Monday, March 14, 2011

My kind of town

Chicago is amazing and I am so glad I went. We watched the St. Patrick's parade, went to the Art Instiute of Chicago and caught a cool photo exhibit and caught up with some friends. I had plans to see many more people (there has been a massive movement over the years of cool people to Chicago), but that will have to wait for another trip.

The highlight, for me, was watching my giant of a husband act just like a child at a Bulls game.

The man has been a Bulls fan since his early childhood. It didn't surprise me Friday when he confessed that he's pretty sure he starting like the Bulls when, as a child, they were playing a team that everyone else he was with was routing for; naturally, he picked the opposing team. The rest is history, and his love affair continues today.

I have to admit, I think I'm starting to join the bandwagon. I'm a fan of college basketball, way more than pro, but the Bulls play like a college team. They are enthusiastic and they run down the court, trying their hardest for every shot and rebound. They are dynamic and young...and I might have a tiny crush on Joakim Noah...shhh, don't tell my husband.

At any rate, our seats, a gift from Nate's mom, were amazing, and the entire game was exciting. Nate was fist-bumping (is that the right term?) all of our neighbors, yelling to the players, and in general sparkling like a kid on Christmas. I loved watching him more than the game (or Noah).

It's funny how old I feel Nate and I are getting. We whooped it up Friday, but on Saturday we fell asleep early, and then we got up at 8 am on daylight savings day to leave. There was a time when we maybe were just getting to bed, not too many years ago...but don't tell my kids that, ok?

The rest of trip was great, but it was good to pick up the boys Sunday and get home to make a family favorite, lasagna, for a nice dinner. This recipe is delicious and pretty diet-friendly; one piece has about 335 calories, a little more than one serving of low fat dairy, lean protein and a serving of whole grains. Plus, I like to hide some spinach in it; the boys don't even notice.

The grocery supply is getting low, and more extensive trip will soon be in order. I am nearly halfway through the month. I am hoping to get some reader suggestions on delicious, cheap and healthy meals. share!

Friday, March 11, 2011

smile on your brother

The Vowles talent show was Thursday, and I did not want to take the boys. I was running late at work, and still had so many things to accomplish before taking a long weekend.

But I had promised Sam we'd go, and although he wasn't a performer this year (2 years ago he played the recorder, but since hasn't gotten an act together), he talked of little else the whole week.

Sam's talent show performance 2 years ago.

We sat in the back, a necessary placement with an active toddler, and as we waited I tried to temper my impatience with the sit down/stand up/crawl around/scream/inexplicable sticky hands that come with 2-years-old.

I can't believe I almost missed it.

The first performer on stage was a girl in Sam's grade, a girl he's known since kindergarten.

"Good evening," she said politely and formally, "I am going to be singing 'Somewhere over the Rainbow."

Oliver, who before had been fidgeting and cross, stood still in front of his seat. The music began, and he began swaying back and forth to the melody on tip toes to see the performance. 

Sam, who had watched the talent show dress rehearsal earlier in the week at school, leaned over to me. "She's really good," he whispered earnestly, and then leaned back in his seat to listen.

The girl belted out the familiar tune, sweet and high, and when it was over Sam stood up, clapping and cheering, while his little brother laughed and clapped along. Throughout the crowd, I could hear other students cheering and murmuring in approval.

My heart swelled. When do we lose that overwhelming support of our peers? The simple joy in watching a friend try their best and share what's in their heart? When do we start snickering in the back of karaoke bars, wondering just who someone thinks they are, performing publicly with a voice like that. When do we start judging so many dreams pursued, because they may be risky? 

There is so much more I have to learn from my children; more , I would guess, then I have to teach them.

Act after act bravely marched on stage, these little people, so sure of their ability and their right to share it, fearless and lovely. And every audience member supportive, not an eye roll in sight.

It dawned on me, watching my own children acting as good citizens should, polite and supportive and kind, that one of the most important jobs I have a parent it to preserve this innocence, this open acceptance, for as long as possible. 

Sam glanced at me, then did a double take. 

"Are you crying?" he asked, narrowing his eyes.

I wiped away a tear. "Shhh. nope. Just enjoying the show," I whispered. 

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

catch up

So, I finally took a shower last night.

There was an evil little leak in a hot water pipe in our basement over the weekend...and it took some (8 hundred million by my count) trips to the hardware store/s, a consultation with a friend, and several days of "drying time" before the hot water was running in my home again.

