family life on a friday

This morning was one of those great wake-up days. At about a quarter to seven, our little girl pads into our room and quietly rouses us: “I have to pee.” I am vaguely aware of my husband getting up with her to help. A bit later I hear breakfast noises. At 7:30 he leaves for work after kissing me goodbye. I am still in the land of slumber. My son has managed to get in our bed again sometime in the early AM; he snuggles in close to me and I am gradually surfacing, hearing the clank of spoon against bowl in the kitchen. Our guests aren’t awake yet. Sunlight streams in through my bedroom window and peace is in the air.

At about 7:45, my son starts to toss a little. He knows he is in bed with me so he does not fuss. Finally, he sits up and rubs his eyes. And rubs them again. I am warm in bed, content to watch him waking up. After a few eye-rub repetitions, he sees me, smiles and crawls over for a kiss. We talk and I pet him. After a few minutes of loving I pick him up and go into the bathroom for a pee, take him into the living room and set him down. Sophie greets me good morning and goes back to her hot cereal. The kids are content and my morning feels great. Time for a cup of coffee.

At 8 our guests start to stir. Cyan shares in the hot cereal; Jodi has some toast. In the next 45 minutes we get our kids ready, clean up breakfast, trade shower time while the girls are treated to a few read-aloud stories. The Mamas are ready and kids are in their coats. We load the kids up and the neighbor dog Dwight joins us. With everyone strapped in and content we head out to a favorite coffee house / cafe for breakfast sandwiches which we take to H.J. Carroll Park in Chimacum. Dwight frolics and eats what the kids don’t; moms enjoy sustenance and conversation. Time to head into town again, so six full tummies and one four-alarm tantrum later we are on our way back. I drop Jodi off to visit her mom and take my kids home. Potty; diaper; snack; a few stories; a nursing; bedtime for Nels. Cyan and Jodi arrive and we take the little girls out to water Sophie and Ralph’s strawberries, 14 plants that are flourishing thanks to the TLC from our little girl. Then it’s time for milk, a short story, and nap.

I have a lot on my plate these days. It’s taking discipline and careful planning to not get overwhelmed or screw up and forget something important. I could be worried about the big party for Sophie tomorrow – of which I haven’t bought or planned food or cake yet – however I think that’s going to come off fine. I could also be in a state about our week’s guests and entertaining them – but luckily Jodi and I have a good time together just doing our normal routine. No, instead what is looming large is my friend’s Blessingway (which is an imposing event and in about eight days) and a few sewing commitments due before Easter, not to mention a couple sets of out-of-town guests on their way in the next couple days. Cripes!

I have always prided myself on keeping my schedule at a normal pace. I am also fortunate in that my husband can literally handle anything that comes up, usually in a remarkably fast and efficient manner. But every once in a while things loom up and get a little tricky. I am just glad right now NO ONE is sick or being a pain in the ass! (fingers crossed).

OK, Jodi’s making brownies. Caffeine and chocolate – has sustained us through our week.

the Great Bus Adventure

This morning we fare even better. The Man gets out the door to work on time; Jodi and I even manage to get the three little ones dressed, fed, and cleaned up with a minimum of fuss. Jodi does the breakfast dishes while Kelly packs the diaper bag and greedily grabs three minutes in the bathroom to slap on some makeup. It’s 9 o’clock sharp and time to head out the door to catch the bus.

I love that the bus goes right by my house
(Grant & 14th). We bundle Nels up in hat and blanket and walk with two girls and a stroller down to the corner. Abbi shows up just in time and joins us with her 2 1/2 year old Liv. The bus arrives: three mamas, four babies, two fetuses, and $3.75 later we are seated. Jodi and Abbi sit in the back with the toddlers; Nels is up front with me. He eyes a beautiful malamute with golden eyes who joins us on the first leg of uptown. The girls are all content and Abbi and Jodi catch up on pregnancy and home life. We arrive at our stop uptown and haul our asses off the bus, me holding everyone up as I fuck with the giant stroller which I still haven’t figured out the perfect way to ascend and descend the bus steps. Of course, I am often offered help in this endeavor by kind strangers and this morning is no exception.

We hit Sweet Laurette’s for coffee and the bakery for our lunch and dinner bread needs. Diaper change #1, Liv. Nels falls asleep. One child, easy to maintain. At the bakery the girls each get a wheat roll to munch on and then it’s off to the bell tower for the view. The girls scrabble around in the gravel. Mamas speculate on the outdoor smoking, and drinking, and sex that has probably occurred on this historic site (hey, that’s what we did when we were young and white trash). We head downtown through a treacherous hill trail toward our destination: Pope Marine Park.

At the park: playtime, a wee beach pee for Sophie, diaper change #2, Cyan. More snacks for Moms. Port Townsend is a pain in the ass when it comes to food to go, especially in the morning. At 10 AM all one can expect to find are many variations on nutritionally and energetically bankrupt (albeit delicious) starchy sweets. Kelly and Sophie venture forth and find something with some protein and some steamed milk for the girls. The girls play; climb; swing; slide; beachcomb; eat. Back to the bus stop. A bus ride and transfer. More fucking with the stroller. We’re home, and goodbye to Abbi and Olivia.

