Friday, February 27, 2015

This Week's Meatless Meals

Another week of (almost) meatless eating!

Twice we ate with other people this week, so we ate what they served us, including the leftovers (my father-in-law sent us home with a HUGE amount of lasagna that made lunches for four days). Rather than being legalistic I simply have focused on preparing meatless dinners on the weekdays when we're home, and avoiding meat myself for lunch unless there are leftovers or something that needs to be eaten. (We often eat meatless lunches around here anyway.)

Saturday: Lasagna at Keith's dad's house.

Sunday: French dip sandwiches (loosely based on the Pioneer Woman's recipe) and a salad.

Monday: Tortellini with alfredo sauce, asparagus.

Tuesday: Cream of broccoli soup from this cookbook, with bread from Loafer's.

Wednesday: Chinese takeout with my family, for my brother's birthday. And birthday cake of course. ;) (I made it from a mix, which I basically never do, but I made chocolate swiss meringue buttercream to go with it, and it was delicious.)

Thursday: Salmon en papillote, with spinach and cream, served over couscous with feta. This sounds super complicated but it's so simple! I learned how to cook salmon this way while I had this cookbook out from the library, and none of the recipes I found online were quite what I remembered, so I fudged it and it turned out fine.

Friday: Enchilada pie. Was planning on making clam chowder, but I decided 1) I need more potatoes to go in it, and 2) I'd like to serve it with bread, and it was too late in the day to make it. So change of plans!

Saturday: We are having guests! The french dip sandwiches were a trial run for serving them, so we'll be repeating those.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Winter Knitting

Oh my goodness, but this is a long book. I stopped by the library today to renew it. I didn't expect to take so long to get through it. But it seems fitting, since I picked it up during the coldest part of winter--it has been so bitter these past few weeks. This book unfolds in a way that is vast and majestic--a particular sort of movement that is well suited to magical realism, I think, although that genre can also be smart and zippy--so it is hard to zip through, but I am certainly enjoying it. I'm hoping to finish it this week ... and maybe it will mean the end of winter? (Yes, friends, winter is still here and strong because I am reading this book. I am sorry.)

These socks. Today is my brother's birthday, and I'd hoped to hand them to him today. It would totally be possible if the kids slept for another two hours. But they have been in bed two hours already and are ready to get up. Sorry, Anthony!

Linking up with Ginny.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Lenten Eating: Meatless Meals and Penitential Shopping.

This Lent, I am trying to do two things with our eating. First, I am only shopping at Aldi, which is ... not my favorite. I love the Market District, with its huge selection of international foods, gourmet chocolate, and massive produce section. (And people who bag your groceries for you.) What I don't get at Aldi, I will try to buy locally--bread from the baker's, coffee from the local roaster, fresh fish from Wholey's. And my beloved Market District will be a last resort for things I can't get elsewhere.

I meant to go to a local market this afternoon but found that I'd forgotten my shopping list, so rather than getting all the kids out of the car into severely cold weather with certain knowledge I'd forget half the things I needed ...I got some fresh challah at the bakery (and a free slice of cinnamon bread for Michael!), and then some whole bean coffee from a local chain in the same plaza. The coffee I remembered, because my coffee jar looked like this.

And that was yesterday. I don't think it's a coincidence I took a long nap today while the kids slept ... something I never do!

I'm also trying to cook mostly meatless meals this Lent. Right now my plans are to cook with meat on Sundays, and perhaps one other day during the week.

I'm going to try not to rely too heavily on dairy, partly because Keith is sensitive to it, but when I typed out the meals we've had this week they all included cheese or cream in some form.

Here's what we've eaten so far:

Ash Wednesday: homemade tomato soup and grilled cheese on sourdough

Thursday: risotto with peas and mushrooms

Friday: carrot, apple, and ginger soup with salad and fresh challah :)

Some old standbys I anticipate using (some of which are also listed in this post):

Sweet potato and black bean tacos (this recipe makes a lot and everyone here loves it)


Meatless pizza (I know! Dairy! But there's also this which is completely amazing)

Enchilada pie

Fried rice

And some new recipes I'm looking forward to trying:

Squash, lentils, and goat cheese

French onion soup

Clam chowder

Soups from this cookbook

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Kitchen Daydreams--a tentative "before"

Recently I started a Pinterest board devoted entirely to my kitchen daydreams. Painting that kitchen cart has only given me a taste for more. My brain is full of terracotta floors, teal cabinets, open shelving full of teacups, and pretty tiles. Right now my mom is borrowing our wallpaper remover to strip her bathrooms, but when she gets it back I am going to town on this yellow stuff. It's pretty, but not what I want. And then there's that bare spot. 

