Archive for August, 2012

Photo Credit: My daughter Ashley

I’ve been having an up and down summer. Every so often I’ll run into someone I know, or kind of know, whom I haven’t seen since before the summer and the standard greeting seems to be, “How’s you’re summer going?”

I’m discovering I’m no longer a pat answer kind of person. Now I’m not saying that I’m spilling out tales of woe to anyone who greets me 🙂 It just doesn’t sit well to say great, wonderful, really good in reply. Yes, there are great, wonderful, really good aspects to my summer and there are also times when I’m really not having any fun.

Now when asked I have simply started replying, “Oh up and down”, which is exactly how it is going. I also continue to remind myself that this is just Life.

These recent inquiries about my summer have actually left me feeling some gratitude because it has caused me to pause and reflect on both the good and not so good that have made up my summer so far. Mostly summer offers an easier counterpoint to our usual Autumn/Winter routines. I love having the children home (mostly!). I love not being confined by the 9-3 schedule of the school day. I’m even learning to appreciate the summer weather here in Seattle, because really I’m a winter girl at heart and love living in this notoriously rainy city.

I don’t need to recount the challenges of the summer or my recent brush with resigning from job. We all have our own details. What I am going to do over the next two and half weeks is focus on what I have enjoyed. I am going to try each day to spot the moments of joy that are all around me and I’m going to savour the freedom of the summer schedule before my girls head back to school. We have no plans, other than to celebrate Ashley’s 10th birthday at the end of the month and that suits us all just fine. Lots of days left, no doubt with ups and downs, to be spontaneous and lazy and perhaps even a little bit, delightfully bored!

How’s your summer going? 🙂


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I’m taking a little break from posting my weekly menus. My summer menu planning has been very successful and I am highly motivated to plan in a similar way for the Autumn/Winter.

While brainstorming ideas for this project I find myself thinking a lot about how much I enjoyed my mother’s cooking and how many nice food memories I have because of her.

One of my strongest food memories from childhood is the predictability of dinners my mother prepared throughout the week. I didn’t always like the dinners but I knew what to expect and could brace myself or, more usually, eagerly anticipate the meals.

My memories start with Sunday dinners. My Mum would cook a roast. Sometimes it was a roast chicken or pork or a leg of lamb, but my Mum also roasted more interesting meats such as a cow’s heart, or even smaller sheep hearts. Turkey was reserved for Easter and Christmas. Other times my Mum would boil a ham and then cook cabbage in the ham water. I loved a cup of this “cabbage soup” before dinner. Sunday dinner always consisted of mashed potatoes, the most fabulous roast potatoes I have ever eaten, and some combination of cabbage, carrots, and peas, with Brussel sprouts served only for Easter and Christmas dinner. I love Brussel sprouts and had a revelation about my beloved vegetable earlier this year. I am an adult now and I cook our dinners. Therefore I can cook and eat Brussel sprouts as often as I like and now frequently indulge!

Mum’s Monday dinners were a repeat of Sunday using the leftovers. Tuesday we had either Dublin Coddle or Dublin Stew (I detested the former and adored the latter). Friday we ate fish and chips (a Catholic Ireland tradition to observe fish on Fridays). My Mum’s homemade chips are excellent and I finally perfected making them myself a few years ago.

Wednesday and Thursday were a little unpredictable. I wonder if my Mum ran out of steam mid-week and then regrouped on Friday??? Sometimes we ate mashed potatoes with a burger (no buns) or a pork chop or a pot pie. Sometimes she would make chips on Wednesday as a very pleasant surprise because that meant chips twice in one week.

I have been recreating this idea of a dinner routine with my menu plan and menu board and it seems to work for everyone having the visual and knowing what to expect. For the coming Autumn/Winter I have decided to experiment with my menu and incorporate some more of the predictability and rhythm around food that I remember from my childhood.

Inspired by both my Mum and from reading the chapter on Rhythm in Simplicity Parenting I am currently looking at my recipes and will be planning our Autumn/Winter menu around the following food themes:

Monday (Pasta)
Tuesday (Curry)
Wednesday (Soup)
Thursday (Fish)
Friday (Eggs)
Saturday (Chef’s Choice)
Sunday (Roast)

I’ll post more about this before the end of the summer.

Anyone else looking forward to the change of season and the change in foods that come with it?

