Sunday, September 26, 2010

Kids, parties, practicality

I don't know why I felt compelled to do it. Mostly, I was afraid that the weekend would go by un-weekended. I would go back to work on Monday thinking, wow, I did a lot of laundry this weekend. Erik left with his parents to hike down the Grand Canyon on Friday. I probably then was suffering from a small case of hutzpah. Something like, not only can I watch the kids by myself for three days but I can entertain as well.
So I invited some people over.
I started small at first. My good friend Erica. She knows the kids. She understands I may disappear to put Max to sleep or might have six dog hairs in the guacamole. She has dogs too.
But then I got bold and invited three more people--one a new lecturer, another who was hired at the same time I was, and a new grad student who has kids. I didn't mention kids in the email. I figured we'd work that out later.
Of course, by Saturday morning I regretted it. Max had woken up every hour and a half the night before. While I was talking to my mom, he was trying to get my attention by screaming ever so gently in my ear. How would I talk to other people if I couldn't hear over Max? How would I cook dinner if I couldn't put him down?
Fortunately, the woman who runs the day care where we may put Max called. I had asked her to watch Max for a couple hours so she could get to know him. She said she could. Sweet. Then, Zoe's best friend's mom called to see if she could go to the park. I would miss Zoe's fine mopping skills as I tried to do Saturday housecleaning but I thought perhaps Zoe shouldn't have to focus on the party all day long. Especially since the woman with the kids hadn't responded to my email yet. Zoe may have no kids to play with later.
She went to the park. Max played while I cleaned. I picked Z up and we went to the tiny cart store (New Frontiers, where they have/had tiny carts for kids). We bought fish for the tacos and gingersnaps for dessert and salad bar for lunch.
After, we took Max over to the day care lady's. I'm glad we went. I'd had a little (lot) of trepidation about putting there. Not so much there as anywhere. But here's the deal--they do a lot of fun stuff--Kindermusik, gymnastics, sign language--that's not exactly appropriate for Max's age group but so much more fun I imagine than staying home watching me type. I felt extra ridiculous taking him there on a Saturday afternoon for no real reason. But once I got there and he launched into her arms, I knew it had been a good idea. Not only would I get ready for the party but I would stop freaking out about whether or not this woman would be good to Max.
Z and I ran home. Z swept the porch, I finished vacuuming. I cut up onions for the chipotle sour cream and cabbage for the tacos. By 4:30 when Max got home, we were all relaxed and ready for the people. We watched a half hour of Househunters. That's how ready we were.
Erica showed up first. Thank god. She fed Max hummus while I made guacamole. Zoe's friend Dain, her 15 month old brother and her mom came by. Good. Kids. The woman with the other kids had called earlier. She was coming. Could her husband come too? I said, there will be only other women there but sure why not?
Everyone was here by 5:45. The guacamole was gone by 5;50. I cooked the fish, put out the sour cream, cheese and cabbage and threw some forks on the counter and called it dinner. I couldn't eat right then because Max was melting down a little. But I took him to lie down and fed him. He returned happy. I ate my tacos and then more fish with sour cream. I don't know if the food was delicious but everyone seemed to eat, even the kids.
The adults went into the living room and the kids watched a movie. There was more chaos than usual--kids running back and forth to tell us about the movie, to freak out about the dog, to wonder where the one piece was to the Lego set, but I think the chaos was good. Without a little chaos, how would I have even known I had a weekend?
Today, a little less chaos. We're heading to the farmer's market and then I'm taking the stroller and the bike to the park to see how far this one path goes.

Friday, September 17, 2010

A week in food

So after the Sam's Club caving in, Erik challenged me (and himself) to spend only $75 more dollars in food that week. That included going out. And wine. And, in fairness, beer. After having spent $240 at the Sam's Club that seemed like not so big a trial (a box of wine and 24 Sierra Nevadas went a long way to cutting our "food" costs). But as you know, Sam's Club is good for meal planning but bad for actual meal making. Too much broccoli, absolutely no celery. You can buy 4000 cloves of peeled garlic but note just one head. I really did not want to go to the regular grocery store but I had CSA and the Farmer's Market. Celery, which rarely makes an appearance at any farmer's market I've been to, would be out.

