Sunday, February 21, 2016

Meal Plan • 2/21/16

The past two weeks have been nothing short of madness around here, full of work deadlines and social events and back-to-back appointments, and a client crisis that completely took over my life for three days.  I swear, there was a period of about a week and a half in which I only managed to cook dinner and get us all to the table together maybe twice.  That was a little embarrassing to admit, but there you go.  

Sometimes, life goes wacko, and you have to just throw your hands in the air and say, "Wheeeee," and ride it out.  Homeschooling fell by the wayside.  Laundry did not get done.  Errands were forgotten.  I haven't gone for a run in thirteen days.  And I said, "I'm sorry," about 57 more times than usual.

Life just got very life-y, you know?

We are slowly, ever-so-carefully reeling things back in now, but if I were to be completely honest, I should maybe just admit that being thrown for a loop is not as unusual of an occurrence as I like to make it out to be.  There are four humans living in this house, after all, and we are juggling three businesses and the education of the two youngest humans, and we all have hobbies that captivate us, and life is full and wonderful and interesting and our schedules are meant to be fluid and maybe I need to stop holding on so tightly to the idea that I might one day have it all together.

We are self-employed.  We homeschool, for crying out loud.  Our lives will never be predictable and simple and boring, and that is exactly why we chose to do these things.

For obvious reasons, there was no meal plan for the past two weeks.  We ate out a few times, we brought home pizza, we made simple, easy, I-can-cook-this-with-my-eyes-closed meals on some of the evenings.  The world did not come to an end and the kids did not starve, but it is just not optimal for us to fly by the seat of our pants when it comes to dinnertime.  So it feels goooooood to make a meal plan for this coming week.  

Still though, if I learned anything over the past couple crazy weeks, it is that having a handful of back-pocket recipes at the ready is crucial.  Back-pocket meals for us are the ones that don't have too many moving parts (no one needs to manhandle more than two pans on the crazy days), that use ingredients we keep on hand almost all the time, that can be made easily by either of the adults, that are healthy enough, that can simmer unattended long enough for me to run into another room and practice yoga for 15 or so minutes, and that do not take much time overall.  I am slowly adding these types of recipes to a special section of my recipe binder so we can flip there in an emergency without even breaking our stride (and let's be honest, just having a bad day can constitute an emergency).

Some of our current back-pocket favorites:

Knowing these easy options are available in a pinch has completely changed the way I respond to Emergency Days.  And if I'm freaking out less, the whole household runs more smoothly.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Quick Lit • February 2016

My to-be-read list has exploded over the past couple months, which gives me a certain sense of security.  There is, quite literally, nothing as satisfying to me as (1) knowing what I will read next, and (2) having my next vacation already planned.  Well, those things and whether I have a nice selection of teas in the kitchen.

And having a stash of good quality chocolate (this is starting to make me sound much more high-maintenance than I like to think of myself).

The Books on the Nightstand podcast, and Anne Bogle's new podcast What Should I Read Next? have introduced me to a ton of new titles, and I recently relaxed some of my spending freezes to allow for more book purchases (life is short, and books are worth it).  It was on one of the WSIRN podcasts that a guest mentioned the Book Passage book subscription club, and when I saw that two of my favorite books of last year were on it, plus another two of my favorites from 2014 were on the previous year's list, I began reading my way through the rest of their back catalog.  The choices have so far been splendid.

Today, I am linking up with Modern Mrs. Darcy to share short, snippet-like reviews of the books I have read over the past month.  

Set in the 1930s, Euphoria is a novel about the intersecting lives of three young anthropologists who have settled in among isolated, unstudied tribes in New Guinea. Inspired by events that took place during three months in the life of Margaret Mead, the action focuses on the work of the married couple Nell and Fen at the time they station themselves near Bankson, an anthropologist who has been alone for a few years and who has lost hope in his ability to make a mark in his field. The tale is told through the POV of two of the characters as events occur, but also through flashbacks from one and journal entries from another. This structure builds exquisite tension, and the book is a quick, beautiful read. 

The Unfortunate Events series is captivating and great fun as a family read-aloud. The Reptile Room, continuing the story of the three orphans and the terrible events that befall them at every turn, brings more death and suspense and absurdity and laughter, and is written just as cannily as the first one. My eight-year-old is madly in love with the characters and we had a fabulous time reading this installment. Bonus: the vocabulary and the witticisms provide much fodder for discussion.

A young adult novel that is set in Nazi Germany and is narrated by death himself may seem particularly dismal, but The Book Thief manages to be both luminous and dark, both serious and light-hearted. At 552 pages, and taking place over about five years, the book traces the story of a young girl who is sent to live with a foster family in a poor neighborhood in a terrifying time in history. Forged relationships are a powerful force in the novel, as are stolen books, and the constant and overwhelming presence of a tyrannical government. The language is gorgeous, and there were sentences constructed so beautifully that I wanted to tuck them away in my memory forever. 

Your Heart is a Muscle the Size of a Fist takes place during the 1999 WTO riots in Seattle. The novel alternately takes the point of view of the police chief, two radical protestors, a Sri Lankan minister of finance, a couple of over-eager cops, and a young man who finds himself more deeply embroiled in the conflict than he meant to be. The action occurs over the course of only one day, and the tension builds skillfully as the day goes on and as the the chapters skip around between the main characters. I keep hearing comparisons to The Flamethrowers, but Spike Lee's Do the Right Thing is what kept coming to my mind, as the reader helplessly watches the characters each make choices that bring them closer to what you can only imagine will be more explosive than they intend. Both the tension, the prose, and the character development are masterful, though I found the ending to be a little unfulfilling.

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