I stopped washing my hair three years ago. Instead, I squeeze baking soda water on my head to wash it and apple cider vinegar water on to condition it. It doesn’t work at all. My hair always feels greasy, especially at the yarmulke-patch at the back. And I can pull out great fistfuls of the stuff whenever I want to, which I then drop on the floor in the space between the couch and the wall until a large enough pile of it has accumulated for me to sweep it up. Also, when I went to the dermatologist a few months ago she casually asked if I cared that all the skin was flaking off my scalp. I said I wash my hair with baking soda and that I do not care. And that was true until Sunday, when I jumped in the shower after a real-life yoga class (not the free youtube ones I did this summer and then abandoned) and I was tired and sweaty and I had to leave the door open so the kids could come and yell things at me while I was in there because Andy wasn’t home, and I realized I was out of the lousy baking soda water. I said fuck it and used Andy’s shampoo. I washed my hair twice to revel in the feeling of it. I was freshly awed by conditioner- my hair felt slippery and there were no huge masses of knots I couldn’t rake my fingers through! My hair feels soft and it smells like something that’s not my sweat and why did I do this to myself for three years? For the thrift of it? To prove that I don’t need the shampoo and conditioner conglomerates? To feel like I’m better than all those patsies still washing their hair without baking soda? Yes. It was really stupid and my hair was gross and I was gross (leaving wads of hair by the couch, specifically, but there’s probably more reasons than that) and what luxury to stop doing a stupid thing just because that’s how you’ve been doing it for years.
Other things like that. I switched the living room and dining rooms in our house while Andy was at work one day last week. I love moving furniture around the house and Andy so doesn’t that I’ve taken to just doing it rather than discussing it with him beforehand. It’s so much better though! Before, you’d walk in the house and our big black table and chairs were oppressively right there, crammed in next to a piano and an IKEA shelf crammed full of kids toys and topped with teetering towers of magic school bus books. It wasn’t very welcoming. The IKEA shelf is still there but now there’s a seating area, and room to walk in comfortably and it’s another thing I should have fixed a long time ago.
Also last week I dipped my fork in a spicy green salsa to taste it and then stabbed myself in the gums with it instead of tasting the sauce. I don’t know how I did that and I’m still feeling a little shocked that my level of incompetence now includes my inability to successfully bring a fork to my mouth.
The kids are still sleeping in their own bed, and they’ve gotten really good at it. They wake up a lot earlier (between 6 and 7) but as a general rule they both sleep through the night. This is momentous.
I’m on my first month of birth control pills and so far I don’t feel any crazier than usual (Andy has confirmed this, so you don’t have to take my word for it), but also I started bleeding five days before the brown pills, which is when you’re supposed to start your period and my body just does not give a shit about the color of the pills I’m taking every night and it will continue with the 12 day period plan, thank you very much. Maybe we can get this straightened out next month and I can continue my plan to optimize all the things that aren’t functioning well in my life.
The only post I wrote in October was about my trip to Portland, but I still took pictures of everything we ate. I took out a lot of the low spots- mostly quesadillas and other tortilla-based dinners- but there were some fun things I had to share to get us caught back up again. My favorite things were a trip to Launderette, a really delicious new molasses cookie recipe, and my sister eating a panini in a fancy waiting room. First up, the panini. Here’s what we ate last month.
