Tuesday, August 31, 2010

I Never Thought...

Before an orchestra can inaugurate the sublime beauty of a symphony, one that swells and ebbs through our souls, dances upon our hearts, and fills us with a grand prodigious emotion, it must prepare: tune, warm-up, and practice. The sound that is emanated from the ensemble before the conductor taps his baton on the podium can be rather, um, unharmonious. And, with one dog scrambling in a frenzy over a squirrel outside, the other yapping ceaselessly at a neighbor who (gasp!) dared to walk past the house, the dryer's emphatic banging, and a toddler's joyful squeals, I am reminded of this cacophonous moment. In truth, I never thought I'd be a stay-at-home mom. Although I've been known to don an apron to avoid the inevitable flour spill in the kitchen, I do not vacuum the carpet daily, nor do I iron the bedsheets, and if my husband has been waiting for me to lay out his work suits each day, he's going to be showing up to the office in the nude.

I have always had an image of the stay-at-home mom as a woman who anticipated and tended to every need of her family with a smile on her face and a twinkle in her eye. She wore sensible shoes, oven mitts, and a perfectly coifed bob, and she listened to Tony Bennett while frosting a chocolate cake. This could NEVER be me: uncomfortably high heels, chipped purple fingernail polish, and long hair piled in a wet knot at the back of my head. Led Zeppelin (and, at times, Tony Bennett) roars out of the ipod speakers, and there are no sweet confections displayed lovingly on the countertop. Not exactly the image of June Cleaver, yet here I am. Mom. Everyday. Every minute.

That's not to say that being a stay-at-home mother is not rewarding- it is actually the most gratifying, worthwhile adventure on which I have ever embarked- it's just a situation that I never thought I would experience. Having had jobs from the time I was able, going to college and graduate school, working as a teacher for several years, nothing could prepare me for this anomalous, yet magnificent, journey.

As plans often do, ours had changed at the last possible instant. The map of our lives was to take my requisite maternity leave, and then return to the classroom that I so loved- filled with literature, grammar manuals, posters, and punctuation texts. This plan was thwarted, however, the moment I gazed upon my baby's tiny, purple feet. Skinny and delicate, her diminutive toes were perfectly formed, and her little toenails flawless. These were the feet on which she would stand for the very first time, jump up-and-down in excitement when she got her driver's license, and the feet that would eventually carry her down the aisle. Perhaps I was weak, maybe a trifle selfish, but I could not bear to miss out on some of these extraordinary milestones.

So each day my objective is to absorb as much about my little girl as I can, such as the fact that she discovers countless information about an object by tasting, explores each meal by touching and mashing it with her hands, and listens intently to the wind when she plays outside. She relies so often on senses that we, as adults, have determined are useless in many scenarios. Therefore, short of squishing the spaghetti between my fingers in a restaurant, I have begun to slow down in my daily activities, to immerse myself in the world by truly recognizing it through taste, touch, smell, sight, and listening. Who knew that a one-year old could be such an outstanding teacher? I always suspected she was a genius.

Now, there are definitely times that I long to go off to my own workplace, to wear some of the suit pants that hang, dejected, in my closet, to come home to my family, who beam because they haven't seen me all day. Unmistakeably, there are several monetary benefits to working outside the home, as well, and communicating with more adults prevents one from replying in goo-goos to the grocery store clerk. Nevertheless, I enjoy where I am right now: jeans-clad, broke, speaking in gibberish to members of the community, happy.

So here I sit, amid the loud, raucous chaos. Barking dogs, buzzing appliances, screeching child- all of these sounds are a precursor to the beautiful symphony that comes with the knowledge that this is the life that I have created and am privileged to be a part of every day.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Dinner Plan: 8/30/10

A Wendy's induced coma last night brought me a morning of extreme thirst (who knew that a #6 was so freaking salty?) and memories of some whacked-out dreams. Some home-cooked fresh ingredients are what I need to snap out of this fast-food daze that is still ever-present...

Weekly Dinner Plan
Monday: Chicken parmesan, salad

Wednesday:                   Beach night
Yes, this was ACTUALLY taken at the beach.  That's the side of a cabana there.  Gorgeous sunset!

God, that's a long name.

The best part about repeating recipes is that I still have all the random ingredients sitting around- waiting to be used again.
Orange marmalade? Check.
Sesame oil? Got it.
Teriyaki sauce? It's in the fridge, just waiting for its second chance...

Friday: Out to dinner

Saturday: Chicken marengo, salad

Wait... should I be cooking on the night before my birthday?
This one may not actually transpire.

Sunday: My birthday! I'm officially “in my thirties.” I think I'm gonna throw up.
               Happy birthday Mommy! (Now clean me up)

Thursday, August 26, 2010

One Chick's Opinion: Who is John Galt?

Lest one thinks that I sit around all day and think about cooking (it's only about two-thirds of the day when food is on my mind), I thought I'd bring a little literary culture into the mix. Recently I finished some books, so I thought I would discuss them here. I would love to hear others' points of view as well, so if you have read, watched the movie of, contemplated reading, skimmed the chapter titles of, or looked at the last paragraph of any of the novels I talk about, drop me a line!