The great Spring Turkey Dinner was cooked during this time, and not to gross you out, but there are a couple dishes still waiting in line for the dishwasher that was out of commission during the hot water shortage, and that "finally took a shower" statement? I could smell my own hair. ha! gross!

There have been several meals made from the turkey; hot turkey sandwiches, plain old left overs, and my favorite: turkey rice soup. It's made from the carcass (still haven't come up with a better word), so it takes forever to make soup, and doesn't yield as much broth in the end as a raw chicken may, but it is still comforting and delicious. I roughly estimated that a 1 cup serving of this soup, which had carrots, celery, spinach (!) and brown rice has about 140 calories. Half is in the fridge, the other in the freezer. Mmmm soup.

I love soup. Soup is like a dieter's secret weapon. Clear broth soup is anyway.

Tomorrow's dinner will be prepared by Sam, who is 8 going on 55 most days. Tilapia "sticks." SO far I needed to thaw the fish, get 2 pieces of whole grain to "stale" and make sure we have lemons and parsley. I have relinquished control; I trust he will not poison his brother, (or his step-dad or myself), and I will be supervising any heat or knife-related steps in process.

Today marks one full week since I grocery shopped for real, with one relief trip in the middle. At the end of the month, I will take in to account what was already here and the cost, and what I haven't used yet but purchased this month, and have a pretty good idea how much it costs to feed my family in a month, the healthiest way we can afford.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

gobble, gobble

Today I am making one of 2 giant turkeys that have been in my freezer since November.

The grocery store runs an amazing deal right before Thanksgiving; buy a certain amount of groceries, get money off a turkey.

So the husband and I strategically plan our shopping that week. If we are shopping together, we split the groceries and buy 2 turkeys. If we have to go on an in-between-grocery-trip fresh food run, we get a turkey. We are turkey crazy. If we see people in the store, we tell them about the deal. We are turkey pushers. "Hey, you know, if you have $20 worth of groceries in your cart, you can get a turkey for like nothing!! Seriously! I have 2 at home and I'm buying another! Turkey!" Even we people we barely know. I once told a woman I just recognized, didn't even know her name, all about how I like to cook a turkey around spring time. And then she slowly backed away, nodding and smiling...

Then, after Thanksgiving, we don't even want to think about the extra turkeys in the freezer. We are turkey-ed out.

Until now, when a giant turkey seems like the solution to the busy busy week ahead.

The turkey I am cooking is just over 19 pounds, and only cost $7.47. What?! That's crazy!

Today I will be roasting it, and making baked sweet potato fries, green beans and carrots. Tonight, I will be using the carcass to make turkey broth for noodle soup. Chances are good I will freeze half of the soup.

Carcass is such a gross word, incidentally. Isn't there a better word that doesn't make me feel like a vulture?

Stay tuned for a couple meals this week involving turkey.

In total $$ tally news, we ventured to the store yesterday to pick up a few groceries; fresh foods are a necessity in the way my family eats. I also got 4 more boxes of cereal for $7. That was a good deal, and having the ability to take advantage of those deals when they come up is important for my family; it stretches our grocery dollars and allows us to eat healthfully.

So, add $35 to the total. That's $196. I am now $4 away from the $200 limit a sound off caller set for a family of 6 for an entire month. If I can stay away from the grocery store for the rest of the month it will be a miracle, and it will also mean that somehow I stretched the 1/2 gallon of milk, half bag of carrots and other assorted fresh foods for 24 more days. HA.

I really want someone to show me how a family of 6 could eat for that amount of money, and stay competitive, healthy and happy.

Friday, March 4, 2011

little bird

Sometimes the biggest indicator to me that my children are actually from me is their infatuation with watching me cook. Being in the kitchen is like going to the circus, and each of them will hang out with me forever, chatting and dancing to whatever music I am listening to.

yesterday, Sam spent a rare weeknight at his dad's because of a break from school, and so it was just little Oliver and I in the kitchen. He pulled a stepping stool over, and stood next to me at the counter. Because I was making chili, and I already had half of the ingredients out, I decided to make pico de gallo and guacamole, too.

I turned to stir the chili, and when I looked back, Oliver was fully biting into half of lime, peel and all.

"blech!" he laughed, sticking his tongue out and spitting the bite out. Giggles filled the kitchen. He set the lime down, then for whatever 2-year-old reason, picked it back up and tried again. "blech!" giggle giggle.

I moved on to dicing tomatoes.

"mo, peas?" He asked, his face a perfect bright-eyed question mark. Oliver says a few things clearly; for example, "cookie" is clear as a bell. The rest is a guessing game.

