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The Week in Suppers: late-September

MONDAY’S MENU. Lentil/flax pasta. Roasted tomato sauce. Green salad. Broiled tofu and eggplant.
THE RATIONALE. Quick. AppleApple and somewhat picky friend rushing out the door by 5pm to their first theatre rehearsal. Preferably with food in tummies.
THE COOKING. Sauce made on Sunday, warmed up from a jar, deliciously easy. Note to self: start boiling pasta water earlier on theatre nights.
THE REVIEWS. “I don’t like sauce.” “Would you eat a carrot if I peeled one for you?” “No … but my mom would make me eat it.”
THE VERDICT. Nobody noticed the pasta was made of lentils and flax.

TUESDAY’S MENU. Lentil soup (harira) in crockpot. Saag paneer. Basmati rice.
THE RATIONALE. Bought paneer on a whim + tons of fresh spinach. Harira flavours similar to dahl, easy to make. Voila: an Indian feast.
THE COOKING. Looked up recipe for saag paneer online, all recipes too complicated, invented my own version that did not involve whirling spinach and spices in food processor. Note to self: cinnamon, cardoman, garam masala, cumin and coriander.
THE REVIEWS. “Mom, will you make this again soon?”: Fooey. I kid you not. Fooey! I was just starting to worry that the child would grow up without ever willingly eating a cooked vegetable, when along comes a pan of spinach and paneer (Indian cheese; it looks a lot like tofu, which she loves). My version included cayenne pepper. She had four helpings over rice.
THE VERDICT. Thrilled mother. Relatively happy family (not everyone loved the spinach, I should add). But lentil soup is liked by all.

WEDNESDAY’S MENU. Beet borsch in the crockpot. Buns and cheese. Coleslaw.
THE RATIONALE. A request from AppleApple. This cook loves requests! Especially those involving bright purple vegetables.
THE COOKING. Lots of chopping, but accomplished before breakfast thanks to the crockpot. Coleslaw whipped up last-minute with an improvised mayo-based dressing. With white sugar.
THE REVIEWS. “I’m not going to try that even if you put it in my bowl.”: Fooey. Ah, back to the norm.
THE VERDICT. Delicious. Sorry, Fooey. You’ll just have to grow to appreciate cabbage and beets.

THURSDAY’S MENU. Veggie dogs, hots dogs, and hamburgers. Potato chips. Leftover borsch.
THE RATIONALE. Meet-the-teacher night. Barbeque fundraiser.
THE COOKING. Heated up the borsch upon returning home around 7pm and feeling under-nourished.
THE REVIEWS. “More juice!”
THE VERDICT. Could have been worse. At least I didn’t have to cook; instead, took the opportunity to nap on the couch around 4:30, with the kids reading and practicing piano around me. That was lovely.

FRIDAY’S MENU. Bailey’s pick-up supper: baguette, soft pretzels, cheese sticks, cheese, tomato and red pepper slices, pickles, brussel sprouts with pecans, melon and purple grapes.
THE RATIONALE. On Friday’s, from May until October, I pick up a wagon-load of local food from Bailey’s.
THE COOKING. Sauteed brussel sprouts in butter. This dish is only eaten by me and Kevin. It is divine.
THE REVIEWS. Happy conversation around the table. Contentment.
THE VERDICT. What could be better?

Caution: steep drop-off ahead

A month ago (or more) our porch was demolished. Temporary steps were built.

This morning, we’ve locked the screen door.

The temporary steps are gone.

The mailman just came and knocked on our door. He couldn’t find the mailbox. That’s because it’s resting on a stump until we can figure out where to attach it, temporarily. Maybe onto one of the little birch trees in the front yard? He handed the mail up to me.

If the rain holds off, they’ll start digging the footings today. A delivery of wood is due to arrive, too. Work begins. Because I wheel and deal in metaphor, I see it everywhere. I see a door to nowhere, not yet; I see the potential in wreckage; I see the markings, the plans, the anticipation, the invisible groundwork. I see impatience induced by ugliness and stasis. I see something good coming, if only we can wait.

A room of one’s own, for dreaming and such

Today’s last-minute before-school panicked rummaging involved rainboots. AppleApple had outgrown hers (“I can wear them but I have to curl my toes up …”), but Albus refused to wear his; problem solved. Except Albus’s boots spent summer on the back porch and were filled with leaves and spider webs. AppleApple is terrified of spiders. “Why does this keep happening?” I asked the universe, re the last-minute scrambling, but the universe knew it was a rhetorical question.

