Feeding The Cheungs

Dinner/Bakery/Books/Decrepit Mental Health Update

Dinner Update

Dinner 1: chicken schnitzel type thingies, quinoa/brown rice from Costco (and a nice microwaveable bag), spinach sauteed with bacon and mushrooms. Everyone ate the chicken, no one ate the quinoa/rice except for me, grown ups ate the spinach while the children choked down one bit after considerable wailing and rending of garments. 

Dinner 2: I made a soup with shredded chicken and wild rice. I put heavy cream in it to increase the chances of people under the age of 30 giving it a chance. Nobody wanted to eat it, but I stopped caring since Family Dinner was preempted by my BIL surprise in town for business and stealing Phillip for dinner out. Pretty sure kids ate saltines for dinner. I ate the soup for lunch today, though, and *I* liked it, so there. 

Dinner 3 (tonight): cheese and spinach tortellini with a creamy tomato sauce (basically diced tomatoes, onion, herbs, and cream cooked down and immersion blended into Tasty Sauce of Indeterminate Origin) and sauteed grean beans. Big kids had fourteen servings of pasta, little kid kept shouting, "MORE BEANS! MORE BEANS!" We ate together, we took turns sharing the Good Thing about our day and the Bad Thing, and I felt like I won a peace prize. 

I've spent some time looking at my old recipe book, adding recipes from Pinterest, and planning out meals for the rest of the week. (I know. It's Wednesday. We are starting small.) I am feeling good, but I tend to feel good at the beginning stages of Attempting Success At Something, and we shall have to see how long I am motivated to, you know, keep planning ahead. 

Also, I've read a few responses to Virginia Heffernan's article which 1) take things ENTIRLEY too seriously and 2) do NOT get the "not big on cooking" point of view. But whatever. *I* have a sense of humor even if I am seriously lacking in the ability to roast a chicken department. 


Bakery Update

We have a thing or two going on, including a whole big discussion about an Actual Wedding in June, complete with cake and favors ETCETERA. Most of our orders lately have been from (gasp) strangers! And I would like to say that we are getting these orders without me having done a single stupid marketing thing. That said, we would like MORE orders which means I should probably DO some marketing things. So while Katie was doing the wedding discussing and pricing out, I was doing some, shall we say, Market Research. And looking for opportunities to get our stuff out there and after about 20 minutes I just got SUPER intimdated. I was super intimidated by the wedding industry when I was GETTING married, and now it is just as intimidating (if not more so) now that I'm thinking of possibly joining it. I keep telling myself that the four or five dessert vendors that pop up on all the sites are not the only people in the world doing cakes or desserts and there IS a place for us. I keep telling myself that not everyone WANTS a to-scale model of the Eiffel Tower for a party cake and there is a place for our very simple, very clean, very delicious cakes. I also keep telling myself that everyone loves a teeny tiny sister act when it comes to small business and we're nice and fun and cute and willing to do whatever and WE CAN MAKE THIS HAPPEN. But sheesh, there's stuff out there that really makes you feel like we'll never belong and shouldn't bother trying. 

The idea of opening a shop, at this point, and with everything we've learned so far, is pretty pie in the sky. It would take a lot of money, we'd go into a lot of debt, and even if we were willing to do that, we have NO EXTRA TIME. Our husbands have jobs that make actual money so those come first, and we take care of kids and do everything on the side. From what I know now, there's just NO WAY we could open a shop on our own. That sounds kind of defeatist or down on women or whatever, but it's just truth. But I think... not necessarily the shop itself, but what we would SELL in a shop is what we'd still like to do. We still both really love the idea of having a case of little cookies that people could pick and choose, we'd arrange them on a platter, wrap it in our logo-printed wrapping paper, and they'd take it to the family gathering. Do people do this in the states? I don't know. And God knows if that's an idea that would ever make any money! That's why I feel like we need to explore this wedding and catering stuff. Maybe I need to just make a date with the chamber of commerce folks and let them give me the terrible news so we know once and for all. 

Dudes, who ever thought I'd be all entrepreneuring on my BLOG. 

Book Update

Finished The Girl You Left Behind by Jojo Moyes. Loved it. World War 1, love stories, art, mystery, England, intrigue, did I mention WAR? 

Now I'm reading Zoo Station by somebody Downing... David? Anyway. Just before WWII begins in Berlin. English/American reporter with a German ex-wife and a son. Contacted by the NKVD, the Germans, AND the Brits about spying. It feels a little slow, but I expect greatness. And it's a SERIES. I LOVE SERIES.

Anxiety Update

I am nearing the end of my three-month "your meds should start to work within this timeframe" trial period and I'm feeling a little nervous because I don't feel ALL better. I feel MUCH better, but I feel enough bad for it to be noticeable and something I probably have to talk about with the brain doctor, even though I don't have another appointment scheduled until January. (Because, me, at the last appointment: I'm doing so well! I'm sure I'm on the upswing! I don't need to come back any time soon! HA HA HAAAAsob) That said I've been trying VERY HARD to change my general outlook on Having Anxiety. Like... instead of viewing it as Me Vs. Anxiety, I'm trying to think of it more as Regular Me Attempting To Better Tolerate And/Or Have More Compassion For The Anxious Me, which I'm hoping will create less of the anxiety about anxiety. Which sounds crazy, I know, but sometimes I think the having anxiety about having anxiety is the absolute worst part. 






There was a time when I made weekly menus, shopped for only things for that menu, and then more or less adhered to that plan for the week. We ate half decent meals and kept to our budget. I mean, I'm no fantastic cook or anything and these were not at all impressive dinners, but it is good to remind myself that at ONE point in time, I WAS capable of making dinner! 