Atlas Shrugged, by Ayn Rand

To understand Rand's rather economically conservative stance (to put it mildly), it is important to look at her background. Born in the early 1900's, the writer escaped Soviet Russia after college in 1924. Under Communist rule, she saw her father's pharmacy confiscated and the near-starvation of her family. Needless to say, Ayn Rand was vehemently opposed to the Marxist ideology, “From each, according to his ability; to each according to his needs.”

In this political climate, I definitely thought it was important to explore this work of fiction that was the culmination of Rand's work as an author and her philosophy of “Objectivism.” Regardless of one's point of view- democrat, republican, conservative, liberal- this is a book that should be read and analyzed, whether or not one agrees with the tenets that are put forth.

Some things to point out...

  1. It's long. Like, really, really long: over 1,000 pages.

  1. Economical philosophies aside, the actual novel is pretty entertaining. The main character, Dagny, is the strong-willed VP of Taggart Transcontinental Railroad. She has a love affair with Hank Rearden, a successful industrialist in the field of steel-making. As the country's economic collapse unfolds, the brightest and most hard-working people begin to disappear. We come to find out that they're hiding out; lying in wait for the downfall of the country in order to return, unscathed, to rebuild.

  1. After reading this book, I have to say that the words "but it's not fair" scare me most of all. It was an entire generation that was criticized for believing that all children deserved a trophy, that there should be no "winners" or "losers," that everyone should share- regardless of circumstances.  We have learned, as a people, that this doctrine should be discarded; it promotes whininess in children, and adults who do not see the value in working hard.  What is the point in working hard if everyone reaps the benefits? Perhaps it is "fair" that everyone is rewarded equally, but the system just does not work.

  1. If that is agreed upon, then we should discuss what an appropriate reward should be for a job well done: possibly a certificate that allows one to obtain items that he or she desires, or "money" as it is commonly called?  Rand believes strongly in being paid as a reward for hard work.  She believes in bonuses, raises, and commissions. After reading this novel, I can say with confidence that money is NOT the "root of all evil."

  1. At times, workers are recompensed for their hard work with a higher salary, or better benefits.  Perhaps they receive a a more inclusive retirement package, a company car, a lollipop… The point is that if everyone acquires the same rewards, regardless of what they do, society no longer has a reason to "step up to the plate," and capitalism, as we know it, ceases to exist.  It may not be "fair," but it is a belief that America is built on.

  1. I completely understand that others may have different, and very valid, viewpoints. Believe me- I didn't agree with EVERYTHING that Ayn Rand said, however I did feel riled up after reading this book- and isn't that the point? I suggest that you go out and read it if you haven't already. I'm very interested in hearing what you have to say!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Dinner Plan: 8/23/10, AKA: Recycle- it's what the cool kids are doing!

I don't necessarily get the whole “recycling makes me an exceedingly better person than those around me” mentality. I do probably agree that you are a fantastic individual, but I, personally, don't really like to flaunt my ability to salvage every morsel of garbage that comes my way. Not only that, but I'd rather my neighbors not see and comment on the plethora wine, vodka, bourbon, and beer bottles that would litter the red can at the curb each week. I do, however, think it's important to reuse old things when possible. So, at this time, I am going back to recover some of my former good recipes instead of researching new ones to try. I swear: it's NOT laziness. It's recycling.

Weekly Dinner Plan
Alright- so the salad is newbie, but we need to find some creative ways to use the inordinate amount of tomatoes that are coming off the vines presently.

Tuesday: Veggie burgers
Kyle will not be home for dinner, so I'll forgo an actual dinner preparation in favor of something quick and easy.

Wednesday: Chicken pot-pie, salad

If I remember correctly, this recipe was extremely messy, but I'll give it another go...

Friday: The forecast says that it will be a return to the nicer weather- so let's call this a beach night!

Saturday: Date night- I think it's about time that we enjoy a night out!

So, remember boys and girls: Reusing your old recipes makes for an easier time in the kitchen!

Monday, August 16, 2010

A Return?

No meal plan this week; as I look toward the next seven days, I realize that it will be CRAZY! A couple days out in Jamesport, a Giants game (for Kyle), a late work night... It's just not worth it to get a bunch of ingredients at the grocery store that I'm not going to use.

So... I'm starting to get the itch to return to work. I think it's all the back-to-school commercials that advertise a “new beginning” to the kids watching TV. It's me, however, that gets psyched up for a fresh start.

      1. New notebooks, pens, posters...
      2. Wearing all the work clothes that have been hanging up in my closet, rejected for the past year.
      3. When I come home from work, my daughter will be excited to see me, rather than the normal “Ugh- you're old-hat” reaction that I have been getting.
      4. Appreciation for a job well done, coming from someone other than my husband.
      5. An extra couple of bucks to put away in the bank.

There are some pitfalls to beginning anew, though.
      1. Interviews. I always get too nervous to speak coherently, and I inevitably say something stupid.
      2. Finding appropriate child-care for Avery.
      3. Waking up at some ungodly hour to arrive there by- what time? Seven?
      4. No time for things like grocery shopping, going to the gym, attending programs at the library, and missing some of my child's milestones.

