fun with my family

{  S   A   V    O   R  }

welcome.  slow down. enjoy.  A delicious cake consists of plain flour, raw eggs, bitter baking powder, messy oil and sweet sugar, but it adds up to a beautiful treat to be savored.

Tuesday
Jun252013

summer schedule & the most comfy couch ever

yay! lazy days of summer are here!  All of their activities start around 2:30 in the afternoon.   Which means fun days in the sun, sight seeing and playing all morning...right?

Ha!

If i left them to their own devices, honestly, they would spend it on the couch watching tv all day everyday.  Now, i love me some spongebob and food network too.but we will all start to look/ talk like Patrick Starr by the end of the summer if I don't take action now.

 I am FORCING my kids to keep the tv off until they have: practiced piano, excercised, written thank you notes or any other paperwork they have to do, done something creative, played outside.  Of course, by the time all of the above is done; it's time to go to their respective sports. 

Then, when we all come home exhausted (them from practice, me from driving them all over with my poor 5 year old in the back seat wondering how she got stuck with such a busy family), then and only then, can we plop down on our most comfortable couch in the world and yes, watch spongebob and food network and design star all night long:)  Seriously, if you're looking for us; that's where we are.  Technically it's not our fault..our couch is a magnet.  it really is the most comfortable couch in the world, so, ya, we're kind of obligated to sit on it.

Here are some pictures of us on it over the years.  the pictures are old but were easy to find because, I'm telling you, in all of our house, that is where we spend 99.9% of our time.  

watching tv:

napping:

even cousin sleepovers:)

 

a comfy place to be with family and relax?  i guess we do know how to have a good summer after all.

Friday
Apr262013

happy weekend!

well hello there! these postings have been as scattered as my brain lately!

sorry about that.  My real life gets in the way of my online life.  i've gotta reconcile that somehow....

in the meantime.   Here's what i would do if i were you this weekend!

first of all, start with making a few of these for your Saturday morning coffee:

then i would make these.  Yum.  somebody is a genius!

 

now, if you go into a food coma, i would go outside and do this:

then You can come to your senses and realize kids probably have to be at a game somewhere or something, so you can put on something cute like this!

again, i can't seem to pull off the high heels with cuffed jeans, but maybe you can!! i absolutely love this look!

Then, come back home and put on something comfy and do this!:

just because.

Omg, I envy your weekend!

 

Saturday
Apr132013

meal planning~a multi year project

......i t's a little better now my children are in school a few hours a week, but for a while there, grocery shopping, was a monumental undertaking.  i would barely have enough time to GET to the grocery store. Let alone, PLANNING what i was going to buy? ha!

i vaguely knew we needed some sort of vegetable and with kids in tow, would wander around looking for something i recognized and knew how to prepare.  broccoli.  maybe some green beans.  anything else usually ended up in the fridge until it resembled a limp towel.  When i would finally admit i wasn't going to cook it...into the garbage it went.  there were so many things wrong with this routine, i didn't know where to start.  I began at least trying to start a compost bin.  but once that began to grow hair, i quickly abandoned that project.  I sensed there had to be a better way to get a good meal on the table with limited time and budget.  Figuring this out, was going to be a monumental undertaking in and of itself!

In addition to the weekly drudgery of just getting food into the house, I barely ever thought about what to cook.  I knew my kids were growing up on fairly healthy food, but nothing to write home about. 

Thus, I embarked on a (multi year) research project, to teach myself not only how to cook better meals, but to streamline my grocery shopping and meal planning as well.  It became clear one day around 6:00, as I was out playing with the kids in the backyard, that oops! it was almost dinner time and I have nothing planned!....when my husband came home and noticing this too, kindly said..."it's not like you don't know it's coming...."  those words sent me into a tizzy at the time....."can't you see i am molding their little minds and creating a fun environment!?... dinner~ha!... that is not as important!"  But as the days went by, I realized, he was right.....it's not like I don't know it's coming...it has to happen, it happens every day...this dinner thing.  so, why not figure it out.

 I first started paying attention to how much money i was spending at the store (way too much), and what exactly i was buying (an inordinate amount of snack food).  i also wanted to reduce the amount of time and frequency spent shopping and reducing the number of  stores i went to.  (meat, produce and staples were bought in separate stores). then i started collecting recipes that I thought I could make during the week and planning my shopping list accordingly.  a daunting task, especially when i could only devote a little time here and there to my research....(hence the multi year project!)

But, I think i've done it.  There is a lot of information to share, so i will separate this into many posts over the next few days.