I feel like... I feel like my "capable of making family dinner days" were either when the kids were babies or when they were just weren't in school yet. Or something. I don't know. And honestly I'm not entirely sure what that has to do with anything? Although maybe when they were babies I only had to think about Actual Dinner for Phillip and me, because honestly, it's the What Will Everyone Eat that has driven me into a deep and depressing dinner HOLE. 

I flat out loved the NYT article by Virginia Heffernan: What If You Just Hate Making Dinner?  It was hilarious and tongue in cheek and the comment section took her entirely too seriously, but the truth remains: some of us just don't like to cook! I AM NOT ALONE!

And it's not that I HAAAATE cooking or that I'm particularly terrible at it - there are times when I quite enjoy it and there are meals I think I pull off pretty well. But the neverending undying FIGURING OUT OF WHAT EVERYONE IS GOING TO EAT is a massive weight I drag around every day. And I suck at it. I think of myself as someone who doesn't wallow, who makes a plan and follows through and gets it done, but DUDES. Every day. 4:00 PM. I open the fridge. I peek in the freezer. I open the pantry door with a heavy sigh. I wonder what in the WORLD I am going to make for dinner tonight. 

My other issue is this: The kids usually want to eat between 5 and 5:30. Phillip doesn't get home until 6. There are some days the kids are hounding me for dinner at 4:30 and I throw a frozen pizza in the oven because come on, and then Phillip and I forage for sustenance after they've gone to bed. There are days I've thought ahead and planned a family meal and Phillip texts me at 5:55 to say he hasn't left the office yet. SOME DAYS I ABSOLUTELY CANNOT WIN. 

But I've been feeling like... I mean, I WANT to have family dinner. I would say it IS very important to me. I just feel so DEFEATED by it. I mean, no one else in my family is really cooperating, right? My kids pretty much never want to eat anything grown ups want to eat, so I know a Half-Nutritious Dinner With Vegetables is going to be a Spend Half An Hour Insisting They Try One Bite Of Squash Dinner. Not particularly motivating! And Phillip isn't super reliable about getting home on time. It is so eeeeeeasy to set the kids up with chicken nuggets or macaroni or pizza or something else reliably eaten, along with a for-looks-only side of broccoli, and pass out on the couch until Phillip gets home and we eat leftovers. (Or rather, he eats leftovers and I eat cereal. Which is another one of my problems: I DON'T CARE ABOUT DINNER. Seriously, give me a bowl of cereal or a pile of sliced apples and a spoonful of peanut butter or a hunk of bread, some cheese, and a glass of wine - DINNER!) 

I was whining about this to a good friend, who happens to be a terrific cook and for whom food is joy, and she gave me some tips for making quick easy weeknight dinners. And all of these tips were TERRIBLE for the sort of person who is 1) not a terrific cook and 2) food is a slog, seriously, except for the one where on Wednesdays you can get an entire cooked family meal at Whole Foods for fifteen dollars. Sold. 

I think I need to make a list of dinners that all of us are willing to eat, or at least choke down with minimal fuss, and tape them to the pantry door or something so I am not starting from scratch every night. I think I need to stop worrying about trying to eat fewer carbs or less red meat or whatever and just aim for Balanced Boring Family Dinner. Whoever is attempting to "eat healthy" will just have to be responsible for doctoring their own dinners, right? (This is usually me anyway.) 

THEN I think I need to make sure I always have the components of those boring family dinners on hand. Pasta. Canned tomatoes. Ground beef. Chicken. Broccoli. Rice. And cheat where I can. My in-laws bought us a bunch of garlicky quinoa and brown rice that comes in packets at Costco? That stuff is YUMMY. And cooks in the package in the microwave in 2 minutes. 

THEN I will try to feed my kids a giant snack after school and not go crazy waiting until six to feed them dinner so we CAN all eat together. Because I really do want this. This part is just me wanting to shear an hour off the dreaded afternoon/evening shift by sticking them at the dinner table and escaping to watch the local news until Phillip gets home. I'm not sure how crazy it will make the evening/bedtime, but we need to try. It's not like we can just keep waiting until they get older - I hear that when they get older they start having things like after school activities (shudder) and are never home for dinner anyway.

AND if all else fails, make sure I have a stack of cheese pizzas in the freezer. 

(NOTE: the "cook all day on Sunday and pack your freezer full of casseroles for the week" is not a gamechanger for me. I hate doing that much cooking all at once and my kids will eat, at most, two varieties of freezer casserole type meals. I'd much rather spend half an hour every night throwing something together. And! I do have a crock pot and I do try to use it, but I have yet to find a truly awesome slow cooker recipe that everyone enjoys. I feel the "meal that everyone enjoys" only exists at restaurants anyway, where we all get to pick what we want.)

Anyway. Today I considered dinner at 10am rather than 4pm. I took some chicken out of the freezer to defrost. I fed the kids a giant snack. As soon as I finish this blog post I will get started on pounding the chicken flat for panko breaded pan fried chicken, which I will serve with a packet of the above mentioned quinoa and rice, and some sauteed spinach with bacon, which requires no skill or time yet is 1) green and 2) delicious. We will all sit down as soon as Phillip gets home and I will insist on one bite of spinach, but otherwise not engage in a food battle. We shall see how it goes. PRAY FOR ME. 


All the bits of random bouncing around my head

I haven't seen Downton Abbey yet. Don't tell me about it. SHHHH! I was going to watch it tonight, but then Phillip decided to go to the APPLE STORE of all places, at 8:45 at night, with our friend who I will rename Apple Store Enabler. And Downton Abbey is a show we watch toGETHER so... harrumph. 

