Fat Fridays: Tis’ the Season

Good morning everyone. Hope you all are well today. 

I am busily cleaning my house, listening to Pentatonix’s Oh Come All Ye Faithful. (Ok, I had to stop writing there for a second so I could sing along. Ok. Focus on writing.) 

I was up all night thinking about all the things I need to do in the next couple days. My son has a Christmas program at school tonight, and we have family coming to watch. We’re having our annual Christmas Open House on Sunday which involves a lot of cleaning, cooking, and planning. And on top of all that, this week I pulled a muscle in my back and spent a whole day just sitting in a chair. Yesterday I was able to move around, but slowly and carefully. Today I am stiff, but able to move.  But, that put me two days behind on all the Christmas preparation I was planning on doing. And then last night the PTO from the elementary school said we are selling popcorn tomorrow, can you come help? And I said yes, while my eye started twitching. 

I am pretty sure that I pulled a muscle this week because I have been walking around in a physical state of stress. I love Christmas time. I love doing things for other people, making things special for my kids, all the extra Christmas activities. But, it can be stressful. I like my life slow paced. And the whole month of December is not slow paced. At all. And there are a lot of social interactions. And I am an introvert who has discovered over time that I thrive on a lot of alone-quiet time. And I haven’t been getting a lot of that. Last night I went to my son’s basketball game with one of my daughters. We watched both the boys and girls games. Another mom from the team was sitting next to me so we engaged in polite social chitchat. It was noisy. I spent a lot of time talking to my daughter. When we got home I gathered the family together so we could do our nightly Advent devotions that we do in the month of December. We finished Advent and then I gave my husband “The Look”. The look that says, I am done. I need to disappear. PLEASE TAKE OVER!! And my husband, who stayed home with all the other kids, fed them supper, helped them with homework, goes, “What??” All you’ve done is go to a basketball game! But, going to a basketball game takes a lot of energy! 

So, we tag teamed and made it through bedtime, crashed into bed, and then I dreamed about cleaning my house, preparing for parties, and kept waking up wondering if it was time to start the next busy day. 

So, for this blog, the question is, how do you maintain diet, exercise, and self-care during the holidays? 

I think the best I can come up with is Be Realistic. 

The next three days I am not going to have much time, but I plan to get up early tomorrow morning so I can squeeze in a workout. I don’t think I will get to one today though, too many things to do. But, I know that next week I will have more time, so I just have to accept that sometimes you can’t do everything. And as far as self-care, I think I just have to keep reminding myself that none of this is life and death. If I don’t get everything done, it’s ok. All of these things I’m doing are because I want everything a certain way. And if it ends up not being the exact way I want, Who cares? No one else does. Just me. So, I have to keep reminding myself that the level of importance I’m putting on all these plans is very flexible. And diet? Well, there is always January. Though I am going to try and come up with some quick, healthy meals we can just heat up for the next couple days without needing a lot of prep. 

So, I’m off to do more cleaning and then go sell popcorn and then cook and clean some more. And maybe try to remember that this is fun and I love the holidays. 

Just Keep Cooking

So, the other night I experienced a new Low in cooking. While cooking brats on my grill, I somehow managed to set them all on fire. I mean REALLY on fire. Like, I took them off the grill with my tongs and put them on a plate and there were still flames coming out of them on the plate. This is a first for me. 

 

The experience can now join my Hall of Flame cooking disasters. Like the time I put on a pot of frozen green beans, covered them with water, put them on to boil, and then forgot them long enough that all the water evaporated and the green beans burned to the bottom of the pot. I was pretty impressed with that one. 

 

Or the time my husband bought me a very expensive pot with a steamer insert option. I filled up the steamer bowl with broccoli, turned on the stove, and waited. And waited and waited. I kept cracking the lid to check on the broccoli and it remained unchangingly raw. Then I started hearing weird sounds from the pot. My husband came in the kitchen to talk to me while I was cooking and I mentioned that I couldn’t figure out why on earth this broccoli was taking so long to cook. He lifted the lid, looked inside, then asked, Did you put any water in the pot? …….Ummm. No. I think I forgot that step. 

That little “oops” damaged the bottom of my pot to the point that it was unusable. 

 

I’ve had a couple times when flames have erupted from my stove top due to me accidentally leaving a dishtowel on the burner. 

 

I’ve had multiple times where I have put a pot of food on the stove to cook and come back much later and realized I never turned the burner on. 

 

I’ve baked double batches of muffins only to realize, when I taste them, that I forgot some important ingredient like salt or sugar. 

