Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Frozen Foods

It's been really cold here.
Our homes and infrastructure and deregulated power grid are not made for this, so it's late and I'm sitting in the living room with the fire roaring, our heat turned down to 60, everything but the TV unplugged and off, and everyone snuggled under blankets watching Star Wars.
We've played Scrabble by firelight, held a blow dryer on our kitchen pipes for 3 hours to thaw our sewage line (and the pool equipment, and Landon's bathroom pipes, and... my blow dryer has been used on my hair about four times since Covid began but has been the real MVP of the great freeze), and pulled Maggie out of the fireplace so many times it is clear she has absolutely no survival instinct at all.
I have a full post pending - we've had a family quarantine, Valentine's Day fun, snowpocalypse adventures, and more, but it's late, we're conserving energy and I still need to convince Maggie to go poop in the snow before bed.
DFW is suffering along with the rest of Texas in these epic cold temps, but we have been so fortunate to retain power through it all. Our annual trips to Colorado meant we had snow gear and sleds and we've been making the best of these chilly stir crazy times, while getting frequent updates from friends and family elsewhere in the state without power and/or water.
Desperately hoping everyone gets access to power and water soon. In the meantime, here's the menu I meant to post last week and keep looking up in my drafts folder to refer to this week:

Fri: Meaty Spaghetti (my easy meal when everyone is hungry and I'm scraping the back of the fridge; cook ground beef in diced onion and garlic, drain, add a big jar of marinara sauce, extra oregano, basil, and garlic salt, splash of heavy cream, and cooked/drained whole wheat spaghetti- mix all together and serve with parmesan); Field Greens Salad with Apples and Beets (and crumbled goat cheese, candied pecans, and homemade balsamic vinaigrette).

Sat: Fuji Apple Chicken Salad, I used store bought apple chips and pre-grilled chicken, made my own candied pecans, and added cooked farro and it was SO good. (Thanks to Shu for this recipe link!).

Sun: Valentine's Day Pot Roast, mashed potatoes, cooked carrots. (The kids were going to make us dinner, and still will one day soon, but with the freezing weather I decided having something cooking in the crockpot would be ideal and it was cozy and wonderful as always.)

Mon: Chicken Rice Casserole with extra rice, broth, and a bag of frozen mixed veggies. (This was solid, but nothing amazing.)

Tues: Bean and Cheese Burritos (with canned refried black beans instead of homemade pinto; all rolled up and lined in a baking dish, topped with a bit of sour cream and cheddar and baked for 20 mins at 350), avocado on top, frozen mixed vegetables on the side. (These were great!!)

Wed: Smoked Sausage, White Bean and Spinach Soup, served with homemade crusty bread.

Thurs: Baked Feta Pasta, with pasta and tomato cream sauce for the kids.

Fri: Homemade Pizza (still loving this Detroit Style, so might do that; or go simple with this recipe for the crust and everyone making their own).

Sat: Sunshine Citrus Avocado Salad, with grilled salmon (assuming we can get to Costco by then).

Sun: Oven Jambalaya, green beans, cheddar biscuits.

Mon: Italian Chicken Soup, extra beans and veggies, bread.

Tues: Beef Tacos, rice, beans, toppings. (I have a late witness interview, so James and the kids will be pulling this together after lessons end.)

Wed: Greek Chicken Wraps, roasted potatoes, naan, extra Greek veggies. (Same; I'll assemble the salad during lunch and someone will bring me a plate to my desk at dinner time).

Thurs: Birthday Dinner!, desperately hoping for mild weather and nachos on a patio, but takeout will work too. What's important is that I will not be cooking.

Fri: Pizza?, probably. I'll have conducted four witness interviews that week, including one on my birthday, so we may actuallybe crazy and order pizza from a restaurant- who knows!