Friday night Phillip went to get a massage. (I got him a membership at Massage Envy for Christmas. Do you think that's weird? My family thought that was weird. Phillip was elated, which is what counts.) Saturday he hung out with friends and watched some dumb movie about robots and the world ending. SUNDAY he spent the whole afternoon watching the Hobbit and eating burgers with my brother-in-law. And now he's out again? Phillip has had entirely too much social interaction lately. Unfair. 

I am going out tomorrow night. I meant to cancel my hair appointment and then it got too late to cancel my hair appointment and now I am going to my hair appointment tomorrow night. To get it colored. Which I have never done before. I was definitely going to dye it blond until the girl at the salon was all, "Yeah, you'll spend $300 to have blond hair for a week." That just made a lot of SENSE, you know? But I'd already sold myself on having New Hair so I made an appointment to do SOMETHING and now I just feel SILLY. And self-indulgent and spoiled and NERVOUS. As soon as I publish this I'm going to spend the rest of the night on Pinterest pinning short-haired brunette celebrities.

Tomorrow Katie and I are going to make a bunch of Valentine baked goods and take pictures of them with Phillip's new camera that I have absolutely no idea how to use. Because we're going to be legal by Valentine's Day. RIGHT, WASHINGTON STATE?

I went to Whole Foods today to buy one of the hippie supplements my hippie doctor wants me on and a protein powder thingie, but then I ended up buying blueberries (Emma wanted blueberries!) and some fancy yogurt and cookies (obvs) and bacon from Applegate Farms. That took ALL of my money. Jeez, Whole Foods. And I am having a HECK of a time figuring out whether the meat I am purchasing was happy before it ended up in the store. Do you know what I mean? The "cage free" label was simple enough for eggs, but at my regular store there are no helpful labels on beef and pork and I've recently discovered that the humane raised label on the chicken I buy may or may not actually mean humane raised. I know for sure that Applegate Farms is a-ok when it comes to this stuff (as if I couldn't tell by the price) but I have seriously considered vegetarianism a time or two in the last couple months. It would be EASIER. Except for the part where my FAMILY likes to eat meat. I don't know. I'm doing my best. I've also decreed the bakery will be getting its ingredients from happy and preferably local animals. 

I went for half a walk around the lake today with Emma and my FitBit was all, "FINALLY."

I feel like I haven't seen my friends in eons. I'm turning into a huge grump with nothing to say on her website. THIS IS TERRIBLE.


An update on how much I hate making dinner. (Still hate it, with improvements)

I thought I'd let you know how dinner is going since I wrote that WOE IS ME dinner post a while back. I took a lot of your advice to heart and the biggest thing was: stop caring so much. Making dinner IS hard. Eggs and toast is a perfectly acceptable busy weeknight meal. Some moms are great cooks, some moms are good at crafts, other moms have super clean houses. Everyone has their gifts! Mine is... well, let's think about that, shall we? Maybe we can come up with something by the end of this post. 

Basically I decided my goal was to simplify dinner as much as possible. I still make a weekly menu, but now it ALWAYS includes "Leftovers" and something like "Breakfast" or "Frozen Pizza" or something completely thoughtless and ridiculously easy. The kids like it, Phillip doesn't care, and I don't stress. 

A big part of simplifying dinner (and I am still working on this) is simplifying what I buy. For years now I've had a goal where I try not to spend more than $100 on the weekly grocery trip. I don't do the coupon thing or go to nine different stores, but I buy store brands and hardly anything that's already prepared, like sauces or pre-cut veggies. I plan things out, I look at the store specials, I try to use what's in my cupboards. 

The thing is we ALWAYS go over the grocery budget. ALWAYS. No matter if I do four weeks of $99 trips, a bunch of extra trips get snuck in somewhere, or we have a dinner party, or Phillip wanted stuff for lunches that I didn't know about, or SOMETHING. Also, we're both trying to stick to a low carb diet again, and low carbing it is expensive. It's just the way it is. And right now, even though my children will never have braces or go to college because we bought a deck instead, I am not freaking out about the grocery budget. My old one was unrealistic anyway. (FOR US. Some of you are budget ninjas. This is also not my gift.) 

So now I'm buying things that make it easy for me to make dinner. SCREW YOU, MULTIPLE HEADS OF FRESH BROCCOLI. Hello giant bag of pre-cut Coscto broccoli! I love you! Hello random bags of frozen side dishy things! Hello frozen dinners for those nights when I cannot do one more thing! 

I gave some serious thought to making and freezing meals ahead of time. I decided that wasn't going to work for us for a number of reasons. My freezer can only hold so many of those, for one thing. Then the thought of making a dinner and then putting it in the freezer did not give me any feeling of accomplishment, and I need that feeling. I didn't want to devote a whole weekend afternoon or whatever to MAKING the dinners. I couldn't think of enough low-carb freezer-appropriate dinners. AND thinking about it was giving me what I like to call Breast Milk Storage Syndrome. I would get competitive with myself, when I was doing that. Pump pump pump, stock up the bags, open the freezer nine times a day to gaze at my hard work. AND THEN I HATED USING THEM. Like, each time I had to take a bag out and use it, my pile got smaller, I had to work harder, it just KILLED ME. Is this logical? No! (Being illogical = my gift?) 

ANYWAY. What I decided DOES work is prepping and freezing MEAT. Since I wrote that post I've bought a giant pork loin, a family pack of chicken breasts, and a Costco heap of ground meat. I divided it all up, cut it all up, labeled the bags, froze it, and now when it's time for dinner I just thaw a bag of meat.* I don't know why I don't have Breast Milk Storage Syndrome with this. Maybe because I have SO MUCH and I don't use it that fast? Anyway, knowing that I don't have to thaw and cut up a bunch of meat each night has probably been the most helpful thing. I freeze it so the bags are flat and they thaw super quick. And then I make a stirfry, or tonight I'm making a chicken and [pre-cut!] broccoli casserole - ooh, that's another thing. This recipe required cooking everything ahead of time before baking it all together, but I tried it where I just cooked the chicken and put all the veggies in raw. WE LIKED IT BETTER. 