 

I exploded potatoes in my oven once. 

 

One time I baked a casserole in the oven in a glass casserole dish. When it was done I took it out of the oven, placed it on the stove top, and let it sit for a couple minutes to cool. Unfortunately, I hadn’t realized that one of the stove burners was on. The glass dish heated up and then exploded all over the kitchen. I think we ended up going out to eat that night. 

 

Most of my cooking problems are related to the fact that I am very absent-minded and also constantly being distracted by a houseful of children. 

 

Here’s the thing. I haven’t stopped cooking. I don’t have any intentions to stop cooking. Every day, I get up and make sure the family is fed three times a day. Little mistakes and really BIG mistakes have not stopped me from trying once again. 

 

Now, if I could somehow get that same tenacity for other areas in my life. Areas like rocky relationships, health goals, self-discipline goals.

 

 I’ve been feeling a bit discouraged the last couple days, just feeling like I have failed to accomplish my goals so many times, maybe I should just give up. But really, I just need to adopt the “cooking mistakes” approach. You mess up, you apologize to whoever is affected by the mistake, you clean up the mess, you keep cooking. 

 

What is Your Complication Threshold?

My mom was talking tonight about some app she had that let her communicate with a bunch of people. I had heard of this app before and had actually had a couple people suggest I download it so they could keep in touch with me better. Yeah…about that. I don’t like downloading apps. There are a couple that are vital to me, like my kindle app, my weather channel app, and email app. And…yep. That’s it. That of course makes me sound like a boring person. But actually, it has to do with my complication threshold.

 

(Esther’s Definition of Complication Threshold: the point in any activity where the process becomes so complicated that it’s no longer worth completing the activity.)

 

My phone is cheap and retarded and difficult and any other bad adjective you can think of. Downloading apps is a pain in the butt. It’s complicated. I don’t do complicated. Even when I had a phone that worked and was relatively simple, there was still the whole learning how to use the app, figuring out all the ins and outs etc. It’s not my cup of tea. I never played video games as a child. My use for computers is word processing and internet browsing. My computer abilities are at the basic level. And I’m happy with that. If I have to do anything complicated, I have my husband or my teenage son to help me.

It’s not just technology though. I have a complication threshold for all areas of my life. I can cook. I’m not sure where I fall in the cooking scale of Good versus Bad. My mother-in-law taught me to how to make homemade jam and homemade biscuits. My mother taught me how to make a couple Indian dishes. My husband taught me how to make homemade bread and black beans and rice from scratch. And then I taught myself a bunch of other stuff. I like looking at new recipes occasionally, trying to get new ideas. But when the recipe starts talking about chilling the dough for 30 mins before rolling it out. Or sifting the flour four times before measuring it. Or taking the temperature of cooking foods…yeah. That doesn’t work for me. I usually glance through the recipe, get the general idea of what they’re trying to do and then remake the recipe so that it’s simple.

The same goes for crafting projects. I was once gifted with yarn, knitting needles and a pattern to make some kind of baby thing. It looked really cute. I thought, hey, why not? I have everything here, I should just try. I read the first instruction. Cast on twenty stitches. Ok. I know how to do that. Twenty stitches coming up. Then the second instruction. Knit one line. Ok. I have vague memories from my mother’s instructions from my childhood. I can do that. The next instruction. Pearl one line. Pearl. Pearl. Ok, wait, I think I know what that means, just knit backwards, right? Check. Got this. Then the next instruction. Pearl one stitch, knit one stitch, stand up, spin around, count 14 stitches, then knit two stitches then pearl one, then sing a song…and you get the point. Way too complicated. I put the knitting project away. It surpassed my complication threshold.

Now, there are some areas where I can handle complicated without twitching an eye. Managing the schedules of twelve family members is one of those areas. I have scheduling meetings with my husband. Ok, I am going to take this child out of school in the middle of the school day to take them to their doctors appointment. I will have the two little ones in tow. If, for some reason our appointment goes late, then you will have to leave work and go pick up the kids from school. But, I should be there, it’s just if their appointment goes late. And in fact, keep your phone handy…If the appointment goes late I might still be able to go to middle school and pick up that child that has a later release time. You can possible just go to the elementary school and take them home and then get back to your job. And you can leave them at home because today is early release for high school so there will be a highschooler home to watch them. And then after I get everyone home I’ve got to run by the University and pick up the eldest who is coming home for a night. And then we have to take this other child to a special event tonight…Piece of cake.