In Sam's Club fashion I bought 2 packages of 40 oz ground turkey. Oh my, the ground turkey we ate. The first thing to make, along with grass-fed, locally raised ground beef, was bolognese ($5/lb.) I had bought 2 pounds of roma tomatoes at the farmer's market too $2.50/lb) and sweet onions. (I had chicken livers in the freezer (almost free), cream for my coffee (so that counts as free) and boxed red wine (also counting as free). But I did not have any celery. The last time I made bolognese, I didn't have any carrots. I also had some accidentally bought "fat-free" cream" which made the sauce corn syrupiriffic. This time, I was closer. It was almost perfect-- everything fresh and already at the house. So I substituted zucchini for celery. And, I do believe it was fine. Using fresh tomatoes instead of canned was also fine although maybe the sauce turned out a little less tomatoey-than you'd expect.

The next thing to do was to roast a roast. I made mashed potatoes and sauteed some amaranth greens from the CSA. Suffice to say, the roast, mashies and gravy (helped by cubes of beef bouillon (oh the humanity, bouillon cubes!)) were great. The amaranth greens tasted like sauteed caterpillars.

But the next night, more ground turkey awaited (I froze one of the 40 oz packages). Erik made turkey and shitake mushroom mini-meatloaves. What did we have on the side? That's right, leftover mashed potatoes and beef gravy with poultry seasoning tapped into it. Also, we had no worchestershire for the meatloaves so we substituted vinegar, fish sauce and a titch of sugar. Whatever. It was fine. On Facebook, people recommended tamarind paste. I can't imagine the amount of tamarind paste Sam's Club would sell me, if they had any, which they didn't.

The next night. Ground turkey tacos. The nice thing about all this ground meat was that since "the flavor profiles" (sorry, I just gagged a little typing that. Too much Top Chef) were from such distinct cuisines, it never tasted like you were eating the same meat. Plus, the 40 oz of ground turkey didn't go bad. Bonus.

Then, on Wednesday, I roasted a chicken (one of two bought from Sam's Club for $8.61. At the Farmer's Market, free range ones were $3.85/lb. Maybe next time). I brined the chicken for half an hour in salt water and then stuffed the bird with rosemary and thyme. Salted and peppered the outside and stuck that chicken on top of carrots (farmer's market $3.00 a bunch), red potatoes (CSA) and onions (I need to buy a case of onions). An hour and a half later, voila, best chicken ever. The potatoes were a slight bit salty and I think I would salt the already brined chicken a little less next time. It was possibly the easiest dinner I ever made. One pot! I've heard of these one pot dishes but they always make me think of casserole. This was more of a one roasting pan dinner and that I can abide.

Then out for pizza for dinner on Thursday--$35 (including wine and beer).

So did we spend less than $75? We did. Would I do it again? Even with the distinct flavor profiles, that was a lot of ground turkey to plow through. And there was something kind of regimented about it. And, I still have a lot of food leftover. All week, roast beef sandwiches. More bolognese in the fridge. There's still that much turkey and another chicken in the freezer. I have enough tortillas to see me through the End of Days (although I fear they'll go bad before that).
Zoe has enough juice boxes to last until Halloween (ACK the waste! I hate the juice box. But can I send her to school with a sippy cup full of big-bottled apple juice? I don't know!). We still have enough tissues, paper towels and toilet paper to line the outside of the house with absorbent pulpy products in case a giant vulture sneezes on us. Also, do you have any laundry? Because I have some laundry soap.

Today, I gave in and went to Safeway. It wasn't as painful as I'd remembered it. Maybe my expectations were low. I bought just a bottle of wine. Just a pound of carrots. And some celery. Zoe got a single doughnut. I felt so minimalist. I spent $60. Already, if I were on the $75 plan, pizza would be out this week. But really, the main problem with the regular grocery store? I think I have to go back tomorrow.

Monday, September 13, 2010

A non-anonymous day

There's too much exciting happening today to pretend I'm pseudonymous today. First, on the Huffington Post there is a great photographer riffing on my favorite poet, Bob Hicok's, piece about asteroids. Does Bob know Zoe's name is Zoe? I don't think so. Does Erik share my dark sense of foreboding about the end of the world? I don't think so.

And, Sean Lovelace, great writer, extreme nacho-eater, marathon runner, and htmlGiant contributor, interviewed me about This Noisy Egg on htmlGiant.