Croque Madame, Vegetable Panini, A Chocolate Thing at Baguette et Chocolat. In spite of my complete inability to say any French words without sounding like a country bumpkin, I have shared my love for this place far and wide, based solely on the pain au chocolat and batards they sell at a stand at the farmer’s market. They have a brick and mortar store now that I’d never been to because it’s in Bee Caves, but Helen and I got the chance to go a few weeks ago and it was everything I hoped it would be. I had a thrilling sandwich and that chocolate croissant I love so much. Helen had a vegetable panini and a delightful slice of chocolate mousse-y stuff. The panini was so hot though, and I was running late to the gynocologist appointment to get the birth control pills that my body is ignoring, so Helen put the sandwich in her purse to eat later. Let’s stop and acknowledge that it’s weird that my sister went with me to the gynocologist. In my defense, my gyno is a family friend and very fun and I didn’t have to be prodded with anything, so it was mostly just a chance to sit in a room together and talk about vaginas. Anyway, this office is in Westlake and super fancy. The waiting room is completely gorgeous, and everything is new and shiny and expertly designed. We sat down to wait on a lovely leather banquette and Helen discretely pulled her panini from her purse. She took a bite and the whole thing fell apart- nicoise olives fell in her cleavage, tomato stuck to her chin and she desperately shoved the lot into her mouth and Helen, the other lady in the waiting room (a quiet grandmother-type), and I laughed and laughed. It was the best. I highly recommend bringing a panini and your sister to your next gyno appointment.
Seared Cod & Udon Noodles with Shiitake Broth and Togarashi-Spiced Cucumber. This is my “I tried Blue Apron!” post. Obviously, I’m not getting paid for it. But I did take advantage of a $50 off coupon they had on their website, so it’s almost like I’m the kind of fancy food blogger who gets things for free in exchange for her expert photography and glowing descriptions of the meals. I’ll be honest- I only tried it because it was $10 for three fancy meals that would be delivered to my door, and not because I’m all that interested in actually subscribing to them. For one, I really like menu planning. For another, it just isn’t practical with our kids right now, because it’d be too expensive to get the option that feeds four people and too hard to make two separate dinners. The first meal I cooked was the least delicious of the three, but still not bad. The food all felt fresh and light, and we ate more vegetables than we typically do and more fish too. The noodles were a little too thick and gummy, the amount of broth was a bit meager, and the cucumber tasted mostly of vinegar and needed something sweet to balance that out. Still though, Andy and I liked it just fine.
Blue Apron #2, Pimento Cheeseburgers, Collard and Carrot Slaw. The kids didn’t care about not eating our cod and cucumber dinner, but they did want in on the burger meal. Andy and I had to cut hunks off ours to share with them. I liked everything, though I didn’t serve all of the collard green slaw at dinner and the rest of it sat in the fridge until it got too old and was dumped in the chicken coop.
A Possum we Drove Around Town. Speaking of chickens, this may or may not have been the fellow who took greedy hunks out of two of them and then killed my beloved naked neck by eating her head and leaving the rest. I hated him so much for that. My neighbor Otto lent me his live trap and then offered to dispatch whatever I caught by putting it into a bucket and gassing it with propane so it would just go to sleep and not wake up (like putting your head in an oven!, he said). But once I caught the thing and looked it in the eye I didn’t want to be responsible for its death. So instead the kids and I drove it down to nearby park, where there’s a creek and hundreds of acres of woods and also a big dumpster for the little guy to poke around it. I shook him out of the cage and he wandered away and the whole thing was a lot easier than I thought it would be.
Blue Apron #3- Crispy Chicken Milanese with Warm Brussels Sprout & Potato Salad with an Oppressive Amount of Celery. Seriously, why all the celery? The chicken was not as good as this one but I really liked the brussels sprout potato thing. And there is an undeniable pleasure in having the right amount of every ingredient at your fingertips, the mustard in its own tiny bottle, the egg in a little cardboard space ship. Thanks for the almost-free food, Blue Apron.
Mocktails with color-changing straws. You guys, when they brought out these straws we all lost our minds. Helen had a Watermelon Shrub with chili basil syrup, sea salt, and soda water, I had a Bruleed Pineapple with ginger beer, sage peppercorn syrup, and lemon. Christy had a plain old green tea, made extra festive with that rad straw.
This was at Launderette– a restaurant in East Austin that I’ve been wanting to try forever. Christy took Helen and I there for a special joint-birthday treat and it was the best dining experience I’ve had in a long time. Every bit of it was perfect, start to finish. The food was brilliant, the space is beautiful, and the service was great. And there was a chocolate dessert I’ll dream about for the rest of my life.
