#sol17 Day 22: Cooking Dinner as an Act of Resistance

I try to cook dinner three times a week. Because I have a little that may or may not have any patience for me to cook that dinner, I am constantly on the hunt for recipes that are fast and easy. I try to keep a bullet journal page for dishes that fit that bill and ones that I simply love and want to make again (because I will usually make something once and then not make it again. I think a lot of the joy of cooking comes from trying it once and moving on).

Tonight, I had decided to make Pan-Fried Chicken with Asparagus and Lemon from Dinner: A Love Story. This is one blog that has consistently delivered fast, easy, and delicious food. I find myself starting at DALS when I am beginning my meal planning because I know that if I pick three recipes to make for the following week (I usually do all my planning and shopping on the weekends for the week ahead), I’ll most likely make them.

What is also notable is that I’ll usually enjoy making them. On a weeknight. Whoa.

E certainly pushed me to the limit tonight. Here’s a snippet of our “conversation” that occurred just as I was putting the asparagus on.

E: MOMMY, I want a hug!

Me: Okay. Come here. I’d love to hug you.

E: NOOOO! I don’t want a hug!

Repeat at least fifty times.

I have ceased to let these moments get to me. Instead, I started laughing and turned up my Pandora station: 90s pop music. He was perplexed when I started singing Hanson’s “Mmmbop” at the top of my lungs in our tiny kitchen while I cooked the chicken. And as we danced the toddler tango of hugs/no hugs, I kept cooking. Because I knew I really wanted to have some asparagus and chicken and a decent pan sauce.

While I cooked, I realized that my ability not to take myself so seriously was probably the reason dinner wasn’t a total fail (huge moment of growth!!). I sat E in a chair close enough to me–but far enough out of reach of the stove–and called him my “cooking assistant.” I gave him a job, and I kept singing.

“Are you cooking my dinner, Mommy?”

Turning point. I told him I was and he finally allowed me to sweep him up into a hug before putting him down to sit at his table.

Karla Hall, a chef I admire (and a host of The Chew) said if you’re in a bad mood and you’re about to make dinner, the only thing you should make is a reservation.

I could have been in a bad mood tonight, could have decided to order delivery, or eat leftovers or pull something out of the fridge and call it small plates. I’ve done all of these things. Survival. No judgement.

Tonight, though, I wanted to cook because I wanted to eat with my child, and I wanted us to eat something I enjoyed cooking. And after the minor moment of toddler outrage, we managed to sit down together and enjoy a meal, and E even ate some asparagus.

And N’Sync played on.

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One year ago: #sol16 Soul Baking Saturdays


slice of lifeThis post is part of the Slice of Life Challenge, hosted by Two Writing Teachers, who have created a space for writers and teachers of writers to come together. To learn more about this challenge, click here.

#sol17 Day 21: Tracking My Reading

I love the Modern Mrs. Darcy for several reasons: great book recommendations, relevant lifestyle tips, and some interesting thinking about habit formation. A recent post was about tracking what you’re reading. She summarizes how a reader uses a Line-A-Day journal to record what she is reading every day.

At one point in my life–and I can’t quite pinpoint when that was, but I think it was in junior high–I wrote down every book I finished. Nope. It was definitely earlier because I just had a flashback of a spiral-bound notebook and some loopy handwriting. That was more like fourth or fifth grade. But yes, every single book. Then, I either lost interest or lost the notebook and my record keeping became much less intentional and much more haphazard. The older I get, the more I realize that my memory is not as great as it once was (was it ever as good as I imagined it?) and I’d really like to remember books that mattered to me. I write them down in a bullet journal, but there’s something about this MMD suggestion that works for me.

I started today. I’m currently reading My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante. I was late to this party–hasn’t everyone read these books? But I was poking around in our local library a few weeks ago and the first book in the series was there. I’ve postponed reading it for this long because I could never find the first book. Until now. Problem is, the book is now overdue and I can’t renew it so I’m reading as fast as I can and hoping the fines don’t accrue too much.

