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Field Report: Progress and Plans

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Wednesday marks 12 weeks of living at Camp Sunnyside, kitchenless. It has not always been easy, but I think that anyone who knows me would agree that my attitude has been pretty good. I’ve joked about our rustic existence, laughing my way up and down these darned stairs in order to use a sink. I’ve felt thoroughly blessed by the generosity and kindness of my friends, who have lifted so many burdens from me these last few months. It really has been fine. Happy, even. And people survive far worse, of course. But despite the fact that the end is now in sight, I’m feeling quite cranky today.

There’s no reason for the change in mood…The installation of my kitchen started last week and it’s coming along nicely.  There’s visible progress every day and it’s fun to see it all coming together. I think I’m just tired. I want a normal life back. And I have a feeling that the final few weeks are going to be the hardest yet.

The Kitchen, Before

The Kitchen, Before

The Kitchen, During

The Kitchen, During

So, to prevent myself from spiraling into a really rotten attitude, I’m daydreaming today of the stuff I’ll do when I have a kitchen back. Here’s my new-kitchen bucket list:

1. Marinate something myself (as opposed to relying on Fresh Direct chefs to do this for me). An extra dirty dish will be nothing to me!

2. Bake stuff. Pumpkin bread, apple pie, muffins, cookies, banana bread, cinnamon raisin bread. (Maybe not all the first week.)

3. Make soup. Gosh, I’ve missed soup.

4. Use real silverware.

5. USE NO MORE PAPER PRODUCTS.  Earth, forgive us for what we’ve done.

6. Make my own coffee. The McDs drive-thru ladies will miss us.

7. Put my electric frying pan into storage. I don’t ever want to see that thing again.

8. Drink water out of a glass. Like a person.

9. Pack lunches instead of coercing the kids to buy again. (“No honey, I think you like the meatball sub!”)

10. Have friends over for a meal. This place won’t really be a home until we share it with the people we love. JR says maybe we can host Thanksgiving 2015… but in the spirit of keeping my chin up, I’m inviting people for New Year’s Eve. 🙂

#CampSunnyside

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Through a haze of sawdust I have stumbled back to my blog. (Though I think since it’s been 7 months since I posted here this no longer qualifies as a blog. It’s more like an annual report.)

A few days after my last post, JR and I bought a lovely home, located on a charming street aptly called Sunnyside. In June we broke ground on an addition and kitchen renovation. In July we moved in.  So here I am, sitting in a kitchenless (and until last week, laundryless) dream-home-to-be.

Camp Sunnyside

A view from the construction zone.

We’ve been here at Camp Sunnyside (JR’s affectionate name for our rustic half-constructed abode) for about 8 weeks. And these 8 weeks have really tested my healthy meal planning and organizational skills. And my sanity. Here’s a snapshot:

  • We have no running water or sink on the 1st floor, so basic tasks like pouring out unfinished cereal milk, rinsing a can of beans, washing off an apple, filling water bottles, etc., all involve climbing at least one flight of stairs to the kids’ bathroom.  The sink there is too small to wash dishes in, though, so a bin of dirty dishes goes with me to work each day, to wash in the kitchenette at my office.
  • Until last week I was also driving my laundry all over town to generous friends’ homes. But now that the washer and dryer are hooked up I have it easy: all I have to do is open my dining room window, jump down into the under-construction addition, pull my laundry basket through the window, and maneuver through power tools and lumber to my laundry room.
  • As for getting food on the table, it has not been easy, but I have a nice little setup with an electric skillet, a convection/microwave oven, and an induction cooktop. There’s no way I could stomach (mentally or physically) three months of take-out, so I’ve been preparing meals with a combination of prepared foods from Fresh Direct (e.g., rotisserie chicken, pre-cut veggies, etc), the occasional meal-in-a-bag from Trader Joe’s, and home-cooked dishes.

Anyhoo… with this labor-intensive Little House on the Prairie lifestyle that we’ve got going here blogging is not really on my short list of to-dos. But I do feel like I’m figuring out some great one-pot meals, kitchen short-cuts, and other tricks that I’d like to share (and remember for when I get my real life back). So I’m going to Tweet and Instagram what I cook for dinner and any other ideas or observations worth sharing.  Follow me! Twitter handle: @RDAmy. Instagram: @freshsqueezedmom.

Until next time,

Amy

Mom Midterms

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The school year is bit more than half over so it’s time for midterms. If you recall, back in August I spent some time plotting out my back-to-school plans for staying sane. It occurred to me the other night as I was [spoiler alert!] packing school lunches, that I may actually be sticking to my resolutions. Go to the head of the class, Marlow! It got me thinking about my overall performance so today I made myself a report card.

Midterm report card

Use forgotten routine chart – Incomplete. In a recent kitchen cleanup inspired by Apartment Therapy’s January Cure I took down my old routine chart altogether. I had high hopes for that thing but in practice it was never terribly helpful – the kids didn’t consider Mommy-freaks-out-because-we’re-late-again as an occurrence that is of any consequence to them, evidently. I’ve moved on.

Enforce weekday policies – Meets expectations. After a few months of enforcing homework time at 4:30pm it has become status quo – almost no grumbling!  And as for electronics limits, iPods are taken on Monday morning and returned to the eager little tech addicts on Friday afternoon.  As expected, lots of grumbling over this one but it’s the right thing to do.  I still allow Wii during the week but typically only after homework is complete, the dinner table is cleared, and kids are ready for the next day. (Leverage.)

Stocking the freezer – Needs improvement. I started off strong. I had multiple slow-cooker meals pre-assembled in gallon-sized ziplocs for goodness sake. But now I have a patchy supply of muffins, and actual meals…not so much. It’s not as if I can’t see the upside – after all, scrambling to make dinner at 5:45 after work each night is not so fun. Maybe I just need a study guide: I plan to check out the Cook’s Illustrated Make Ahead cookbook from the library and see if new recipes will motivate me.

Night-before tasks – Exceeds Expectations. I was failing at this one until I started attending to my night-before tasks (lunches, coffee maker setup) while preparing or cleaning up from dinner. (For you lunch-packing pros this probably seems obvious, but I used to return to the kitchen to make lunches at 10pm, like a dummy.) It also helps that we’ve gotten into a groove with lunch selections (see below). I now dream of creating some kind of lunch-packing station like I Heart Organizing did here. For extra credit, perhaps.

Meal planning – Meets expectations. I’ve been dinner planning as usual but I’m pleased to report that lunch planning has been going fairly well too.  8yo N completes his personalized lunch menu over the weekend (I’ll have to show it to you sometime..) so it hasn’t been such a struggle at packing time. 6yo A couldn’t get into selecting from a menu and she prefers surprises anyway, so now we have a list of her preferred foods and I just throw an assortment into her bento-style lunchbox.

So that was my parent-parent conference. Did you have school year resolutions?  Do a self-check – there’s still plenty of time to bring up your grades. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have lunches to pack.

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