Sunday, August 25, 2013

Shifting Seasons Again

How's the weather where you are? The most common crack around here has been "August: The New October." I am loving it, though fearing that it will turn hot again in time for school to start next week. Meanwhile, we are crushing in all the summer fun we can this week. Outdoor playspaces, aquarium visits, a beach trip, a phenomenal visit with the awesome person formerly known as The Best Babysitter Ever (still an impossible bar to clear, but she is so, so much more than a babysitter to us that it no longer fits as a title), our annual visit to the Herr's Factory (and all the snacks that come with it), and efforts to swim heroic numbers of laps. Add in an entire afternoon from my husband shampooing three carpets, a trip to Marshall's for sneakers and backpacks, teacher letters with shopping lists, and we are about ready to go. But September? You're going to have to wait. We have a week of summer left to do.

On the food front, a friend posted a link to this page on her Facebook page--it's the one with four hours of cooking to create forty freezer/crockpot meals for her family. Wow, is that ever speaking my love language. Some of the recipes look like ones that might actually work for our family so expect to see some links in the next few weeks, and if you have experience with any of them, please let me know, good or bad!

Monday: crockpot Mongolian beef, rice, something from the CSA box

Tuesday: tacos, naturally

Wednesday: noodles of some sort

Thursday: this pork recipe with pork I found in the great freezer switch. Have I mentioned my love and gratitude for my new fridge? I can hardly contain myself. Seriously. I am clearly a housewife now that I am enthusing over a fridge but there it is. And scalloped tomatoes from Smitten Kitchen. How did I not make that yet this year?!

Friday: birthday party for a friend's 5 year old. They made it a block party and shut down the street and 80 people are coming. I cannot wait for this.

Have a great Labor Day weekend, all!

Monday, August 19, 2013

The Sweet Spot

So this was another of those bait and switch blog times; two weeks ago, we went to the mountains as a family and had a great week with my in-laws in their mountain home. This year, for the first time in ages, my kids wanted to stay longer, so the three of us did, and then one of my sisters-in-law came up with her two kids, ages 5 and 3, and we all stayed with the grandparents in their cottage in the mountains. I am so, so, so blessed to have married in to this (as they say in this town). It's one of those places where tennis lessons are free, motor boats are banned on the lake, and there is a sweet little two mile hike around the lake for the too-cold-to-swim, too-sunny-to-be-inside days. We are so lucky and I just loved how the kids played together (most of the time) and the ability to send them outside to play. (I have that ability at home too but the older neighbor boys are into some unsavory and decidedly inappropriate for 2nd grader video games so that is not the safe choice it once was.) Up there, there is no TV (in our house, there are those who have it) and no cell reception, so it is really a different way of life. Amazingly, while my kids do miss it (I had to put a passcode on my cellphone to prevent abuse), they have just accepted it and without whining, find other things to do. I will always treasure the times we sat, my kids, their grandparents, and me, and just each read books in the quiet time when my boys were psyched to stay up "late" while the cousins were put to bed. I loved hearing my boys read bedtime stories to their cousins. And I loved watching them try new things (tennis, games at the lake they hadn't tried before).

But enough reminiscing; technically I am not back to work until the day after Labor Day but really--it starts now. This is a busy week and I intend to squish back all the summer I can into it.

Monday: New refrigerator day! Please please please God, let it fit in the space. We will have old cheese, condiments, and frozen fruit for dinner to empty out what is in the freezer and fridge. Ok, semi kidding. We found pesto sausages in the freezer and my husband made pesto with the basil bush while we were gone so we'll do double pesto tonight.

Tuesday: taco Tuesday, right on schedule.

Wednesday: I never got to the shrimp-and-corn thing and I will try to get there tonight, before the first Fall Ball practice (sigh).

Thursday: pork chops I found in the freezer, corn, tomatoes, peaches. Happy August.

Friday: Back to pizza. My kids really are picky about their pizza so we will finally get back to the one they like best.

Wishing you a great wind-down to summer. These last two weeks are crazy but I cannot wait to enjoy every last minute. I am sure you have seen the "sweet spot" post that was all the rage this summer and while I hate to say it out loud--I'm right there with her. And I am trying to soak in the moments.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Summer is the Best of Life

Today's title is courtesy of Son 1, lounging on the sofa after a particularly long morning of video games while his parents slept. But it's hard to argue with him. We have been having an amazing time of it, doing absolutely nothing. Sometimes my type-A-ness comes out as I start looking at the calendar, thinking, Oh, no, we won't have time to do _________! But then I look at whatever we are doing--swimming, hanging with friends, reading Unbored and saying "I just lost the game!"--this, this is what summer is all about. And if I'm two days late with a blog post? No biggie. Summer really is the best of life.

