Spending moratorium

I had to get these. Really??

We have a spending moratorium going on in the ol' "Warbill" household these days. We are (read "I am") not to spend any money on anything not related to survival until the end of January, possibly longer. That means bills, gas, and food, essentially, NOT clothes, knicknacks, gifts, travel, eating out, etc.

We don't normally have such a tight grip on our wallets, but this month is different. Property taxes are due January 31st. Oy. I don't mind paying taxes. - In fact, I'd be happy to pay more taxes if I could trust my local, state, and federal governments to use the money wisely and appropriately for the better good. - I tried saving a little money each month, but just like last year, we ended up eating it up over the course of the year and so here we are, literally down to the wire, saving every last penny to write a big ass check.

The moratorium was Anthony's idea. He rarely spends any money during the month. It's all on me to save and stay within our budgets. Hell, I'm the one who makes the budget! Therefore, it's baffling to me why I can't stick to it. This moratorium is actually pretty nice. I feel like something bigger than me is making the decisions regarding our money.

For instance, yesterday, I ran to Target to get some more groceries ($45 worth) and also to buy my neighbor some baby shower gifts for her Sunday shower. I got just the things on my list from the grocery section and then had to make my way to the opposite end of the store to the baby area. Between me and my destination lay many obstacles of temptation. Target's "World Market" is ending and so they have all their [really cute] crap 30%-60% off. You might as well tell me I could eat a gallon of ice cream with no side effects whatsoever... it's just that alluring.

I rolled Hollis up and down each aisle, carefully looking at all the goodies and the bright, neon orange price tags humming and hawing to myself. I touched the coral thingamabob, picked up the coffee mugs two for $9 reduced from $20, considered the imitation animal horns on a pedestal, mentally measured the rugs for my living room, and thought that my guest bathroom could definitely use a little help from the bathroom-goodie aisle. And then I left empty-handed and with my head held high.

The Moratorium was intact. I passed through the rings of fire unscathed... or so I thought. I still had to buy gifts - an area where I am notoriously over-generous and always end up on the shitty end of the "Why did you spend so much money on her, Jess? We don't have that kind of money laying around," conversation.

I don't know that I did an excellent job this time around, either, but I definitely held back and even put back a $10 bottle of bath wash at the register to help cut costs. In the end I bought a little knit sleep sack ($12), a pack of onesies ($8), three pairs of socks ($4.50), and a blanket ($17). It's probably too much for someone I hardly know, but... oh well. I like her and her husband and that's just how my people do it.

In the end, I spent $90-something at Target. Half of which was foodstuffs, the other half gifts and accoutrements. The last time I went to Target the Moratorium was in effect, but when I saw these adorable polka-dot Gumbo boots (ON SALE) I had to get them... and a pair for Hollis. I spent $90 that day, too.

It's so frustrating to be lured to purchase things like a fish to shiny bait. I try so hard to "be good," but it's like I'm a fucking drug addict. I'm by no means some crazy hoarder with goat-paths in my house from the mountains of purchases, but I certainly do feel something deep inside of me when I search for a purchase - typically a spur of the moment thing - buy it, bring it home, take off the tags, and immediately put it away so as to not draw attention to it. And the crazy thing is I can almost always rationalize it to myself at the time, but if I can manage to put myself into a future conversation with Anthony (like the one I mentioned above) I am much more able to cool my heels and keep my money in my pocket.

Is it just me?? Am I the only one who knows the right thing to do, but still can't do it?? It's just like eating right. Exactly, actually. I know exactly what to eat and what not to eat and what to do exercise wise, but I never seem to do it. How different would my life be like if I could take really good care of myself both in wallet and body? I wonder if my spending habits somehow reflect my eating and exercise habits... this is an interesting idea. I'm going to have to think about this a little more. I mean, is there a direct connection between how you take care of yourself and the state of your finances/spending habits? Are people who take care of their bodies more apt to have an emergency fund on hand an no credit card debt?? Are people who are overweight struggling with monthly bills??

Whatever. I really like my Moratorium. I love my Moratorium. This Moratorium is my friend.


Back in the groove... sorta

This being sick thing f'ing blows. Really. I've been sick, officially, for 8 days now. When was the last time I was this sick?? I honestly don't know. Usually, minor colds come in then leave within 2-3 days, but this week-long bullshit is just that: a bunch of bullshit.

Don't the germs know I don't have time for this?? I mean, I was taking care of my sister when they first came to visit. But I prevailed. I beat them down with Aspirin, gallons of hot tea, and a comfy air matress anchored by a giant, beautiful flat screen TV.

The little bastard germs persevered, however, and moved to concentrate on the space between my ears: pounding ruthlessly until I caved in to even more Aspirin. Now they're in my ears and chest, deep and unattainable. Unmovable. I simply don't have time for this battle.