I wanted, also, to have some sort of reminder of the books E and I read together. We read a LOT. Under my own currently reading daily line, I wrote his: The Tales of Peter Rabbit. We have a fairy bookmother who sends us books in the mail. They seem to arrive just in the nick of time. Completely unexpected and always perfect. This is her latest gift and E is tickled pink with the rabbit stories.

A line for him, a line for me as we remember the books that make our reading lives.

One year ago: #sol16 Pretend


slice of lifeThis post is part of the Slice of Life Challenge, hosted by Two Writing Teachers, who have created a space for writers and teachers of writers to come together. To learn more about this challenge, click here.

#sol17 Day 20: Good Things Growing

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Rather than stopping to lament my present condition, I’m just going to change my attitude. For the rest of the school year, I am going to allow good things to grow. Only the good things. 

One year ago: #sol16: I Miss


slice of lifeThis post is part of the Slice of Life Challenge, hosted by Two Writing Teachers, who have created a space for writers and teachers of writers to come together. To learn more about this challenge, click here.

#sol17 Day 19: Best Runner Friends

FullSizeRender (12)I started running almost 10 years ago to break up the monotony of graduate school. Once I downloaded the Couch to 5K plan, I looked on my calendar, selected a race, and started training.

My first 5K was somewhere in Champaign, IL. It took me through a winding park is about all I remember. I bet I got a t-shirt I never wore as part of the entry fee. There weren’t many people, though, at the time, I probably thought it was so many people. I was impressed that I finished and that I ran the whole thing.

Upon crossing the finish line, I was immediately ready to sign up for another race. Endorphins! I kept running over the years, finishing three half marathons and a bunch of 5Ks and 10Ks and one 10-miler.

I am not a fast runner. I know my pace. I’m a solid 11-12 minute miler on my good days (though I tend to go a bit slower pushing a stroller). Before I had E, I was holding steady at 10 minutes and, on a particularly fast day, could hold a nine-minute mile and not die.

Since E, running has become the thing I most love to do and cannot find enough time to do it. My most important possession is my running stroller. If I can get out of bed on the weekends, I will go running. Running is my sanity saver. I am a better, calmer, saner, more focused person if I can run. On days when I think I can’t go, I just think about how miserable I’ll be with everyone and out the door we go.

This morning, I did not want to go run. Enter: my Best Runner Friend. The text-cerpt above shows one of our usual conversations in preparation for going for a run. I love Jen. She is persistent, available, encouraging, and always willing to run. I really was ready for her to say no, that we should just bag our plans and stay in bed, but, instead, there we were, encouraging each other. Because we have been running together for several years now, we are really good at the platitudes. We could probably spout them in our sleep. Thing is, they work! Sometimes, I’ll complain that I don’t want to run our usual three miles and she’ll remind me that the hardest part is the first mile and if it really sucks, we can stop after the first mile. Funny, we never stop. When we had finished our run this morning, I told her about my other BRF, Shaun, who signed me up for a 10K for my Birthday. That same friend has designs on us running a half marathon in the fall. Who does she think I am?

Apparently, they both think I’m a runner. Jen reasoned that all I need to do is add a mile to my long run each week and I’ll be back up to 10 miles before I know it. She said it so logically that I nearly believed her.

What?!

See how easily they get me back into the running groove? Best Runner Friends. That’s the best part of running for me now. The absolute best part.

One year ago: #sol16: Alvin Ailey Afternoon


slice of lifeThis post is part of the Slice of Life Challenge, hosted by Two Writing Teachers, who have created a space for writers and teachers of writers to come together. To learn more about this challenge, click here.

#sol17 Day 18: Conversations with Colleagues in Cars

thelma_primaryPart of being a board member of the New England Association of Teachers of English (NEATE) means spending a couple of Saturdays a year with other English teachers making plans for our upcoming conference and other various responsibilities. Our board is comprised of a range of educators from different levels (high school, community college, four-year colleges), active and retired, and from across New England.