Knowing what level of complication you can handle makes decision making easier. My teenage daughter just launched into a spiel where she was trying to sell me on getting her a different phone plan with unlimited data. Her plan of action involved me monitoring her online presence carefully and setting up certain times of the day when she could be online etc. I stopped her mid-sentence. Nope. Way too complicated. That passes my complication threshold. Right now you can text and call on your phone. And use wifi if it’s available. That is so wonderfully simple! Why would I want to change that?

The teenager was not impressed when I explained that I was actually writing about complication thresholds and her request proved my point.

We’re all different. Things I find too complicated are easy-peasy for others. So what are your complication thresholds? What is the straw that breaks the camels’ back for you?

 

 

What Kind of Food do You Like?

The other night I served my kids something new for supper. There was much wailing and gnashing of teeth. No one liked what I had made. Nobody wanted to eat it, though my husband assured me that the food tasted great and it had nothing to do with my cooking skills. I served up a small amount for everyone and made them taste it, but no one wanted to finish their food. No one. Not even the baby. You are probably curious as to what strange weird food I was trying to introduce to my children. I will tell you. Chicken Pot Pie. Yep. That’s it. Chicken Pot Pie. You would have thought I was serving up raw liver and kale and lima bean salad.

My 5 year old, when she saw me preparing the meal, asked with a tinge of horror in her voice, What is it??

Chicken Pot Pie! It’s yummy! It’s Southern! You are Southern! You were born right here, in Tennessee, so you are Southern. This is Southern food. You are supposed to like this.

She disagreed.

My children apparently don’t appreciate Southern food. I have failed my children.

The problem is, though I was born in Kentucky, I don’t have a southern background when it comes to food. My mother is English and she grew up in India. I grew up on Indian curries with the occasional Shepherd’s Pie and ham with white sauce and peas served over rice. I also grew up in the Caribbean so throw in a healthy dose of rice and beans and plantains.

Even though I grew up on curries, spicy food has never been my favorite. I remember, often, walking into the house after school and having my eyes instantly start watering up because my mother was frying an overwhelming amount of spices. My mom tried to take into account that I didn’t like things spicy, but the problem was I was the only one. My brother and father loved spicy food too. I was on my own. I remember once when I had a bunch of friends over, my mom made a pasta dish and she added some kind of hot spice to make it “more interesting”. It was so hot that we ended up turning it into a game. How many bites can you eat before you have to take a drink? My mom said, later, it was a good way to not get eaten out of house and home.

When we moved back to the states when I was 6, I went into 2nd grade. My first time in an American public school. The first year my brother and I ate school lunches. This was in Kentucky. I was exposed to interesting new foods like corn dogs (I was not a fan, I would peel off the corn meal outer layer and just eat the hot dog in the middle), pinto beans and cornbread (I’d eat the beans and trade my cornbread, I didn’t trust bread made out of corn, that just seemed weird), tater tots (amazing!) and vegetable soup with bread rolls (my absolute favorite meal). My mom did not cook any of these foods at home, and whenever we ate out it was either at a Chinese restaurant or a Mexican restaurant. I did not get much exposure to “American” food, but the small exposures I got were heavenly. I remember going to a friend’s house for supper and we had homemade biscuits and gravy. Euphoria. I slowly developed a decided preference for Standard American Food. And I rarely got it. For my birthday my mom would ask what special thing I wanted to eat. I would request things like tuna noodle casserole. Without added curry spices please. Just plain.

As a young bride I suddenly found myself in a position where I needed to know how to cook. My husband taught me how to make rice and beans – Nicaraguan style. My mother-in-law taught me how to make biscuits (New England style). I started to explore recipe books. By this time I had discovered that I loved Southern food. I attempted to learn how to cook it, but didn’t have anyone to teach me. I tried to make fried chicken once and my husband let it be known, very diplomatically, that he really didn’t like fried food. I tried hush puppies once. Same response from hubby. I also tried fried green tomatoes and decided on my own that I was no good at making this dish. Sigh. I eventually gave up.

Nowadays I serve a hodgepodge of all the cultures I’ve been exposed to. We eat lots of Mexican, occasional Chinese, some Indian (I cheat though and buy the sauces premade), rice and beans, some Haitian-style dishes, and then the standard spaghetti, and lots of various Chicken and rice dishes. I gave up on being a Southern Cook and simply get my fix when I go to church potlucks or get to eat at someone’s house. My southern children have sadly had little exposure to southern cooking and have no idea what they’re missing out on.

Funny enough though, now, when I visit my parents, I eat my mom’s curries with great delight. Even though I can’t feel my tongue because of the heat, it represents home, childhood.

So what kind of food do you like?