More than a year ago, I posted a picture of this kitchen from the real estate listing. There was a big (pink) hutch right there, and behind it ... a hole in the wall with the insulation spilling out. They fixed the hole, but I'm sorry to say we've just been sort of ignoring that eyesore for a year and a half. I wouldn't mind putting a hutch there, or some open shelving. Right now it's just our trash bin and the little Ikea cart I painted. 

There is so much to love about this kitchen. Two ovens! So much cabinet space! (There is more of it out of this picture, as you'll see, plus a huge closet with sliding doors.) Enough floor space to waltz in! 

But also: concrete right underneath the tile (no subflooring=a hard surface that dishes shatter upon on contact, and COLD cold cold in the winter). And a huge bare patch in the wall. And the colors ... I think they made the previous owner very happy. Me, not so much. Except for the greyish countertops, there is not a thing in this kitchen that isn't pink or yellow. 

Blurry. Sorry.
Back out into the dining room. My view as I cook dinner most nights.

(If you know me in person you've probably already heard this story, but: Keith brought that pretty blue tea kettle into the marriage. When we were first dating I saw it and loved it and asked where he'd gotten it. But before buying my own I thought--wait. What if we get married someday? So I held off. And we did. And now it's mine too. ;) )

This counter is the site of a perpetual battle. I recently moved the coffee maker and tea basket here so we could have a little beverage corner; the wine rack and bucket have always been there. It looks nice and clean now, but tomorrow? There will be something on it--papers from Keith's backpack, some mail, pages Michael has colored. And by this time next week there will be no free counter space, except perhaps where I've forcefully evacuated things from in front of my coffeemaker. I set up the little basket on the far left for papers that can't be thrown out or immediately filed, and it helps, but only so much. 

(That little door is an ice maker. The previous owner suggested we renew the warranty of $100 a month when we bought the house ... we don't even ever turn it on. It would be nice for a cocktail party, though.) 

 Another angle. Keith's plant life taking over a corner of the counter. ;) I would love to have potted herbs there but I'm not sure the light is enough?

The counter just keeps on going!

Other side--refrigerator, sink, etc. There's a bathroom to the left of the fridge.

I wouldn't have chosen stainless steel appliances, especially with young children; I don't even try to keep the fingerprints off. But all the appliances are new, which is such a blessing.

My view over the sink. :)

 Pretty things that make me happy.

I had to show you the chandelier up close. She painted this herself! She put so much attention into little handcrafted details, but her tastes were so specific. I wouldn't mind painting this another color but Keith says that someday it has to go. He is adamant. 

Sometime in the next week or two I am going to Home Depot and Lowe's--dragging all my kids along if need be--and loading up on primer and paint samples. Keith is reluctant to change anything until we know what we're doing with everything. But I disagree, at least in terms of paint. Paint is so easy to change! (If a bit more time-consuming when you have kids.) And I discovered while painting that cart that painting gives me energy. I enjoy it, and even if I spend all of naptime doing it, when the kids wake up I am refreshed and content. 

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Fifteen Months with Twins

I keep meaning to do a "day in the life" post, but I always forget to keep track of things until close to the babies' first nap. Maybe that's a good thing for those who read this blog. ;) There would be a lot of repetition. Pick books off the floor and put them back on the shelf. Pick up puzzle pieces and put them back in the puzzles (or just throw them on the shelf ...). Pick up plastic bowls and plates and put them back in the kitchen drawer. Pick up the newspapers we use for starting fires after chasing the babies away from the fireplace. Pick up a baby from the bathroom he knows shouldn't be in, set him down outside, pick up the second baby and set him outside, go back and pick up the first who has crawled back in the meantime, repeat. Etc. ;)

Michael now calls our closet "Gregory's room." He's not that far from the truth.
We've been sick the past couple days but seem to be over the worst of it. Gregory is still pretty phlegmy; he had the croup, but it seems to have passed by the others, who only had colds. He is such a sweet boy. Sitting in doctor's office, smiling and chatting with people in a raspy-frog voice, his gentle disposition undisturbed by his illness. Beautiful baby.

A few weeks ago at Mass, as he was looking around the cry room after nursing, I asked him, "What do you see?" And he turned to look at the huge crucifix and with a big grin on his face said, "Jesus!" He was so excited to kiss and touch the crucifix. (But he also has an incredibly impish side--which is totally emphasized by that hair that sticks up all over the place, even after its first cut.)