My house needs attention. My family needs my attention. My baby needs attention. My life needs attention.

And I'm SO not one of those go-go-go people. Ordinarily, at the first sign of illness I pull up the stakes and pack it home. My m.o. is to rest until it passes (maybe that's why I've been so healthy all these years). If I hadn't already been in CA with Gabby, Anthony still would have had to take time off to be at home with Hollis. That's something we haven't had to deal with, yet: a really sick mother. And the natural follow-up question of: Who takes care of the baby then??

I'm feeling marginally better now. The throat is still tender, but the raw burning is gone. I feel like I'm at the bottom of a deep-end pool and if only my ears would pop then everything would feel better. I want to go to a doctor, but I don't want to go to mine. She's so Western and gives no thought to other influences other than the concrete. So I'm at an impasse. I want to feel better, but don't know where to go to get it done.

As a side note to my bitching and moaning, Hollis was napping when I started this entry.

And he had a napping companion in ol' Diggerboo.

Happy Monday!!

Menu Plan: Week of January 25

I have not done well with these menu plans. I should call them "menu guidelines." I also think that it's misleading to say that menu planning actually saves you money. For instance, if I'm winging it, I'll use whatever it is I already have in the fridge versus planning a weekly menu and going out and buying what I need. Ostensibly, I'm checking what I have already and adding to it, but that's really damn hard when I don't have all my food stuffs or cookbooks cataloged online and I can't cross-reference what I have with what I need.

Blah blah blah blah blah. Is this as boring to everyone who reads this as it is to me?? I'm just trying to show others the behind the scenes. In that regard, I guess I'm successful.

Having said all that, this is what I have outlined for this week.

Mon- Tempura veggies (Sundays at Moosewood Collective p220)
Tues- Ratatouille (Moosewood Cookbook p179)
Weds- Penne pasta with roasted veggies (using L/O ratatouille)
Thurs- Nuthin' (Anthony's teaching that night, so I'll probably eat grapes and hummus - seriously)
Fri- Mushroom Casserole
Sat- L/O
Sun- Eat Out

I spent approximately $90 at the grocery store yesterday on produce (bell peppers, mushrooms, apples, bananas, lettuce, salad mixes, onions, and daikon radish), eggs, 2 teas, girlie stuff, and lozenges. Oh, and a Star magazine (eesh). I still need to get some GF penne pasta, more mushrooms, and some various other things like diapers, wipes, cotton pads and balls, and tissue. I might actually stay under $150 for the week, which would be fanfuckingtastic (since it's practically impossible).

On to a "real" post now. Peace out.


And... I'm back!

It's been a couple of weeks since I did anything "real" on here. I've been in CA for the last four days; impromptu and not "for fun," but because I had a little sister who needed her big sister and I was happy to do it.

It wasn't all serious business, there was some fun involved. Like watching hours and hours of cable. Reading uninterrupted. Getting lost in the hills of San Francisco. Breaking the law (just like a real hick: I held my cell phone to my ear - oops!!). Fancy fish n' chips with wasabi mayo. I got to reconnect with the idiots that are the "real housewives of Orange County" again and Rose, Blanche, Dorothy, and Sophia.

In addition to the business and the fun, I got fucking sick. First time in 4 and a half years. Yep. Fever, chills, headache, sore throat, the works. Now that I'm home I'm still a little hungover from the illness. My ears aren't clear, my throat is raw, my head is still tight and I have a strange, dry cough that won't leave me alone. It hasn't robbed me of the will to clean, wipe butts, or go to Target, though. So that's good.

Being away from my baby for four days was immensely less traumatic than I thought it would be - for me, of course. I wasn't worried about Hollis. Anthony is incredibly competent as a parent (and he promised to read my "Notes for Diddy" I'd left behind). But I was worried about how I'd react. The first few hours were a little emotional for me, I have to be honest. Anthony shot out some really cute pictures of Hollis "cleaning" the house and when Gabby showed them to me tears sprang from my eyes.

"He's ok, Jessie. It's good for him!" she says to me sweetly.

"I know! It's good for him, it's good for Anthony, it's good for me! But I can't help it! It makes me cry!"

I wonder what strange mechanism it was inside of me that made me weepy for about 8 hours on Monday. I toughened up after that. Nary a tear or sniffle was on deck when I talked to Hollis on the phone and I knew he was giving me special deference only a 15 month old can by waving at the phone and shouting "da da!!" at it... then blithely walking away to pull a potted plant off of the nearest table.

I got really used to only having to think of myself (well, and my sister, but she doesn't need me to check her diaper or make sure she doesn't stab a fork into an outlet given the chance so it's different than thinking of Hollis). Was I hungry, cold, in pain, tired, bored? It was so simple!