Stay warm everyone,

Sunday, February 7, 2021

Apparently It's February and February is My Favorite Month

Hey there! So it's been a minute. And in the minute since I last wrote to you, I worked 6,000 hours, reviewed a billion documents, conducted 27 witness interviews, ate way too many meals at my desk, and forgot what it felt like to breathe fresh air. But damn, was it a good week to be a lawyer. (And I still fit in 45 minutes of exercise every morning on my HIIT Dog app and it was stress release and sanity and oftetimes the only time I moved all day.)
It was also a great week to be James's wife and my kids' mom because you guys, I worked a lot and I contributed nothing but my paycheck to my family, but from morning Starbucks deliveries from James to meals delivered to my desk at night by the kids, to this note and flower plucked from a volunteer bush in our backyard and placed on my desk during a break by Claire, I have never felt more loved.
Weeks like the last give me such cause to remember how very lucky I am in my partner (and then to get annoyed that I feel a need to use the word lucky, but it seems so rare, I suppose it's a bit of luck too). To have someone who sees me drowning and seamlessly and silently steps up and simply deals. Handles all the kid stuff, house stuff, pest control stuff (there are rats in our attic! fucking RATS y'all! a bunch of them! the first guy who came out quoted $8,000 to get them gone wtf but I was too busy to get worked up about it and James called more, but hit me up with your solutions; I'm about to send Moose up there), food stuff, school stuff, and the coming by to give me hugs on break stuff. And I just worked. And drank my Starbucks, put on increasing amounts of undereye concealer, and thanked the universe that I have a partner -- and my kids get to see a partner -- who hugs me tight when I finally come to bed and doesn't make me feel guilty when ALL the stuff shifts to his side for a short while.
I could hear James and the kids playing cards at the kitchen table at night and while it made me sad to miss, it also made me so glad to know all was well. And since I couldn't hang out at night, James picked out a bunch of really important movies he felt Landon needed to see for them watch together when the girls were in bed. And the high-pitched giggles I heard echoing through the house as Billy Madison, Happy Gilmore, and Dumb and Dumber played in the living room gave me life while I was still on calls or prepping for the next interview.
My paralegal gave me life too.
Absolutely steadfast support.
In my busy week leading up to the busy WEEK, I got lots of visitors to my bedroom office.

Cuddly middle children who can never resist a fuzzy pullover.
Teenagers who literally never stop talking except when they're singing to the cat.
And husbands, who come take naps that lure you to take cuddle breaks of your own.
Prior to all that, back to a weekend when I spent time with my family, I had a few hours with Cora while the big kids were swimming with James. I told her we could do anything she wanted and she enthusiastically requested, "SkipBo and reading!" I assumed she meant one and then the other, but nope, she read at least a few pages (of her big sister's library book) between every round.
Her teacher sent me this picture of a project they did for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in January. Apparently she asked permission to add the podium and the ever-present power ponytail gave me a smile.
"My dream is for all the people in the United States to work together and stop the Covid. I also want animals to be treated kindly and fairly. I also want homeless people to have food, water, and shelter."

Also, January 26th was Maggie's 2nd Adoptiversary!
We've also decided that day is her birthday and she's now 6 (ish).
It was a big day full of pets and walks and lots of snoring next to me at my desk.
I love that little ball of love and wrinkles so very, very much. I feel like we continue to see her blossom into the bulldog she was always meant to be and it is a joy and an honor to provide her with beds and fluffy blankets.
And ending this post on the highest part of my week- I ended work on Friday at a reasonable time, grabbed my warm jacket and my husband who doesn't have any swim lessons on Fridays, waved at our somewhat bemused children who were told they could put on a movie, and took him out for a very early dinner date on a chilly, completely empty patio downtown. We chatted and flirted, ate all the tortilla chips, and I just soaked up this handsome man I'm so lucky to call mine.
I was going on no sleep and had hair I'd dried two days ago, but that hour with him and our chips and my steak quesadilla was sunshine to my soul. You know, free babysitting and impromptu dates might be the best part of having a teenager in the house. (Particularly since the nonstop comedy show receives only mediocre reviews, but I do enjoy how much he enjoys the show he thinks he's putting on.)