"You'd like more, please?" I asked, handing him a piece of tomato, which he greedily shoved into his little mouth.

"Mo, peas. Mo, peas." He repeated. Nothing beats a toddler in ability to repeat the same phrase or act over and over. I continued to feed him tomato pieces. He continued to eat them, opening his mouth like a little bird.

It occurred to me again in this moment that access to healthy foods means a lot more than simple nutrition. This perfect, lovely simple moment with my youngest happened because I took the time and care to cook. He experimented with flavors, something many kids might never do. He watched me measuring, carefully mixing and making something from hand to feed my family, all members of which I love; perhaps the importance of this act will passed on to Oliver and his brother, and they will pass it on the their kids. He ate tomatoes, lots of them, and then he ate chili, which is healthy and nourishing and good.

The rest of the meals in the day were not as glamourous as the chili dinner:)

My lunch was a turkey wrap with hummus, Carrot sticks and a granola bar.

Breakfast for the boys was scrambled eggs, cereal and kiwi.

Today is a leftover lunch day-more chili. That's fine by me. One 1.5 cup serving of this chili has only 325 calories, and is loaded with veggies and protein.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Shopping Trip

Somehow I made it, I got some grocery shopping done. Total spent on food this month: $161.

Most notable deals at Meijer today:

1. Four for $10 general mills 4, get $3 off. So, that's FOUR boxes of cereal for $7, which is an amazing deal. I have 2 rules for cereal: One, the first ingredient must be whole wheat, and two, no chocolate (it makes Sam nutso-crazy). I found some that fit my criteria, and now I'm good for at least 2 weeks in the cereal department.

2. Sweet bell peppers on the super sale, get-rid-of-us-quick rack. I got 3 orange and 2 green peppers for $2.13. I will be using them soon, in a variety of ways.

3. Meijer boneless skinless chicken breasts in the family pack, $1.99/pound. Cheaper than the frozen package. I got 7 breasts, which I split three ways, packaged and froze.

Today's dinner

Today is a special dinner day. Sam got an awesome report card (he got his good looks and his smarts from his momma) and got to pick out dinner.

He wants salmon fillet (He also got his expensive tastes from his momma), "white" spaghetti, and fresh cucumber sticks.

Presently I am marinating 1.5 pounds of salmon in a plastic bag in the fridge. I will wrap the salmon in foil (rub a tiny bit of oil on the foil first) in a 350 degree oven, just until the fish flakes easily with a fork.

If there are left overs I will have a delicious spinach and salmon salad tomorrow for lunch.

White spaghetti is a family recipe, and there are tons of variations. My version uses extra virgin olive oil and whole wheat pasta.

For a 4 oz serving of salmon, .5 cup of white spaghetti and cucumbers, this meal is around 420 calories. The salmon has 22.5 grams of protein. Salmon contains omega-3 fatty acids which have been shown to have many positive health benefits, including improved cardiovascular health and brain function

This is an amazingly pricey meal for my house. Total cost for this meal is around $20. It's a special one though, and everyone deserves to celebrate a good report card.

sitcom mom

Any call before 7 a.m. is bad news.

My phone rang at 6:55, and it was Oliver's daycare. It seems the plague that is ravaging the greater mid-Michigan area hit heavy there, and they are closing for the day.

Great. Thanks, germs.

As I hung up the phone, my oldest, Sam, said to me in a horse whisper, "My throat hurts really bad."

Double great.

My backup babysitter is sick, too, and I would hate to spread these germs in her home anyway.

I texted my husband and said that I feel like I'm in a sitcom about a working mom. The TV guide description might read:

"Uh-Oh! Everyone gets sick, and Lisa has to figure out how to juggle sick kids and work! Wackiness ensues..."

When I was younger, when Sam was a little thing, I would feel guilty for any time I took off for child emergencies. I think as a journalist, I know that no matter what, a paper must be produced, and that paper better have at least one photo on the front page. (I once suggested we leave a blank box and have readers draw what they think the front page art should look like. It didn't happen.) Now though, I know I have back up, and I feel that no matter what, one day (or two) spent taking care of my kids will not make or break the newspaper. Someone will make sure it happens.

I am still rushing to work though, planning the day and finding ways to help. My husband is taking the morning off so I can do that. That control is hard to give up, and to be honest the guilt is still there, I just deal with it and plan what I can.

Which means grocery shopping, which must happen for the good of my empty kitchen, will be done on the fly, today. Sometime. Between doctor visits and photo assignments and video editing.

And it will include ingredients for chicken noodle soup.