How do I frame the minutiae that happens throughout my day? Yesterday, it felt like things were going wrong, no matter what I tried. It was raining and I was running errands with the bike stroller. I was late, or nearly late, for every appointment. On the piano outing, I forgot all but my head and ran comically back and forth between house and vehicle, locking and unlocking the front door, back and forth, as I remembered this that and the other forgotten and critical item.

But I could also have summed up the day by remembering all the things that went well. I actually remembered everything we needed for piano before leaving the driveway, for example. Albus got himself safely home from school. The little kids were in bed at a reasonable hour. Supper tasted good. Kevin arrived home earlier than expected. I started writing in the voice of a new character. Running errands with just one friendly three-year-old is pretty easy and he never even complained about the rain.

But truthfully, I was frazzled for large portions of the day, and that frazzled feeling defined the day’s events.

I do wonder, do people have jobs where, when they’re done for the day, they feel done? And they go home and relax? I find myself romanticizing: home versus job. If job were separate from home, would it be easier to come home and relax? And if home is where I work (home office, as well as all of the domestic labour required to keep home running), then where is that non-work comfort space? Can I find it here?

I wonder if I’m romanticizing the idea of a home office, too. Because within a couple of months, I will have a real actual genuine home office, an 8 x 10 room of my own. Pictured above is the door that will lead to this still-imaginary space. We met with the builder this morning to discuss details (read: pricing), and work will begin on this project (which includes rebuilding the front porch) within a week or two. (!!) Am I romanticizing the idea of stepping into that new office space and shutting the door? Will just being in that room bring me a sense of comfort and relaxation and peace, here at home? Will I be able to sit in my office and read, for pleasure? Nap in my office? Dream in my office? I hope so. I hope I won’t feel obligated to work work work all the time in there.

Dreams and naps and, yes, even reading leave no trace, no record, no scratch on the surface of life. They take you underground. Which brings me around to my overwhelming impulse to record, to make, to create artifacts and stories and loaves of bread. (And blogs). In between the doing, hidden behind it, making it possible, is the quietness of dreaming and drifting and filling up the spirit and the soul with … with the ineffable, with all of the quiet elusive private unnecessary/necessary trails underneath that can’t be pinned down.

Is this happening during my frazzled scrambling days?

Day One, meet Day Three-Hundred-and-Twenty-Five

Here’s what I wrote 324 days ago, last August, (slightly edited): the first entry in a blog I called “Swim Mama! Bike Mama! Run Mama!”:

Day One: The Idea
Tonight in yoga class I felt strong, fit, stable. It was a wonderful feeling, a feeling of digging deep inside my body and working with it, in a very submerged fashion. No worries, no thinking about being somewhere else; my focus for the class was “patience.”

Afterward, in the shower, I thought, I’d like to be in the Olympics. But I’m thirty-five years old. Is it too late? Um, yes, endorphins, it is. But then I thought, okay, it’s too late to be in the Olympics, but it isn’t too late to train my body to do something it’s never done before … like becoming a triathlete. The thought jumped ahead: and it’s not too late to write another book, a completely different book from the ones I usually write. This one won’t be made up. It won’t resemble fiction at all. I’ll write about this–this exact idea, and about how I go about doing it. I’ll stop saying that I’d like to run a triathlon, and I’ll just go ahead and do it. I’ll do it and I’ll write about the process.

Some little time later, getting dressed, drying my hair with a towel in front of the mirror, I thought, this is one of those things that you’d never do if you knew how hard it was going to be.

I am thirty-five, relatively fit and active, but I’ve never run a race longer than 5 kilometres. That was nineteen years ago. Another obstacle: I can’t swim. I took one week of swim lessons. And failed. That was twenty-seven years ago. My kids swim better than me: I’ve forced them into the pool in all seasons and against a good deal of grumbling because goshdarnit they are going to know how to swim.

Is it too late for me to learn? Can I swallow my pride and hop into the water and take adult swim lessons? Swim laps, learn to turn my hand the right way, breathe to the side, kick the proper kick?

What else do I need to learn to do in order to complete a triathlon? I know how to run, but my feet get hot after an hour’s worth. Do I need to look into special equipment, a special diet, training regimens? Where will I begin? Alone?

I packed up my little idea to take home to my husband. What if … I write a book about a mother of four who decides to complete a triathlon (okay, I’d really like to write a book about a mother of four who achieves her goal of becoming an Olympic triathlete, but my previous athletic achievements lead me to believe I’d be over-reaching. Somewhat.)

But sitting down before the computer to brainstorm and write, I can think of nothing but obstacles. The idea sounds ridiculous. I might as well be typing out a bit of fiction.

