Things I’m Into This Week

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We are deep in the heart of Mardi Gras season, which means lots of crawfish, parades, and King Cakes. When I’m not overindulging, I’m enjoying time with family and friends, making memories and celebrating everything good about my neck of the woods.

In the meantime, here’s a round up of the things I’m into this week, which are clearly food related given my current climate:

Watching: A Chef’s Life. I guess I am late to this PBS gem, but I now binge watch it on the weekends. The combination of a character-driven documentary that still focuses on southern food culture is like crack for peeps like me. If you need some inspiration for your own garden, this show also delivers on that front. Bonus: It’s free to watch online via PBS.

Reading: Speaking of which, I’m reading Deep Run Roots by Vivian Howard, the chef in the aforementioned show. This cookbook is an opus, and I love every page. I found it after hearing about the documentary, and it’s one of the most well-executed cookbooks I’ve seen in a long time. However, I will give the disclaimer that it’s more of a 40/60 balance between recipes for home cooks and wannabe chef/foodies, so flip through it before you buy. I’m really particular about the cookbooks I will drop cash on (versus online spelunking for recipes), so I understand if this brick isn’t for everyone.

Listening: I’ve gone down the podcast rabbit hole, and I was probably last to know about The Sporkful. I come from a family that talks about our next meal while we are eating the current cuisine, so I appreciate a podcast that constantly looks at food and culture with the same obsessive eye that we do.

So there ya have it. A snippet of my indulgence for your foodie pleasure. Back to the kitchen, and that leftover piece of King Cake.

**Disclaimer–This post was not sponsored in any way, and none of these people know who I am. I’m not that cool, dude, just tunnel-vision afflicted.**

gmanI’m baaaacck. When I ended my summer, I never had any idea how far my fall would go off the rails. I could give you the gory play by play, but let’s cut to the chase: the Hubs woke up one day in pain, this carried on for weeks, he lost the use of an arm, had a spinal surgery, then had another surgery when that first one failed epically. So, in sum, the Hubs was out of commission for a long, long time, he scared me to death, and I am still waiting on my free pass to throw a toddler-like tantrum as a result. Not really……..but maybe. Good news is that this last scalpel party seems to be successful. He’s recovering by bits and pieces, and I managed not to lose my s—t along the way.

In the meantime, I’ve been knitting, cooking, crafting, and cooking some more. But more than that, I’ve been embracing those small moments with the people I love most. The past few years seem to have been fits and starts of both feelings and voices. Grief is really hard to process when what you hear it in your head is a scream, but everyone around you hears  it as a whisper.

 

Yeah, long story.

 

 

A Deep and Unfathomable Sorrow

Our hearts are heavy, as I’m sure are every other parent’s around our nation. I spent my career working with victims of crime and reliving horror after horror with them, but I still can’t wrap my brain around Friday’s events. I don’t think any of us are equipped, either intellectually or emotionally, to process such an unimaginable tragedy. My husband and I had plenty of words over the weekend…words of shock, words of sympathy and swear words at type of person who punishes strangers and innocents for his own dissatisfaction. But, all the words in the world can’t express the sorrow and sympathy we have in our hearts for the victims and their families. If anything, I imagine our words as tiny drops in a bottomless well that can never be filled…futile but still felt within the deepest depths of our souls. We are powerless in our sadness, but for the prayers that we whisper as we pull our children close.

Giveaway!

So, I was working on Christmas gifts yesterday, and pregnancy brain got the best of me. As you can see from the above photo, I poured my candle wax before it was cool enough, and it bubbled up on me. I also did not add enough color, so it is more pink than red. This cinnamon candle smells great, and will burn fine. It just looks…a little worse for wear.

Do you want a free cinnamon jar candle? Just leave a comment on this post, and I’ll select a response at random on Thursday.

The Curse of the Grocery Checkout Line

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I think someone put a checkout line hex on me.

Whenever I go to the grocery store lately, I inevitable end up in the most annoying, slow, frustrating checkout line ever.

Example A: A couple of weeks ago, I ended up in line behind a guy that was buying $2000 worth of gift cards, all in $20 increments. I didn’t discover this happy fact until my 100 items were already loaded onto the conveyor belt.