One thing I want to try that I haven't quite started yet is buying things we aren't necessarily going to eat that week. Which is totally against my previous philosophy on how to stick to our budget. BUT. When I want to give up one night and just make chili (for which I have a package of meat all prepped for me in the freezer) I won't have beans or tomatoes. Because it wasn't on the menu. Stuff like that I'd like to actually stock up on, so that I HAVE it for those nights. The budget wasn't working for us anyway, right? 

I don't think this is The System To Replace All Systems, but these little changes are making life easier for me NOW. And really, when has Going Easier On Oneself + Spending A Little More Money ever made anyone's life NOT easier? 

I would really really really like to try new things and manage to get everything on a set table by a particular time, but at this point, with two picky big kids, a starving baby, a husband who fights traffic, and my less than stellar cooking track record, I'm not going to knock myself out. 

P.S. I made the root beer pulled pork in the slow cooker for the potluck dinner last night and everyone liked it (although they are college kids and not hard to impress food-wise.) But it WORKED and it was ENOUGH and EASY and I was VERY PROUD OF MYSELF. 

(My gift? Did I come up with one? Um, how about... WRITING about my lack of housewifely skills?)


*As for all the MEAT... I am married to the sort of man who doesn't feel like he ATE unless he ate MEAT. Do you know the type? Eggplant and tofu are occasional acceptable substitutes, but I could never get away with a week of vegetarian pastas and salads and quinoa and rice dishes. Ever. (Or, and this is much more likely, a week of cereal or cheese pizza.) Where I could easily go weeks and months without missing meat, Phillip might shrivel up and die. So. There you go. Also: low-carb. Sigh. 

The farce that was dinner the next night

You guys left so many helpful suggestions on my dinner post last week. I was so grateful. Really. I had thought of a lot of the things you mentioned, but in no organized way, or in a framework where I actually felt I could pull off a freezer full of main meals or prepping in the mornings. But after reading through everything you said AND (this is key) lowering my standards, I feel like I have some workable options. Or at least things to TRY in this current season of Dinner Despair. 

I know it's funny to say that I had to think about lowering my standards when I was ALREADY feeding my children mac and cheese three times a week, but it's more of mattering the standards in my HEAD instead of the ACTUAL standards. You know? Like to just PLAN to have breakfast for dinner one night a week instead of having breakfast for dinner one night a week and feeling like I bombed the menu planning that week. Also, I LIKE breakfast for dinner. DOESN'T EVERYONE?

But I have to tell you about dinner the night after I wrote that post. For it is indicative of, well, everything. 

SO. Lovely Lisa recommended sticking some pork chops in the slow cooker with a packet of dry onion soup mix. I COULD DO THAT. And I had thawed pork chops in my refrigerator already. AND dry onion soup mix in my pantry. Obvs that's what we were having for dinner that night. In the morning before school drop offs I dumped everything into the crock pot, turned it on low, and congratulated myself for not having to wonder about dinner at 4pm. 

For a while things were great. My house started smelling SO GOOD. I knew I had precut broccoli in the fridge and we like it roasted, which is pretty much the easiest way to make broccoli. I had noodles for the kids. So around 4:30 I started making a salad (because it's easy to make a salad when everything else is pretty much already finished!) and cooked the noodles for the kids. And I just planned to feed everyone at 5 (because my kids are always starving at 5 lately) and Phillip could eat whenever he got home. And my mom was here and I was very much looking forward to putting out a Healthy Balanced Dinner at an actual dinner time, with plates and napkins and everything. 

But oh, Internet. Even though I had been sneaking peeks at the pork chops all day (and I know you're not supposed to do that) and 5pm they were dried up, hardened on the edges, the onion soup mix a black congealing mess. It was... oh, it was SO DEMORALIZING. I mean, for the first time in a long while I was EXCITED ABOUT DINNER. I was LOOKING FORWARD TO DINNER. And I felt like an IDIOT! I realized that all the fat I'd cut off those pork chops (but not all of it! I thought there was enough!) had probably made a big difference. And my mom was so nice. "It looks fine! We can eat it! I'LL eat it!" (No. We could not eat it. UGH.)

Whatever. Pork chops are not my favorite anyway. I had the noodles done and the broccoli going in the toaster oven. I'd just throw some hot dogs on a sheet pan in the oven and the kids could eat those. So I did that, set the table, and ignored my leathery pork chops. 

Of course Emma can't be starving at 5 like everyone else, she has to be starving at 4:30. So she was already in the high chair eating noodles and whatever other scraps I threw at her, and when the broccoli timer went off I went to add that to her plate. Except the broccoli was nowhere near done. It was still raw. I had put the broccoli in a toaster oven whose timer worked even if it wasn't plugged in. AND IT WASN'T PLUGGED IN. 

Eventually I slammed down noodles, hot dogs, hockey puck pork chops, and barely cooked broccoli (because it was taking too long, on account of NOT COOKING THEM THE FIRST TIME) on the table and spent the dinner hour banging my head against the table. My mom was nice about it, but I'm sure if she had her own blog she would have had a nice write up. And Phillip was super late of course, so even if I'd managed to make a decent dinner he would have missed the whole thing anyway. 

And this, Internet, THIS is me in the kitchen. There is no natural talent, not even any common sense. It seems like when I make something that everyone likes or something that actually took some work, it's the exception, not the norm. I think I might actually be getting WORSE. Where I am confident and easygoing and happy about baking, I am beginning to wonder if I might ever have friends over for dinner again. 