And it was such a relief to know that Anthony was here at home and that I really, truly, with every fiber of my being, TRUST him to do the job I do every day. How often can you say that about someone who's filling your shoes while you're gone? And I can't think of a higher compliment to give him, either. He does things a little differently, of course, his style is more gentle, more laid back (like him), but he remained consistent and I think that worked wonders.

On my way home, taxiing to the runway in San Francisco, I was contemplative. Traveling alone made me feel light and streamlined. I am 33 years old, but don't feel it. I feel at once 100 years old and 20. I saw 25 kids waiting for their plane, shoulder to shoulder and not talking because every one of them was on their sticker-plastered-Mac and I feel like I'm having an out of body experience seeing myself through their eyes: old, a grown woman, clueless, an "adult." I don't mind it so much, I'm happy to be a wife and mother and all grown up: be done with all the bullshit he said/she said/does he like me?/does he not like me? Then I'm ashamed to think I'm still just like them because I haven't been able to shake the body issues handed to me (and sadly accepted with no questions asked on my part) that plague me daily, hourly, practically by the fucking minute.

There was a particular moment during taxi in Denver where we crossed a landing strip. The track ended at what looked like the base of the snow-capped Rockies, a yellow line split it right down the center ending where I sat on the Air Bus. It was quiet. And momentous. I felt impaled by what I saw through my window. I thought about taking a picture, but decided against it. It's better left to the imagination, even mine. We hovered there for less than a minute, my eyes unwavering on the sight before me, and then we moved on.

And, I'm out!

Well, it's back to my regular job today. Some closing thoughts:

- Hollis squawked and giggled when he saw Jessica last night. No pouting, no fear, no "my mom went to SF and all I got was this lousy onesie" or anything. He was just glad to see her again.

- I closed out my Mr. Mom tenure by making dinner for Jessica and the grandparents (the local ones). Target finish time for the pot roast was 7pm. We were eating by 9:15pm.

- I need to work on efficiency in the kitchen, obviously. :)

- Hollis is the best baby ever, and made the week really easy on me.

- We went to the park yesterday so Hollis could pick up rocks and get dirty. He ended up with a stalker in the form of a 5-6 year-old boy who just wanted to hang out wherever Hollis was hanging out. His mom eventually had to tell him, "He's little! Give him some space!"

- I feel like our little nukular family's horizons have opened up, with both parents willing and able to baby wrangle on their own for days (or even weeks, if need be).

- The office is a pretty sterile place, without the constant noises that Hollis makes. Maybe I should install a couple of webcams around the house...

Anyway, until next time, so long and thanks for all the cheerios!


Speaking of politics...

This is really Jessica's blog, so I don't want to throw too much of my own agenda in here, but today was a pretty momentous day.  I don't know about you all, but I'm a little surprised at my own feelings.

- I actually wanted to watch the inauguration today.  I haven't wanted to watch a political event for as long as I can remember.

- I find myself actually caring about my country again.  Not to rant too much, but I've felt pretty out of touch with the direction that the ol' USofA has been going the past 8 years.

- Oddly enough, I care about our new president and his family as people.  Tonight I read that the Obamas attended 10 (ten!) inaugural balls.  My first thought was, "Oh, the poor things!  I hope they get enough rest!"  What's up with that?  And how cute are their little girls!

Maybe it's my age, and I'm sure the changing political climate has something to do with it, but I'm actually excited about politics for once.  Maybe I'll be disappointed again, or just maybe we'll be able to make some changes this time around.  We'll see...

It's a mad, mad world...

It seems like I've been thinking a lot about the state of the world lately.  The whole world, the world of these United States of America, my personal world and the orbits of our little nuclear family...  I'd hate to let Jessica down by not blogging, so I'll get some of these scattered thoughts down before I forget them.

What kind of world do we live in where stay-at-home parents have crises of confidence, wondering if their contributions are worthwhile, and are being noticed and appreciated?  When did we all get so focused on getting ahead and bringing home the bacon, that we forgot about how important it is to shape and care for other people?  (I guess it has been as long as teachers have been near the bottom of the salary scales.)

I embarked on this experimental "vacation" mostly on a whim.  Jessica had to leave town and I had some days off.  Why not spend some time with the little guy, and see how the other half lives?  It turns out that the other half lives mostly exhausted, but with a full and happy soul.

Hollis is Entropy incarnate.  I'm proud that my son is helping to increase the overall disorder of the universe, but I wish he'd settle on a specific time or something.  You know, Breakfast Time, Nap Time, Destroy the House time...  He's like a 25-pound self-propelled wrecking ball, if wrecking balls had little hands and made cute babbling noises.  His hand-eye coordination is so good now that I can't even hear him fumbling for things before he's gleefully shredding and spreading debris around the house.