First of all, I had to get over the fact that the responsibility for dinner landed solely in my lap. i was too busy devoting my time and attention to the well being of the kids, that dinner was often an afterthought, rushed, stressful and confusing.  This made me feel resentful and put upon!  I was working hard but not smart.  I thought I could barely add one more thing to my to do list; couldn't my family just give me a break and we can subsist on cereal or mac n cheese for gosh sake?! let's just get it overwith! Not that dinnertime wasn't fun or enjoyable. It always was.  Absolutely no t.v. ever, and we always talk about the best part of our day.

 But, the food part of it...even though i felt like i created minor miracles everyday by even getting something on the table, was often lacking in well......goodness.  Everyone knows the hour or two before dinner are some of the most stressful parts of a mother's day.  Everyone needs you at once.  if you take a step back and watch, it's almost comical.  "mom-the printer's broken, mom-i need you to sign this, mom-watch me do this cartwheel!, mom-can you drive me to MILO, mom-where's my book, shoes,shirt, mom-the dog threw up, etc...........and that is on a relatively calm afternoon when there are no immediate practices that we need to get to.  Thank goodness someone came up with individually frozen chicken breasts.  But I realized that these are presicely the hours in which not to be thinking about what's for dinner.   That had to have happened much earlier in the day, possibly even a few days prior.  That was the fun part, collecting and thinking about the recipes.  But, then it dawned on me that I should probably start the cooking part earlier too.  (I have a cousin who is a master in what i call kitchen tasking.  she will plan so far ahead that she can actually cook many meals at once and freeze some for later in the week. "your oven's on..you might as well use all of it".  I don't think I'll ever get that far in my meal planning, but it definitely is possible.)  Instead, I am using the free labor I currently have lounging around the house...the kids! more on this later in the post.

But, starting to cook at 2, or even 10:00? that sounded like 1950, which sounded repressed, boring and dull. this is how i am going to spend my time while my kids are in school for a few precious hours? i don't want to slave over a hot stove all day, or spend my time grocery shopping!? I'm already volunteering for the school, trying to excercise and get to appointments in my few hours alone... But, the beauty of figuring out a system is that it not only streamlines your schedule, it actually leaves you less stressed and with more time...... to do whatever you want!

The first thing I did was to try plan out the meals for a month.  I would buy enough of the dry, canned or frozen goods once a month, then the fresh ingredients once a week, for all the meals that I had chosen.  This worked for a while, and could still work, but I realized, that it might be also an example of working harder, not smarter.  In my excitement to try new recipes, I was cooking a new meal every night.  Some of the recipes were hits, others were not.  I tried to keep track of all the successful ones in a binder.  But, I was still wasting a lot of food, because we were not taking advantage of leftovers.  Plus, sometimes we would go out, or Graham would be out of town, (and we'd have breakfast for dinner) and the "real" food would go to waste.

That's when i came up with a few strategies that I could employ to streamline this whole process, even without an elaborate weekly meal plan.

strategy #1:  buying and cooking for 3-4 days principle.

 strategy #2: planning for and using the leftovers wisely.

 strategy #3: no more snack foods/baking more WITH the kids

and strategy #4: practice cooking the beautiful and elaborate meals, the ones I want to be remembered for, on the weekends.

I also figured out when, where, and how to best do my "marketing" (sounds better than grocery shopping, with it's connotations of  a huge cart overflowing with snacky foods.-- although, coupled with the kiddie car on the front, was my main source of excercise for a few years.) 

Oh, and, how to get the kids more involved.

 

strategy #1: the cooking for only 3-4 days principle.