There are about 7 or 8 meals I make reasonably well (when I remember to plug things in.) About half of those can go in the freezer. The other half I can at least do a lot of the prep in the mornings. I'm just not going to care that we're eating the same things all the time, at least not right now. Trying harder is not working, so it's clear I have to try SMARTER with the things that already work. 

I was too busy for grocery shopping this weekend so I'm going tomorrow. Also Phillip and I are trying hard to low carb it for a while

  • Monday -  big make-yourself salads with Costco rotisserie chicken. Kids will eat chicken and fruit and whatever else I find in the fridge. During naptime/any free time cut up/prep package of chicken breasts for dinners later this week and next. Take out pork chops from freezer in the morning, marinate in the evening.
  • Tuesday - Honey mustard pork chops, asparagus, rice or noodles for kids
  • Wednesday - chili, make in the afternoon, simmer until dinnertime (I have a meeting at 7, so this is a super low maintenance dinner night)
  • Thursday - chicken curry casserole with chicken prepped on Monday (maybe the whole THING is made on Monday and I just have to take it out of the freezer? I CAN DREAM!)
  • Friday - leftovers or scrambled eggs and bacon

I like the IDEA of spending a day prepping everything for the week ahead, but it's never quite worked out for me. Am terribly lazy. But I think I can do at least a package of chicken breasts all at once, especially because I HATE having to deal with frozen chicken that isn't ready for anything. Motivation! All right! Go team!

ETA: WAIT! I forgot Phillip is going to the Star Trek movie Tuesday night. CEREAL FOR DINNER! WAHOO!

In which I seem to have a Mental Block against Dinner

All right, Therapist Twitter, we need to help me figure out what I'm going to do about something and that something is DINNER. 

Dinner is, and I am not REALLY exaggerating here, the BANE of my existence. Every single week I make a menu, every single week I buy the things I need to cook what's on that menu, and every single week I maybe make two of those dinners. MAYBE.

There are some genuine rough days where the kids get frozen pizza and I am face down on the couch when Phillip gets home. But it's more like yesterday, when I just didn't FEEL like figuring out what to do with those pork chops I defrosted and made scrambled eggs and bacon instead. And tonight, when AGAIN I didn't feel like dealing with pork chops and decided to make Costco frozen potstickers and rice for the kids and texted Phillip to bring home teriyaki. NEITHER of these days have been bad ones. I JUST DON'T FEEL LIKE MAKING DINNER. (PRACTICALLY EVER!)

I'm trying to figure out if this is, you know, some sort of Major Failing that I need to work hard to overcome, or just one of the things I'm not so great at, which is okay because I have this big list of other things I excel at to balance it out. HMMM?

The problem is, me never wanting to make dinner means everyone else suffers. Well... actually the kids love it when I decide to give them frozen whatever for dinner because it's always something they like better than Mysterious Cooked Meat and A Green Vegetable. And I honestly would be perfectly happy eating cereal four or five times a week. It's my poor husband, who works hard all day and loooooves fooooood who suffers. THAT POOR MAN. Every dinner I sucessfully put on the table is out of love for my husband. Seriously. 

(I suppose the kids and I suffer poor nutrition, but I didn't eat ANY vegetables until the ripe old age of thirty and I think I turned out okay.)

And my distaste of dinnermaking is becoming a THING. Like I am embarrassed to invite people for dinner, because I DON'T KNOW HOW TO MAKE ANYTHING GOOD. I also happen to be friends with people who DO cook! Gak. When my sister was telling a friend of hers about a party I was hosting, but someone else was doing all the food, the friend said, "Sounds like Maggie!" And FOR SHAME, people! I am a grown up, I have three children, I don't have to LOVE cooking, but I certainly shouldn't be defeated by it every single evening! 

Part of it, I think, is the fact that three times a day every day I have to think of what to feed people. And I don't care what anyone else says, that's a hard job. A million times I've thought about how easy my job would be if I just didn't have to FEED these kids. My family is in a stage of life where we don't all eat the same things or want to eat at the same time. I often get the kids fed by 5 or 5:30 and have nothing for Phillip and me when he gets home. I feel absolutely thwarted when I've tried to figure out a new recipe and my kids won't eat it (ESPECIALLY when it looks like something they would totally eat.) So yeah, part of it is just the sameness and drudgery and lack of imagination. 

I do like cookbooks. I love cooking magazines. I like food shows! I don't necessarily love FOOD (dessert is in a category by itself) but I do LIKE food and there have been plenty of times when I've been excited to try something new at home. But on a regular basis? No. And when you and your husband are trying to only eat certain things and none of other things? No. When you've spent your day cleaning up after kids and folding laundry and wiping faces and doing breakfast and lunch dishes? No. I would like to lay on the couch with a bowl of popcorn now please. 

How do you manage this? I know some of you are super into making meals, but some of you have to NOT be, right? And we still have to do it. So what do you DOOOOOO? I'm wondering if I just need to stock up on some Trader Joe's stuff for a while until my dinner mojo returns. There WAS a point this year where I was making lots of new things, or at least making a real dinner more often than not. Maybe my menus are too ambitious. Maybe scrambled eggs and bacon needs to be an Actual Dinner rather than a Cop Out Dinner. Maybe I need to make things well ahead of time instead of waiting until 4 to stare unhappily at whatever raw meat thing I've decided I'm making that night. Maybe I should seriously investigate the crockpot. I DON'T KNOW. I just... I NEED TO DO A BETTER JOB THAN THIS. GAH.