Jodi and I plant the girls in front of some TV to make lunch. After we eat we clean kids up, read, snuggle, and it’s time for naps. Diaper change for Nels, a little playtime, and then nursing peacefully off to sleep. Time to break out the chocolate and coffee for Jodi and I; we’ve earned it.

two wives, three kids, and a bun in the oven

So starts the first morning of a new partnership. For a week it will be Jodi and I corralling our three little ones and she’s knocked up to boot. Things are going well so far. The two girls are ecstatic to have a playmate their own age and are still high off the fun of a new friendship. Sophie is alternately bossy and helpful to the littler girl, much more scattered than usual and less of a help to Mama. Cyan is a willing accomplice.

The Man leaves for work a few minutes late at quarter to eight, toothbrush poking out of his mouth. Then it’s on to Jodi and I to get ready for the day. Changing diapers. Helping with the potty. Putting hair up. Dressing three kids. I get my brood ready and Jodi and her girl are at the table for breakfast #2. Michelle arrives to help with housework while we’re out, so I let her have care of my children for my 15 minutes to myself. I step into the shower and experience a few wonderful minutes of washing my face, scrubbing my scalp. The hiss and splash of the water obfuscates whatever the hell is going on out in the living room. By the time I am dressed and my hair dry Paige is here too. It’s time to go. The ratio of four adults to three kids allows us to get carseats, kids, diaperbags, etc all loaded up in the car in a timely fashion.

Stop at the husband’s work to pick up some cash. Drive through for coffee. Head to playschool. Kids run around; parents steal an hour for “class” in the next room. Normal chit-chat: how to get our kids to eat, unfairness along gender lines of parenting, sex (or lack thereof). There are two husbands there and they valiantly stick up for “their side” of the whole mess. Three of the women at the table are pregnant. All of us are looking for a safe place and strength in numbers. We head back to the kids’ room and sing, pack everyone up, head home.

Groceries and then home for lunch: sandwiches, pickles, carrot sticks, tomato soup, milk. Kids are winding down; lunch is cleaned up; children are changed, nursed, soothed, read to.

I figure Jodi and I have twenty minutes to talk with no distractions before it’s time to get back to work – wash diapers, do laundry, figure out dinner, do dishes, and get our kids to the grocery store again before heading home to cook. Foreseeing this brief respite we have stocked up on good coffee and some bistro cookies (carefully hidden from the kids).

Time to enjoy a break.

ahhh, we all have one of these…

Don’t bother saying you’re sorry / Why don’t you come in? / Smoke all my cigarettes again Everytime I get no further / How long has it been? Come on in now, wipe your feet on my dreams. You take up my time / Like some cheap magazine When I could have been learning something / Well, you know what I mean. I’ve done this before / And I will do it again C’mon and kill me baby / While you smile like a friend Oh and I’ll come running / Just to do it again. You are that last drink I never should have drunk You are the body hidden in the trunk You are the habit I can’t seem to kick You are my secrets on the front page every week You are the car I never should have bought You are the train I never should have caught You are the cut that makes me hide my face You are the party that makes me feel my age. You’re like a car crash I can see but I just can’t avoid You’re like a plane I’ve been told I never should board You’re like a film that’s so bad but I’ve just got to stay ‘til the end Let me tell you – that it’s lucky for you that we’re friends.

thanks CR


Cream Of Chicken & Vegetable Soup

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
12 ounce evaporated milk (1 can)
~ 1 pound / 16 ounces assorted steamed / prepared vegetables
3 cloves garlic
2 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (about 8 ounces total), cooked and cubed
2 – 4 cups chicken stock, depending on desired consistency of soup
1/4 teaspoon thyme
1/4 teaspoon garlic salt
salt and fresh ground pepper

Melt butter in medium saucepan over low heat and saute garlic until softened, about 10 minutes. Stir in flour until smooth. Gradually stir in milk. Cook, stirring constantly, until mixture comes to a boil. Add vegetables, chicken, broth, and onion salt. Heat through and serve. Makes about 6 – 10 servings, depending on amount of stock used.

Pastel De Tres Leches

(or, Three Milk Cake)

1 1⁄2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1⁄2 cup unsalted butter
2 cups white sugar (divided)
5 eggs
1 1⁄2 teaspoon vanilla extract (divided)
1 cup milk
1⁄2 of a 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
1⁄2 of a 12-ounce can evaporated milk
1 1⁄2 cups heavy (whipping) cream

Preheat oven to 350 °F. Grease and flour a 9 x 13 inch baking pan.

Sift flour and baking powder together and set aside. Cream the butter and 1 cup of the sugar together until fluffy. Add the eggs and 1/2 teaspoon of the vanilla. Beat well. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture, 2 tablespoons at a time, mixing well until blended. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake for 30 minutes.

When cake has finished baking, pierce it in 8 or 10 places with a fork or skewer, and let it cool. Combine the whole milk, evaporated milk, and condensed milk and pour over the top of the cooled cake. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving.

