Monday, January 1, 2018

A Variety of Date Nights and All the Foods

James and the big kids are at the Y, Cora is sleeping, I have my biggest Yeti filled with green tea, fleece pants, fleece socks, and a super old long-sleeve fleece UT swimming shirt on, no bra, no makeup, hair in a messy bun. Repeat episodes of the Great British Baking Show are on my living room TV, my laptop is on my lap, there's a fire crackling in the fireplace and split pea soup simmering in a crock pot. It is 15 degrees outside and this hour is everything I wanted my New Year's Day to be. I love my family. I love the chaos and laughter and the constant party that is a family of five.

I also love this. I have so many things to write. After not having time for days I finally just told James, I need to write a blog post. Like five of them. You all have to go somewhere. Because this blog, while it is fully a navel-gazing indulgence of mine, is also an outlet. Writing is both a hobby and a need. Even when it's light-hearted and funny, it's a need. And reading the posts years later is a warm, cozy comfort. And so I have the house to myself and a promise to finish recapping Colorado, cover the last few days, and finish a New Year's Resolution post I started in 2016, revisited in 2017, and swear I will publish in 2018. If nothing else it will be interesting to see which resolutions I did, which I failed at, and which I don't care about anymore. And then I'll probably go make some more chex mix. (Update: I made the chex mix an hour into writing this post and am eating it through the second hour; I have a problem.)

We returned from Colorado late on Wednesday night. The drive home was easy and smooth, though long and definitely involving too many cheese puffs. Three drives to Colorado in one year is a new record for us and while we have loved every one, it might be a little while before we head that way again. (Though we head to San Antonio this weekend and then have another epic national park road trip planned for March; good thing James likes to drive and our kids think driving for 12 hour is a totally normal and peaceful thing to do.) I had to work on Thursday, but I did so from home because I accidentally woke up 5 minutes before I was supposed to be at work and it was cold outside and I had 5 hours of CLE's to watch and figured I could do that from the kitchen table as well as anywhere. Everyone learned a lot about Supreme Court trends in 2017 and what to expect in 2018. Thank god for PLI on-demand.

On Friday I decided I had to leave the house, so I went to yoga at lunch and it felt marvelous and powerful and terrible. I'd had to use up four Orangetheory classes in four days before we left, then I was in a car, then I was skiing, then I was in a car again. The bendiness took a while to come back, but it felt fantastic towards the end. I still love barre and love teaching it, and I love that Orangetheory gives me cardio and heavier weight exercises that I would never do on my own, but yoga is my heart. I never feel better emotionally or physically than when I'm in a power vinyasa class. Someday I will get certified. A resolution for 2020 perhaps.

Also on Friday I went on a double date with friends to see Pitch Perfect 3. One half of our double was an actual couple (go Jay for appreciating the masterpieces that are the Pitch Perfects), the other half (my date) was another girlfriend whose husband opted out- we all shared popcorn and everyone had beer or wine and I wore my sister's Christmas gifts to me (scarf and earrings) and it was perfect. I'll say that #3 was the weakest of the PPs but I still enjoyed every minute and I've played the finale song on Spotify approximately 600 times in 3 days.

I have no memory of what we ate on Thursday or Friday, but I know I cooked and I'm pretty sure it was good. The kids put all their Christmas toys away and wrote their thank you notes and I packed Christmas away along with them. I adore our "Christmas house" as Cora dubbed it this year, but I also love getting my real house ("old house" if you're Cora) back too. I ordered a new bookcase that should arrive tomorrow and I'm so excited. It's going to be perfect in the living room and then I have a few small home projects planned for the year. There's always something.

Landon spent a while in his room feeling his feelings and working with his 3D art pen.

I was really impressed. I love his love and aptitude for arts and crafts. I don't have the skill and Claire doesn't have the patience, but Landon will craft for HOURS.

Claire and Cora, on the other hand, spent a few hours singing Frozen songs together and taking turns who was Elsa and who was Anna and then executed a wardrobe change to fight bad guys.

Cora is generally in charge of their creative play and I had no idea we had so many bad guys in our house who needed to be "punched in the FACE Cwaire!"

On Saturday night, after a day of errands, exercise, and intense parenting, James and I went out on a fancy holiday dinner date. It was freezing outside, but somehow I still couldn't bear the burden of blow drying my own hair, so I went curly. Something that takes 30 seconds but I never like as much as straight. I also wore my aunt and god mother's diamond jackets over my regular diamond earrings. It added some sparkle and I liked thinking of her as we approach the one year anniversary of her passing.