Some thoughts on groceries

I had ALL THESE THINGS to write about, sort of an Indeterminate Number of Quick-ish Takes, but they have all gone poof! Alas! We spent most of this 95 degree day at my parents' house where Phillip and I did all sorts of alone and grown up things like go to the movies and browse in Costco (which is different from SHOPPING at Costco, an occasional necessary evil with children.) By the time I got to my computer, the brain was malfunctioning. 

So I marinated meat instead. And thought about groceries. Between my regularl weekly shopping trip on Saturday and our Costco trip today, I thought I would discuss Feeding The Cheungs: Version 2012.

Sooooo, is it me, or did groceries get more expensive? I SWEAR I am buying the SAME OLD STUFF and my bill is $20 to $30 higher in the last several months. I even joined that stupid Safeway program even though I keep telling myself I WILL NOT SHOP AT SAFEWAY because their produce is TERRIBLE, but I spend even MORE money at other stores. I am BAFFLED!

Here are some new things you should know. The first one is that I am trying VERY VERY HARD to do a lot of my dinner prep work on weekends, or right after one of my shopping trips when I am feeling all foodie-like. So cutting up chicken and vegetables, marinating meat, that sort of thing, and shoving it all (neatly labeled, obvs) in the freezer. This makes me feel SO AWESOME. Maybe it's the fact that it's not eaten right away? And sits obedidently in my freezer, waiting for its Moment? And nobody says, "I don't like this one, Mommy." 

I'm still doing a meal plan for the week and shopping that list, but now I'm trying to put a lot of the pieces together ahead of time. When it works, it's awesome. When it doesn't work, eh! No biggie. 

But here is a New Thing, as of, like, yesterday, that throws a big kink into the works. Phillip is going low carb! This shouldn't be a problem, as low carb is basically How I Eat Now and I don't make a lot of dinners that I won't eat myself HOWEVER! I am, as you know, not really into eating (unless it is cake, cookies, brownies, ice cream, etc.) and content to eat scrambled eggs for dinner and I will skip lunch entirely in favor of snacking on cheese and, well, Phillip is not that sort of person. Also, if you take away his potato chips, he will require MORE meat. 

SO! While I am a proud supporter of this endeavor, it's going to be EXPENSIVE. Hence the Costco trip today where we loaded up on frozen thingies Phillip can eat at work if he doesn't bring a lunch, lots of fresh veggies (to cut up and freeze). But I don't normally SHOP at Costco. I might go once a month to buy a giant box of fruit snacks or those Costco hot dogs that everyone in my house loves and the giant tub of cherry tomatoes, but I don't SHOP SHOP there. I feel like the months I shop at Costco I always go over budget. 

While we were IN Costco Phillip and I were talking about how we have ROOM to be Costco shoppers now. The old owners left TONS of food (and paper towels and toilet paper, almost a year's supply, SERIOUSLY) in a closet downstairs, so that is obviously the Costco storage closet. We COULD buy everything in sight and never go to the grocery store until October. 

This month is an experiment, I guess. We came up with more ideas than just a week's worth of dinners. I have a ton of stuff in the fridge and freezer and next week I'll just be buying things to supplement dinner, not MAKE dinner. I'll still go to the store next week, but my load will be smaller - hopefully it will be smaller all month. 

I would love to shop at Trader Joe's, but I don't know what you buy there that isn't a snack or some sort of gourmet frozen dinner. (Which means, obvs, that in a perfect world I would love to shop ONLY at Trader Joe's.) 

I want to shop at Central Market, but it's more money and I don't really buy organic (*HIDES*).

Sometimes I meet my friends at Whole Foods for coffee and a bakery treat, and if I'm early I go walk around the produce section and shock myself. 

When I get really mad at Safeway I go to the grocery store with the playroom which is more expensive and farther away, but has way better produce. 

Poor my family, huh?

One of my friends has a similar grocery budget, but she makes AMAZING DINNERS and buys organic milk. I am not entirely sure how she does it. She says it's because she only buys what's on sale, BUT I DO THAT TOO. So yes, there are a few low carby things I require that aren't always cheap or on sale, but the fact that I do not buy organic milk should make up for that, right? So I don't get it. 

Oh, she also goes to three or four different stores. I... do not do that. I COULD. I SUPPOSE. But honestly, just one shopping trip a week is enough for me, and I LIKE grocery shopping! I think she must go after work without kids? I don't know. I don't do in and out of car seats for a mid-week grocery shopping trip, not if I can help it. 

In the meantime, I am constantly going overbudget and not entirely sure why. Except now I'll be able to say, "Phillip can only eat meat! Must buy lots of meat!" 


Oh! One note about the plastic bag ban - I am in favor. I mean, I was always supportive IN THEORY, but I was a little nervous about HAVING bags, not FORGETTING my bags, making sure I had ENOUGH bags... turns out the only bad thing about the bag ban is the mass of teenage baggers who try to cram everything you bought into your smallest and crappiest bags. Seriously, the giant sturdy Target bags are RIGHT THERE. Don't use my flimsy thank-you-for-attending-our-event college department reusable bag. THAT IS A BACK UP BAG! 

But I like not having the extra mess of cleaning up plastic bags, and it's easier carrying 4 or 5 heavy cloth bags up my stairs to the kitchen rather than nine thousand half empty plastic bags. Am a fan. My greenification is increasing. And I always remember to take my bags to the grocery store and I always forget to take them to the mall. Blargh. 

Another string in my Cooking Bow*

I had friends over for dinner tonight and GUESS WHAT! I MADE GOOD FOOD!

All the props go to A'Dell, who quick-as-a-flash answered my OMG WHAT DO I FEED THESE PEOPLE email with "Enchiladas, DUH."

