Sunday, December 30, 2012

Christmas 2012

Christmas was good this year.  Audrey and Meredith loved opening their presents and the house is now overrun with new fun toys.
Audrey in front of Grandma in VA's Christmas tree 2012

Meredith opening presents Christmas 2012

Friday, December 28, 2012

Slow Food Fast

When I was a new SAHM with Audrey, she and I went to visit my Aunt Kalyn and her family in North Carolina for a week.  It was mind-blowing.  Kalyn is an amazing home economist.  She has perfected the art of having a variety of nutritious food at the ready for very low cost.  Growing up Mormon, I knew about the principles of a revolving pantry of basics food items (and food storage for two years!).  But Kalyn manages to take that principle to the next level. For example, when she made rice, she mixed wild rice, brown and white (so that it had a variety of nutrition, she told me), then she put the leftovers aside to use in fried rice for Chinese night later on in the week (with homemade eggrolls from the freezer).  Every dinner she made enough for leftovers, and she would immediately put it into individual serving size tupperware dishes with a scoop of frozen veggies and then labeled and into a specific spot in the freezer.  Her husband grabbed one each morning before he left for work - instantly a variety of homemade, delicious, and nutritious lunches.  Seriously, Kalyn makes an art of home economy.

What it made me realize is that if I thought things through a little bit, I could certainly make good food more often and easier. Here are a few things I now do for good slow food faster/easier:

  • Mire Pioux - (fancy French word (probably misspelled) which means onions, carrots, celery mix) - I like to buy organic produce and buying a bigger bag is usually cheaper, so I will cut up most of the bag at once.  It doesnt take much more time to cut up the additional carrots, celery, or onions.  I usually just do one type at a time.  Then I spread them on a cookie sheet on a layer of parchment paper and freeze them.  Once they are frozen I put them in a freezer bag in the freezer. And when I make soup I just grab a handful and throw it in the pan.  Souper easy.
  • Dehydrated kale - I love kale in my soup and my garden made a whole bunch, so i washed it cut it in strips and dried it.  It works wonderfully.
  • Meats - Ham - I will cube a bunch of ham and freeze it in soup size portions and use it in split pea soup or 16 bean soup mix or quiche.  I save any leftover bacon pieces and crumble it into veggies.  
  • Freezer chili - I save leftover steak (cut into bite size pieces prior to freezing), leftover tomatoes, tomato paste, sauce, taco meat, beans, etc.  Anything I think will work well with chili flavors gets thrown into a freezer bag together and every so often becomes chili.  It is usually really amazing chili because it has better quality meats than I are typically used for chili.  
  • Batches - As mentioned previously, I try to cook twice as much as I need of everything and I freeze the other half.  

As a side note - Kalyn worked for years to change my recipe for KA cookies into something healthy.  She says she finally achieved success and that the kids love them.  They now contain shredded zucchini.  Pretty impressive.

Friday, December 21, 2012

When it rains...

Since I started back to work, we have had one sickness after another.  We are at the doctor and/or urgent care for one of us every week.  I am not even exaggerating   Between daycare and school, we are a regular cacophony of germs around here.  We have been much more fastidiousness in washing our hands as soon as we get to the house, but even so, we have all been sick.  That is not that much fun.

However, last weekend, we took bugs to a new level.  While we were in line for the bathroom at the Kennedy Center (to see the musical White Christmas), I started playing with Audrey's hair to redo the barrettes   Suddenly I noticed movement on her head.  She had bugs in her hair - lice.  Turns out she had a bad case of lice and so after three treatments, we are still finding an occasional bug or knit here and there.  She just has so much hair it is hard to get them all.

So she and I got haircuts - shoulder length - homemade cuts by me.  Hopefully the follow up treatment will be easier now. 

Friday, December 14, 2012

Office views

The cube farm
My daily view inside the office is cube ville. Eight full floors of it. This is a pic of the side I sit in. I like this side because we have an unobstructed view of the city. Georgetown is right across the river

View of the Key Bridge crossing the Potomac river looking towards Georgetown
Pretty fantastic office views.

But not nearly as good as the sweet little ladies I pick up at the end of the day.

Audrey and Meredith wearing wings and playing

Audrey and Meredith brushing their teeth before bed

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Dinner prep

Every evening, homemakers everywhere try to find an efficient way to have a good healthy economical homemade dinner on the table.  That in and of itself is a challenge, but when that homemaker also works outside of the house full-time (like me, for instance), it is even more challenging.  With a bit of planning, it can happen.

Since I first started back to work a few months ago, I struggled to make that happen every night. There have been many a night of quick scrambled egg dinners.  Slowly but surely, I have gotten back in to the groove and now things are coming together more often than not.  Using tonight as an example, here is my loose and evolving system.

Every weekend before we go grocery shopping, I try to think of several dinners that I want to make during the week and I try to make sure that there is enough stuff to double them and put whole dinners or partial dinners into the freezer.  Last night, I looked at the list of potential dinners on the white board and decided we would have spaghetti with meat sauce.  So this morning I pulled out a frozen brick of ground beef to thaw.  When I got home, I cooked the whole thing and a whole lot of spaghetti.  I buy the organic ground beef from Costco, which comes in 1.34 pound bricks.  Which actually turns out to be just about right for two plus meals for us.  After the beef was cooked, I put half into the freezer again - it will become part of crockpot chili another day (probably next week).  I added some jarred spaghetti sauce to the meat still in the pan and spiced it up a bit.  Then added all of the cooked spaghetti.  After dinner we had enough leftover for me to put that in a casserole pan - I threw that in the freezer too.  With a little cottage cheese and mozzarella on top (now on the grocery list) this will be a delicious spaghetti bake for the future.

Earlier in the week, I made a big crock-pot of refried beans - honestly they were the best refried beans we ever had - and I now have a whole bunch in the freezer and some in the fridge to be part of Mexican Friday night .  This week, Mexican Friday night will be a new recipe for shredded Mexican beef - another crock-pot recipe - with some flour tortillas and salsa from Uncle Julio's   I will be put the leftovers into burritos - which will go into the freezer for later of course. :) 

Saturday, December 01, 2012

Christmas Stockings

I love homemade stuff in general - but (in my humble opinion) Christmas stuff in particular is so much better when it is homemade.  So naturally, I have been wanting to knit matching Christmas stocking for several years.  I looked for patterns and started one stocking a couple of years ago, but frogged it about half way through because it was just not looking the way I hoped.  Two years ago, I spotted some beautiful fair isle knit stockings on Pottery Barn Kids, but I was still hoping I could make my own.  Last year I admitted to myself that hand-knit stockings were probably not going to happen and so I waited for the cute PBK stocking to go on sale at the end of Christmas.  Instead they sold out.  So this year, I bit the bullet and bought new stockings as soon as they came out.  So much for handmade and knitting a new set of stockings.  Sometimes a lady has to know when to be practical.

As you see there are five stockings, one is for Aunt William, because we are lucky enough to have her come to our house for Christmas more often than not.  I did not have names stitched on them because I thought it would be fun to be able to mix it up and switch stocking every year if desired.  Sure enough, Audrey told me that she wants to trade with Aunt William next year. :)

We usually begin Christmas decorating on Black Friday. I think it is a better way to spend the day than fighting shopping crowds. This year we got off to a slow start because we spent most of Thanksgiving weekend at the in-laws with cousins.   However, I did manage to get the stockings hung first thing Friday morning and I have been admiring them ever since.