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?