Dominic is feeling better, and it is so good to have my cheerful baby back. This guy is a man of extremes. It's either all happiness and toothy smiles, or sheer anger, throwing himself on the floor and throwing things in distress. His life is a drama he enters into with his entire body. He "reads" books to himself with gestures, facial expressions, intonation that would put any orator to shame. He's all about movement--climbing over anything and anyone in his way, sudden dashes across the floor, throwing balls and driving cars. And yet, unlike Gregory, he can settle in for a good cuddle without wiggling all over the place, just curled up against you soaking you in. It's all on or off with this kid; no in between.

And then, the two of them together. If one of them is awake for more than ten minutes without the other, he starts getting grumpy and restless, until I ask if he wants to go wake up his brother. Then the eyes will light up and the head will crane forward as we tread up the stairs, eager for his twin.

I hope I can capture the way they go up the stairs together on camera--how Dominic will start up, stop and look back at Gregory with a grin, "Well? Are you coming?" And then up they speed one behind the other, looking at each other and bursting into laughter, all full of mischief.

This didn't start out as a "mommy blog" type post, but there you go--fuzzy pictures and all. :)

PS Happy Mardi Gras!

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Two Favorites

It's naptime! I am eating homemade English muffin bread, drinking hot chocolate, and getting ready to knit some leaves. My other two projects are still on the needles and looking much the same, but I decided to switch things up for a bit. :) The needles were my grandmother's; I use them quite a bit. Also my reading and my knitting coordinate this week. Fun!

I just finished Shirt of Flame and am actually getting ready to start reading it all over again! This was such a good book. I flew through this book, but it is subtitled "A Year with Saint Therese of Lisieux," and there is a chapter for each month. There is some intense stuff here, and I am hoping to read it throughout the year with some friends, giving it space to really sink in. (Also? I knew I was meant to read this book right now when a simple line from the introduction started me bawling out of the blue!)

I have a special place in my heart for St. Therese (and she played a role in my engagement!), but it's been at least five years since I read Story of a Soul. (Time to rectify that.) This book is part meditation, part memoir; I really love the contrast between the more earthy, gritty (is that the right word?) struggles of the author with the sentimental Therese--especially since I know some people find Therese a bit too emotionally pious to connect with.

And yes, The Hobbit, with cover art by JRR himself. :) That makes me happy. I love old editions like this. My aunt gave me this one from her own collection, years ago. I am happy to say it is every bit as wonderful to me on rereading as it was in my memory.

Linking up with Ginny's yarn along!

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Ordinary Time

I've seen the word "hibernate" floating around the internet a lot this winter. I guess that's kind of what we've been doing--laying close to home, living life quietly. Ordinary Time, as the Church in her wisdom has given us. 

Keith takes the four-wheel-drive car to work, so there are times when I can't get up the small hill and out of our icy driveway. And it's been bitter cold and I've been reluctant to take the kids out anyway. 

Perhaps because I've been indoors so much, I've lately gotten a familiar itch--the desire to change something, to tackle a project in our home. More specifically, I really want to do something in the kitchen. Since redoing the walls and cabinets are not on the radar right now, I've settled for finishing this Ikea kitchen cart.

It still needs another coat of two of turquoise paint. I'm not sure I like it. It wanted something intense, but not necessarily this bright. I may buy a can of something darker, more peacock-colored. What do you think?

I am pretty proud of the staining! Of course, the babies found a paint stick with not-quiet-dried primer on it and tracked it all over the kitchen and dining room floor (and left a handprint on my stained shelves), resulting in some frantic scrubbing and our first call to the Mr. Yuck poison center. But all's well that end's well!

I've also slowly been emptying the freezer of yarn, baking it at a low temperature in the oven to kill any eggs. I have two ovens, so I can also bake bread or roast something for dinner at the same time. Which works out great in theory; not so much when, in practice, you turn the wrong oven on to 375 degrees and fill your kitchen with the smell of burning wool! I am a little sad; that yarn was meant for a lovely sweater

So far I've been pulling out yarn that I think was unaffected by moths; I am screwing myself up to be more ruthless when I reach the back of the freezer and the wool I know was eaten, lived in, and otherwise infested. Much as it will be hard to part with that yarn, I will hate myself if I keep it and end up having a brand new infestation because of it. Part of me wants to keep the it in the freezer forever because then ... I still have it. But it is time to let go. 

 And while I do this quiet work, the boys enjoy playing upstairs. All they really ask is a Mama to be their audience. :)