Often, I travel to the meetings with my former colleague. We used to teach together before she made what has turned out to be a fantastic move for her to a different school. As parents of young children, we don’t see each other nearly as much as we’d like. However, we’re able to catch each other up on the latest about our children, muse about teaching, and spend the majority of our time, often, talking about the hard parts of mothering during the time it takes to get to the meeting.

There, in the car, we have the warts and all talk: about how it’s easy to lose yourself in the midst of trying to care for others; about how sometimes all you want is a break from everything and what to do when you can’t get that break; laughs about how we finally extract ourselves and how that feels and musings about why we don’t do that more often.

It’s as though we know we have 31 miles to pack in as much self-care as possible to last us until the next meeting. When she dropped me off after today’s meeting, I told her that I had been looking forward to today all week. Somehow, I knew that once I opened the door, sank into her little silver Civic, and fastened my seat belt, I could exhale, that the commute to the board meeting was, really, the ideal way to set up what is always a productive day doing work that feels important.

One year ago: #sol16 By the Book

Thelma and Louise picture (credit)


slice of lifeThis post is part of the Slice of Life Challenge, hosted by Two Writing Teachers, who have created a space for writers and teachers of writers to come together. To learn more about this challenge, click here.

#sol17 day 17: Letter of Recommendation-Recipe Reviews

One of my favorite writing assignments is modeled after the New York Times’ Letter of Recommendation, “celebrations of  objects and experiences that have been overlooked or underappreciated.” Students have written about the best topics: Chap Stick, street performers, BBQ potato chips. This is one of a few other assignments intended for writers to pay attention to the little things that are, when we notice, quite big, indeed, and one that students love every single time.

ReviewsThis morning, I was reading a Cod Cakes recipe. I’d opted to do much of the prep work before school because I knew I’d never have enough time to let them chill for 30 minutes this evening when a hungry toddler’s stomach demanded otherwise. What pushed me to that choice, particularly knowing that chopping, browning and forming the cakes would definitely make our attempt to leave the house that much more chaotic?

The reader reviews. While I did not read all 160, I did read what I considered a representative sample. I also read Sam Sifton’s response to someone who lamented that his cod cakes had fallen apart. Sifton insisted they had to be chilled. That was the key.

And because so many people had already made the recipe and rated it highly, I conceded that if I wanted cod cakes with at least a fighting chance to be as good as Sam Sifton’s, well, then, I should make some effort to let them chill in the refrigerator before introducing them to my cast iron skillet later tonight.

Reader reviews about a recipe are a rabbit hole. I now try to read them with a timer in hand. For every recipe I think I want to make, it’s only a moment or two of scrolling before I’m either second-guessing myself, making a list of amendments to the recipe, or high-fiving myself on selecting what seems to be a good meal. I’ve also learned that people write recipe reviews with a couple of intentions: to call something a good recipe only after they’ve made it their own (thereby changing the original recipe, which, then, as it stands, seems that that would change the original recipe and not garner an excellent rating, but, okay, duly noted); to comment on the picture the original recipe posted (and they haven’t made the recipe yet but just wanted to say it looks “delicious”); or to complain: someone tried the recipe and hated it and/or it didn’t work for their child/SO/family. For these reasons, reviews must be read with a bit of levity.

I give about as much consideration to the reviews on a recipe as I do the recipe itself, largely because if a bunch of people are complaining about something, then they’re usually on to something and the truth is somewhere in between. My brilliant colleague, Michelle, and I have similar approaches to reader recipe reviews. We might be enamored with a photograph of something delicious on a plate, but we scroll right past the narrative that accompanies the picture to land ourselves smack in the midst of the reviews. That is where the meat of the recipe is, if you will.

Bon appetit.

One year ago: #sol16: Holders of Memory


slice of lifeThis post is part of the Slice of Life Challenge, hosted by Two Writing Teachers, who have created a space for writers and teachers of writers to come together. To learn more about this challenge, click here.