Dinner was AMAZING. And not just because it was our first time alone together in WAY too long.

The food - four courses of perfection - the ambiance, the dressing up, the lack of children... we love these things. (And oh my god the food was good.)

Yesterday I did another Orangetheory in penance for the quantity of Bearnaise sauce I consumed the night before, but the power went out towards the end through so I feel like it was the gods telling me to be lazier. I went home and baked a million things with all the fabulous ingredients we'd purchased at the FIVE grocery stores we'd visited the two days before. Nothing like a New Year to make you want to restock all the things.

(Weekend baking: Superhero Muffins and Spelt Banana Bread from Run Fast Eat Slow, a cookbook I bought last January that I still highly recommend)

Over the last few years we've developed a tradition of celebrating New Year's with the kids around 7 p.m., tucking them in bed by 8, and then having our own fancy at-home New Year's Celebration once they're asleep. I have loved this and it was perfect for where we were at the time (i.e., parents of young children who want something festive but don't want to find a babysitter and know they'll be woken up between 5-7 a.m. on New Year's Day), but this year since we'd just had a fancy date night and the kids are older we decided to include them in all the festivities.

It was great.

Claire helped me decorate the table, she loves an occasion and is always my most enthusiastic party prepper.

We had our meats and cheeses, plus bread bowls of Onion Soup (which I absolutely cheated on and had James pick up from Panera), sliced fruit, and coconut shrimp (also a cheat, this time from Sprouts, they were so good).

Cora LOVES a good cheers. Her face is the best; we cheered a lot.

Cora dove headfirst into the charcuterie. She's not big on crackers or bread and hates fruit. She ate at least half the prosciutto and at one point declared, "I just going to spread cheese on this other cheese, 'kay mom?" Garlic herb boursin on manchego? Carry on little one.

For dessert I made my Dark Chocolate Bundt Cake with Dark Chocolate Ganache which I'd almost forgot about. It is so SO good and I have promised to keep it fresh in my memory for all time by making it far more often.

Yeah baby

We made a playlist with five of everyone's favorite songs. It was eclectic to say the least, but also adorable and required a lot of dancing.

We played games- everyone got to pick one, while trying to stay warm. I wore my fleece-lined sequin pants. They felt appropriate.

Inadvisably close to the flames

We did a faux Netflix countdown about 9 because we thought the natives were getting tired. As far as they were concerned, 2018 started right then.

Landon went to bed because he kept having trouble deciding that he wanted to have fun and/or be a member of the family. We asked Claire and Cora if they wanted to stay up later and Cora flatly turned us down with, "No I just want to go to sleep now." That girl has no FOMO. She knows when she's not around it's all of us who are missing out anyway.

And so the Bear stayed up with us until 11 and the NYC ball drop. We played more games (she's my board game girl), watched part of a movie, and generally enjoyed having an accidental only child for a few hours. I think she would have made it to midnight, but James and I could not, so we tucked her in with kisses and checked on a fast-asleep Landon and Cora, and went to bed ourselves a few minutes before 2017 came to an end in the central time zone.

2018 dawned with more cooking. My favorite egg casserole and a first attempt at sausage balls. I loved the seasonings in these but I learned you need to incorporate the cheese into the mix more since it melted all over the place (and also probably just use less cheese). They were still delicious though. Cinnamon roll were from a tube because I took all the homemade ones to Colorado and the mimosas were painstakingly made from scratch with store-bought OJ and champagne.

This Pea Soup is in the crockpot smelling delicious and the rest of the week's menu is below. I go back to work tomorrow, the kids and James don't go back until the 9th. I foresee lots of trips to the Y and the zoo.

Tuesday: RFES Bison Meatballs over zucchini noodles (with regular whole wheat rigatoni waiting in the wings because I do not know how the zoodles will go)

Wednesday: Beef Tamales (from Costco), Refried Black Beans, Avocado, Tomato

Thursday: RFES Greek Bison Burgers in pitas with tomato, cucumber, feta, kalamata olives; Roasted Cauliflower

Friday: Chicken Soup (I'll make it up; mirepioux + garlic + chicken broth + frozen chicken breasts + tiny star pasta I bought on a whim a couple weeks ago; bring to a boil, simmer forever, shred chicken, serve), possibly grilled cheese if it still insists on being cold outside and we need carbs to cope.