And now food! Last week's menu (carefully planned to be fast meals James could make at the end of lessons when everyone is starving) and this week's:

Mon: Pesto Caprese Gnocchi (cooked gnocchi, tossed with pesto, fresh mozzarella, cherry tomatoes, and grilled chicken).
Tues: Pasties (frozen, from the last batch; they were every bit as magical as I remembered).
Wed: Beef Tacos, rice, beans, toppings.
Thurs: TJ's Gyros, Naan, Tzatziki, Cucumber, Tomato, Oven Fries
Fri: Surprise Date Night; Mac and Cheese for the minors.
Sat: Homemade Stromboli, veggies. (This time I spread a can of chopped olives between the meat and cheese layers and it was perfect.)
Sun: Greek Pasta Salad (based on the Ina recipe, linked; I add lots of extra veggie, double the dressing, and toss it all with a pound of boiled and chilled whole wheat penne), grilled chicken, naan, tzatziki sauce.
- - -
Mon: Foil Pack French Dip Sandwiches, tater tots, raw veggies.
Tues: Beef tacos, brown rice, black beans, toppings.
Wed: Crock Pot Red Beans and Rice, brown rice, steamed green beans, corn bread.
Thurs: Creamy Tortellini Soup, crusty bread.
Fri: Fuji Apple Salad
Sat: Mississippi Pot Roast, cooked carrots, mashed potatoes, rolls.
Sun: Surprise Valentine's Dinner, cooked by the kids - I can't wait! We're doing a breakfast for them in the morning. It's a silly holiday, but I do love celebrating my little crew of Valentines.

Saturday, January 23, 2021

Victories, Big and Small

I realized after posting that I forgot my favorite picture from the snow last week. Maggie the intrepid snow dog caught a snowflake on her tongue and it was perfect.
She also realized her paws were getting wet and she maybe did not like the snow and went back inside. And so for the last week of chilly rainy yucky weather, she has looked at me like this in the foyer every time I've tried to take her outside for a potty break. I usually end up carrying her.
Mostly she spends her time in the girls' old Pottery Barn Kids chairs. We do love hand-me-downs.
We've had some exciting news this week, so let's round up the family members.
First, Moose and Maggie.
Every morning for several hours, Moose hunts squirrels from behind this window in our bedroom, and every morning, Maggie comes to join him. I’m certain Maggie has no idea why they’re sitting in front of the glass, nor has she ever noticed a squirrel, but she understands this vigil is expected as part of Moose’s pack and she’s here for him 100%.
All the rain has made Maggie a bit rambuctious and she's been playing with and chasing Moose SO MUCH and then suddenly she will just freeze and deflate and switch to charging mode. It cracks me up and seems to really confuse Moose, who will bat at her face for a bit before giving up until the charge is complete.
In human news, James went a new lifetime best time in his 100 breaststroke earlier this year (and then dropped his time a little more after that) and his times were certified as U.S. Masters National Records!
He is the fastest (and 2nd fastest!) 35-39 year old man in the 100 breaststroke ever in the US (and the 50 breast, based on his split halfway through) and you guys, how lucky am I to have locked this guy down when he was 19?
Hotter (and faster!) every year I swear.

I, on the other hand, dropped teaching at TCU this semester because work was making it stressful and impossible and took a break teaching barre on the weekends to recharge and spend time with the kids because work has been so busy that my 60 minute barre break on Sunday was now more draining than fun, so I went like 5 weeks doing absolutely no workouts at all until I had enough of feeling slovenly and terrible and downloaded the Down Dog, Barre Dog, and HIIT Dog apps and I love them.

Particularly HIIT dog- so cutomstizable, great exercises, great music, and only $15/year to use all three.

I've worked out every work day for the last two weeks and if you could see what my call schedule has been like you'd see the committment combined with miracle dust that has required.

I wake up at 6:45 and put on leggings and a sports bra before I can think about it, throw a fluffy pullover on top to check in on James and the kids getting ready for school. I do the girls' hair while they pause their breakfasts and then hug them goodbye, kick the pets out of my room, and close the door. I log in to my work computer by 7 to check email and see if I missed anything that needs a response before I begin, then I roll out my yoga mat under the skylights and do 35-40 mins of HIIT followed by 15-20 mins of barre or yoga, depending on when my first call starts. Maybe I shower, maybe I don't (video calls don't care #WFHLife), and since I'm already logged in I can work out until the exact minute of my dial-in. This plan doesn't require me to get up earlier than I normally do and makes feel like I've done something on even my busiest days.