See, I LOVE having people over and I LOVE doing stupid stuff like setting the table and setting out the good wine glasses (don't you have GOOD wine glasses?) but I am paralyzed by the cooking. I mean, I have improved over the married years and I now have a [short] repertoire of tasty-ish things I can make without totally screwing up. I think the fact that I don't particluarly ENJOY cooking makes me feel like my dinners aren't very good. I think I could devote an entire blog post to that theory, but I won't bore you (TODAY, anyway! HEH!) SO ANYWAY. The point is: I made food and people liked it! And I feel so proud of me!

A'Dell recommended green enchiladas, a version of which I make every so often myself, so that was no biggie. But then she gave me this recipe for enchiladas with red sauce and this recipe for fajitas AND I MADE THOSE THINGS TOO. I KNOW. 

So I didn't eat the red sauce one because 1) I am low carbing it and 2) I am not a fan of Red Sauce With Things In It. Because I am four. I know. Shameful! And I didn't even put onions in it because one of our guests is allergic to onions! While I just don't LIKE onions! But then he didn't even come! So! But everyone told me those were yummy so YAY. The green enchiladas I made with low carb tortillas and those were yummier than the ones I usually make. And the fajitas, which I ate tortilla-less, were REALLY yummy. That marinade is awesome. And there weren't any leftovers! I KNOW! 

Is this blog post totally obnoxious? It just occurs to me that I sound super obnoxious. But PEOPLE. THIS IS HOW INSECURE I AM ABOUT MY COOKING!!!

Also, people didn't leave till, like, NINE, so we are pretty much screwed for waking up in time for preschool tomorrow. Which isn't to say I was upset about people staying late. Oh no. I love it! People staying late is a sign that you have delivered a good time... oh, I am just adding to the obnoxiousness. 

Okay, all I really wanted to do is give you those recipes. AS YOU WERE. 

*Did anyone ever read those books with the dog named Zero? WHAT ARE THEY CALLED? I have to look it up. Just a second. THE BAGTHORPES!!! (Oh, that was a LOT of behind-the-scenes Googling, people. Yeesh.) I don't really remember anything about those books (besides the dog named Zero) except for where the kids are constantly adding "strings" to their "bows" and I use that expression ALL THE TIME. And only now does it occur to me that maybe other people do NOT use that expression. Hmm. 

Babies, but also online grocery delivery. WHAT.

Thanks you guys. You are all so awesome. Kisses for everyone. Although my favorite Blog Pregnancy Announcement Anecdote comes courtesy of Phillip, who told me he got an email from an old coworker today. Said coworker was talking with someone whose wife blogs, and he remembered someone else's wife who blogs (ME) and then looked me up and then was all, "DUDE! Must send random yet congratulatory email!" And of course all I really wanted to know from this story was who the other blogger is! (No one felt this was important information, alas.)

I put up another "announcement" at Parenting. If you like that sort of thing. 

I should tell you that I've felt SO much better the last two days, which would be worrisome if I weren't firmly against acknowledging worrisome things at this stage. I've had 24/7 nausea and I fall asleep while a kid is shouting at me to pour another drink of water, but the worst part is the anxiety. My happily happy pill-controlled mental instability shot through the roof about a week ago and I'm back in that Experimentation With Fixing It stage. Which sucks, if you must know. It's super super clear to me that it's hormones, but that doesn't make me feel less crazy, just more resolved to do something about it. I don't know how much I talked about this or if you remember or whatever, but I was BAT@*%& CRAZY when I was pregnant with Molly and I promised all and sundry I would not do that to us again. So I'm working on it, I am, but it will take some time and the waiting game sucks. Also well meaning and blameless medical personnel who generalize your eight or nine years of expert investigation into The Crazy into "everyone's a little anxious when they find out they're pregnant!" Gah. I think I need to get over that.

ANYWAY. La la la!

I have a million new blog topics (obvs) but I don't particularly feel like getting into all that right now. I don't want to be INTROSPECTIVE. I don't want THOUGHTFULNESS. I want to talk about Amazon Fresh. 

That's right! I don't do the review thing! I'm bad at writing about Stuff! But I must spread the Groceries Via Internet Gospel!

It now occurs to me that Amazon Fresh is just a local thing. Hmm. WHATEVS. It all started when I really really really needed to go grocery shopping but could not BEAR the idea of actually putting on clothes and getting in the car and going to the store, let alone hauling all the groceries from my car into the house. (This would also be the day I begged my inlaws to come over so I could sleep away the entire afternoon. Oh yes.) 

But! Before I fell asleep I logged onto Amazon and ordered my groceries. I'd tried this before. I compared my shopping list with Amazon Fresh and Safeway online delivery and ended up choosing Safeway - SO much cheaper. (I'm too lazy to find the link.) I haven't done it since because I'm picky and I LIKE shopping and after your first time, Safeway delivery costs $15. 

But this time I just didn't care. I didn't CARE if I could only order fancy, name-brand, organic, cage-free, produce that slept in bassinets food from Amazon: it would show up at my house without me having to LEAVE my house. That itself was worth all the extra money. 

However! I think a few things have changed because I didn't spend any more on my Amazon order than I usually do. AND I ordered meat. AND a lot of fresh produce. AND it only took me ten minutes. THEN I went to sleep. HUZZAH!

Delivery was free (I think it's free over $75, I forget) and I scheduled it to arrive on my doorstep before 6am. It was all there, as promised, packed somewhat inefficiently in six or seven giant plastic bins that I have the pleasure of storing until my next order. They probably could have packed my order in three, maybe four bins, but I have to say, hauling the bins inside and opening them up was possibly the best part. For the kids anyway. CHRISTMAS! With BANANAS! And GROUND BEEF!

The produce was seriously so good. The grapes were crisp and juicy. The bananas were brown spot-free. I AM SO DOING THIS AGAIN. And that from a committed grocery store lover. Phillip happened to run into (another!) old coworker today and found out she's working at Amazon... packing Amazon Fresh orders. Even she said the produce was awesome. 

