Most weeks I come in with no ideas about what to say at the top and bottom of each post, but come up with something pretty quickly. This week, I can’t commit.
I thought about telling you about a chemistry outreach event we went to at UT this week where a dynamic professor named Dr. B bounced around the stage for an hour, doing approximately one experiment every 30 seconds. She flooded the floor with dry ice fog, put a spoonful of cornstarch in her mouth and sprayed it onto a blow torch to make a huge fireball, burnt up ethanol in a flash explosion in a water jug, and did dozens of cool things with liquid nitrogen. It made a big impression on Henry and George and we spent the rest of the week doing experiments at home inspired by the ones we saw.
I thought about talking about how silly it is that I, who have no job, and no school to take the kids to, still feel so busy all the time, when people who do one or both of those things do everything I do on top of that, but then it felt like I was being too critical of myself.
I thought about talking about the complicated dynamics of starting a weekly unschooling coop.
I thought about telling a heartwarming story about Henry so when I complain about him later in this post you’ll remember that I do, in fact, think he’s wonderful.
I thought about sharing my line of thought about whether I should or should not join a Brene Brown book club when reading the (very brief!) quotation on the back of her book, presumably chosen because it is pithy and interesting and representative of the rest of the book, made my eyes glaze over.
But none of these feel right and I’m out of ideas. I could delete all these half-baked thoughts and just say hello? Forget it, I’m gonna leave em. Here’s what we ate this week.
Potstickers, Black Bean Orange Peel Edamame. The kids and I went to HEB and everything went okay until it was time to checkout. I started loading things onto the belt and George’s face crumpled and he broke into hysterical sobs. He wanted to load the stuff onto the belt. I felt impatient and embarrassed but I held George and let him cry and then we loaded things together. Henry asked the cashier for a buddy buck and she gave the kids each two of them. Standard practice. These fake dollar bill-looking slips of paper are fed into a big arcade game-type machine, which makes a big wheel spin. You push a big red button to make it stop and the machine prints you out a sticker with the point amount the wheel stopped on. It’s amazing and a big draw, obviously. The very very best thing you can land on is an “Instant Winner” spot, which means you get to go stand in the customer service line and get a yo-yo or a handful of erasers or something else semi-crappy. The next best thing is the 50 point slot. You collect your point stickers in a book and I have no idea what you can get with them because we never put the stickers in the book. They float around the house until I recycle them during one of my cleaning frenzies. Mostly though, there are just a lot of 2 and 5 point slots, and you push the big red button and it spins and lands on one and says “yay! you got 2 points!” and everyone’s happy and ok who cares. Anyway, George and Henry head over to the buddy buck machine while I’m paying for the groceries and a lady is bagging them for me. They’re about 15 feet from me and I look up from the credit card screen in time to see George’s wheel land on the 50 point slot and Henry punch him in the back, which made George cry and start hitting Henry repeatedly. I ran over, meeting the eyes of a disapproving onlooker on the way, shaking her head slowly at the scene and judging the shit out of whatever mother would raise such violent children, and broke them up. I was furious. I told Henry he could never have another buddy buck in his whole life. I asked him how he would feel if he finally got the 50 point sticker and someone came up and, instead of being happy for him, punched him in the back. I told him I thought it was awful that he didn’t think George deserved to have good things happen to him. I was lecture-y and angry and said all the wrong things and didn’t let it go for hours. We continued with our day and eventually made up. Henry had apologized sincerely to George right after it happened, and seemed to have genuinely felt bad for what he did. It took me a lot longer to apologize for saying shitty stuff to Henry, but I did eventually. We spent the afternoon watching that chemistry exhibition at UT, ate a snack of onigiri at a nearby cafe, and then came home and had a meal in honor of the Lunar New Year.
King Cake. I’ve never had a king cake I didn’t make myself, so I don’t really know what it’s supposed to taste like. This one comes out with a sort of rich, dry, bready texture similar to pan dulces from a Mexican bakery. It is filled with a swirl of a gooey pecan praline mixture that is absolutely delicious. There was something sort of off about the cake though. I kept nibbling at it and thinking about it, but Andy was the one who cracked the case. It tasted like cumin. I guess my nutmeg bag rubbed up too close to my cumin bag and now all my winter-spiced baked goods are going to have a twinge of earthy cumin funk. I’m not buying more nutmeg- I’ve still got like 3 whole nuts (megs? balls?) in there.