I hope for a more introspective new year post when I'm not braced for the return of the party pack, but I hope you had a wonderful, tasty, and champagne-soaked end to 2017 and a similar beginning to 2018. Over the course of this post I've finished my giant yeti of green tea, made and eaten much chex mix, and moved on to champagne leftover from brunch. This is the opposite of going to the Y with James and the kids, but I feel like 2018 is off to an excellent start.


  1. I’ve been reading and loving your blog since 2007! I am very interested in time management. You seem to get so much done. I would be super interested in hearing how you organize your time and life. I’m a lawyer and mom of 1 with a long commute and other obligations. It’s so hard keeping organized! I feel like I can never find anything and that there is never enough time to get everything done. Everything feels last minute and I hate that. You seem to have mastered organizing your household....

    1. I don't know about mastered, but what works for me is living at least a week (or three) ahead. That way when something pops up and really is last minute, it's the only last minute thing so it doesn't feel like EVERYTHING is that way. I start thinking about and buying Christmas gifts in the fall. Birthday gifts are always bought and parties are planned the month before the birthday. Then I can do the shopping/planning/ordering in my lazy free time at night (I do 99% of our shopping online) instead of feeling rushed to cram it in time I otherwise don't have. I meal plan for the week on Saturday mornings while James swims and the kids are eating breakfast. I sit at the kitchen table with my laptop, some recipe books, and a sticky note for the weekly menu and a bigger paper for all the ingredients. The shopping list goes to the store with James (he shops with the kids later that morning, generally while I do my workout) and the menu stays on the fridge door. I don't really go to any stores during the week or do much of anything except cooking what I'd already planned and general house maintenance.

      All that said, I don't have a commute (15 minutes max) and that makes a HUGE difference. My work hours are also very steady. I can fit things in (like workouts) because I KNOW I can fit them in without conflicts (I write my workouts for the week into my schedule on Saturday morning along with the food planning and noting any other unusual evening commitments like PTA or kid stuff, that effects what meal I plan for that night and avoids any rushing around during the week, but I could never ever have done any of that when I was at the firm because my schedule just wasn't that predictable). We also go to bed really late - like midnight - because I get a lot of personal things done at night and also just NEED that downtime. Really, I just don't get a lot of sleep (but I also don't need very much).

      We definitely still have hectic weeks and nights, even with a work schedule and commute that are as lifestyle-friendly as I think they can be. But for me, planning ahead and staying ahead makes it work as smoothly as it can. (Also, older kids help- they're more predictable and helpful and leave a little more time for you to spend on you :).

      (Also also, just re-read the comment and 2007!! You're an original - so glad you're still reading. Happy New Year to you!)

    2. Different anonymous here, thanking the first anonymous for this question! Also a lawyer, also a mom of 1, always wondering the same thing! Lag Liv, we all aspire to be so cheerfully and sparkly and productive.... thanks for the tips :)

    3. Thanks for the adding on that you don't sleep much...I think that's my problem. I'm an excellent and compulsive planner, and do all the kinds of things you noted. I just also need a LOT of sleep to function properly and go to bed at 9 right after my kids do, and even then I just don't seem to have quite as much energy for doing stuff as you do! On the plus (or minus, I'm not sure) side, neither does anyone else in my family. We all need some amount of downtime pretty much daily. I think I just need to remember that indeed, everyone is different, and maybe somewhere someone else thinks that I am the one doing more than they could ever fit into a day.

  2. love your above answer (b/c i honestly think the secret to LIFE is planning, and I don't know why so many people resist that!?).

    i also find blogging so cathartic - like I just NEEEED to do it! So i 100% get the first part of this post. so impressed claire made it so late!!!! and i am intrigued by landon's 3D crafting thing!!

  3. We did a 5-per-family-member NYE playlist, too! (We didn't actually play ours until New Year's Day during our brunch, but it was still great.) Happy New Year!

  4. Happy New Year! Can you share the recipe for the chocolate bundt cake? It looks amazing!

    1. Absolutely, it's so easy I feel like it's cheating, but here's the recipe!

      I use dark chocolate cake mix and chocolate fudge pudding mix and it's SO GOOD.