Striped Bass Crudo with Canary Melon and Crispy Fish Skin.
Kale Salad with Marcona Almonds, Currants, Pecorino, and Balsalmic Vinaigrette.
Salt Cod Croquettes, French Fries, Roasted Cauliflower with Pickled Pears and Crispy Sunchokes.
Beet Hummus with Labneh and Millet Crunch, Everything Crackers.
Milk Chocolate Semifreddo with earl grey, buckwheat, orange bitters, and peppermint patty, Lemon Yuzu Tart, Caramel Apple Profiteroles.
Every bite a symphony. This was masterfully done. Helen was the one who took this picture, and when I texted her a couple nights ago to ask for a copy of it, I fell in love with it all over again. I said I wished I could eat it again right then and Helen agreed and said “I curse you for having me look at these pictures just before bed.” If you like fancy foods with hipster touches (color changing straws!) you’ll really love this place. I have it on good authority that things get a little crazy at dinnertime, but it was a breeze at lunchtime.
Pinballz Birthday. We went to Pinballz Kingdom for Helen’s birthday, because that’s basically what we do for anyone’s birthday, and had a thrilling time. Henry hit the jackpot on an acorn drop game and won 500 tickets, Helen got us all addicted to one of those push-the-tokens-over-the-edge game, this one with a Wizard of Oz theme, and we ate some delicious snacks. The boys were able to use their winnings to walk away with the unimaginable treasures of a nerf football and a plush ball bedecked in an eyeball and planet motif. It’s really something. Also, George screamed for 45 minutes around dinner time for no apparent reason. Still, it was fun celebrating Helen’s birthday! Thanks for including us, sister!
A Food52 Potluck Picnic at the Capitol. I generally, no, always prefer to go out to lunch with friends without my children, but this picnic fell on a day when Grandma Mary was working and I really wanted to go, so the kids and I made an apple panzanella and hiked down there. The kids were honestly pretty good. For the first half of the picnic they just sat on the quilt and ate. Mostly bread out of our panzanella, but Henry also fell in love with Abbie’s farro with cannelini beans and kale pesto and ate mounds of the stuff. Then they spent some time in trees and some time wrestling on the ground nearby, and I’d have to go pull them apart every few minutes, but still! Progress, definitely.
Sweet Berry Farms’ Pumpkin Patch. I took lots of pictures of the kids surrounded by pumpkins on rusty old trucks and this was the best I got. They’re not looking at the camera and they’re not smiling but at least they’re not glaring at me. I’d forgotten that the pumpkin patch only serves food on the weekends, so much of that glaring was probably hunger-related. The kids ate pretzels, the only snack I had with me, and then, towards the end of the trip, we found a stand on the other side of the ‘patch that had not yet sold out of vanilla ice cream, so they ate that too. We painted pumpkins, fed goats, made sand art necklaces, and rode around in the creepy dystopian hayride that I’d forgotten about from last year. It takes you on a tour of dozens of scarecrow vignettes- a saloon with prostitutes, a jail, an Indian village, a “we hate girls” club, and basically every other stereotypically insulting thing one could do with a scarecrow. After that, Henry picked out a small white pumpkin and George picked out a huge orange pumpkin. Any pumpkin over 30 pounds costs $15 and that’s what we paid for his, so it was at least that heavy. I lugged it into the car, we drove through the Taco Bell down the road and then the kids fell asleep on the way home while I sang along with Hamilton. All in all, a successful trip.
Kombucha. Christy gave me everything I need to make my own, and talked me through the process over and over, because I kept forgetting what she told me. But I did it! This is hibiscus mint kombucha and it tastes lovely and the kids love it too. Probably mostly because it looks like kool aid.
Cilantro Chutney Chicken. Yamahama it’s fright night. This looks like a terrifying halloween dish- frog brains covered in meal worms or something. But it’s really delicious.
