It seemed like a busy weekend, but looking ahead we can’t count on enjoying a lazy weekend at home until November, so I suppose Saturday and Sunday weren’t anywhere near as hectic as the upcoming weekends are going to be! The highlight of the past weekend was attending a college friend’s wedding on Saturday evening. The setting was beautiful, the food was delicious and, most importantly, the bride and groom were head over heels in love from start to finish.
But a new week is underway and I appear to be battling the onset of a summer cold. My plan for fighting it is mostly just to ignore it and get a lot of sleep. We’ll see how that goes. So this morning instead of thinking about my scratchy throat, I’m trying to focus on the things that are making me smile and the list is long:
• My husband made blueberry pancakes for breakfast — yum! (I ate them too fast to snap a picture.)
• While I was out running my errands I took advantage of a “free iced coffee every Monday for 6 weeks” deal at Dunkin Donuts and, even more exciting, discovered that the pumpkin donuts are already back.
• We are trying to be frugal this fall because of our upcoming home renovations, but while I was at Trader Joe’s I couldn’t stop myself from spending $7 on this mixed bouquet and these Gerber Daisies. They went so well together and are brightening up the living room as I type!
• Speaking of the living room, we re-arranged the space a bit yesterday and rolled up the boring and stained rug we bought when we moved in to put down a carpet that my husband brought home from Afghanistan. We also replaced the hand-me-down runner in our entry hall with an Afghan piece. I’m trying to get used to walking on them because I’m nervous I might ruin them, but what’s the point of having a memento if you can’t enjoy it?
• And last, but not least, our fall garden seems to be coming along nicely. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that we will have as abundant of a haul of cucumbers and sugar snap peas as we did in the spring/summer. I’m also trying green beans (again) because they were a total flop this summer. Speaking of the summer, our tomato plants all appear to be getting a second wind which is exciting. I brought in a small bowl of cherry tomatoes this morning and each of the larger plants have a new batch of green fruit on the vines. Here’s hoping that when they start to turn we can get to them before the birds/squirrels do!
As you know I don’t care too much for cooking, but I do like to be healthy (most of the time). While I have my moments of weakness when it comes to indulging food cravings, I certainly don’t have enough disposable income to dine out for every meal, so I’ve tried to have dinners at home most nights while my husband has been in Afghanistan.
Most of the time I plan a menu for a week or so, shop for the items I’ll need for those meals (or build the menu based around what was delivered in my box of veggies) and go from there. In a month I’ll have my personal chef back (yay!), but this week I have been swamped with work and in an all around food funk. I am hungry, but nothing really sounds good enough to put in the effort to make or to go out and buy. It hasn’t helped that my fridge had gotten down to some lemons, a little bit of pomegranate juice, and some tortillas from February that I haven’t gotten around to tossing out yet. (Frighteningly they still look okay…)
Thankfully there is still food in the freezer (thank honey!) so earlier this week I pulled out a container with one portion of chili and topped it with an avocado, low fat sour cream, and green onions with a few (okay a lot) of tortilla chips on the side. The weather was a little toasty for chili, but since the prep work involved defrosting the chili, putting it in a pan to warm up, and cutting up some avocado I powered through.
This morning I ran to the store and picked up some hummus, Greek yogurt (I’m getting cucumbers tomorrow with my veggie delivery so I thought tzatziki would be a good easy dish for my near future), and fresh tortillas. Hopefully having actual food in the fridge will help me get back to cooking at least a few days a week.
To kick off the week I headed to the store to buy groceries for our local food pantry. Throughout the season of Lent our church is collecting items to help those in need within the Capitol Hill community. The list of items — which fit on a business card — will meet the needs of a family of four for two days. This morning I managed to get all the items from the list below (except the dry milk) for less than $15. And it only calls for two packages of noodles. I picked up a case. I also added a second can of tuna since four people cannot make sandwiches with only one.
I had two thoughts as I paid for these items — what a simple way to help people dealing with a challenging time in their life, quickly followed by how devastating it is to know that so many people struggle to buy enough food to feed their families.
No matter where you live, if you have a chance to pick up a few extra items at the grocery store once a year or every week for your local food pantry, I encourage you to do so. A simple act of generosity doesn’t just benefit the recipient, being fortunate enough to share is a gift in itself.
This list meets the needs of a family of four for two days (no glass containers):
• 2 cans of green vegetables (12-15 ounces)
• 2 cans of yellow vegetables (12–15 ounces)
• 2 cans of fruit (14–16 ounces)
• 1 can of pork and beans (12–16 ounces)
• 1 can of tuna (6 ounces)
• 1 jar peanut butter (16–18 ounces)
• 2 boxes of macaroni and cheese
• 2 packages of dried soup/flavored noodles
• 1 box crackers
• 1 box cereal
• 2 packages dry milk
For over a year, all of the stores in DC have charged 5 cents for every bag you need at the check out. Even before this tax was implemented, my husband and I typically took our own, reusable bags to the store. But once you had to pay for bags, we made sure we were always prepared. Buying a bag was like admitting failure. So on the off chance we stopped at the store without a bag, we couldn’t give in. We’ve walked home with veggies in my purse, food in all our pockets and a five pound bag of sugar under one arm to avoid buying that darn 5 cent bag!
