Friday, February 26, 2010

Friday night

I think (hope? pray?) that we may have turned a cosmic corner this week. After the last few weeks of bureaucratic, meteorological, and sinus purgatory, the last few days have been a noticeable improvement. The sun has been out for five days running, I’ve blown my nose fewer than six times today, and yesterday four, count ‘em, four pieces of paperwork that I’ve been waiting on tenterhooks for arrived in the mail.

And it’s Friday. And even better, this time next Friday I should be done with this bout of solo parenting.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Wordless Wednesday

To follow up probably my longest blog post ever, I compensate with (nearly) Wordless Wednesday: Snow in Kansas.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Monday again

Lately, trying to update this blog (not to mention dealing with the rest of my life) feels like being part of a singularly uninspired remake of Groundhog Day. Still solo parenting (Day 19). Still trying to kick a head cold. Still trying to juggle a pile of work with an even bigger pile of bureaucracy related to cars and mortgages and bank accounts, oh my. (Obligatory Wizard of Oz reference—get it? Kansas?) And if I don’t find it entertaining, how on earth are you supposed to find it even remotely interesting?

But sometimes, for the sake of posterity (and just to prove to myself that I have not yet, in fact, gone insane), these things must be documented. And so I give you….

Monday, February 15, 2010

Presidents' Day

Not Presents Day, as some people who shall remain nameless would like you to think.

Miss B and I have spent most of this holiday weekend laying low: trying to kick this horrendous head cold that we've both had for most of the past week; avoiding whiteout-induced multi-car pileups on I-70; and watching as much Olympic women's ice hockey as possible (okay, that last part was mostly me).

I didn't give too much thought to Valentine's Day, what with DP being away and the fact that I don't care too much about it in the first place. But Miss B woke me up with a card that she and DP had picked out before he left, and reminded me later that I had rashly suggested cupcakes as a suitable commemoration of the day.

So we made some. Even though our current kitchen has no mixer, which means I did all the mixing by hand, alternating a big purple silicon spatula and a whisk. (How's that for an expression of love?) Miss B helped me decorate them (the jimmies were her idea) in colors suitable to the occasion.

They look pretty good, don't they? I can't wait until we can both breathe again, so we can taste them, too.

Cupcake recipe here.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Positive thinking

I've got to be honest--I've been drooping a little here at the end of Week Three. The avalanche of move-related paperwork, chores, and general bureaucracy that must be contended with shows no signs of abating; I've got a work deadline in three days; I haven't seen the sun in about six days; and DP left town on Friday for an extended overseas trip. Oh, and I think Miss B's coming down with something.

But, lest I get bogged down in gloom and self-pity, I'm trying to generate a little perspective and positive thinking: to remember that we've got jobs, money in the bank, food on the table, and a roof over our heads. That, even if germs come with the territory, Miss B's first week at her new school went reassuringly well. That even if the sky is grey, it's still light at 5:30 pm. That DP might be out of town for a few weeks, but he works with people who have to do the same for a year or more at a stretch.

Then I focus on one of the things that I do have some control over: food. And, as ever when I'm looking for some comfort, make something involving apples.

Perspective pancake pile dessert
As usual, today I made a half-batch of Sunday-morning pancakes for Miss B and me. With no DP to eat his share, we had some extra. So I stored them in the fridge, layered with sheets of baking parchment and wrapped in foil, and tonight I had a second serving--for dessert. With apples.

1 Granny Smith apple
2 Tbsp butter
cinnamon sugar
3 pancakes

Peel, core, and thinly slice the apple. Heat 1 Tbsp of butter in a frying pan until just starting to sizzle. Add half the apples in a single layer. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar and cook for about 3 minutes. Turn apples, and add more cinnamon sugar. When softened and slightly caramelized on the edges, remove from pan. Repeat with remaining 1 Tbsp of butter and apples. When all apples are cooked, briefly heat pancakes in pan, sprinkling with cinnamon sugar if desired.

Try to get all fancy with your plating, even though you're the only one that's eating it.

Serves 1.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Week two

I had hoped that Week Two would be a bit more relaxing than Week One, but this did not turn out to be the case. In fact, if I factor in the three early-morning teleconferences for work and the frantic rush to assemble paperwork from three continents for 1) attempting to qualify for a mortgage and 2) enrolling Miss B in preschool, it might actually have been worse.

There was one improvement, and that was that we ate dinner at home almost every night. Even in the midst of total uproar, disruption, chaos, or other kerfuffle, knowing that I have food in the fridge and a plan for dinner soothes me. I may not be able to get my hands on the paperwork for the student loans DP took out 11 years ago, but I can put something filling on the table. And the knowledge that Miss B is going to get something other than pizza or mac'n'cheese from a box (at $6 a pop, no less) on her plate, plus some actual vegetables, is also comforting.

As long as whatever I'm making doesn't require too much equipment, that is. Because this temporary kitchen's is, to put it kindly, basic. Three saucepans, one flimsy frying pan, and a couple of plastic bowls and utensils. That's it. No machines, of course, other than a coffee maker. So no way to puree soup, which is something I do to nearly every soup I make regularly. Time for a little creative adaptation.

Necessarily chunky tomato soup
Perfect for making any kitchen feel cozy on a frosty winter night--and the only equipment you need is a knife and a good-sized pot.

2 Tbsp olive oil
2 medium carrots
2 sticks celery
1 medium onion
1 (28 oz) or 2 (400 g) can(s) tomatoes*
1 qt/900+ ml stock of your choice**
4 oz/125 g spaghetti, broken into small pieces
salt & pepper

Heat the olive oil gently on medium heat while cutting the vegetables into small dice; add these to the pot in the order listed and saute for a few minutes, until they are starting to soften and color.

Pour in tomatoes and stir to distribute vegetables evenly. Pour stock into empty tomato can(s) and swish around to get all tomato residue out, then pour into soup pot. Stir to combine; cover partway, bring to a boil and simmer. Cook for about 15 minutes, then add spaghetti. Cook for another 10-15 minutes, or until spaghetti is al dente. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and add a bit more liquid if the soup is too thick for you.

Top with grated cheese and serve immediately, with warm bread and a cheese plate alongside.

Serves 4, with leftovers.

* You can use any kind of tomatoes you prefer--whole, chopped, or pureed. I went for pureed because I wanted a fairly smooth consistency.
** You may not need this amount of stock, depending upon how thick you want your soup to be. I usually reserve some of it, in case I want to thin the soup at the end.
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