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“Today is gone. Today was fun. Tomorrow is another one.” -Dr. Seuss

Following a recent post here, my friend Linda, whom I haven’t seen in a couple of years, invited us to come visit her on Vashon Island. With the temperatures hitting the 90’s here in Seattle it was a great day to get away with the children. My mother-in-law Janet joined us. It was a fun break away.

We enjoyed an early ferry ride and started our visit to the playground at Ober Memorial Park while it was still cool. The girls looked huge on the tire swing. I remember them being so little when they first played on this swing years ago.

Sean enjoyed swinging for a long time in this swing with Grandma pushing him.

Ethan and Sean discover hidden pleasures under the slide.

Any trip to Vashon requires a visit to the Vashon Tea Shop. I love this shop/cafe. I stocked up on various loose leaf teas I like getting here (Assam Breakfast and Yunnan) and indulged in some new teas (Assam Rembeng, Lavendar Earl Grey that my friend Jennifer introduced me to recently, and I thought I’d try a new Irish Breakfast tea).

As we were leaving the tea shop Ashley pointed out this sign in the window. Says it all really!

The Vashon Bookshop next door to the tea shop is another favorite. Ashley was very pleased to find the last book in the Fablehaven series. Caitlin and I also found some books that we could take home and enjoy.

After lunch at Linda’s we explored the property. We picked apples and Linda showed us a tree stump where a local woodpecker likes to peck. (Wish I could remember the type of woodpecker.)

We met the neighbors goats, on of whom took to banging its horns on the shed much to Sean’s fascination. As I held him and began walking away Sean said, “See again”. His words are coming fast and strong since he turned two at the start of August. So of course we went back and watched some more. I’m not sure Sean like waht he saw as much as being absolutely enthralled at this new spectacle.

After the exertion of exploring we spent a leisurely afternoon on Linda’s deck with a beautiful view of the water. I didn’t think to take a photo of it. I just enjoyed it 🙂

Ashley and Grandma read.

The boys played and then napped.

And Linda taught Caitlin how to use a drill to make a craft project from sticks she’d collected on our walk.

Thankfully we remembered to eat the dessert that Linda and her husband Rick prepared before we left for a mid-afternoon ferry home.

Thank you Linda and Rick for a lovely day. And Janet, it was lovely to have you with us to share the day 🙂

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…amused, listening to my little boys playing together in their bedroom. I can hear them through the ceiling of the kitchen. They love to play peek-a-boo with each other, tickle each other and share cars and books through the bars of Sean’s crib. They even have a game where Ethan sits on the floor with his back to Sean’s crib, Sean pushes him through the bars, Ethan pretend the push makes him fall all the way down to the floor and both of them giggle very hard over it!

…pleased that Ethan is a very articulate 3 year old because he can relate to me in great detail all that goes on in their bedroom in the mornings.

…warmed by the memory of my book club meeting last night and our block party the night before. Coming into this week I wasn’t sure I had the energy for the various social commitments taking place each evening. I was surprised at just how much fun I had at our block party. Unusually for us, our family stayed until the end, though the boys went to bed just shortly before the party packed up.  At book club we had great food, laughter, excellent discussion about the book, life in general and our own lives in detail.

…a little tired, following two late nights socializing. I’m tired in body, but more refreshed in spirit.

…happy with the little trip to The Fat Hen I took with my daughters yesterday afternoon. I have been craving some time alone with them for quite some time now, but both the summer schedule and James’s biking schedule haven’t left me too much room to figure out how to do it.

…grateful to have employed my friend’s daughter as a mother’s helper this summer. It eases some of the hyper alertness required taking four children out of our house and also made taking my girls to The Fat Hen possible.

…delighted still that my friend and her family decided to move back  to Seattle this summer after a move to Colorado. They were very much missed by me and my family and by our larger community of friends and neighbors. I have my friend back, my daughters have their friend back and I now have a mother’s helper/babysitter that I love and trust.

…anxious that some personal baggage that I’ve been carrying around nearly all my life will never go away. I’ve been challenging myself to overcome some of my ways of interacting that are no longer helpful in how I live my life or want to live my life. This personal challenge has made for a rocky road this year and, while I think/hope it will pay off in the end, it’s the middle that is exhausting and scary at times. It’s hard to look your dragons right in the face.

…excited about the rest of the week ahead. There appears on paper to be a good balance of socializing and downtime to hopefully further restore my soul.

…relieved about the rest of the week ahead. Despite my doubts on Monday I think that I will not only make it through the week but will continue to enjoy it.