Yesterday, I looked up after focusing on email for maybe 60 seconds.  Hollis was walking toward me, shredding kleenex and chewing on something unidentifiable.  I swear that not a minute earlier, he was safely digging in his box of toys.

Today he ate cat food at least once.  I'm a little scared that I have to say "at least."

Yep, it's a marathon workout, staying at home with this little guy.  I totally understand how Jessica can get through the whole day without being able to do one thing around the house that isn't related to picking up after the toddlin' tornado.  I'm totally whupped.  Tonight, I fell asleep before Hollis did.  I fell asleep once while rocking him (he woke me up by giggling and poking me in the face).  Then after I put him in his crib, I fell asleep on the couch while he was still rolling around and playing.  I don't know how Jessica does it every day, and I sure don't understand how single parents do it.

Still, I envy Jessica her job.  It's so good for the soul!  Don't get me wrong... there's a certain amount of satisfaction that comes from knowing that someone, somewhere got their $0.99 song refunded because of the work that I do.  But it really doesn't hold a candle to walking to the mailbox with your toddler hanging onto your finger yelling "bah! bah!" at the neighbor kids playing football.  Or having him tear around the house learning new things, then come running to you to be held for a minute, before running off again on some personal 15-month-old mission.

I'll have to make sure I do this Mr. Mom thing for a few days every so often, just to recharge, and to remind me why I'm doing it all.


And now for something completely different...

Well, Jessica is off to San Francisco for four days, so she has given me the keys to the house, the car, the blog, and the baby. I'll be playing Mr. Mom for the next few days, so stay tuned for updates!



My highchair preference

I didn't like the look of conventional highchairs and wanted something different, practical, and good looking. Good thing I found Boon's Flair highchair!

I assume it was named for its flared pedestal bottom and its general stylistic "flair". Boon has spared no expense in its design and functionality. It has no nooks and crannies for food to get lodged in (a top complaint of many parents of other highchairs) and it has a pneumatic lift for easy height adjusting. It's also BpA-free, phathalate-free, PVC-free, and recyclable (at least the cushion is, I haven't checked the rest).

It also has great back support and has Hollis sitting up straight. - The highchair I'd been borrowing from my mom, a more conventional design, had Hollis reclining and he couldn't reach his food at the top of his tray.

All the parts come off and are easily cleaned either with a soak in hot water or a run through the dishwasher.

You get two detachable tray covers that are small enough to fit in the dishwasher (my mom's trays don't fit).

I never trip over the legs of this highchair. At my mom's we all trip over the legs of his old school high chair.

It's good looking enough that I don't need to put it away when people come over. I dig its vibe.

There are some cons, however.

One thing I noticed right away was that the Boon wobbled a LOT more than my mom's super-wide based highchair. I almost thought I wouldn't keep it, but in the end, it doesn't really make a difference. The ease with which I can move this thing around offsets the wobbles. And Hollis doesn't care in the least. But if you want 100% wobble-free chair, this one might not be fore you.

Also, Hollis, being a rather chubby kid, has always used the outer setting for the tray. He has no wiggle room to grow too much more outwards. So far, that hasn't been an issue. I suspect that by the time his belly doesn't fit he'll be old enough for a different kind of seat at our table.

It's also quite pricey. The Boon website lists it for $229. I found mine on Amazon.com for $178 and free shipping. So just look around for a good deal.


Blog Lurv Round Up

5/21/2009 - Nobel Savage - Blogs I Love

8/4/2009 - Bored Mommy - Superior Scribbler Award

8/17/2009 - Noble Savage - You Call Yourself a Writer

11/11/2009 - Bombshell Bliss - Ah Shucks

11/13/2009 - Cave Mother - Blog Lurrrrve

Year in review - rearview

I know it's a couple of weeks late, but I really wanted to write about my 2008.

Here goes:

My baby turned 1.

I didn't earn $1 outside of the home - first time since I was 15.

I officially joined the underground society of SAHMs.

I breastfed.

I took Hollis to meet his four of his great-grandparents on 4 separate trips.

I traveled by plane with a 5 month old, 6 month old, 8 month old, 11 month old, 13 month old, and 14 month old, and I did it solo 4 of the 6 flights.

I started this blog.

I joined Facebook.

I was able to visit friends in SF and meet their babies.

I traveled to Phoenix, Santa Cruz, San Francisco, and Kansas City.

I said goodbye to Levi.

I witnessed Hollis blossom into a toddler.

I grew closer to Anthony.

I celebrated my 3rd year of marriage.

I lost weight.

I gained weight.

I started back to therapy - although half-heartedly.

