Thursday, September 30, 2010

Polenta and Tomato Sauce

I mentioned in a previous post that we have a weekly menu. The menu gives the week it's culinary rhythm, by defining the central ingredient (potatoes, brown rice, cous cous, quinoa, pasta, risotto, pizza, polenta, and the lovely Sunday chicken). Being told which staple to use (or having a choice of just two staples) allows me to get some variety in our diet, feel able to cook (choice is paralyzing when you're tired), keep our grocery costs down, and feel super excited when we decide to throw caution to the wind and *gasp* eat something totally different.

Growing up, I was always really excited to know what we were eating-- Friday night was always hotdog night, and I loved preparing for it.

Anyway, with that rather lengthy introduction, here's a meal that's easy, but new to us:

Polenta and Tomato Sauce

2 cups coarse corn meal
4 cups water
1 tsp salt (optional)
parmesan (optional)

To make polenta, we just buy coarse cornmeal (we usually get the Goya brand, which is with the dry beans at Market Basket). Rather than making it on the stove, which requires stirring, I just put it in a baking pan with water and a little salt-- about 2 cups polenta to 6 cups of water. After 30 minutes at 375F, I stir in some parmesan and maybe some salt. At this point, it's a thick mush, and you could eat it like mashed potatoes.

You can also leave it to cool in the fridge overnight, into little slabs, and then put it in the frying pans in little slabs with a bit of butter. I like the consistency of the little slabs better than the mush.

For the tomato sauce, you could cook tomatoes and minced beef, or just tomatoes. I usually just add whatever vegetables I have, and saute a lot of onion to add body to the sauce. I tend to think that we get to know our own taste in tomato sauces, depending on resources.

Monday, September 27, 2010

On Really Spicy Chilies

Eug cooked a chili that was so hot that we actually had to leave the house, we were coughing so much. Poor Noah's cough is really pitiful. Even sitting on the porch, I occasionally got a wave of chili hotness. Our upstairs neighbor, on their porch, also started coughing. Go Red Fire Farm for making chilies this hot!

Which reminds me of the time I almost killed Meera's parents, not realizing that her chili pepper was Indian (and so much, much stronger). I've never been able to go back and make amends.

In other, slightly unrelated news, our neighbors on the second floor of our house were inspired by our garden (which is in fact, generally uninspiring!) and decided they'd like to start one too! That made me feel like this year's rather sad garden was still worth it. Maybe our house will forever have larger and larger garden areas as tenants come and go.

Our friend Don has moved into our old apartment on the top floor, so our house feels that much more homey. We're splitting the cost of internet, rather than him getting a new subscription, which also feels great.

Lastly, our washer/washing machine broke about 3 weeks ago, and our landlord said he'd get a new one for two weeks then said that he wasn't going to fix or replace it. [I was really upset. Wasn't that the reason we moved: to have laundry? I've gotten over it.] For those of you using cloth diapers, you know what the lack of a washing machine means. And I'm Way Too Cheap to buy disposables. So Noah, Eug and I have been juggling things (Eug has been awesome about doing a load anytime he goes over to Radcliffe.) (Noah's contribution has been wearing little pants instead of diapers) So, we bought a new washer on the weekend, and on Tuesday Noah will be back to being sure of his diaper future.

It's been a really busy time for us, but we were able to have lunch (just Eug and I) on Saturday, thanks to Eug's mom taking care of Noah. Noah started taking only 30 minute naps since I returned to work, but since the pediatrician explained that that wasn't sufficient, I've been on Project Noah Nap, not least because longer naps will make Eug's day a kajillion times easier. There's light on the horizon! This weekend he slept a ton. That said, we're still struggling a little at night.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Really, On Home Sales

I realized yesterday's post was NOT about home sales at all. So, here we have it:

Eug and I have participated in and co-led a course called "Lazarus at the Gate", a course about "Living simply to give more generously". On the course, I experienced really tangibly that money is a gift. The course (and the conversations!) had a big influence on the choices that led to our paying off our student loan debt very quickly (over $50 000 in about 18 months), and in freeing up Eug to become a freelancer. It also led us to increase the amount we gave away each month, both to our church and to other organizations. Soon after, we made the decision to take our savings out of the stock market, as it's still difficult to find socially responsible stocks (though I'm certainly not critical of those who made other choices, as notably, I eat non-organic meat and drive a gas-guzzling car).

So instead of stocks, we've had money in two properties-- one in Boston and one in Cape Town. The problem has been that the property in Boston, although rented out, is a pretty big financial stretch for us. When the tenant moved out September 1, Eug had the idea of selling and buying a tiny, cheaper property in a good location, and renting it out as a B&B rather than through a traditional lease. So that's what we're doing. For Eug, selling is practically a full time job.

Even as we are choosing a course that should allow us margin, it's incredibly difficult to think about these large sums of money at play in the sale without getting totally stressed. It's been helpful to think of the sale as a journey in itself, in the sense that I don't want our attempts at saving for the future to ruin our lives in the present.

One thing I've experienced first hand over the last year is that if you don't want to think about money at all, money is all you'll think about. Trying to let go of money is really hard, and it's also super difficult to refuse to let finances be the decision maker in family and career choices.

Hey, if you want to talk some more about the Lazarus at the Gate curriculum, or on how we are navigating social responsibility and financial responsibility, let me know! I love talking about this stuff.

Friday, September 10, 2010

On Home Sales

There's an idea that people can only take so much change at once, and this week I had the feeling I was buckling under the weight of change. I need certainty! Of course, once I'd named the feeling and asked [God] for help I was well on my way to feeling better.

Well, Mr Noah arrived four months ago and
1) I started work about 6 weeks ago. Then,
2) We moved downstairs, to a more expensive, larger apartment. Now,
3) We are in the process of selling an apartment we [well, the bank] owned and have been renting out the past 6 years.
4) We bought a rug (which, you say, is not a major life change but it feels like a pretty profound move towards adulthood.)

I'm not sure how much insight I can offer on handling change, because you're probably not as psychotically driven by schedules as I am and can teach me a thing or two (check the Adams meal schedule). I did realize that embracing the reality that I am a bit stretched was helpful. I don't think the impulse to control and limit change is terribly helpful, because it puts my wellbeing on very shaky ground. I don't want my perfect day to be the day that happened exactly as I planned and predicted it would-- that seems like a bit empty to me.

On work: Pumping doesn't feel quite right: I feel as though if Noah needs my milk, he probably also needs me. Apart from the guilt (and need to whine), I do have a sense of pride that I'm helping to support our family by returning to work. Women who are pumping milk at work (mmm, I acknowledge my readership to be tiny enough that there are between 0 and 3 of you out there), the most helpful thing has been the handsfree pumping option. I can type while pumping.

To make an abstract political comment: Women can and should be professionals (do I need to say that?), and should have equal rights in the office, but I am frustrated by the realities (bills, health insurance, student loans, the price of Boston life) that seem to lock us all into full time jobs. I don't believe that a family of work rats is what first wave feminists (to whom I am hugely grateful) had in mind. Surely we are meant to work less than we currently do in the U.S., and that (in most lines of work) we can do as much in far less time.

I'll wait on the others since that'll make it too long of a blog post. Happy Monday!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Song of the Day

I've been listening to Michael Franti every morning on my drive to work, so I'm sharing the joy here.

My commute has been great this week. I've been leaving earlier than I used to think decent, so that I can get home to Noah and Eug can start his work in the afternoon.

Two thoughts on this: first, I could have been a medical resident after all. Second, humans are an extraordinarily adaptable species.