Example B: Last week, I ended up behind a group of roommates who were dividing their grocery budget. They proceeded to argue about who would pay for every item, and kept having the cashier scan, then remove items as the total went beyond their ability to pay. Did I mention they were intoxicated and laughed riotously as they made a scene? I waited in line for 35 minutes. Then I went home and had a cocktail.

Example C: Recently, I had a checker that picked up an item, looked at it for a good five seconds, scanned it, then bagged EVERY item in its’ own individual bag. She was clearly under some medicinal influence.

Example D: After waiting in line for 20 minutes, I finally get to the checker, only to have her tell me she thinks she lost her wallet, and I need to sit tight while she goes to look for it. I might have bought it if she didn’t walk 20 feet away to flirt with another employee who was about to leave for the day, only to return without ever looking for said wallet.

I know what you’re thinking…why don’t I just get into another line when these kinds of shenanigans happen? Well, my grocery store seems to think that four checkers manning “20 items or less” lines and one checker manning a regular line (out of 35 possible checkout lines) is PLENTY for the busiest time of day.

Sometimes, I feel a lot like Michael Douglas in Falling Down.

Avian Invaders and Greek Food—Yep, It’s as Completely Unrelated as You Think

When I came home from work today, this little guy had taken up residence in the base of my deck. I gave him wide berth, but he somehow managed to give me the “Whatchoo talking bout, Willis” look from every angle.

I am pretty sure that look is the “bleep off” version of bird. Hopefully, he’ll move along soon, because my boys will start thinking he’s a pet if he hangs around much longer.

In completely unrelated news, the garden continues to produce food faster than we can eat, can and freeze. I got a little desperate this weekend, and did a frantic search for eggplant recipes, with the hope of reducing the pile of vegetables that is overtaking my kitchen counter. I landed on Moussaka (which I can’t even pronounce, by the way), and decided that a little experimentation was in order.

I certainly did not have high hopes for this recipe. First, it contained a bunch of ingredients that regularly send the heathens into riot-mode. Second, I am a Louisiana girl, and my pathetically underdeveloped palate is still confounded by the spice combinations that are in a lot of Greek food. Indian food too, for that matter. Lastly, just the simple fact that eggplant is the main ingredient was enough to have my husband doing the dramatic choking/dying pantomime. *Sigh*

Well, lo and behold, we all liked this dish, and I got to rack up the cool mom points for a garden-fresh meal. It was deliciously rich and cheesy, and the eggplant was well-disguised from the heathens’ vegetable-laser-vision. I don’t know how “authentic” this recipe is, but our simpleton taste buds sure enjoyed it, and I was able to reduce my vegetable invasion for at least a day.

I served the Moussaka with a simple Greek salad (also using veggies from the garden):

And got to feel like the Saturday dinner superstar. Want to have a Moussaka adventure of your own? Here’s the recipe I used:

Moussaka

Notes

Ingredients
  • 3 eggplants, peeled and cut lengthwise into 1/2 inch thick slices
  • salt
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • salt to taste
  • ground black pepper to taste
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon fines herbs
  • 2 tablespoons dried parsley
  • 1 (8 ounce) can tomato sauce
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 4 cups milk
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • salt to taste
  • ground white pepper, to taste
  • 1 1/2 cups freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Directions
  1. Lay the slices of eggplant on paper towels, sprinkle lightly with salt, and set aside for 30 minutes to draw out the moisture. Then in a skillet over high heat, heat the olive oil. Quickly fry the eggplant until browned. Set aside on paper towels to drain.
  2. In a large skillet over medium heat, melt the butter and add the ground beef, salt and pepper to taste, onions, and garlic. After the beef is browned, sprinkle in the cinnamon, nutmeg, fines herbs and parsley. Pour in the tomato sauce and wine, and mix well. Simmer for 20 minutes. Allow to cool, and then stir in beaten egg.
  3. To make the béchamel sauce, begin by scalding the milk in a saucepan. Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Whisk in flour until smooth. Lower heat; gradually pour in the hot milk, whisking constantly until it thickens. Season with salt, and white pepper.
  4. Arrange a layer of eggplant in a greased 9x13 inch baking dish. Cover eggplant with all of the meat mixture, and then sprinkle 1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese over the meat. Cover with remaining eggplant, and sprinkle another 1/2 cup of cheese on top. Pour the béchamel sauce over the top, and sprinkle with the nutmeg. Sprinkle with the remaining cheese.
  5. Bake for 1 hour at 350 degrees F.
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