I organized our finances.

I continued to say goodbye to my father.

I continued to work on being an adult daughter and sister.

I fell in love with Anthony all over again.

I busted my ass to keep my sanity - and was successful... I think.

I softened.

I developed a full-blown addiction to Perez Hilton (my dirtiest secret ever).

I researched thousands of toys, strollers, baby gadgets, and I still don't have a grasp on any of it.

I let go, while still holding on.


My evil plan

These pictures might lead you to believe that I am a fun mom who likes to spend quality time with her toddler. Well, you're wrong. I'm actually an evil genius who plotted this play time in order to exhaust her young charge in order for him to take a much needed afternoon nap. That's right. I used fun for my own selfish benefit.

And as I sit here blogging, sipping tea, with Oprah on in the background I don't regret it one bit. Not one eensy little bit.

Menu Plan: Week of January 12

Menu planning is a lot harder than it sounds. I mean, even if I cut a recipe in half I still seem to end up with tons of leftovers. With that in mind I plan for L/O (left over) nights. So yesterday I did my weekly menu plan and it looked like this:

Monday: Cauliflower Marranca
Tuesday: Gingered Carrot Soup
Wednesday: L/O
Thursday: Pad Thai
Friday: L/O
Saturday: Tempura Veggies
Sunday: Ratatouille

Sounds great, right?? Well, the problem is this. I still have L/O from LAST week's menu plan. I have at least 2-3 servings of the Provençal soup, and 3-4 of the Transylvania Eggplant casserole (yummy stuff, by the way. I'll post that recipe soon, too. It's nothing like what you'd expect).

My question is this: how the hell are you supposed to plan, plan, plan when you can't begin to guess at what you'll have left over? I'm thinking I'm going to start slashing the recipe amounts into about 1/3 of what they call for - just enough for left overs for me for lunch the next day, maybe an extra dinner. I'm wasting money otherwise and that's the last thing I want to do.

Speaking of money (fucking money!), I went to Wholefoods yesterday to get approximately 30 items for this week's cooking; almost completely fresh produce. I walked out of there with a $165 bill. $165!! WTF!! I know Wholefoods is expensive, don't get me wrong, but I was trying to SAVE money by making a weekly menu (+ baby items like lotion, applesauces, and a gluten-, dairy-free mac'n'cheese -wish me luck on that one). I didn't buy meat, cheese, or booze, which is usually a killer for the budget.

I asked my mom how much money she and Terry spent a week on groceries. She said she had no idea and that it had always been her philosophy, ever since we were little, to not care. She wasn't going to pinch and save on something as basic as food. She wanted quality, period, and there was no wiggle room on that. I kinda feel her on that. I could cut back on other things to save money - like getting my hair professionally colored (I could go back to the box and save $100 every 3 months). I could stop getting pedicures every couple of months and instead parlay my need for some heel lovin' into some quality time with Anthony. I could stop my clothes-buying habit for myself and Hollis and just chill for a while (until we're out of debt).

I'm sick and tired of killing myself with guilt every week I go to the grocery store. I'm not buying crap, after all. I'm buying healthy foods, an occasional snack, and making healthy meals every day. I should give myself a break.

I don't have a clue how these other moms do it for $100/week for families bigger than mine. No. Fucking. Clue.

Back to the menu plan issue. So, because of all the left overs, Anthony and I will be cleaning out the fridge tonight - for dinner, that is. We'll have Transylvania eggplant casserole and salad. Tomorrow I'll pick up the menu plan with the Gingered Carrot Soup and remember to cut the recipe in half, at the very least, and hope I don't end up with a similar situation next week.

What the hell, man. Why is this so difficult??


#1 soup: Provençal Vegetable

I've made dozens of soups in my adulthood, but none comes close to this (although, I'll be posting about my Gingered Carrot Soup in a couple of days and it's #2). It's sweet, earthy, hearty, and slips over your pallet like a pickpocket. It is utterly divine.

It's in Ina Garten's "Barefoot In Paris" cookbook, which is full of easy French fare that is at once lush and basic.

I'm not sure if it's the saffron, pistou, or the leeks that does it, but whatever the magical ingredient is it's harmony in your mouth incarnate.

I made it [mostly] vegan (with the exception of the pistou, but you could make that vegan if you wanted to). I made some gluten-free bread to serve along side, since it's my cleanse week, but otherwise I would have served it with some hot, thick-crusted artisan bread. A sourdough would balance very nicely, but so would a ciabatta or a simple baguette.

It even has a winter and summer version.

Enough talking. Here's the recipe. Try it. It's bliss.