Decisions, decisions.
All I know is that I better consider my options quickly, because the school year begins in a couple weeks.
I need help!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Sleep- Who Needs It?

Sleeping is over-rated.
So as I sit here at 4:24 am, I'll try to distract my thoughts from the tiny stressors that plague my mind as I (hopefully) tire myself out.
Let me consider the food that I have thus far consumed this week:
  1. The over-all concept of the meal was good, but the presentation atrocious. Since the fish falls apart so easily on the grill, the result was a very piecey, unpleasant look. The yogurt sauce (which I cut the recipe by 1/3 and still had enough left over for the entire neighborhood to eat for a week) was very watery, and ran all over the plate. The result was actually quite tasty, despite it's unattractiveness, and the fact that I forgot to add the roasted cashews and red beets.
  1. This was actually pretty yummy- light and refreshing, and yet not very difficult. The chicken was a little dry, but I think that comes with grilling skinless, boneless pieces. The grilled oranges made a lovely presentation, but were not very delectable.

  1. Take-out
    I literally looked forward to Thai Gourmet all week. Mmmm... flat noodles with broccoli.

  1. Pizza
    Mom came over with a pie. Yum.

  1. Grilled porterhouse
    Kyle made us a steak at the beach. It was incredible. In fact, maybe I'll go enjoy some left-overs now...

And that brings us to today. It's been a few days since I have done anything in the kitchen, so better get myself in gear. Okay- going to try to get some sleep now (maybe I'll dream of some tantalizing treats).

Monday, August 9, 2010

Dinner Plan: 8/9/10

“Um.. so you're just not going to the gym anymore?” My loving husband inquires, obviously calculating how much it'll cost to pull out of the membership contract early.
“It's only been four days. I'm taking a couple weeks off. I'm feeling chunky.” I reply curtly.
“You know that doesn't make sense, right?”
“Yeah, well, the only thing I know for a fact is that I have gained a grand total of 5 pounds since returning to the gym last year. And it's not muscle.”
“Okay... what about just doing cardio then?”
“It makes me hungry”
“Alright. Whatever you want to do.”

Did my husband just call me fat?

Weekly (light) Dinner Plan
Monday: Grilled Tilapia, salad
A repeat of last week's recipe.

Another repeat. I apparently didn't have a lot of cooking experiences last week.

Wednesday: Take out- but something healthy. Or not.

Thursday: Beach day
Chances are that one of these evenings we'll be going to the beach for din-din, so I'm not going to bother finding another recipe.

Friday: Grilled lemon chicken with Greek salad
This recipe comes from Everyday with Rachel Ray ( supplementary “menu planner” booklet), and I absolutely could not find it on the internet. It seems simple enough, though: puree 3 cloves of garlic, grated lemon peel and juice from 1 lemon, 2 tbsp of olive oil, and salt to make a paste. Mush into 4 bone in chicken brests, under the skin. Put a little olive oil on the chicken and season with s & p. Grill. Eat.

Since I was already on Rachel Ray's website, I browsed around and found this yummy recipe. Everything in moderation.

Sunday: Sunny's Birthday!
It's my mother-in-law's birthday celebration, so we'll probably grill up some hamburgers, hot dogs, and ribs. I also found a yummy looking potato salad recipe in Rachel Ray's magazine that has fennel, prosciutto, basil, and garlic. If it's any good, I'll post the recipe.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Dinner Plan: 8/2/10

It took me a couple days to recover, but I think I'm finally over the weekend. Apparently I'm no longer of an age to stay up late drinking, sleep on a lumpy hotel mattress, then wake up early to drive back from Riverhead.
The wedding was wonderful, though: blushing bride, handsome groom, and dancing wildly to Ke$ha songs until all hours. Success!
Which brings me to Sunday when I became a Godmother to the son of my oldest friend. Two days in a row of being in church... I never knew I was such a devout Catholic!

Weekly Dinner Plan
Monday: Whoops! Too tired to go to the store- my dad made steak at the beach.

I just realized the time... No supermarket for me today, the aquarium took up too much of our day! Although this recipe was on the agenda for last week, I didn't get to it. A blessing, since we already have the ingredients!

Wednesday: Tuna casserole, salad
I actually still have the Grape Nuts cereal in my cabinet from last time I made this (March!), so it needs to be done. Besides, I so can channel June Cleaver when I sport an apron and mitts, lovingly taking a casserole out of the oven. I'm just so sweet. Okay- maybe not.

Thursday: Baked pesto chicken, couscous, salad
Glancing down at the above website, I realized that this seemed an easy supper to try. One caveat: if you're making pasta earlier in the week (like I am), you may want to replace the angel hair with a different starch. In this case, I'm using couscous.

Since I loved the pork with peaches so much last week, I thought I'd try another fruity and meaty combo!

Saturday: Grilled Tilapia, salad
Mmmm... the aquarium put me in the mood for fish.  Sick, I know.

We're a little heavy on the chicken this week, and probably be clucking by Friday, but we're making it in all different ways, unlike when I was a kid. My sister insisted that we have grilled chicken, rice, and salad every night. Or McDonald's.
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