Whimpering Under My Desk

Work is so busy lately that I am amazed my brain has not degraded into Swiss cheese. By the time I get home at night, I am ready to fall down.

Laundry is threatening to overtake my office, dinner needs cooking and my home in general could benefit from a good wipe-down.

I know this too shall pass, but I need to get my second wind soon…otherwise the few functioning brain cells I have left may decide to go on strike.

“She works Hard for the Money, So Hard for it Honaaayyy!”

The past two weeks have been a big adjustment, but I am settling into work like a champ…


Meaning I have not had a big freak-out as of yet.

My office rocks, my co-workers rock, but that’s all I can say about it, as confidentiality in this business is utmost. Well, I will say that having a fancy-schmancy office sure does make me feel like a big-girl!

My husband has been staying home for these first two weeks, and making it look easy…the nerd. I have been coming home to a clean house, an awesome dinner and a glass of wine. What more could a girl ask for? He has been the portrait of the domestic diva, and has definitely made this transition much easier on me.

However, this honeymoon will be short-lived. He goes back to work next week, and then we will both get the real dose of just what a working mom and dad feel like in the same household. As I said, no big freak-out as of yet, but I would not let my guard down until after we have had a week of jobs and school.

(Note my complete denial that Youngest is starting Kindergarten next week…The less I think on that, the better.)

I think the biggest adjustment has simply been my mindset. This past month seems like a whirlwind. I never expected to go back to work, and I certainly never expected to get my ideal job. It’s been almost surreal watching our lives change so suddenly, but I know in the long run, these changes are what is best for our family.

Now, if I could just strangle the person who invented pantyhose, then life would be just about perfect.

Yes, I’ve Been MIA—Who Knew Getting Ready to Work was a Job in Itself?

The past week has been crazy busy.

Once my husband and I decided that I would accept this new super-awesome job, the reality of the situation began to sink in.

I’ve been a Stay-at-Home Mom for seven years. I can’t just show up for work in a few weeks, easy-peasy.

First, I doubt that my current wardrobe of yoga pants and college t-shirts is appropriate for the office. To that end, I have been desperately scraping through clearance racks all over town in order to build a work wardrobe with very little money. And when I mean clearance, I mean the 3$ rack at JcPenney. You have to be patient enough to dig, and smart enough to dodge the elbows other bargain shoppers are throwing at you.

Aside from my clothing scavenger hunt, I have been handling a lot of logistics. I’ve made chore lists, and meal plans for the entire first month of work, so that I am not drowning in this transition after the first few days. Also, my husband will be at home the first two weeks of my job because the kids will not have started school yet. I had to find meals that come from easy-to-follow recipes for his two weeks as stay-at-home dad. He can cook, but he likes clear instructions, so if I want dinner success, I better make it as easy on him as I can. I have also been cleaning and organizing my house, and getting all back-to-school shopping done, because I will not have time later. Next week, I will deep clean the house, in hopes that a clean slate will be easier to maintain during the back-to-work confusion.

Today, I got a long overdue hair cut and color, because this job probably would not mix well with my messy, bleach-blonde hippy hair. In fact, I think it would probably cause more problems than it is worth, so I did a little makeover on my hair that, while still cute, is not libel to label me as a dumb blonde from the get-go.

And then there is the car issue. I will need a car very soon, but cannot get one until my first or second paycheck yields a down payment. However, because I will need to buy quickly when the time comes, I have been trying to figure out a game plan now. New or used? What type? What is my budget? What about the economy?

A little over 2 weeks to go, but hopefully my frantic planning now will make things easier later. Or I could be deluding myself….