Time. That might prove the biggest obstacle of all. My youngest child is two. What’s he going to do while I’m at swim lessons? Am I going to send him to daycare in order to train for a race that I really don’t need to run? I imagine getting to the end of the story. I imagine discovering something new and amazing, experiencing pain and suffering (self-inflicted) and arriving at an emotionally salient insight. A big one. Significant. Uh oh. What if the insight is: go back to looking after your family, you ridiculously selfish woman? You were riding a bicycle while your two-year-old turned into a three-year-old, and you missed experiences that cannot be replaced or found again.

I don’t know.

My husband thinks it’s an awesome idea. Maybe he’d like to join me, and do it too.

Where to begin? Where to begin? I haven’t got the faintest idea. I guess I’ll begin here.

::::

And tomorrow, 325 days later, I will compete in my first triathlon. I’m not destined for the Olympics (sorry, self), but I haven’t regretted anything about the process so far. I’ve enjoyed a small writing gig out of the material (though probably will never write a whole book). And the three-year-old is doing just fine. I’m just so grateful that this idea came to me, that I considered it seriously, accepted it, and pursued its existence into reality.

Thanks for your good wishes! And thanks especially to those who joined me along the way. Here’s to Day 325.

Yesterday

It was a busy day, but nevertheless, twice I found myself sitting on our picnic blanket with the two little ones, watching the clouds, collecting pine cones, listening to them play, watching them run and jump and climb trees. We whiled away part of the afternoon in our front yard. And we were able to bike to the park for AppleApple’s soccer practice. It meant a late evening for everyone, but worth it.

A Week in Suppers: 5

Monday supper. Carrot soup with potatoes, vegetarian version (I had run out of frozen chicken stock). It lacked the oomph without the stock flavours to balance it out. Passable. Cooked in the crockpot. Pureed just before setting it on the table. Swim lessons after school. The kids are enjoying it more than they’d expected. Fooey’s class was in the deep end, in the same lane where I swim in the mornings. I ducked out after supper to meet my siblings for a beer. Half a beer, and a ginger ale, in my case; spin class early tomorrow morning.

Tuesday supper. Cottage pie with lentils and ground beef. I had to use up leftover mashed potatoes from Sunday’s supper, ergo, another cottage pie, this time bulked up with lentils. And of course carrots. We still have an overload despite yesterday’s carrot soup. Apple-Apple has soccer practice, outside, fairly early, so we are eating early on Tuesdays. Kevin is still playing hockey, too, but at least that’s post-kids’-bedtime. If they get to bed on time.

Wednesday supper. A frozen container of leftover chili, reheated in the crockpot all day, along with some frozen corn (the last from last summer; I am positive this time), and some frozen spinach. Baked rice on the side. I ate a bit with the family, post-music-lessons, then raced off to hit a yoga class. Feeling very achy. Decided at yoga to take it easy for the next two days, to prepare for the half-marathon. The kids also had drum and guitar lessons while I was out, and Kevin took Albus to his piano lesson, before skedaddling to soccer practice. I came home from yoga and scarfed down these leftovers. Tasty.

Thursday supper. Green pasta. Carb loading in advance of Saturday’s run. Also, everyone likes this meal and it’s super-easy. AppleApple had more another soccer practice, and Kevin went to kundalini yoga alone. I went to bed with a book.

Friday supper. Kusherie. An Egyptian feast. Lentils and rice steamed together. Cumin-spiced tomato sauce. Served on a bed of macaroni. Topped with fried onions. Can we all say “Hurray!” and “Yum!” But Fooey thought it looked disgusting. There was a long drawn-out scene (the word “disgusting” is forbidden at the table). Sigh. It had been a PD day, and I’d been home alone with the kids all day. All I wanted was to enjoy a feast, clean up, get the kids to bed, and go to sleep in preparation for tomorrow’s early rise.

Saturday supper. This is not a photo of Saturday’s supper (we had leftovers; after the race, I did nothing but nap, write, and float around feeling amazing and not in the least in the cooking mood). This is a photo of the snacks brought by my poetry book club, who met here on Saturday evening. There was an absolute feast of snackeries. There was even cake.

Sunday supper. This is not a photo of Sunday’s supper (we had a BBQ, Albus-directed: hot dogs, hamburgers, and potato salad, with an inexplicable giant bowl of mashed potatoes, too). This is a photo of Friday’s indoor picnic with the kids. It was really fun. Hummus on tortilla wraps, veggies, boiled eggs, apples, and homemade green bean dill pickles.

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