them. Besides that, this translation is actually just as easy as the original (and to make it easier, I use a pre-chopped Mirepoix from the grocery store).

My biggest concern was residual coconut flavor if one is not acclimated to it, but my guinea pigs friends report that the soup was "delicious!!" (Exclamation points original).

Crab Chowder

2 T ghee/clarified butter
3 carrots, chopped
3 celery stalks, chopped
1/2 onion, chopped
2 small potatoes (white or gold), diced
1 cup vegetable broth or stock
3 cloves garlic, minced
Hot sauce, to taste (I used about 6 dashes of Tobasco)
Salt & Pepper, to taste
16 oz high quality crab meat
2 cans coconut milk (full fat) or coconut cream
2 tsp dried parsley

Heat ghee in a 3-qt pot. Add carrots, celery, and onion; saute until slightly soft and onions are opaque; add garlic and season with salt & pepper and parsley; let saute until fragrant. 

Add potatoes and broth; bring to a boil and cook for about 10 minutes, until potatoes are just barely fork-tender. 

Add coconut milk and hot sauce. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and let simmer for at least 10 minutes. Add crab meat and heat through, about 10 minutes.


Wednesday, February 25, 2015

It's True You Can't Fight It

I used to be one of those people who would bemoan that her children were growing up. You know, saying things to them like: “where did my baby go?” and “when did you get so big?” I read somewhere that this can sometimes make kids feel guilty about doing something that they are supposed to do (and isn’t in their control anyway): grow up.

Then it occurred to me, that no one ever really helped me figure out how to become a woman. I mean, sure, there’s the inherent womanness of being female, but no one wanted me to be anything but a girl. My parents didn’t want me to grow up “too fast,” which I, of course, rebelled against. So, I would take my allowance to the Longs Drugs down the street to buy the teen magazines that became my user manuals and age-appropriate makeup (thank you, Debbie Gibson and Revlon!) 

It always felt like I was sneaking around, though, probably because I was. I might have had the makeup, but I was certainly not allowed to wear it. I had already mastered the art of wearing my headgear as little as possible in the Fourth grade, so how hard could a little makeup be in middle school? (See also: #latchkeykidproblems)

And once high school and my first job came around, it was a breeze hiding clothes (hello striped bodysuit and spandex skirt from Contempo Casuals) and, um, other recreational activities to come from my parents. And I seemed drawn to people whom my folks’ would likely refer to as “the fast crowd;” my peers who were allowed to wear makeup and somehow knew how to flirt with boys whereas I hadn’t the first clue.

So maybe it should be no wonder that I often feel very much girl in a good many situations: I faked my way into womanhood. And it was a journey that I felt I had to hide from the most important people in my life, as if it was something shameful, when it is actually just what nascent beings do.

Now, don’t misunderstand; I, too, don’t want my kids to grow up too fast. But the fact is, growers gonna grow (grow, grow, grow, grow) and who am I to stand in their ways? So someone please remind me, when the day arrives that Miss Thang wants to shave her legs, wear makeup, and dress like the latest pop star, that I will take her for a makeover and shopping spree, no questions asked.

In the meantime, I will praise my kids for doing that which they do involuntarily and I will be their champion. Like just the other day, when one of the Mayor’s preschool teachers expressed sorrow in seeing how big both kids are getting. I turned it on its head (the comment, not the teacher) saying, “I know, isn’t it great?! They’re just so good at it!”

Monday, February 23, 2015

Take a Look at Yourself

I love watching my kids study themselves in our mirrored closet doors. But I startled myself the other day when I caught a glimpse of the joy on my face as I watched the song-and-dance Miss Thang was putting on for herself. Then all too quickly I started wondering:

When will this end for her? When will she stop liking what she sees in the mirror? When will she… become like me?

I haven’t liked to look at myself in the mirror for a very long time. Sure, I use it every day to put on my face and complete basic hygiene. Sometimes I even use it to make sure I don’t look like a complete hobo when I leave the house. But mostly the mirror is a place where I see all of my flaws: the dark spots on my face from too much sun and neglect; the stretch marks from a lifetime of yo-yo dieting; rounded shoulders from loathing not appreciating my tallness over the years; among many (so many!) others.

This especially plagued me as an aspiring dancer in high school. For someone who didn’t like looking at herself, I spent a lot of time in a room whose walls were covered with mirrors, looking somewhere just past myself. I looked at everyone else, but good heavens not me. So I never really knew what I looked like executing the steps and movements. I would only correct when I was told by the instructor, taking the quickest of glances possible at my form. Never would I actually study myself of my own volition. Thank goodness for muscle memory.

I’m not saying I want my kids to fall down some rabbit hole where they are all-consumed by vanity. I just want them to be as comfortable with who they are on the outside as the inside. So I suppose it’s time to, as they say, put up or shut up for their benefit, so that I am a positive role model, rather than a cautionary tale.

I have long resided in the fake-it-‘til-you-make it camp in all matters of confidence. What are some ways that you keep your self-esteem healthy?

Friday, February 20, 2015

Valentine’s Day came and went without a lot of fanfare around here. Despite having to cancel a date night, we were able to have our family night out on Valentine’s Day, as planned. Which ultimately ended with a little snuggle with James Spader and the last two episodes in season 1 of The Blacklist. Thrill-seekers, I know.

So, earlier this week did you maybe try to wipe a black smudge off of one of your unsuspecting co-worker’s foreheads? And did you proceed to challenge them asking what they “gave up” for the next 40 days? So passé.

While not as catchy as Meatless Monday, no meat on Fridays during Lent can end up getting a little tedious. I’m not sure if it’s because it’s the mandate and I have a rebellious streak, (because I love fish and seafood) but I’m always so glad when I don’t have to make my weekly meal plans revolve around it.