Whipped cream topping: When ready to serve, combine the whipping cream and the remaining 1 teaspoon of vanilla and 1 cup of sugar, whipping until thick. Spread over top of cake.
Because of the milk in the cake, it is very important that you keep the cake refrigerated until ready to serve. Serve chilled and with fresh fruit, if desired.

Variations:

Caribbean version: Replace the sweetened condensed milk with 1⁄2 cup of coconut milk in the milk mixture. You can also add 1⁄4 cup rum or any other liqueur.

Southern version: In addition to the three milks, add 1/3 cup peach schnapps. You can add 1⁄2 cup of diced, drained peaches to the batter. About 1⁄4 cup of pecans can be added to the batter or sprinkled on top of the cake before serving.

Cream Of Broccoli Soup

3 tablespoons butter
3 cloves garlic
3 stalks celery, coarsely chopped (about 1/4 inch)
2 lb. broccoli, cut into large florets
1 quart / 4 cups low-sodium chicken stock
12 ounce evaporated milk (1 can)
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
3 tablespoons flour
salt
fresh ground pepper

In bottom of large soup pot, saute garlic and celery in butter over medium heat until softened but do not brown. Add broccoli and chicken stock (stock may not cover). Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer until broccoli is quite tender, but not cooked to mush, about 20 minutes.

Puree broccoli and broth in food processor. If desired, remove a few pieces of broccoli before pureeing and add back in when finished. Pour puree back into soup pot. Blend half the evaporated milk and flour separately. Add flour/milk mixture to soup along with cheddar cheese, reserving some cheddar cheese for garnish. Bring soup barely to a boil while stirring. Soup should now have a moderately thick consistency. Add remaining milk, mixing with more flour if necessary to bring soup to desired consistency. I personally don’t find more flour necessary. I also enjoy a thinner cream soup.

When soup has thickened, remove from heat or put on VERY low heat so that milk doesn’t ‘break’. If necessary, gently reheat small batches in saucepan or in microwave. Soup will keep for 3-4 days in refrigerator. Makes about 8 servings.

Chocolate Chunk Banana Bread

2 eggs
1 cup ripe mashed bananas (about 3 bananas)
1/3 cup canola oil
1/4 cup milk
2 cups flour (I use a 1/2 and 1/2 blend of all-purpose and whole wheat pastry flour)
1 cup sugar
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips or chunks
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chopped nuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Mix eggs, bananas (about 3 bananas), oil and milk in large bowl until well blended. Mix dry ingredients separately in large bowl. Add wet ingredients; stir just until moistened. Grease loaf pan; fill with batter.

Bake for 55 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool completely in pan on wire rack. Store, tightly wrapped, at room temperature.

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A variation from kraftfoods.com – combine the dry ingredients for a bread mix and give it as a gift:

Chocolate Chunk Banana Bread Mix

Makes: 1 loaf

2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips or chunks
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chopped nuts (optional)

1 disposable 9×5-inch foil loaf pan

Place all dry ingredients in 1-gallon sealable plastic bag; seal bag. Place bag in loaf pan. Place in decorative gift bag. Pair wrapped bread mix with tea towels for a great hostess gift.

Attach the following preparation directions to bag:

Preparation Directions: Preheat oven to 350°F. Mix 2 eggs, 1 cup mashed ripe bananas (about 3 bananas), 1/3 cup canola oil and 1/4 cup milk in large bowl until well blended. Add bread mix; stir just until moistened. Grease foil loaf pan; fill with batter.

Bake for 55 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool completely in pan on wire rack. Store, tightly wrapped, at room temperature.

Meatloaf

4 slices white bread
2 1/2 pounds ground beef
2 garlic cloves
2 stalks celery
2 carrots, scrubbed
1/2 cup fresh parsley (or 2 tablespoons dried)
1 large egg
3/4 cup ketchup
4 teaspoons dried mustard
2 teaspoons celery seed
1 tablespoon coarse salt
2 teaspoons freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons packed brown sugar

Preheat oven to 400 °F. In the bowl of a food processor, pulse bread until fine crumbs form. Transfer to a medium bowl and add ground beef. Place garlic, celery, carrots, and parsley in food processor until finely chopped (you may want to cut the celery and carrots down a bit before processing). Mix the vegetables into meat mixture. Add egg, 1/2 cup ketchup, 2 teaspoons dried mustard, celery seed, salt, and pepper. Combine thoroughly, using your hands. Place in a loaf pan.

In a small bowl, combine remaining 1/4 cup ketchup, remaining 2 teaspoons mustard, and brown sugar. Whisk until blended. Brush mixture over top of meat loaf. Place the pan on a baking sheet to catch drippings and transfer to oven. Bake until a meat thermometer inserted in the center reaches 160°, about 1 1/2 hours.

Let meatloaf stand about 15 minutes before slicing. Makes about 6 servings.

Okay, I basically stole this recipe from you-know-who (initials M.S.). Still, I have refined the recipe and simplified the directions a bit (she loves to make things more complicated than they should be). This is a very hearty, moist meatloaf with a great ketchupy crust. Nothing says “I love you” better than a big slab of animal product for Valentine’s Day, right? 🙂