Procvençal Vegetable Soup
Serves 6-8

2 tbsp good olive oil
2 c chopped onions (2 onions)
2 c chopped leeks, white and (very) light green parts (2 - 4 leeks) ::the darker the green, the tougher it'll be to chew::
1 1/2 c 1/2 inch diced unpeeled boiling potatoes (1 lb)
3 c 1/2 inch diced carrots (1 lb)
1 1/2 tbs kosher salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
3 quarts chicken or veggie stock (low sodium and not tomato-based)
1 tsp saffron threads ::I used powdered saffron twice, and it worked great::
SUMMER: 1/2 lb haricots verts (and added zuccini), ends removed and cut in half
WINTER: 1/2 lb carrots (and added butternut squash - approximately 1/2 c), peeled and cut in 1/2 inch cubes
1 c Pistou
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese, for serving

Heat olive oil in a large stockpot, add the onions, and saute over low heat for 1- minutes, or until the onions are translucent. Add the leeks, potatoes, (if WINTER) butternut squash and carrots, salt and pepper and saute over medium heat for another 5 minutes. Add the stock and saffron. Bring to a boil, then simmer uncovered for 30 minutes, or until all the vegetables are tender. (If SUMMER), add the haricots verts and zuccini and bring back to a simmer, cook for another 15 minutes.

To serve, whisk 1/2 cup of the pistou into the hot soup, then season to taste. Serve with grated Parmesan cheese and more pistou.

Magic ingredient??

Makes 1 cup

4 large garlic cloves
1/4 c tomato paste
24 large basil leaves
1/2 c freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 c good olive oil

Place the garlic, tomato paste, basil and Parmesan in the bowl of a food processor and puree. With the motor running, slowly pour the olive oil down the feed tube to make a paste.



Speed cleaning anyone??

Over the last year or so I've tried to apply structure to being at home all the time. When I was working and going to school I had daily and weekly schedules set for me by either the university, the agency, whatever, but now no one tells me when and where. No one tells me when to do the dishes, the laundry, clean, run errands, make dinner, pay the bills, rest, wash myself, or eat. It's just me. And a 15 month old who likes to chew on leaves and would play with dog poo if I let him. And a 37 year old who hates having to tell me when he'll make it home from the office.

I miss the structure set for me by others quite honestly. I knew where I was in the space-time continuum, so to speak. I knew that I had X amount of time before I left the house to do X chore, I knew I had 30 minutes to eat at 1 pm, I knew I'd miss dinner with Anthony every Thursday because I had late appointments, I knew that weekends would be spent mostly cleaning and organizing for the coming week.

With a baby it's all willy nilly. Ostensibly, I have all the time in the world to do whatever I want, right? Well, wrong. With the introduction of Hollis into our lives what seems feasible never really is. Instead of having 12-14 hours a day to cook, clean, fold laundry, gas up the car, and write correspondences on beautiful, shiny stationary I bought at Barnes & Noble, I feel like I have about 4 1/2 minutes. Three and a half if you count the minute I have to shower and get dressed.

Where the hell does all the time go?? I haven't a fucking clue. I almost had MORE time when I was leaving the house every day because it gave me less time to do things - like when you manage to clean the entire house and do everything on your To Do List when company is coming, but you can't manage to pull it together just for yourself.

Well, this was pretty much how I felt for about 9 of the last 15 months, then Hollis started napping regularly and I was able to mold my day (and expectations) around those naps. I read Little House on the Prairie when I was pregnant and marveled at all the things Ma could accomplish in a week with her bare hands, a bucket, and a needle and thread. She had the days divvied up into certain tasks: Monday was washday, Tuesday mending day, Wednesday mopping day, or whatever. She imposed her own work-week schedule.

For the last 5 months or so I made Thursday or Friday my Cleaning Day so that I could take the weekend "off" like Anthony did from his office job. I wouldn't like it if he worked on the weekends and so I wanted to have a similar expectation of myself. I also try to stop working once dinner is finished and cleaned up. That's time for reading, watching movies, or, if a chore still needs doing, Anthony and I do it together. Wednesdays became my Wash Days, although I still haven't figured out a good Fold Day, yet, seeing how my love seat in the bedroom is moonlighting as a laundry basket right now (pfft - fucking laundry!). And it's been working great. I feel a lot better than I did when I was all over the place. I know what I can reasonably expect from myself during my work week.

Of course, as I'm wont to do, having said all of this I have found something new that I'm giving a try. Real Simple sent me a flyer for their magazine with an insert about speed cleaning. Always one to try to do things more efficiently, especially since I can't always clean the whole house during one nap time, I checked it out and it's really cool! I'm not a deep cleaning type anyway, so this is really perfect for me and now my Friday is Mop Day and Monday and Thursday are Speed Clean Day!

