freshly baked

school lunch

The school lunch. The bain of every parent’s existence; the making or breaking of every child’s school day.

My personal school lunch history, which I can recall as far back as Grade 1 with my plastic Charlie Brown lunch kit, has been integral in molding me into the domestic goddess that I aspire to be every day.

You see, I grew up in a single-parent household until I was seven, then after our mother remarried, we continued to be raised strictly, and doing things for ourselves was the norm.

My mother worked. She left the house by 7:30 am. To be able to get herself out the door, she had us make our own lunches from the ingredients in the fridge. The contents of my lunch box directly reflected our socio-economic status, such that my two older brothers and I did not go hungry, but we certainly were not doing cartwheels over what we ate at lunchtime; sandwich and a whole orange. Apples rarely appeared, and once in awhile Wagon Wheels would show up, but never cookies, or juice boxes or Wagon Wheels or donuts or whatever else my friends had in their lunches. But we didn’t know any differently, so we enjoyed our peanut butter and jelly on white, or perhaps chicken-loaf with mustard, and our sticky orange that was so difficult to peel with small fingers.

Despite this seeming hardship, I learned the value of eating what was put before me, and to this day I will eat anything served on a plate. When you only have exactly enough, and never too much, you waste nothing. There were no snacks in our house, only breakfast, lunch and dinner.

But the best part of having to make my own lunches as a child is that, as I grew older, I experimented and came up with imaginative alternatives to the white bread and oranges, and from there I graduated to assisting with cooking dinner and finally mastering baking, canning, and catering for large groups.

IMG_0402

As a parent, I recalled my own meager lunches, and made different choices for my kids. For one thing, my son and daughter liked entirely different things, and neither of them like sandwiches. I provided sliced veggies and dip, sliced fruit, squares of cheese, crackers, flatbreads, juice boxes, pickles, homemade granola bars and muffins, and anything else that was bite-sized and ready-to-eat.

I am so very grateful that my mother forced me, at the tender age of six, to fend for myself in this way. She unwittingly fostered in me (and my brothers) a love cooking (that we all share to this day), and also a deep understanding of thrift, which should never be underestimated.

Thank you mom <3.

16-Step Chicken

16 Step Fried Chicken

Step 1: decide to make fried chicken for dinner

Step 2: drive to store to buy chicken

Step 3: before marinating chicken, take photos of chicken for blog

Step 4: make room on camera by dumping existing photos onto computer

Step 5: take photos of chicken

organic chicken

organic chicken

Step 6: get buttermilk from fridge

Step 7: realize there is no buttermilk, use yogurt instead

Step 8: take photos of yogurt

IMG_2686

Step 9: pour yogurt over chicken, take photos, place in fridgeIMG_2689

Step 10: wait 2 hours (take a bath, do your nails, walk the dogs…)

Step 11: assemble breading station (beaten eggs, seasoned flour w/bread crumbs)

IMG_2694

Step 12: take photos

Step 13: coat chicken in egg and flour, take photos, put in fridge to set

IMG_2701

Step 14: heat oil in cast iron skillet (halfway up sides of pan), take photos

IMG_2705

Step 15: fry chicken on medium-low for 20 minutes, turning frequently, take photos

IMG_2712

Step 16: Eat.

Elapsed time: 3.5 hours

Photos taken: 42

Dishes dirtied: 6

Total cost: $18

Tummies filled: 4

I recommend serving this chicken with garlic mashed potatoes and country gravy, corn on the cob and green salad.

check out this site for excellent homemade gravy:

http://www.deepsouthdish.com/2009/09/how-to-make-homemade-gravy.html#axzz3hmxAJS6m

IMG_3300

living simply

sim·ply (simplē/)
adverb
1. in a straightforward or plain manner.
My husband and I have moved into our studio above the garage. Our home is on the market, and we realized that it should be kept tidy for showings, so we moved all the junk into a 600 square foot space, and staged the house for maximum appeal.
Now that we are here, we love it! We feel so content in our small space, with only a few necessities (cappuccino machine!) to keep us comfortable.
Now when I go into the house, I see it for the beautiful home that it is, but I don’t miss living in it. The echoes of our children’s laughter, along with their heights written in pencil on the wall, are reminders of the wonderful years we spent in it.
But now that we are on our own, with our son and daughter having flown the coop (texts and e-transfers the extent of our parenting), we have a renewed sense of joy.
This is astonishing to me. I remember, in my twenties, living in a small space and hoping to one day own a home. After many years of renting, I met my future husband and we happened upon a foreclosure sale and bid on it. Despite living in two different cities, we found ourselves mutual homeowners.
This all happened in September, 2001. NOT a great time to withdraw RRSP’s for a down-payment, as the markets were in turmoil after 9/11. We scraped up the $6,500 to qualify for the mortgage and proceeded to finish the inside of our “built to lock up” court-ordered sale.
Fast-forward 14 years. Both kids have graduated and moved on. We found ourselves rattling around the house and feeling anxious, not knowing why. Turns out we just needed a change.
So bigger is not always better, and living like a 20-something in a one bedroom studio is the best thing that’s happened to our marriage. We are physically closer (least of all that you can toss the dish cloth in the sink from the couch), which brings a new intimacy into our relationship. We share this space with our two dogs, who have adjusted totally to the switch.
Now when I vacuum, the zen is abundant.
Simply abundant.
Check this out for some great tips:
coffee for one

hot coffee

She couldn’t seem to drink her coffee while it was hot. Other women took time for simple pleasures, surely.  The sun had just risen, her day about to start, but she lingered beneath the quilt. She imagined a morning in Paris, a slender woman sitting at a tile-topped table on a 4th floor patio, coffee tray and newspapers at the ready. A thin gold bangle slid down her wrist as she raised the fine porcelain to her perfectly painted lips, and drank. No hurry, no frantic pace.

The alarm buzzed, erasing the vision, and she rose. She snatched leggings and t-shirt from the floor then raced downstairs to start breakfast and make lunches for the kids. As the coffee machine burbled and the fresh brew filled the air, she emptied the dishwasher and folded the clothes. With her first cup poured, she leaned against the sink and contemplated her day. Her musings were distracted by a family of crows flying past the window, cawing and chirping, their daily forage begun. Their cries reminded her that she had to meet her son’s teacher today. There would be cawing, of that she had no doubt.

As four little feet pounded down the stairs, she smiled. She set down her cup and embraced her son and daughter as they bowled into her, their sweet, squeaky voices filling the kitchen and her heart.

When she returned from the school run, she saw her cup on the counter, untouched, cold. Hot coffee is overrated. She dashed the contents down the drain, washed the cup, and decided Paris, too, might be overrated.