It's always annoying when I make excuses not to exercise for weeks and then when I finally do I'm like, dammit that does feel great, now I have to keep doing this, but it does.

Also, it's Day 93 and that feels fucking great too.

Also great- I got a new tinted moisturizer that gives me the littlest bit of coverage for video calls, but doesn't make me feel like I've got full makeup on for yet another day that I won't leave the house. The combo makes me feel really good and required me to finally learn how to use a beauty blender, and you guys, those makeup articles from like 12 years ago are right, the sponge is really the way to go.
Next up is Landon! After much stress and waffling, he decided to try out for the 7th grade basketball team and it was SO nerve-wracking to watch him put himself out there, risk failure in an activity that is defintely not his strongest, and know that no matter how blase he tried to sound, he was super nervous because he thought he maybe had a shot and making the team mattered to him an awful lot. (Then he banged his head playing in the front yard the night before and spent the morning before Day 1 tryouts icing his head with frozen mixed vegetables and eating bagels.) Watching your fledgling attempt to jump out of the nest in a new way is such a brutiful part of parenting.
And after two days of try-outs, he found out he made it! We are SO PROUD of him- for trying, for making it, for having this experience that scared him. And I'm just thankful he can having something a little normal for this second year of middle school. The players and coaches wear masks the whole time and games will be live-streamed without spectators and we can't wait to sit at home and watch. He got to pick dessert for the night and went with cookie cake and ice cream. Always a winning combination.
Claire doesn't have any big news, but I do have this story that is one of those regular, every day kind of laughter-filled interactions I always wish I could rush to the computer to try to capture because it's the every day that I will miss so much when they're grown.
[Open Scene] Kitchen, 7:25 a.m. Wednesday morning. The girls are eating breakfast at the table, James is standing in the kitchen with one arm around me and the other holding his pre-workout banana. I'm wondering whether I have time to brew a cup of tea before running the girls to school and Landon is packing his lunch so it'll be ready when he gets back from swim practice. When I'm in charge of the mornings, which is only once a week when James does a morning practice with Landon, I like to turn on music, so Warrior by Avril Lavigne is playing on the ceiling speakers. My anti-pop music husband is shaking his head.

James: Claire can't handle that playing in the morning.

Me: What?! We love music! It's motivating!

James, looks meaningfully in Claire's direction.

Claire, singing passionately into the tiny multivitamin I reminded her to eat 4 minutes ago.

Me: You might have a point.

Cora, cracking up into her milk.

Landon, deadpans while walking by to get his shoes: Way to get after it Claire.

Cora, laughs harder. Can't swallow.

Claire, emerges from her solo back to the reality of the kitchen table: Why am I holding my vitamin?

Cora, gives up. Spits out the milk back into the cup.

[End scene]

They crack me up.
Cora has begun communicating subtle messags to use through her school work. This is one example of 100, all with the same theme.
We've been playing card games every night after dinner, which we all love and which encourages a lot more evening bonding in that time we have together before bed.
And that's about it for the last week or so. Some high highlights and everything else much the same. One other new highlight for me is starting out every morning, post-workout and pre-first-call with a cup of this amazing tea in my new favorite mug. I think I finally understand how coffee drinkers feel about their first cup because this tea is all I can think about for the last 15 minutes of my workout. A Christmas present from James turned pricey daily habit for me, I only treat myself to one bag a day, but it is SO strong and robust and amazing that it makes my whole morning brighter. I'm currently enjoying a box of the English Breakfast, but when it runs out I'm doing the Black Currant next. They come to about $1/day, so it's not Starbucks level bad (#RIPChaiLattes on the drive in the work), but really does feel like a treat each a.m.
And now ending as always on food:

Sat: Creamy Spinach Artichoke Chicken with Pasta, serving over whole wheat penne.
Sat: BBQ Salmon with Mango Salsa, served with black beans over brown rice
Mon: Vegetarian Shepherd's Pie, using Costco's mashed potatoes and an extra bag of mixed frozen vegetables
Tues: Beef Tacos, Mexican Rice, Refried Black Beans, Toppings
Wed: Leftover Spaghetti, frozen from the week before, side salad
Thurs: Creamy Chicken Enchilada Chili, corn chips, toppings
Fri: Homemade Pizza, possibly last week's Stromboli