I'm pretty sure I didn't invent this..but I know I did come up with it on my own for our family.  I noticed that, on average, we would really only eat 3 or 4 NEW meals a week.  The rest could be leftovers or nothing if we went out.   We are big chicken eaters and although I was the self declared queen of the frozen chicken breast, I realized I only vaguely knew how to roast a whole chicken.  That was going to be our Monday night meal for the next few months.  I was going to perfect this, even if everyone was sick to death of roasted chicken by the end.  How long does it take to cook? Which recipe to use? What kind of chicken to buy?  It takes a few hours; definitely free range organic (more expensive, but by cutting out the wasted food and snack items, my shopping bill is actually much less). for the recipes, I tried Barefoot Contessa's, that beautiful italian girl with the big smile's (can't remember her name right now!), Jamie Oliver's and even Rachel Ray's.  But the best one I found was from a cook book called "100 recipes every woman should know", put together by the editors of Glamour magazine.  It is my favorite cookbook ever. It is a compilation of the best recipes for any occasion.  Best houseguest muffins, best potluck dip, best "get your man to do the dishes" mexican tostadas, etc.  It began when they printed a recipe for a roasted chicken and some girl made it for her boyfriend and he proposed on the spot.  she wrote in to tell them about it and they all thought it was very sweet.  Until it kept happening.  They now claim responsibility for over 60+ engagements, that people have received after making "engagement chicken".  It is scrumptious.  Recipe in Grumpy Pig section.  But, the best part of making a big chicken (or two) on Monday night, is the leftovers.  Tuesday has been nicknamed taco tuesday in our house because we always have mexican food.  Leftover chicken makes a mean enchilada, tostada, taco or quesadilla.  You can have all the acoutremonts and it becomes a delicious meal, not just leftovers.  If you still have chicken on wednesday, make soup. Regardless if you have chicken or not, Wednesday is soup day and nothing is easier than a great soup recipe.  They are surprisingly easy and fairly quick to make.  Thursday is steak night, any kind of red meat. Here we are...4 nights of dinner, DONE! By Friday, I feel a bit more relaxed about an official dinner for the family, we can go out, or just have pasta, which is also easy to have on hand and make quickly.  (I am striving to have a pre-made spaghetti sauce in the freezer, not there yet) Newman's Own makes a great substitute for homemade. Or, better yet, Graham whips up something yummy from the fridge and cupboard that I didn't even know was there!  Saturday and Sunday feel so different than the week, it's fun to carve out time to experiment.  A few months ago, I timidly sent out an email to my parents and my in-laws, stating that every Sunday (unless we were out of town), I would be making a big, beautiful dinner with enough for everyone...a standing invitation to come for Sunday Dinner!!!! (both are really good cooks themselves...no pressure or anything).

I would force myself to try out big intimidating recipes that i coudln't make during the week for two reasons.  one to become a better cook, and two, to really get a few great recipes under my belt that I knew by heart and could pass on to the kids.  Plus, I have been known to throw dinner parties and choose elaborate recipes that I've never tried before, and be so intimidated by them, that I wouldn't start cooking until the very last minute..... and I've never been able to cook and talk at the same time, so my guests would be asking kindly "how can I help?" and I'm thinking:"get me a glass of wine and go home". not fun.

The only way to overcome this was with practice.  I can now say that I am a little more comfortable with just a few basic skills that make all the difference (a pre-heated pan, the very best and freshest ingredients and lots and lots of butter).  

If you follow this strategy, shopping for the weeks worth of food seems less daunting.  You have a lot of wiggle room for new recipes on those days too.  I now have over 15 different chicken recipes that I can use for Monday nights that I know the family will love.  I try to remember to have extra chicken for tuesday, or I always have frozen ground turkey on hand to create some sort of mexican dish. (I also substitute fish on mondays and then have fish tacos on tuesdays.) I make sure I have a mirepoix for wednesdays soup (onions, carrots, celery) plus whatever unusal vegetable the soup calls for that i wouldn't normally buy.  Soup day also lends itself to a vegetarian day, where you can substitute veggie stir fry, grilled veggies or a layered rice/orzo dish to mix it up.  I have collected and coalated all the successful recipes into one binder, and organized them by category.  This makes meal planning and shopping, second nature and almost even fun!

tomorrow I will talk about baking and snacks for the kids, then when, where and how to market:) and go from there.

Check the Grumpy Pig section for recipes (He's a pig that sits in my kitchen, and with that wry look on his face, has always seemed to me to sum up the response most of my cooking was receiving..."what's burning?")

What are your tricks and meal planning secrets?  Let me know!!! I think my kids are getting sick of engagement chicken!

:)leslie

Saturday
Apr132013

veronika scott

um, i was not doing this when i was 23...

"The idea at the heart of 23 year old Veronika Scott's humanitarian organization, The Empowerment Plan, is a quilted coat that turns into a sleeping bag, providing warmth and shelter at no cost to thousands of Detroit's homeless.  A group of homeless women are trained and paid to produce the coats, empowering them to be able to afford a place to live and regain their independence." (excerpt taken from CB2)

To learn more or get more involved, visit: empowermentplan.org

Friday
Apr122013

If I were you....weekend edition

since i'm a realist, i know i will do NONE of this, but there might be hope for you!!

This weekend, If i were you, I would>>>>

 

MAKE THIS:

 you have lollipop sticks handy...right?

 

DO THIS:

vacation jars.  Cause i'm totally done unpacking and doing laundry from spring break..aren't you?

 

WEAR THIS:

is it the glasses or the outfit...either way, you would look so cute in this!

 

PLANT THIS:

it is spring you know.....

 

THEN IF YOU HAVE TIME, DO THIS:

 a nice, simple dinner with friends...

Ahh...I'm so jealous of your weekend!