…thankful for the blogs I read that are written by other mothers sharing their journeys. This morning I am particularly thankful for Kirsten over at The Frugal Girl, who inspired today’s post. She has written a few of these and today I felt like giving it a try myself. Thanks Kirsten.

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Every so often I discover a link that I want to share. This one added a little energy boost to my system yesterday and I thought I would share it. Thanks to Rachel over at Small Notebook for sharing the link below. Dancing Matt lives in Seattle and you can learn a little more about him here.

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“Many people have good ideas; few do anything with them. Today, take one of your good ideas and put it into action.”-Judy Lief

Another new week ahead. I’m not completely sure how I feel about that. My ambivalence stems from last week’s urge to resign. Our family has a week of late afternoon/evening commitments ahead and while I think this will help with the feelings of isolation I have been experiencing, I’m not sure I have the reserve of energy and enthusiasm yet to get me through the week. Fortunately I have bookclub mid-week and I expect hanging out with this group of amazing women will leave me with more of a charge in my battery!

I knew last week that some of feeling overwhelmed was not having time outside the home to engage with others in a more sustained way than being with children allows. Maybe I will get some of my social needs met this week.

I also have projects that I want to work on that have been moving very slowly, if at all. I have had a number of items on my want-to-do list and have been inching along in progress.

I have loved Judy Lief’s quotation for years now and decided to use it for a Monday Musings post because this weekend I finally understood these words in my very soul.

Taking a good idea and putting it into action is not the same as getting that good idea done today!

It is just as she says, it is the putting it into action that is key. It is getting started. It is taking my ideas and giving them momentum. Taking them from idea to action. I have been feeling frustrated that my ideas have been taking a painfully slow time to come to completion. I have been feeling overwhelmed that as I take care of my family and home making even a small amount of time for my ideas just seems too much. Yet, on and off I have been trying to squeeze in the small action.

This life I chose means taking small steps to end results.

And I am seeing results. They just take time. The nature of my time varies. The needs for my time vary. My life has stages. My life has commitments. My life has lots of little people whom I love and mostly enjoy being around 🙂 My life has a husband who loves me. My life has a partner and friend with whom I don’t always see eye-to-eye but who is in it for the long haul with me.

Acceptance. Patience. Forward Motion. These are my friends.

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Each week I share my weekly menu plan with you as I find menu planning and using my menu board very helpful to me and the rest of the family during the week. Having a plan, even if it changes over the course of the week, helps keep late afternoon chaos low, maintains a well-fed crew and keeps food bills and food waste low.

I find that if I write the list of dinners for the week on the menu board I can glance at it quickly during the day and remember what I need to do for dinner prep. James and the girls like to look at the board to get a feel for what to expect for the week ahead (both to anticipate and steel themselves depending on whether the meal is a favorite or not!)

I am still working through the feelings I experienced last week when I thought about resigning my job and it has impacted my menu plan this week 🙂 I am making a couple of deviations from our summer menu plan. The Cordon Bleu and the Swedish Meatballs are from our Autumn/Winter fare and I am working on a new meal, Pasta Aglio e Olio, which I have now moved from a lunch to trying it as a dinner and adding shrimp. Ahh, keeping it lively over here at the Bistro Pinguino 🙂

Note: Meals are subject to change at the chef’s discretion or whim.

Massaman Curry, Rice, Normandy Blend Veggies (Broccoli, Cauliflower & Carrots)

Swedish Meatballs, Mashed Potatoes, Baby Peas & Carrots
We have our neighborhood block party so I will make a big batch of this to bring to the potluck.

Linguine Aglio e Olio (with Garlic and Oil) with Shrimp, Green Beans
I’m trying something a little different than our usual Shrimp and Shallot Linguine. I’m trying to perfect an Aglio e Olio recipe for our family’s taste and today I’ll add shrimp.

Chicken Pesto Farfalle, Brussel Sprouts (& remaining veggies from previous dinners this week)

Rotisserie Chicken Picnic with Baguette, Pringles, Fruit & Veggie Platter, and Fruit & Veggie Summer Smoothie for the kids.
We are having another family over for dinner and I am very happy about this. We rarely do this but I am hoping this will be the start of another new tradition this summer 🙂

Chicken Cordon Bleu, Rice, Petit Pois (Baby Peas)

As yet undecided. It is likely that we will be eating out as we are trying to plan a family day trip to one of the San Juan Islands but it has not been finalized yet.

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