Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The "Fixing Maegan Project" begins.

Several days ago, I was talking to a friend about my ambivalence about having children. As much as I'm looking forward to someday starting our family, I sometimes doubt whether I'm going to be good at the job. Being a full-time mom is, after all, a job - and from what I've heard, it's challenging to do it right. And one of my biggest concerns is whether I'll be able to even do the minimum at home - keep the house clean, get dinner on the table, and be a happy mom.

It's always been a challenge for me to use my time efficiently, and that has become even more difficult since getting married, now that I spend most of my time at home. When I wake up in the morning, the hours of the day stretch on before me and I feel as though I've got all the time in the world. Before I know it, though, it's three in the afternoon and I've managed to push most of my to-do list down to the last two hours before Brian comes home. The most frustrating thing about this is that I know most people would realize they're making this mistake and then would just decide to get everything done in the morning. But I can't seem to get my butt in gear. And so I wonder - am I just going to get worse when kids come along?

So I was voicing these concerns to my friend, whose kids are mostly grown and out of the house and whose life and routine seem very well-organized. "You waste time," she pointed out, "because you have no one to answer to. There's no baby waking up at this time, who needs to nurse at this time, and who needs to nap at this time. You'll see that you'll have to manage your day better just because you know that all that time isn't yours anymore."

"I think I would feel more organized if I could just get a good dinner on the table within a reasonable time after Brian got home," I said. Recently, Brian has been coming home, nine nights out of ten, to me racing around the kitchen trying to come up with something to make for dinner. And more often than not, it's been eggs. What kind of wife am I, I ask myself, when my list of responsibilities is so short and yet I consistently fail to get it done? Even the most basic - dinner - when cooking is supposedly one of my favorite things to do? "Did you always have dinner ready at the same time every night?" I asked her.

She nodded. She explained that her husband was always starving when he came home from work at the same time every day and that it just made sense to feed the family at 6:30. "I just figured out in my head what I was going to make for the week and then I'd shop for those meals. I never wrote out an actual meal plan, but I have friends who do and it works really well for them. I just had the same fifteen meals that I sort of rotated every couple of weeks. It was sort of comforting for there to be a meal that everybody liked."

Several days later, I got a free issue of Cooking Light in the mail. Of all the cooking magazines that I've tried, this one is my favorite. The recipes are creative, affordable, and always spot-on (the ones I've tried, anyway). So last night, I sat down to pick out new recipes to add to my new "Meals We Eat in the Summer" list. A cardboard insert in the magazine caused the pages to flip open to some place in the middle, a beautiful picture of a garden-fresh meal. Over it, in bright yellow type, were the words, "Make a meal plan." I laughed to myself. I guess this is something I just should be doing. I'll let you guys know how it goes.

Meals We Eat in the Summer
  • Whole chicken on the grill / salad or grilled vegetables
  • Venison kabobs / grilled vegetables and sweet potatoes
  • Barbecued chicken thighs / grilled vegetables or salad
  • Cuban black bean patties with pineapple rice / salad
  • Salmon cakes with dill yogurt sauce / salad
  • Chicken caesar salad
  • Barbecue venison / coleslaw
  • Stuffed chicken breasts with basil and sun-dried tomatoes / potatoes and broccoli
  • Chicken breasts with roasted cherry tomato sauce / grilled broccoli or asparagus
  • Venison steaks with herb butter / grilled vegetables or salad
  • Pecan-crusted chicken and mandarin orange salad
  • Omelets with spinach, ham, and mushrooms
  • Chicken marinara / grilled broccoli
  • Still in progress...
  • Monday, June 29, 2009

    Things that happened this weekend.

    1. I realized we needed some color in our living room, which is currently decorated in several shades of brown, beige, and tan. With highlights of beige and tan. So I bought a few things to hang on the walls, things that might bring in a touch of color.

    Well, I found out that Brian’s decorating opinions are very strong. Here’s a conversation that took place yesterday regarding the thing that you can see to the right of that handsome puppy.