Well, my obligation is your gain! Each Friday I’ll be sharing some of the things I’m making for my family. Some are old standards, like the recipe below, and others will be a shot in the dark. I hope we’ll all find something to like along the way, even if you don’t “have to.”

Spicy Shrimp and Lobster Linguini was the first meal I ever cooked for Fella when we were dating. It dons the cover for Weight Watchers: Simply Delicious, a cookbook I picked up sometime during law school.

If only my finished product could look half as good.

I’ve altered the recipe over time to suit our tastes a little better and usually forego the lobster entirely, sometimes substituting other seafood, like I did this week with langostino. And let’s face it, if I can get the Mayor to eat this at all, I’m probably not going to want to spend the lobster on him anyway (the kids had their own fancy spaghettios).

All nostalgia aside, this dish is really…simply delicious. (Ugh, I know!)

Langostino Spaghetti

2 T extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 (28 ounce) can diced tomatoes
½ cup dry red wine
2 tsp dried oregano
¼ tsp crushed red pepper
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp ground black pepper
1 lb langostino tails (or seafood of choice)
¼ lb spaghetti (His) and 2 zucchini, spiraled (Hers)

Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet, add the onion, and sauté until golden. Add garlic and sauté until fragrant. Add the wine, tomatoes, oregano, crushed pepper, salt and pepper; bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, until the sauce has slightly thickened.
Meanwhile, bring a pot of water to boil. Salt the water and cook the zucchini until slightly tender (this is really quick; I stir it around a few times then scoop it out with a slotted spoon). Add the spaghetti to the water and cook per package directions.

Add langostino to the sauce and simmer, uncovered until the seafood is fully cooked, but still a bit opaque. (Don’t judge: mine was pre-cooked, but still frozen and probably took about the same amount of time to cook).

If you’re like me and don’t want another dirty dish to clean, spoon the sauce over the noodles/zoodles of your choice. If you want to be fancy and do like they do in the book, toss it all together in a large serving bowl (separate bowls—is the next step separate beds?—if you’re like us).

Which reminds me…has anyone done the dishes yet?

Thursday, February 19, 2015


Funny that Mindy Kaling should mention (in her Super Bowl ad for whatever it was) feeling invisible….

When I was a girl, I was anything but invisible. Always performing, always vying for the spotlight, always labeled “social butterfly” on report cards.

At some point, that changed and I became invisible. Or at least I felt like I was invisible. And there were a lot of situations where I was happy to be the wallflower.

At work, I vacillated between wanting to be a standout for other C-level execs besides my own boss and a nameless face roaming the cubicles who no one really expected much from. I craved recognition, but also relished anonymity. And mostly, I was a top performer at the latter. (Because I also have a hard time saying no, so I try to avoid situations where I might actually be asked to do something).

But there were other scenarios (mostly social) where I was not so content to be invisible. In my 20s, I went out. A lot. To the bars. One in particular. And, not surprisingly, I drank. A lot. Because I’m socially awkward and it helped me be social.

I never wanted to miss an opportunity to be social because if I missed it, I was sure that I would not be missed by any of the other people who were out being social. As if my presence mattered, yet my absence was of zero consequence. And there was nothing worse than thinking that among my peers, I was out-of-sight, out-of-mind: utterly invisible.

And in my early 30s, I didn’t think I was very memorable. In my interactions, it seemed like most people found me pretty damned forgettable. And I readily accepted this as status quo. (To a point, of course; I can tell an asshole when I see one and I’ll have none of that, TYVM).

Truth be told, I’m not a very memorable person. I have a hard time convincing myself that people with whom I’ve shared significant time (high school) or experiences (sorority) will even remember me, as if I were a mere figment and not actually there.

Maybe this is all because I’m what they call an ambivert: equal parts extravert and introvert. Maybe it’s because I’m a closeted perfectionist, but don’t actually make an attempt at perfection for fear of failure.

So I’ve been making more of an effort to be less invisible. By pushing myself out of my lazy comfort zone. Stepping up to take on roles that require me to interact with people I normally wouldn’t. Doing things with deadlines and performance objectives to meet; requiring skills that I need to develop. Trying to lead instead of follow. Finding ways that I can’t just dial-it-in anymore; so that I am less likely to make excuses, less likely to let life pass me by.

Because when you’re not living life intentionally, that is when you tend to disappear.

And maybe I’m not the wittiest, prettiest, most memorable girl you ever met (although I have allegedly been described as “charming” by a certain bunch of blue-hairs,) but I refuse to feel invisible any more. Won’t you join me?

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Wanted: FT Dish Washer

When Fella and I were dating, we had a tacit agreement: the one who cooks, doesn’t do dishes. And I hate washing dishes. Fast forward 10 years and, when I’m not cooking for everyone, it seems that I am doing nothing but the G.D. dishes.

There are dishes before breakfast. And then while the kids are eating lunch, I’m not because dishes. While dinner is cooking—more dishes. And unless Fella can shepherd the flock through the bedtime routine (while I do the dishes) they lay in wait. And if I’m the one getting the kids ready for bed I’m lucky if the dinner plates get loaded in the dishwasher.

I even have (and use!) the revolutionary home appliance known as the automatic dishwasher, to very little avail.

So what has happened to that arrangement we had during our courtship? I don’t remember our vows including one that voided all agreements (express or implied) entered into prior to saying “I do.” (In which case, I might have more seriously considered the alternative). But what I do remember is one party claiming that the dishes get done faster when two people are doing them and one slippery slope later, here we are.

And although just the other day the Mayor volunteered to unload the flatware from the dishwasher (hallelujah!) he’s still a few inches away from taking over the dish-doing entirely. So for now, I guess I’ll have to pull up my big girl rubber gloves and keep scrubbing (ad nauseam).