The thing is, Real Simple has it broken down to about 19 minutes (real time about 30) to clean an entire house (minus mopping floors) and I love that! That really does leave me time to write correspondence on my Barnes & Noble stationary, read cookbooks, shower at a leisurely pace, or blog during play times or naps.

- Wait a minute - I sound like an idiot, don't I? What I'm trying to say is just seeing things written down, scheduled out for me, if you will, helps me feel anchored and less chaotic. If there's one thing I've learned from this whole motherhood thing it's that I only have myself to answer to. Hollis doesn't care if the house is a mess, Anthony doesn't care if dinner's hot and ready or if the bed's made, but I do. I care because then they don't have to and we can all focus on other things. Like hanging out and laughing and having fun.

So if you're looking for a little stability or structure in your life I recommend using this Speed Cleaning Guide and applying a little bit of Ma's old-time one-task-a-day work ethic to your chores. You might be surprised at how much easier it all seems.

19-Minute Method:
6 minutes
Let Gravity work for you. Dust from top to bottom, and save the vacuuming for last.
- Pick up crumbs and dust bunnies with a handheld vacuum (1 minute)
- Fluff cushions and fold throws after use (2 minutes)
- Wipe tabletops and spot-clean cavinets when you see fingerprints (1 minute)
- Straighten coffee-table books and magazines. Throw out newspapers. Put away CDs and DVDs (2 minutes)

4 1/2 minutes
In the time it takes to brew a pot of coffee, you can get through your everyday list.
- Always start with the sink. Wipe down after doing the dishes or loading the dishwasher (30 seconds)
- Wipe down the stove top (1 minute)
- Wipe down the counters (1 minute)
- Sweep, Swiffer, or vacuum the floor (2 minutes)

2 minutes
- Wipe out the sink (30 seconds)
- Wipe the toilet seat and rim (15 seconds)
- Swoosh the toilet bowl with a brush (15 seconds)
- Wipe the mirror and faucet (15 seconds)
- Squeegee the shower door (30 seconds)
- Spray the entire shower and curtain liner with shower mist (15 seconds)

6 1/2 minutes
Make your bed right before or after your monring shower. A neat bed will inspire you.
- Make the bed (2 minutes)
- Fold or hang clothing and put away jewelry (4 minutes)
- Straighten out eh night table surface (30 seconds)


Menu Plan - Week of January 5

I know I'm a day (or two) late on this, but I wanted to post my menu plan for this week. I'm also going to take a note from CityMama and post my expenses. I'll have to estimate for this week since I've already tossed my receipts, and have forgotten most of what I purchased.

Monday: Ground Nut Stew
Tuesday: Left overs (L/O)
Wednesday: Tofu & Veggie Curry
Thursday: L/O
Friday: Provence Vegetable Soup
Saturday: Eat Out
Sunday: Transylvania Eggplant Casserole

I've been to the grocery store twice so far this week. Normally, I try to go once a week, but since I'm using such fresh ingredients I decided to try going the day-of instead.

On Monday, I spent approximately $50; today around $30. I still have to buy veggie stock for the soup and more veggies for the Sunday Tempura. And of course that money includes bananas and apples for Hollis and vegan snacks for me like nuts, nuts, and more nuts. And a box of wine (I share this sheepishly since my "cleanse" is supposed to be alcohol-free, but I'm sorta easing into that one). So, I'm guessing my total bill will end up being around $100 this week.

I don't normally eat so many left overs, either, but these recipes make a crap load of food - way more than just Anthony and I can eat in a single sitting, even with me eating left overs for lunch we have plenty for a second dinner.

(Boy, I just realized that if I really post recipes for everything I make that I'll be a very busy blogger - well, here goes!!)

Shower options

As the mom of a burgeoning toddler I find myself getting more and more creative each day. It used to be that we could do all sorts of things while Hollis contemplated the ceiling popcorn from his bassinet. Then we graduated to the bouncer, the swing, the exersaucer, and the jumper.

I've made a safe kitchen zone for him and babyproofed the whole house, but I still have to reach down into the recesses of my brain to come up with a good solution for when I need to shower and he's not sleeping because despite all the precautions, the littlest, stupidest thing, while utterly unsupervised and left to run amok in the house, could hurt him.

And so I say, voila!!

The bathtub babysitter!!

Who knew he would love it so much?? He can see me from over the ledge, and in the reflection of the mirror. He tries to turn the faucet on (thank God he's not strong enough, yet) and plays with his toys and various bath accessories I've deemed safe for him to play with. And nary a whimper of complaint!

I'll probably have to switch to chains and padlocks once he learns how to climb out.


Let's get cooking!!

Hollis keeping busy while I studied cookbooks.