    DSC03397

    Brian: “I hate it. There’s no point to it. It’s ugly.”
    Me: “That’s not true! Look, it’s got fall colors and it brings out the colors of our living room. Look – the brown in our couch and the red in the chairs.”
    Brian: “It looks like 1970s disco d├ęcor.”
    Me: “Noooooo. It looks like… like nature. Like I gathered the autumn leaves from the forest and covered them with a river and brought it into our house. It goes perfectly.”
    Brian: “No, it definitely does not. It’s ugly. There’s no point. Art should have a point.”
    Maegan: “Not necessarily. The point of it is to bring in more color and it does!”
    Brian: “Why can’t we put up pictures?”
    Maegan: “We don’t have any kids!
    Brian: “Put up pictures of Bo! I don’t care!”
    Maegan: “I’m not going to be one of those people who puts up pictures of her dog all over the house. I don’t understand what’s wrong with this. It’s pretty!”
    Brian: “Not in our house, it’s not.”
    Maegan: “What kind of house would it look good in?”
    Brian: “Have you ever seen That 70s Show?”

    What do you guys think?

    2. I tried not to wonder whether I was pregnant. Told myself I didn’t want to be pregnant. Kind of hoped I was pregnant and kept counting my cycle length in my head. Then realized I truly didn’t want to be pregnant, because that would put me at about eight months pregnant for our trip to the Bahamas in February. Began desperately telling Brian that now was really not a good time to be pregnant, that we couldn’t be pregnant until at least after February. Mentally slapped the girl inside my brain who kept talking about how nice it would be to be pregnant. Finally, found out I definitely wasn’t pregnant. Sighed with relief and stuck out my tongue at the girl inside my brain, who was carrying on with her "maybe next month" foolishness.

    3. I went shopping with my friend, who dragged me into the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory between stores and insisted that I let her buy me a piece of chocolate. And I loved her!

    So I stood in front of the case of chocolates, feeling like a child in a custody battle who had to choose between her parents. Only here, there were fifty different kinds of parents, all equally perfect. But after great deliberation, second-guessing, and consternation, I chose. I chose a piece of thick, crunchy toffee, dipped in milk chocolate and covered in macadamia nuts. Now, I could tell you it was delicious, if "delicious" meant “caused me to understand why crack addicts resort to crime” and “made me fantasize about drugging Brian with sleeping pills, sneaking out in the dead of night, and breaking into the store in order to steal the rest of that toffee". Ohhhh, that toffee. That toffee...

    If you can believe it, I restrained myself after eating half of it – it was a big piece – and carefully wrapped the remainder in its wax paper. When I got home, I presented it to Brian as an offering of love, a payment for watching Fireproof with me. I felt like one of the Magi.

    So imagine my distress when, this morning, he shrugged when I mentioned it and said, “Meh. It was okay. But I like M&M’s a lot better.”

    What a weasel. I am totally going to make him watch Hairspray with me next weekend.

    Friday, June 26, 2009

    Two things that grossed me out today.

    1.) Part of the reason I am the Wonder Wife is because I get up in the morning with Brian - at 5:15 A.M - and let him drag me on a long jog around the neighborhood. While I am propping my eyes open in order to tie my running shoes, Bo is beside himself with excitement. The morning jog is just about his favorite time of day. On the last stretch, as we run past the lake on the wet grass, Bo leaps ahead into the water to swim out past the shore for a few minutes. He's got a good life, this dog.

    I have to admit that one of my favorite parts of the day is right after the final sprint, when we cool down and we walk a block back to the house, holding hands. Then, on the front porch, I take a second to towel off Bo. He's not usually a cuddly dog, but when I'm drying him off, he snuggles into my stomach and looks up at me with his big, brown eyes.

    But this morning, towel in hand, I smelled a fresh pile of dog poop. I looked over his body frantically to see if he had somehow rolled in his own mess. Nope. I glanced around the front porch. Nothing. Then my handsome puppy looked into my face with his big, brown eyes, panting. Augh! That was the smell! He had eaten poop!

    Now, I know that some dogs eat poop. That's fine, for them. But my dog does not eat poop.

    2.) Also, check out this spider. We found it by our house while we were landscaping.

    Baby tarantula, yuck

    Thursday, June 25, 2009

    Not to imply that my life is anything but constant, breathless excitement...