Red Beans and Rice. The last time I made red beans and rice I had a dozen pork ribs expertly smoked by my brother-in-law’s dad to use up, so I cooked the beans with them and then shredded all the meat off the bones and added it back to the pot. It was the most incredibly delicious stuff. This time I had no ham hock, no pork of any kind, save one sausage link to slice and saute and add at the end, and the stuff tastes like hot bean water. It made a ton too. I froze most of it, and I’m going to keep it frozen until we have leftover barbecue I can stir into it. Life’s too short to eat red beans without pork.
Gluten Free Chocolate Cupcakes. We brought these cupcakes and the sugar cookies below to an unschoolers Valentine’s party for kids to decorate with lots of gluten-free sugary treats. Whenever I bring a baked good made with regular flour to an unschoolers hangout, inevitably, a doe-eyed little sprite will run up to me and ask, imploringly, please? Are these gluten free? And I shake my head sadly and say no and die a little inside. Whenever I use the ungodly-expensive cup4cup to make gluten free baked goods, nobody asks if they’re gluten free and dozens of little hands grab them and eat them hastily. The only person who will ask anything about them will ask if they’re also dairy free and paleo. And they are not, no. So still the little sprite walks away empty-handed.
Gluten Free Sugar Cookies. The party was delightful. Henry and George made big flashy Valentine’s boxes based on things they love. Henry’s box was modeled after our dog, Adelaide, but came out looking like a big red pig covered in stickers with a big heart-shaped hole cut out of its stomach. George apparently loves volcanoes because that’s what he picked for his box. We made one so large that I could have widened the card slot hole on top and used the thing for a hoop skirt. (Side note: a volcano hoop skirt sounds incredible. With some kind of oozy red shirt on top? Given the choice, I think I’d dress like Ms. Frizzle from the magic school bus books). Henry spent much of the party looking on with sparkly eyes as kids dropped valentines into the pig-dog’s heart shaped stomach hole. Every five minutes or so he ran over to lay on his stomach in front of the box and gaze inside to see if his pile had gotten bigger. George and I danced to bidi bidi bom bom with a group of vivacious senior citizens and a good time was had by all.
Roasted Chicken with Stuffing, Gravy, and Collards. After the party, we came home and sat in the front yard while the kids looked through all their valentines and ate every dum dum they had been gifted. I roasted a chicken and made stuffing and gravy and collards instead of mashed potatoes, even though we had potatoes, because we are just that healthy. I’m kidding. About being healthy. The pile of collards on this plate was initially much smaller. I added more for the photograph, so it would look like a healthier plate, and then pushed half the pile back into the pot after I took the picture. Secrets.
Broccoli Soup with Lemon and Parmesan, Grilled Cheese. I didn’t want to cook dinner on Thursday so we went out for tacos (we’re spending all our restaurant scratch on tacos this month so I can blog about my favorite breakfast tacos in Austin for this year’s AFBA city guide). We had some unschooler friends over on Friday to make miniature adobe bricks a la this site and it was fun, but also exhausting, and I really wanted to skip making dinner and just buy a sack of tacos again. But I didn’t, y’all. I didn’t. We ate broccoli soup with broccoli from the garden. Who needs you, taco sack! I ran out of energy when it came to clearing the mountain of shit from the center of the counter so I could take a picture, so that’s why there’s detritus rimming the plate and some sort of grease spot just above the sandwiches. If I were the hash-tagging sort this is where I would put the #foodporn one.
Mile-High Parmesan-Chive Buttermilk Biscuits, Bacon, Orange. Andy made me breakfast for Valentine’s day! All the heart eyes emojis. He got the recipe from the Everyday Baker and did a beautiful job- they were light and fluffy and beautifully flavored with parmesan and chives and lemon zest and cayenne. And the recipe has a neat tip too, Andy told me, where you flip the biscuits over after you cut them and put them on the cookie sheet upside-down because they rise higher that way! These really were super tall. Also bacon! And token fruit slices! Andy is the greatest human of all time. The biscuits clenched it.
Butter-Basted Pan-Seared Rib Eye, Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes, Roasted Broccoli with Lemon and Parmesan, More Biscuits. Quid pro quo, I made Andy his favorite meal, plus broccoli. I skipped the local grass-fed steak options from the farmers’ market and got him a good ole American corn-fed prime rib eye from the grocery store. It’s a big gluttonous pile of food, I know, but overeating garlicky foods has become a sort of V-Day tradition for us.
Raspberry Buttermilk Cakes. We brought these little cakes to share with Henry and George’s cousins Clara and Lucy. The kids made little kites modeled after a design Clara, the budding engineer, had created and ran around the yard with the kites trailing behind them. The kids had all made the sweetest homemade valentines for each other and I just love them all so much! We got to spend some time with the famous Phinnie baby this afternoon too, so my heart is full. Happy Valentine’s Day, friends!