Sunday, March 29, 2020

Quarantine 15

Most people are familiar with the "Freshman Fifteen." A student goes off to college, and faced with unhealthy all-you-can eat cafeteria options and countless late-night pizza (and other) parties, gains 15 pounds their first year. Of course, not all first-year college students gain 15 pounds. I am sure many people will take this time at home to cook healthier foods and focus on their exercise routine. As for us, I am cooking more...but not necessarily healthier ("Hey! Look at this cake on Pinterest! Heck, don't have anything else to do today, might as well bake it!"), and not walking to the bus stop or running errands is definitely cutting into my step count. So, after two months of tracking my diet using Noom (more on that another time, maybe) and being somewhat successful, I fear I am looking into the face of the QUARANTINE FIFTEEN (and yes, I know we do not truly have a quarantine, but that's what everyone is calling it, and it rhymes). Or, as I've also heard it called, of course, the COVID-19.

For me, personally, things feel stressful enough without having to decide between wine or dessert, or fretting about what snack to have. I'm not looking for a pep talk; it is what it is.

In that spirit, here are some of things I cooked last week. I'm running a week behind; it turns out having two kids at home all the time has really cramped my style.

  • GF Irish Soda Bread - my mother-in-law's adapted recipe. One with raisins; one without. It came out pretty good!
  • Corned Beef and Cabbage - I started making Pioneer Woman's Corned Beef and Cabbage a few years ago, and it would take a lot to convince me to make it any other way.
  • Loaded Potato Waffles - I didn't do so much loading, just popped a fried egg on top and served it with Tomato Jam from Food in Jars, which I actually canned two summers ago.
  • Poultry Stock - While cleaning out our freezer, I found a chicken and turkey carcass, so I boiled them with some veggies and herbs to make poultry stock. I later made regular and GF chicken noodle soup with it. Calling it just "chicken" soup to keep it simple for the kids. 
I also found a stash of meat in the freezer when I was cleaning it out. I have a thing with buying "Special Today" meat and throwing it straight in the freezer, but it turns out I had quite a backlog. So, for no special reason, we had filet mignon with hasselback potatoes last night. 

So, we're eating well for the time-being. I'm thankful we have everything we need on hand or accessible at the moment. 

Friday, March 20, 2020

The Other Side of the Doorway

I look at the bouquet of flowers on our dining room sideboard that I bought during my last grocery store trip last Friday. Just something to brighten things up during our two-week quarantine. I feel like I bought them in another lifetime. It was the same when, yesterday, I pulled a receipt out of my pocket from eating lunch out with Mister P last week after shopping at Costco. Or when I look at the shirt I bought there a little more than a week ago, when closing school seemed like a vague possibility, but not something that I really expected to happen; at least, not so soon. These things are like relics from "before," and I wonder when everything will be from "now."

I have a vivid memory of, a few days after Miss A was born, standing in our kitchen, overwhelmed and delirious with exhaustion. I had the distinct feeling of having walked through a doorway that I could look, but not pass, back through. I saw an enormously-pregnant, but relatively well-groomed woman using her brain at work, casually shopping, laughing with adults, cooking, and chatting with her husband after dinner. I missed being her so much, I cried. I wanted to go back through the door, but here I was. I could only look.

I feel like we all have passed through another doorway. I'm not sure what this new dimension holds, yet. It seems so unsteady. I didn't know then, either, but I know now that that moment was the lowest, or close to it. I guess my fear is that we are not there, yet, or even close to it.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Well, I Guess This Is Growing Up

I've wanted to write a COVID-19 post since last week, but have had too many unrelated thoughts tumbling through my brain to come up with anything cohesive. I'm not certain this will be be cohesive, either. But, I'm able to tie in a post that I've wanted to write since before I stopped working seven years ago, so, at least, there's that. 

When I worked at Howard Community College, I participated in a program called Step-Up, where volunteer faculty and staff provided life-coaching for students. For about two years, I coached a young woman who was 19 years-old. One day, she told me about a weekend trip she planned to take with her friends - her first trip without any "adults" (in quotes since a 19 year-old is technically an adult, anyway). I remember thinking about what a milestone that type of trip was on the road to becoming a Grown Up (tm). And, it got me thinking about when, really, does one become a Grown Up (tm)? From the very beginning, kids are on a path towards independence, but at some point, they cross a threshold and become a Grown Up (tm).

So, for me, it certainly wasn't turning 18. Going to college? A little, but not really. I was still mostly financially dependent on my parents, their house was my permanent address, and I didn't have to cook my own meals. Moving from Pennsylvania to Maryland, renting my own apartment, and paying my own bills? Maybe that was it. But things have happened since then that made me "grow up" more...getting a full-time job with benefits...settling down with partner ...buying a house...having kids...

I think I thought I was done "growing up."