    I realize I haven’t updated this blog in several weeks. Which is particularly despicable considering that I first intended to update it every day (save, perhaps, the weekends). Before signing up for my blog account, almost every day would pass with an event or an idea that would strike me as something interesting I’d be able to share on a blog. And the point of the blog, I thought, wouldn’t be so much to entertain others as to sort of mark my way as I traveled through married life, to create a bread-crumb trail of this short time as a housewife.

    See, I’m terrible at keeping a journal. I don’t know how people can write in a diary on a regular basis. If someone were to read through my childhood diary, they’d be well-informed about October of 1995, Easter Break of 1997, the crushes of Family Camp of 1999, 2000, and 2002, and a brief period in high school when I broke up with my first “boyfriend”. (Incidentally, I wish I hadn’t kept such a detailed account of that last event. To my memory, the boy was a socially awkward, baby-talking egomaniac. My family still mentions his name in order to make me cringe, and if my diary didn’t pine so dramatically for him I’d be able to insist – with a clear conscience – that I had never seriously liked him. But… I digress.)

    I started a journal again this past March. I had gone to a job interview at Barnes and Noble and realized, once there, that I hadn’t brought any paper to take notes. In haste, I shelled out lots of money for a simple, spiral-bound notebook. I didn’t get the job, but I did look more prepared holding that notebook. And I was able to write down “contractual position” and “software company.” Whew.

    So after coming back from a trip to Miami with friends, I made myself pick up that fat, empty notebook and start a journal. I told myself I’d keep it up, even for five minutes a day, and even if my entries looked like this: “Chicken for dinner tonight. Went to Walmart. Brian and I bought nectarines on sale. Have eaten four. Also have eaten half a bag of jumbo marshmallows. Bo is cute.” Not a lot of pressure, right? And I did it for about a week. And then I stopped.

    And I realized I needed to start my blog. Also, I’m not sure where my notebook is.

    The point is, I am committing to updating this blog. Every day. Even if the entries look like this: “Spent an hour looking online for gender-neutral crib bedding and baby nursery ideas. Got my period yesterday. Eggs and toast for dinner. Bo is chewing on a toothpaste box. Might watch a movie tonight.”

    I won’t blame you if you stop reading. But to me, it’d be more of a shame to look back at this time in my life and wonder what the heck I was doing. Like how I’m wondering, for example, about July of 1995. Did my batteries run out or something?

    Thursday, June 4, 2009

    Baking cookies, my way.

    Has this ever been you? You've read that cookie dough is best when chilled... but then you find that scooping it out onto the cookie sheet is like chipping concrete out of an old sidewalk. Well, NO MORE!

    Introducing... the way Maegan makes cookies!!! I don't think I invented this method... but I am so proud of myself for figuring it out.

    After mixing your dough, when it is fresh and soft and pliable, pull out your largest cookie sheet and a couple of spoons. If you're lucky, like me, and have your kitchen outfitted with every tool and utensil necessary for baking, you can use one of these nifty spring-loaded scoopers. This one is a #60 - 2 teaspoons - which makes an average, "Chips Ahoy!" sized cookie.

    Start scoopin'.

    Trying not to scoop directly into my mouth.

    Fit them close together, as many in a row as you can manage.

    Pile 'em on.

    Do NOT bake them this way! You'll get a cake.

    Once you've scooped out all the cookie dough, which took me about five minutes since the whole darn mess was soft as butter, pop the cookie sheet, uncovered, into the freezer.

    Cleaned my freezer for this shot.

    Once they're frozen solid, in about twenty minutes (possibly less), use a metal spatula to pop them off the cookie sheet. Store the frozen cookie dough chunks in a Tupperware container (as shown in the above photo, right above the cookie sheet).

    When you want to bake them, heat the oven to 400 degrees and arrange them, fresh out of the freezer, on a cookie sheet. No need to thaw! Slide it right into the oven and bake for 8-10 minutes (for this size cookie), until VERY lightly browned. Let them cool on the cookie sheet. They'll be soft, even when they've completely cooled. If they get to that stage, which is not likely if I am alone in the kitchen.

    (This method has worked for me with many, many cookie recipes. I bake almost all my cookies at this temperature, despite the recipe's instructions. I think it makes them thicker, with crispy edges and a soft center. But... that may be just my preference. Who am I to guess at yours?)

    Many thanks to my Reese's Pieces Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies, who were kind enough to pose for this demonstration.