Anyway. SOLD. I love shopping, but I rarely get to go by myself AND have help carrying it to the house and up the stairs. POOR ME. Now that I'm In A Condition AND ordering from Amazon costs me as much as the grocery store with the free playroom, why not? HMMM?


Now I have to clean up my kitchen and stick my kids in their pajamas. Unfortunately I haven't figured out how to order anything off the internet to do THAT. 

And thanks again. It's really warm-fuzzy amazing having friends in the computer. 

Responding to comments

Going back to the grocery posts...

Christiana said: "And I thought we were the only ones! But you didn't mention eating out a gazillion times a week instead of cooking, so maybe that was just us..." Oh, we ate out all the time. I can't believe I forgot to say that. I can't really remember where or how often, but I know we did. And neither of us ever made the effort to bring lunch to work. I can't even imagine how much money we spent on lunch when we were DINKs. 

Raven said: "If you like eggs so much have you thought about trying quiche or a frittata just to change it up a bit?" YES. But then I went on this whole Weight Watchers kick where Eggs Are Two Points Each, OMG. And all the "light" recipes want you to use egg substitute, which: YUCK. I have been kicking around an entirely new post about "diet-friendly" food... I think that's one of those posts where I'd need a degree first. Anyway. When my family used to go to Spain all the time (and I'm sorry, I know how that sounds, BUT WE DID) we ate tortillas, which were basically giant omelettes with potatoes and MMM, I think I better google that.

Jen said: "I am not yet into the circular. I always buy off brand stuff anyway, so I rarely find coupons for anything we actually use." Oh but JEN! My grocery store circular has coupons FOR the off brand stuff! And sometimes they have, like, coupons for Breakfast, where eggs and bacon and milk and all these other things I buy all the time are another dollar off. 

Lenadeeanne said: "When I get home from work and the Three Munchketeers are waiting with their beaks open..." There's nothing to really say about that except "beaks open" made me laugh out loud. 

Blogless Kathleen said: "Although I think my husband finds me weird that I get excited to show him my receipt and say, "Look, I saved $23.02!" It makes me feel like I won an award though." Kathleen, I do this EVERY SINGLE WEEK. And every week I wonder where my medal is. Or at least my free doughnut.

Sarah said: "Bread, dairy, produce, look for sales in processed foods, get out!" Yep, that's pretty much how I attack Costco too, although substitute "Freezer Section" for bread. And do not pass the 72 oz bag of chocolate chips, go directly to checkout.

Elizabeth said: "It's physically impossible for me to shop with a cart and only spend $100. I might have to stalk you and figure out how you do it." Oh, Elizabeth-san, it's because I am a Grocery Store Ninja. Come visit me and I will teach you my ways.

A different Jen said: "I totally appreciate you "going there" because I always want to know what other people's budgets are like and how mine compares!" I am here to serve. You are welcome. On the next post the same Jen said: "Do you have a WinCo in Seattle? It's my favorite grocery store." No, I do not have a WinCo in Seattle. (Or do I? Locals?) But there is a WinCo near my in-laws and I went there once and just the LIGHTING in that store was enough to make me sob with depression. It was a very dismal despondent sort of store and I've never been back. The problem with where I live is that even the average grocery store is swankier than the ones in the suburbs. (This I base on visiting Safeways in my parents' town vs. Safeways in a 5 mile radius of my house. We Seattleites are store snobs.)

Marie said: "Do you have a Trader Joe's?" I DO have a Trader Joe's. Off the top of my head I can think of about three of them within easy driving distance. BUT (and I realize I may be breaking some sort of Unwritten Internet Law here) I don't quite get the TJ fascination. It was even something people were talking about when we were planning the Blathering last year - "oooh! They have TJs in Sacramento!" I mean, I like TJs, but I don't buy frozen prepared meals that often and their Treat Aisle is the death of me. Everything else I can get at my other store for a decent prize and less hassle. SORRY, INTERNET!

The lovely Maureen said: "But on the bread front, can I suggest you buy "Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day"?" and to that I say: why do you want me to weigh nine hundred pounds, Maureen? WHY?

Jessica said: "I live in Iowa, am the daughter of a farmer, and the wife of a commodities (corn/soybean) broker. You should get my family started on organics!" This reminded me of my stint working amongst Local Crotchety Fishermen Types and how we could get them going on farmed fish and government regulations and oh, those were some fun times.

My real life friend Janey said: "What I think my grandparents got right was that home cooking is usually healthier than eating processed foods and eating a wide variety of foods is good, too." This is part of what I'd write about in my as-yet-unwritten diet food post, which probably originated the moment I found that Weight Watchers is Anti-Cheese. 

Lindsay said: "I think organic food does taste better in a lot of cases. there are lots of reasons well explained in the comments and by you as to why to not buy organic, but certainly there are some non yuppy, non pretentious reasons to buy organic too." Yes. Agreed. I want to be better informed about what I'm buying and why I'm buying it instead of something else. I fully cop to the fact that I have been Ignorant On Purpose - I'd like to work on that.

Gosh that was a lot. I hope you weren't bored to death. I really appreciated EVERYONE'S thoughts on this subject and you would not believe how many real life conversations your comments spawned! I'm also so grateful for the utter lack of anything even remotely mean or snide or snarky. You guys are just the best, and super funny to boot. I've been in a funk for a few weeks now (maybe you've noticed!) and I'm just so thankful to have this place for hammering it all out, even if I'm just nattering on about GROCERY STORES. 

Have a nice weekend. Oh, and for those of you who wanted to come eat hot pot - just let me know when you're in town!