Henry and the Van de Graaff Generator.
Gingerbread Cupcakes with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting and Chewy Molasses Cookies. The boys and I made these cupcakes for Jordan’s birthday because he loves gingerbread. I just googled ‘gingerbread cupcakes’ and picked the recipe that looked best and it was a big hit. The cookies were from a recipe a friend shared on facebook and they’ve jumped to the top of my favorite-cookies-to-make list. You melt butter instead of waiting for it to soften, you don’t need a mixer, you don’t need to refrigerate the dough, they’re quick and easy and come out soft and chewy and warmly spiced. Happy Birthday, Jordan!
Backlit George! On Saturday we went to a YMCA Halloween event where Grandma Mary was volunteering. The highlight was going on a haunted walking trail that everyone warned us was too scary for little kids but that both Henry and George insisted on trying. Lots of people in scary costumes jumped out at us. Henry’s response was to giggle loudly, George’s was to ask to be carried, but both boys claimed to have not been scared at all, and said they loved it.
Kale and Italian Sausage Lasagna with Pumpkin Bechamel. Molly and Dustin came over and carved pumpkins with us. We listened to halloween jams on the radio and cleaned out George’s 80 pound pumpkin and the boys followed Dustin around like a living God. He’s really good with kids. I made this recent food52 contest winner because it includes many of Molly’s favorite foods, and everyone liked it, but it didn’t taste much like pumpkin. Maybe it’s because I roasted my own pumpkin and it was more watery than the canned stuff? It was still delicious, but next time I’ll try it with canned pumpkin.
Banana Pudding. This is not at all seasonally appropriate, nor is it a logical choice after a pumpkin lasagna, but Molly and I had just been talking about our shared love of banana pudding so I had to go for it. This recipe insists, rightly, on the use of Nilla wafers, but classes them up just a bit by tossing the cookie crumbles in a dusting of freshly grated nutmeg.
Halloween! Which brings us to the end of October! We celebrated with our friends and family at my sister’s new house in Plum Creek, which was made for Halloween. People just sit out on their front porches and give out premium candies. One old guy dressed like Popeye gave out full size Reese’s! It doesn’t get any better than that. And I got to wear the witch costume my parents got me for my birthday, which added to the thrills. Henry wanted to be a witch’s cat (my cat, that is), and George had to be Kylo Ren after seeing the costume at Target. We loved being with our friends and family, watching the kids patrol the streets together, and stealing candy from the kids’ considerable stash. Happy Halloween! Happy November!
I resisted services like Blue Apron for a while because I didn’t like the idea of someone else planning my menu for the week, but after getting a free box from a friend, I suddenly understood. It’s nice to know that if I realize mid-commute that I totally forgot to take meat out of the freezer/start the slow-cooker/pick up those 2 or 3 groceries I needed, or if I get home and I’m mostly braindead from doing tech-y things, that I’m going to have everything ready to go to cook for myself and relieve some stress instead of just ordering takeout. As an added benefit, I’ve tried a bunch of ingredients (and cuisines!) I wouldn’t have otherwise tried, I’m better at coordinating multiple things cooking, and there are other little side recipes (potato salads, brussels sprout things) that I remember for future use.
Plus, if I have a week or two where the recipes don’t look great (or I have a bunch of other recipes I totally need to try), I can just say no to the box for the week.
I totally did a Homestar Runner/Teen Girl Squad-esque “possssummmmmmm” at the photo of the possum.
Absolutely! Yes to all of this. I saved all three of the recipe cards I got. I especially loved the potato brussels sprout mustard-y parmesan mash thing. There are so many nights I end up making quesadillas or ham sandwiches because I’ve run out of time to do the right thing. And squeee to homestar runner! It is the one and only keychain on my keys.
Worth waiting for… I would have loved to see Helen eat that panini! Love the backlit picture of Georgie.
Thanks, mama! Everyone should get the chance to watch Helen eat a panini in a fancy waiting room.