Monday, January 18, 2021

Sweet Moments and Snowy Days

Thank you all for your sweet comments about my Grandma Jo. She was a remarkable woman of many roles and facets over her one-day-shy of 89 years. We continue to mourn and celebrate her, while my dad and his sister work to transition my sweet Grandpa to a new apartment and I try to focus on drafting documents and answering work emails.
In a rather extraordinary turn of events, on the day we knew would be my grandmother's last, my brother and sister-in-law had their much anticipated first doctor appointment and found out they're expecting twins! TWINS! We've never had twins in our family or hers and it was such a shock and infusion of joy for us all.
They've lost one pregnancy, so double rainbow babies felt like a particular miracle, and their due date is my anniversary, so it all feels very auspicious and we are just overjoyed. Twins! I still can't quite believe it and am pretty sure they can't either, but man are we all happy.
In other highlights of January so far- because even in a sad time, there are always points of light, last Sunday it snowed in DFW for the first time in many years and it was very exciting. For no one so much as Maggie, who ran around in circles for MANY minutes before I finally managed to turn on the video on my phone.

She spent the rest of the day recovering by the fire in her favorite chunky cardigan.
The kids at first resisted the allure of the snow, too caught up in our card games and mildly jaded by the fact we go skiing in literal mountains of snow every year, but I pushed them outside and they got caught up in the magic.
Landon obviously followed my advice regarding the full outfit of ski clothes in his closet and wore completely weather-appropriate clothing.
We tried to slide down the hill across from our house, built a very leaf-filled snowman, and then fulfilled a dream of the kids- swimming while it's snowing.
They didn't last long, and I required a lot of tea while lifeguarding, but it was a highlight for sure.
The day continued with hot chocolate and card games and it was just really nice day.
A day that ended in me attempting stromboli from scratch and you guys it was AMAZING.
Highly recommend this recipe.
Speaking of food, another sweet story: the kids started having sleepovers in the girls’ room every night during the pandemic. Now that school is back, we’ve limited them to weekends, but every Friday and Saturday night, Landon and Moose sleep on Cora’s trundle and our whole crew shares the same 100 square feet of space.
This past Saturday I walked into the room to say goodnight when everyone went silent and Landon hastily shoved something under a pillow. Being a professional investigator, I had questions.

Claire, with a sigh: “Just tell her Landon. She’ll find out eventually.”

Me: [bracing myself]

Landon, slides a cookbook out from under his pillow: “We’re picking out recipes to make you guys dinner for Valentine’s Day.”

Claire: “Like a fancy date! Because you don’t get to have those anymore.”

Cora: “We’re going to MAKE THE FOOD!”

Claire: “And dress up and decorate!”

Landon, ever practical: “And clean up. And the girls will be the waiters, because I’m the only one who can use the stove.”

Me: [melts; gives kisses to all except the teenager who now has a firm hugs-only policy. Immediately go to tell James he’s dressing up for our next date night.]
I’m not sure what they’ve picked out for us, but I can’t wait! James and I are still surprised and often sad to find ourselves in the post-babies and toddlers phase oflife, but teens and tweens and big kids are pretty amazing too. And bulldogs.
On to food!

Menu: Jan. 17 - Jan. 23
Sun: Greek Chicken Pitas, frozen fries, roasted cauliflower (this was GREAT!).
Mon: Gigi's Spaghetti, side salad (that will probably turn into raw crudites on a plate because everyone seems to prefer it that way)
Tues: Ham and Potato Soup, with smoked turkey in lieu of ham, extra carrot, and frozen peas.
Wed: Tamales (from Central Market), Mexican rice, refried black beans, toppings.
Thurs: Ina's Lentil Sausage Soup, steamed green beans, bread.
Fri: Leftover Pasties (something to look forward to! plus I see them everytime I open my freezer and can't stand delaying their deliciousness anymore).
Sat: Creamy Spinach and Artichoke Chicken, served over whoel wheat penne.
Sun: BBQ Salmon with Mango Salsa, served with black beans over brown rice.