To you all who already said amazingly nice things on the Facebook, I say I am so lucky to know so many great people. Thank you.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Sam's Club

Perhaps you know my feelings about Sam's Club. If you're like my friend Lydia, who upon reading my food book, said about my Walmart screed, "why don't you tell us how you really feel?" I've only been inside a Walmart once and that was in Hawaii and I just went in to pee. I would have peed on the floor but I'm a lady. Or something.
But also. If you know anything about my feelings about the impending global food shortages, you know how I feel about Costco. Costco is one of our few weapons against the apocalypse. How will you survive the End of Days? With 24 boxes of Macaroni and Cheese. With one full pound of Parmesan. With a case of canned tomatoes.
(Two side stories. Once, for Renn Fayre, the final party of the year after theses were turned in at Reed College, I was an assistant to the makers of the hummus. Or the tabouli. Not, sadly, the meat smoke. Still, I promised the hummus makers that Costco carried a 32 ounce tub of peeled garlic. When we arrived at Costco (my mom sent me to college with a membership), they had no tubs of garlic. We had to peel our own. That is one problem with the Costco. It doesn't always have on the shelves this week what it had on the shelves last week. The second story is also about college and my mother. She sent me to Reed with a case of pencils. I ran out of those pencils just a year ago. That's like 18 years worth of pencils.)
Here's the problem. Flagstaff has no Costco. I emailed Costco the first thing when we moved here. "Will you be moving here soon?", I asked. "There is no "public" information about that," I was told. I took it to mean I just had to wait a couple of weeks. But now, two years later, there is still no Costco.
I was out of parm. I was out of contact cleaning solution. Out of Benadryl and shitake mushrooms. At some point, and, after I had to pointedly boycott Target for their particularly anti-gay attitude lately, I could not go on without. Is Sam's Club worse for the world than Costco? Is there more packaging, more stuff made in China, more jobs lost, more small businesses put out by Sam's Club than Costco. Probably not. And, these are dire times. The food. It is short.
So I went. I paid the $40 for the membership and bought organic nectarines, two pounds of shitakes, grapes, chicken thighs, 24 Sierra Nevadas for $18, six boxes of spaghetti, 5 avocados, pine nuts (oh how I've been holding out for the full pound of pine nuts), two bottles of wine (the Sam's Club in Arizona has benefits over the Sam's Club or the Costco in teetotaling Utah), bread, tortillas (more than we'll ever eat), cold cuts, and Greek yogurt, laundry and dishwasher soap.
The packaging was no more disturbing than at the regular grocery. And, the bonus is, I didn't have to go to the regular grocery store all week. Which is the main goal. Besides providing provisions for the end times. Also, now I can invite you over for dinner. For tortillas. with butter.

p.s. Erik went back two days later and got tissues, paper towels, milk and butter. So do come for the butter.

Monday, September 06, 2010

I love oysters so much

And yet, with that happy title, I must say that there are no oysters here. Or, rather, I've had two oysters in Flagstaff at a place called Buster's which is part Denny's, part country club and really confused about what a seafood platter should offer. I'm still wiping the smell of the smoked salmon off my hands. The two oysters weren't bad but it's hard to enjoy them when you know eating them is probably a bad idea. Oysters in the middle of the desert, in a town where planes fly only to Phoenix, not to the oyster-bearing ocean are probably a bad idea.
We went to Lake Powell.

[Redacted for bad attitude. Val did have a nice bikini.]
We got home Tuesday afternoon at 1:30 just in time for me to teach at 3:00. Some of the teaching was clear and precise. Some of it was a little bit hazy. Like the rest of my mind.

The next night, Wednesday, the trace of the trip , like zebra mussels stuck to the bottom of your boat, was revealed. We went to dinner since we had a coupon and no food in the house. We sat down. We ordered edamame. Zoe laid back against her chair and then sat up quickly. And then she threw up all the edamame she'd just put down. Waitress! Actually, first I used every red, non-absorbent napkin I could find to sop up the goo. Then I asked the waitress if we could get our order to go. Erik took Z to the car and stripped her down and waited for me and Max to come out with dinner, after I took the napkins back to the kitchen so the server didn't have to touch them. Still. I don't think there's tip enough in the world. We hurried home, got Zoe in the bath and sat down to eat. Nothing better than sushi post vomit-cleansing.

Two days later, Max. Same thing. All night. Poor baby. We missed the fair but we did manage to have people over for dinner. We warned them about Max's stomach bug and Zoe's incubating head-cold. They came anyway because they're adventurous, disaster-ready souls. Perhaps we'll take them boating next time although the next boat I go on will be on a boat that heads toward an oyster bed. And a real bed. And a real bathroom.