Monday: classic summer. Burgers, corn on the cob, salad.

Tuesday: Duh.

Wednesday: chicken kebobs, corn on the cob, green bean and tomato salad. (I know--not spaghetti?! sacrelige! But Son 2 does not eat burgers so he had his noodles on Monday.)

Thursday: barbecued pork (slow cooker recipe, so a cheat), (say it with me) corn on the cob, watermelon and feta salad.

Friday: Leftovers, augmented by bake-at-home pizza.

To those still in it, enjoy these last weeks of summer. To those who are back to work and school: I'm right behind you so please don't begrudge me these last few days!

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Summer Winds

Ah, August. The back to school supplies are already picked over at Target, the pool is starting to close earlier, and a few yellow leaves drifted to the ground from my "sentinel tree," the one I could see from my window of my 10-year summer job at the local swim club. By about year 8 (I am a slow learner) I saw that there was one tree that turned a lovely yellow a little earlier than the others and was the harbinger of the changing of the seasons. Before it starts to show itself as a shock of yellow among the green, it sends down drifts of leaves that would catch my eye back in 1984, and they still do today.

But there is still plenty of summer time left and we are looking to enjoy it. This week will capitalize on some favorite flavors...

Monday: yogurt marinated chicken, tomato and edamame salad with buttermilk dressing, corn-zucchini pie

Tuesday: taco Tuesday

Wednesday: Wednesday Spaghetti

Thursday: Joanne's pork tenderloin (on the grill with any luck), roasted beets, corn on the cob

Friday: An oldie but goodie: shrimp and corn "stir fry" from Glamour magazine, circa 1993. (I am feeling nostalgic at this time of year--I'll let the therapist figure out why.)

Last week, I hit a smoothie snag in my smoothie jag; I tried the Strawberry-Peach Refresher, which sounded great. Maybe my peaches were underripe; maybe bok choy is not my thing; but this was the worst color and least tasty. It was kind of a muddy brown--very unappetizing unless you are making chocolate milk. And I threw in a banana to salvage the sweetness, and even so--this was my least favorite so far by a long shot. I made the cilantro-mango detox one again, which I liked (given how much I love the detox soup--my enjoyment of the savory smoothies should be no surprise). And I enjoyed the coconut water. I don't think I'd buy it if it weren't an ingredient but I am happy to work more of it in my routines. So I went a bit overboard and bought more freezer containers and went nuts making a bunch so I can put the blender away from our already overcrowded counters.

I tried the cantaloupe-grape smoothie, which I loved (but I have always loved melon soups, etc.); I should have let it run a little more to take care of all those grape skins but it was probably my favorite so far. The pina colada one was yummy; I used coconut water instead of just water to boost the coconut flavor but it still has some nerve calling itself a pina colada. But--how bad can pineapple-coconut be? Not very, if you ask me. The coco-ginger zinger was another one that looked disgusting (the cinnamon does it no favors in the looks department) but the zing was there for sure and was a nice summer smoothie. Something about the pear doesn't quite "smoothify" too, so texturewise it was a little odd but I liked it. The "spa skin cleanse" smoothie was fine (and excellent for using up ingredients I had--coconut water--from the other smoothies--and avocado and pineapple and spinach) but I don't think I'll make it again--if I'm blending an avocado, I'm making detox soup. I laughed at the description of the strawberry-banana-blueberry smoothie as "purple"--ours was straight-up brown, no two ways about it. But it was also so similar to the regular smoothie we make on most Sundays, it was an easy drink.

Of course I had the bok choy that inspired the ill-fated smoothie for the crock pot curry chicken, which was a hit, albeit too hot a hit, in 2007 the last time I made it (ahem, this is why I need a better sidebar system). I will stick to bok choy as a side dish rather than a smoothie ingredient, I think. It was still too spicy for me but again, my husband loved it.

I also made the veggie curryfrom the sidebar; it smelled funny while it was cooking and was definitely too watery, but then we had a happy accident and the lid was ajar for an hour and cooked off the liquid. It tasted fine but I made a lot of church meals out of it.

Wishing you a great August, whatever that means in your neck of the woods!