Monday, October 10, 2011

Dinner Part 2

Pure laziness (and a desire to not put those jeans back on, thank you very much) has driven me to make pasta from scratch tonight. I thought I was getting away with an easy dinner (after all that rhapsodizing about making dinner for the family, routine, etc. etc.) tonight by using a jar of TJs pasta sauce and some hamburger. Only to find that there is nary a twig of dry pasta to be found in my lovely built-in pantry circa 1948. The dilemma: switch out of sweatpants for a quick grocery run, or make it at home. I know, there is a certain perverseness in the whole situation--who thinks making pasta from scratch is easier than running to the store? Me, if it means trying to look presentable and having to drive at "rush" hour.

Sunday, October 9, 2011


Three weeks into the teaching quarter, my first head-cold of the season well underway, a house mostly moved into, the homework struggle with the oldest at an uneasy d├ętente, and finally a dip into lower temperatures and a spot of rain here and there... And what do I have to write about? My dinner for tonight.

I know, what I'm making for dinner tonight is not earth-shattering news for anyone. However, for the first time in weeks, maybe even months, I feel at home with my dinner routine tonight. I have a nasty cough and still a sore throat but I took comfort and, dare I say, pleasure, in pulling out my big 6-quart dutch oven this afternoon. White beans simmer in broth, onions, and garlic, flecked with rosemary and a bobbing parmesan rind. Carrots and kale from the market wait to go in towards the end; the chicken andouille sausage is browned and drained, also waiting for the beans to become tender enough to add. I'm not trying to be poetic, I'm just so glad to have a little return to routine.

I love making meals for my family. However, spending time in the kitchen has just not been part of my life lately. My husband has happily shouldered a lot of the meal preparation in the past few weeks as I have tried to adjust to teaching two classes a day, four days a week. I've spent an awful lot of time napping and grading and prepping the next day's class. I like the napping part, don't get me wrong. Frankly, I don't mind the grading or the prepping either. But I have really missed being in the kitchen, especially in my new kitchen that, instead of being galley-style, is square with lots of cupboards, lots of counter space, lots of room. I have half-heartedly baked cookies, assembled salads, and thrown together countless crisps during the whole move-in process. Making dinner as part of the usual rhythm of the day, however, has been conspicuously absent of late.

It's the meditation of chopping onions and garlic, sweeping aside the paper skins, arranging the carrots for later, and the smells of the herbs and spices, the gentle simmer of soup in my bright red pot--this is what has been missing from my life since before I left for Alaska in June. Adjusting to my homemaker life has always been a slow process upon my return from Alaska but this year it has taken that much longer due to the move and the new teaching load.

I've missed it a lot, to state the obvious.

I'm still not baking bread. I have had to make peace with buying loaves of bread at the store. I hate buying bread. But I can't do everything right now. I'd like to think I'm Superwoman but, well, we all know that kind of thinking leads to lunchtime martinis. Just kidding. I'm not baking cookies all the time, or knitting dishcloths, or practicing my banjo--wait, this is all starting to sound like the last post... clearly I need to address these holes in my life, too. One step at a time, though, starting with my White Bean and Kale soup.

The class prep can happen later.

Monday, October 3, 2011

A Return to the Blogosphere...

after a long break in which:

--I survived a season in Naknek while only marginally breaking the bank;
--my paycheck went immediately into a down payment on a house (see below);
--the chickens survived the massacre (part 2) and 5 skunks met their maker;
--Dave bought a new house;
--Dave sold our house;
--we moved from one house to the other;
--the new house got a new paint job on the inside; new windows everywhere; new fences outside, including a new chicken area; a bedroom was built out of the shop in the basement (in one week); etc. etc. etc.;
--the kids started back to school;
--Dave and I started back to school;
--numerous crisps, pies, cobblers, and cookies were made to keep spirits up during all of the above.

When I first came back from Alaska I tried to write about how incredibly hard it is to transition from that world into this one. This is as far as I got:

I've come back home to a flurry of activity--new house bought, old house sold, and all the appointments, paper signing, planning, and stress that goes with such a momentous change--and still I am plagued by the shock of transition from Alaska life to home life. All of this activity swirls around me but I move in slow-motion, trying to re-order all the gears in my brain and body, adjusting to life here, rather than life there.

Actually experiencing the transition only closely rivaled the difficulty of writing about the transition, so that post never made it out of my head. And then all of that internal gymnastics gave way to the blur of moving from one house to another. I didn't even know when I went to Alaska that we'd be moving when I got back. Dave put the bid down on our new house while I was there; I signed reams of mortgage papers in between loading 40-foot containers with 1000 lb. boxes of salmon. Dave sold our existing house to a nice young couple; I signed more papers via fax and internet. I only really finally saw the house the day after coming back home: in a fog of exhaustion and discombobulation I wandered through the new house, trying to sound enthusiastic but only barely able to process the whole enormity of the situation.

We moved.

I won't go into all the details because it's all over now and I don't particularly want to remember much of it. It's not fun moving. Need I say more?

However, now we are in the house, it is almost completely moved into (the boxes in the corner of the family room in the basement are just going to have to wait for a rainy day), we all love it and remarkably I feel like I'm where I meant to be until retirement, at the earliest. It's a lovely neighborhood, quiet and full of sweet neighbors. The kids have lots of friends in the area, it's not much farther away from their schools, and it has just enough more room than the old house to make the looming prospect of two teenagers seem bearable.

I haven't wanted to write, play the banjo, bake (other than in survival mode when moving), knit, or do anything other than clean, unpack, clean some more, and keep food flowing. I'm happy to say that I finally want to embark on all those activities which make me feel good. Unfortunately, I am also teaching two sections (fully-enrolled at 35 each) of beginning French. The balancing act has been a difficult one to attain until now, three weeks into the quarter. I think I'll even get the banjo out this week and try to tune it again.