However when shopping at a grocery store in Virginia we tend to pick up paper bags since they are handy for recycling and other random projects. And in Virginia they don’t charge you for them.
This week I went to the big grocery store in Virginia. As I was hoping to get a few paper bags, I didn’t take any bags of my own. It was a foolish move. I was incredibly annoyed to find out that the store no longer carries paper bags and I had to lug my stuff home in tons of plastic bags. The issue was made even worse by the check-out girl who felt that practically every item needed to be in its own bag. I mean, why would you put three cans in one bag? Or bananas in a bag with potatoes and a can? Apparently she does not buy food that can bruise or be crushed. I also had to tell her that I didn’t think the toilet paper needed a plastic bag, to which she looked at me like I was crazy, but honestly why would you put a sealed pack of toilet paper in a bag?!
I did my best to rearrange and consolidate my items before leaving the store since four bags were sufficient instead of 13, but I was still irked. I learned my lesson about not being prepared. Next time I will bring my own bags whether I think a store has a paper option available or not! On the bright side, my sister-in-law sent an email later in the day that she needed plastic bags for a green event where she could exchange 50 for an insulated reusable bag and we had plenty to offer her! If only I hadn’t consolidated earlier she would have been well on her way to getting an extra insulated bag!
I am blogging from my office for the morning — Au Bon Pain in Downtown DC. It seems that “working from home” has meant that less and less over the past few weeks. Thanks to internet malfunctions and meetings, I have found myself working in coffee shops, my friend’s apartment, at church and occasionally from home. Pretty much any space with internet access that (ideally) doesn’t require a constant need (or desire) to purchase coffee and treats has been in the running.
After losing our internet connection on a Thursday night and finding out a technician couldn’t come look at it until Monday (not exactly ideal when you work from home…), I spent a lovely Friday working at my friend’s basement apartment. I was back again only a week later when I lost internet — again. I was so grateful not to have to spend 6 hours sitting in a coffee shop trying to look like I was still consuming the same beverage that I had purchased four hours earlier. Thankfully, the second technician who came to check out my intermittent internet was convinced he found the problem and told me everything should work fine from here on out. Oh how I desperately want that to be true!
Today I am working downtown because between my early morning eye appointment and my half day of working in an office, I didn’t see the point in going home for an hour only to turn around and get back on the train. So I sit with my iced mocha and some sort of pastry concoction with custard and chocolate (I am definitely not complaining about that!) working on press releases. At some point between now and heading to my afternoon at the office, I do have to go look for a new dress to wear to one or two of the four upcoming weddings we are attending. Just have to figure out the timing of working, dress hunting, lunch and making it to the office by 1 pm.
Now it’s 11. I have two hours before I have to report to the office. I have 74% of my laptop battery remaining. Sadly I have no pastry left. Now my biggest question is what’s for lunch?
With only 11 days until Christmas and the air in DC becoming more and more frigid, I find myself anxiously anticipating my trip to California tomorrow. Am I packed? Yes. Am I ready? Definitely not. For some reason, I feel rushed and unprepared for this trip, despite the fact that my work projects are all in a good place — either on hold for the holidays or in the process of being reviewed — and it is so cold, I can’t wait to get out of here!
Maybe it is my lack of excitement about the traveling process itself. After flying from DC to Paris, Paris to Frankfurt, Frankfurt to Amman, Amman to London and London back to DC last month, I am a little over airports and airplanes to be perfectly frank.
But in California family and friends, balmy weather (comparatively speaking) and all my favorite local eateries await. Yes, it might be sad, but having my favorite iced mocha is an important part of any trip home. In fact, a few weeks ago I dreamt that I had been staying with my parents for nearly a week and hadn’t gone to the cafe yet — let’s just say I was shocked and pretty disoriented when I woke up. That couldn’t really happen, right??
Being home means numerous family dinners. Playing with Bonnie the black Labrador. Celebrating my parents 40th wedding anniversary. Visiting with friends over drinks, coffee, lunch — really, any excuse to eat and catch up works for me! Shopping with my mom. Wine tasting with my in-laws. It’s two weeks of fabulous times.
In about 16 hours I will be trudging through the airport wearing my backpack and lugging my canvas sack of gifts and snacks, pulling off my shoes, coat and sweater, and carrying my plastic bag of liquids — always a fun balancing act. But it’s an early morning routine that is well worth it to see my parents 8 hours later for the first time since July, eat at In & Out burger and finally get my hands on that iced mocha I’ve been dreaming about!