As some of you may know because of our Facebook connection, I'm starting a cleanse today. It's vegan, wheat-, sugar-, alcohol-, and caffeine-free. I did this once before in June and mostly enjoyed it, although, I did run out of steam by week three and think that was mostly because I was spending so much time trying to come up with recipes.

A typical week finds me making bacon and eggs for breakfast for me and Anthony, eating a light lunch of leftovers or an Amy's Organic frozen meal or a salad, and then cooking dinner. Dinner usually includes a meat because Anthony claims he'll die if he doesn't eat meat (sorry, babe, but this is my blog, after all so I can say what I want hehe).

I try to menu-plan to keep the grocery bill down and so I can plan for extra mouths, etc., but I didn't do that during my last cleanse. I was sorta going by the seat of my pants; looking up recipes the day of, or a couple of days before, not weeks in advance. This time around, I've already scoured 1000 pages' worth of recipes looking for compatible options and I'm pretty excited.

I can't believe I haven't written even once about food on here, specifically the recipes that I love and all the cooking that I do. It's one of my resolutions for this blog this year to start giving my love of food more attention.

As for the cleanse menus, I have at least 100 new options. Some I've made before, some will be brand new. Hollis played diligently for the 2 hours I spent pouring over my cookbooks - what a terrific kid, right??

Since it's cold and gray today for dinner tonight I'm going to make Ground Nut Stew from the Moosewood Collective Cookbook. I've made it once before and subbed out the required okra with eggplant, since okra sorta makes me gag. It was incredible, stuck to my ribs, and just made me feel satisfied. Plus, I get the added bonus of feeling a little worldly. Afterall, millions of Africans are eating their own versions of Ground Nut Stew, too! It even passed the "I'm A Man and Must Eat Meat!!" Test! Woot!

Ground Nut Stew:
2 c chopped onions
2 tbsp peanut or vegetable oil
1/2 tsp cayenne
1 tsp pressed garlic cloves
2 c chopped cabbage
3 c cubed sweet potatoes (1 in cubes)
3 c tomato juice (I mix equal parts tomato puree with water if I don't have any on hand)
1 c apple or apricot juice
1 tsp salt
1 tsp grated, peeled freshe ginger
1 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
2 chopped tomatoes (I'm using a can of chopped tomatoes because they're always tastier than fresh tomatoes from the grocery store)
1 1/2-2 c chopped okra or eggplant
1/2 c peanut butter (creamy or crunchy)

1/4 c sliced scallions
1/4 c chopped fresh parsley
1/4 c chopped fresh cilantro
1 mango sliced
1/4 c crushed or whole peanuts

Saute the onions in the oil for about 10 minutes. Stire in the cayenne and garlic and saute for a couple more minutes. Add the cabbage and sweet potatoes and saute, covered, for a few minutes. Mix inteh juices, salt, ginger, cilantro, and tomatoes. Cover and simmer for about 15 minutes, until the sweet potatoes are tender. Add the okra or eggplant and simmer for 5 minutes more. Stir in the peanut butter, turn heat to low and gently simmer until ready to serve. Add more juice or water if the stew is too thick.

Serve over rice and top with scallions, chopped fresh parsley and cilantro, sliced mangoes (or pineapple, bananas, oranges, grated coconut) and whole or crushed peanuts.

Bon appetit!!

Ground nut stew

Ground Nut Stew:
2 c chopped onions
2 tbsp peanut or vegetable oil
1/2 tsp cayenne
1 tsp pressed garlic cloves
2 c chopped cabbage
3 c cubed sweet potatoes (1 in cubes)
3 c tomato juice (I mix equal parts tomato puree with water if I don't have any on hand)
1 c apple or apricot juice
1 tsp salt
1 tsp grated, peeled freshe ginger
1 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
2 chopped tomatoes (I'm using a can of chopped tomatoes because they're always tastier than fresh tomatoes from the grocery store)
1 1/2-2 c chopped okra or eggplant
1/2 c peanut butter (creamy or crunchy)

1/4 c sliced scallions
1/4 c chopped fresh parsley
1/4 c chopped fresh cilantro
1 mango sliced
1/4 c crushed or whole peanuts

Saute the onions in the oil for about 10 minutes. Stire in the cayenne and garlic and saute for a couple more minutes. Add the cabbage and sweet potatoes and saute, covered, for a few minutes. Mix inteh juices, salt, ginger, cilantro, and tomatoes. Cover and simmer for about 15 minutes, until the sweet potatoes are tender. Add the okra or eggplant and simmer for 5 minutes more. Stir in the peanut butter, turn heat to low and gently simmer until ready to serve. Add more juice or water if the stew is too thick.

Serve over rice and top with scallions, chopped fresh parsley and cilantro, sliced mangoes (or pineapple, bananas, oranges, grated coconut) and whole or crushed peanuts.