Dealing with COVID-19 with school-aged children and aging parents is a new, unique "growing up" milestone. The stratagizing and planning. Trying to maintain a sense of calm and normalcy that we've taken for granted. Finding the balance between being honest and earnest (like, really, please, wash your hands and do NOT PUT THINGS IN YOUR MOUTH), and not making the kids feel anxious or scared.

A friend commented how the world feels like it did after 9/11...surreal and full of uncertainty. How were we supposed to feel? What were we supposed to do? I remember that. But now, even though maybe we have a little more control (do we?), almost 20 years, a mortgage and two kids later, I feel like more is at stake and I am worried about more. Twenty years ago, I would've looked at this current situation with more curiosity and less anxiety. Now, I don't like not knowing what will happen. I don't like not being able to plan into the future. I'm worried about kids' education - more other kids than mine. I'm worried about small business owners, low-wage workers, and health care professionals. I'm angry about our Administration's incompetence and wonder how/if things could have been different.

This is a new world for us. I don't know if we're ready for it. I think this will be more than our children's generation's lunar landing or Challenger explosion. Even though the world changed after 9/11, I think this will have an even greater impact. I hope we rise from the ashes on the other side of this.

Monday, March 9, 2020

Gluten-Free Diet, an Introduction

For as long as I've known Kevin, he's had digestive issues. There have been periods of time when the issues have bothered him more than others, and there have been times when it has really interfered with life. Over the years, I've read about a variety of diets and how can they can impact the digestive system, but, honestly, I found it all overwhelming. "These foods will help reduce inflammation. Unless you have a sensitivity to X, then your belly will be on fire. And also, those foods you have a sensitivity to are healthy and delicious." And, of course, other than dairy, we hadn't pinpointed anything that caused a problem. I told him, "Look, if you can figure out what kind of diet will help you, I'll be happy to cook it." I just wasn't up for playing detective for someone else's gut.

About two months ago, after a day of unintentionally eating gluten-free, after dinner, Kevin said, "I've been thinking about trying a gluten-free diet." His mother had been on one for about a year to treat an inflammation disorder with some success. "Oh, ok," I replied. "When do you want to start?"

"How about now?"

Two days earlier, I had purchased literally a dozen boxes of pasta on sale (we eat a lot of pasta), and, obviously, I had given this no thought at all. But, he felt like he was on a roll from his GF day, so I agreed to...roll with it. 

We've tried a variety of GF pasta, which I'll try to review at some point, and GF breads, which are all pretty much terrible. I've also tried some GF recipes for things where a GF alternative is not readily available, or is awful. I'd like to share some of those, too. 

Many times, too, it just means a substitution or just skipping all together. Rice or potatoes instead of noodles. Forgoing bread with dinner, which is probably healthier, anyway.

Apparently, it can take several months to determine whether eliminating gluten has helped your gut, so it's really too soon for us to know if this is making a difference for him. But, at least we are trying something. 

Sunday, March 8, 2020

Hello? Is anybody out there?

I've been trying to figure out how to introduce this post.

With a tired old joke?

*tap tap tap* "Is this thing on?"

Or with a GIF?

Or a meme (Is it the text that makes it a meme? Is it still a meme if it also a GIF? I used to be up on this stuff!)?

In any case, since the New Year, I've been thinking about resurrecting this blog. It's been nearly 6 years! The almost-toddler I last wrote about is now a sweet and sassy seven year-old! And, the little boy who was not yet even a twinkle in his daddy's eye will be five in June! I've thought about restarting this several times, but now that both kids are spending more time in school and playing together independently, I might actually have...time? I'm going to give it a shot. I do feel like maybe I missed sharing a lot of good content from the last six years of being a stay-at-home mom, and maybe that is partly inspiring me to publicly document my final months in this stage of life. 

I also question whether people even really read blogs anymore, since so much is documented on other forms of social media. This thought almost made me not bother, but...I read through some old posts, and you know what? I kinda like blogging. The landscape has changed since 2014, but maybe some folks will kinda like reading it, too. 

Thursday, May 29, 2014

An Octopus Garden Party

I know, months have gone by since I've posted!  I keep taking pictures and videos, and filing ideas away under "Blog this Later" in my head.  But when I finally sit down in the evening, my brain goes all foggy and the best I can do is catch up on Facebook or take a Buzzfeed quiz.

This past weekend, an expecting friend allowed me to throw her a baby shower.  I say, "allowed" because she was initially kind of anti-shower, but recognized the benefit.  After I promised no cheesy games, activities, or fuss, she warmed up to the idea and even suggested a theme: An Octopus Garden, because that is the theme for their nursery.

At first I thought, "What is in an octopus's garden, anyway?" But I needn't have worried, because, Pinterest.  So, we hosted An Octopus Garden Party, with cupcakes and mocktails.

I found some perfect table supplies at Party City, with blue and green sea creatures.  I had the most fun making the octopus decorations, though.  Because, of course, there are octopus in an Octopus's Garden.

This guy was easy.  We saved toilet paper rolls for about a month.  I painted him and five of his siblings in light blue, sea green, and coral.  I meant to take a picture of the whole family, but forgot.  After letting the paint dry, I cut eight slits about halfway up for the arms.  I put a rubber band around the center of the tube to make sure I cut the arms (fairly) evenly.

Then, I gently rolled the arms out.  I wanted to put something on the bottom of the tentacles to be like the suckers, and settled on pom-poms.  A little hot glue:

I originally thought I'd use them the whole way up the arms, but one at the end of each was perfect.  And, of course, the googly-eyes.

I also made these guys:

My intention was for them to be octopus, but I think he might look more like a jellyfish, so, you know, whichever.  These felt more time-consuming to me, and required a bit more an assembly line approach.

First, I painted paper plates, although I certainly could've used colored paper plates.  I also thought paper bowls would've worked well.

I then cut all the lengths of streamers for the tentacles - I just guessed at the length, and then used one as a template for the rest.  I think they're about two feet long.  I used eight per critter, and just scotch-taped them around the inside.

I also cut two lengths of string with which to hang the octopus/jellyfish, and taped it at the four edges, and in the middle for good measure.  What a mess, right?  So, I took a plain paper plate and attached it to the bottom.  I intended to use my go-to, hot glue, but it didn't work out with the ridges.  So, I used double-stick tape all around, and that held up fine.

So here's how everything looked the day of the party:

In the center of the table is a gummy-fish bouquet, with gummy-fish skewers I found at Wegmans and fish lollipops from Amazon.  There's a tiny fish bowl (a candle holder from Michael's) with assorted colors of Swedish fish, and the homemade cupcakes have either a gummy-lobster or gummy-whale on top.  I thought maybe we needed something to balance out the cupcakes, so I made fresh fruit bouquets...maybe not in an underwater garden, but garden-y, yes?  And I can't believe it didn't occur to me to get goldfish crackers to put in the tiny fish bowls, as well!  Oh well.

I lived dangerously and did plan one (possibly) cheesy activity.  Ok, two, but one is more interesting than the other.  The less-interesting one was just to have slips of paper out, asking people to give advice to the expectant parents.  However, I also encouraged people to give advice or their favorite inspirational quote. Not everyone is a parent, and I remember always being at a loss at baby showers when I was asked to give advice before I was a parent.  Not that I have great advice now, necessarily! But I hoped that helped non-parents not feel as awkward.

I wish I had a better picture of the second activity.  I bought a small, cheap-o wooden frame at Michael's and painted some coral-looking stuff on it, and left the rest of the frame blank.  I put out paint markers and asked people to doodle their favorite sea creature on the rest of the frame.  We had everything from starfish to a crab to one of those glow-in-the-dark fish. I was a little worried about how it would turn out, but it came out better than I expected.  Here's a picture of one of the guests working on her fish:

You can kind of see the frame.  If the guest-of-honor sends me a photo of the frame, I'll update with it.

Finally, or I guess, it was really first thing since it happened before the shower - I asked everyone to send me their favorite children's songs, and I made a compilation CD, with who submitted each song in the track listing.  I think it was the mom-to-be's favorite bit of the shower.

I should add that I travelled to Pittsburgh alone for this shower, leaving Miss A home with her daddy.  I missed her so much, but enjoyed hanging out with the one guy at the shower.

This is one of the guest's little guy.  The shower really zonked him out, but he was most charming during the party, in his little suit!  

Ok, ok, for CERTAIN friends and family who will be disappointed they read this whole post, and didn't get a single picture of Miss A, and who say, NO, a cute picture of another baby WILL NOT CUT IT:

Here she is getting tickled by her Daddy on Memorial Day.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Cabin Fever

I know it's pointless to complain about the weather.  I wish it wasn't, though.  I wish there was someone I could complain to, like the manager of a restaurant when the service is bad.  I want to scold the weather like a naughty child, and say sternly, "That's enough. "

Today's 60-degree weather was like the child who you're just getting ready to send to timeout, but then does something really sweet and adorable.  So, Miss A and I headed to the Lyn Stacie Getz Creative Playground after we ran some errands today.

She was so happy to be swinging again!

For contrast, here was the last time were at this playground, in September or October.

Since she's started scooting around a bit, I've been looking forward to seeing what new things she might be able to do at the playground.  Now that her balance is better, she really enjoyed going down the slide.  It's hard to spot a baby going down a slide and take a picture at the same time, so here's one from last October.

Anyway, I wanted so much for her to crawl through this pipe to get to me.

She wouldn't do it.  She won't do it at My Gym, either.

She goes in part of the way, then decides to back out, no matter how cheerfully I exclaim, "Come to Mama!"

Today, at the playground, she was too busy looking at the other kids playing...

...or picking up pieces of...bark? mulch? rocks?

Oh, well.  Once Mother Nature starts behaving herself, we'll have plenty of more times to try!