Recently, I have been yearning to go to a laundromat. I know, I know, it’s weird. Who would want to drag 5 laundry baskets full of dirty laundry to a public place where you have to put your clothes into a machine that hundreds thousands of people have used before?
Before I had my own washer and dryer in the basement, I would take all my laundry to the local laundromat on Sunday. I could use as many washers as I wanted and it gave me about an hour and half to just sit and read the paper or a book and people-watch. Laundromats have quite a cross section of Americana in them!
Well, isn’t there something nice about being able to have ALL your laundry done at the same time? It’s basically the same reason that I get cleaners to come to my house once a month. Left up to me there is no way the WHOLE house would be clean at the same time (who are we kidding, there is no way that both bathrooms get clean at the same time). Because you know that try as you might, even when you say to yourself and the world, that “Tuesday is laundry day” it never all gets done. You get distracted or interrupted by some other household crises or you don’t quite get around to doing that last load of towels.
Plus, they have those cute little baskets on wheels to move your laundry around!
This one time, in Weight Watchers, a lady said that she planned out what she would make for dinner by the month. That means that she knows today what she will make on March 24. Which is technically another season entirely. Madness! It is currently 4:02 pm on February 24, and I do not know what we will be having for dinner tonight. I do not know what is for dinner tonight, and I am the one who makes dinner.
So, what to do about this dinner paradox? There are a few strategies I have developed over the years to keep the Division of Youth and Family Services at bay, and I’m happy to share them with you. In the interest of getting through the week, I have one for each day.
Monday – Develop a pantry meal. Right now, mine is Carbonara. It calls for stuff I always have around that doesn’t go bad in a few days. It’s essentially pasta with bacon and eggs, but you use pancetta (which keeps forever, but don’t worry, you can always use bacon or ham if that’s what you have. In fact, you could probably use any cold cut). Here is a good recipe from an awesomely named blog, bloatal recall
All manner of bread freezes well, even the NY bagels my husband occasionally brings home.
Tuesday – Remember, the freezer is your friend. There are a number of things you can freeze and then use for dinner in short order. I keep turkey burgers, shrimp, salmon, chicken breasts and sausage in there most of the time. These things can all be cooked right from the freezer or with a few minutes running under cold water. Bread also freezes and thaws beautifully in a few minutes. You can also of course freeze leftovers and reheat weeks later, when nobody remembers that this particular meatloaf made them think of throw-up. Maybe dress it up with some bacon on top (also freezable) and no one’s the wiser.
Wednesday – Buy at least two of everything when you shop at the grocery store. This is a modification of my mother’s advice, which was to cook two of everything you make and save one for a later meal. Which is also good advice. Somehow, it seems like nobody buys into the same exact meal twice, so I tend to make it from scratch each time. But it’s good to have the ingredients on hand already. Aside from freezing, I have found that the following items last a surprisingly long time in the fridge: onions, broccoli, whole butternut or spaghetti squash, carrots, spinach, ricotta cheese, any grating cheese, really, most cheeses. Conversely, these ones don’t seem to make it more than a day: cut butternut squash, bagged broccoli, asparagus, fresh peas. So don’t waste your time buying extras of those.
You could also use this coloring page from kiboomuworksheets.com
Thursday – Remember that Stone Soup story? If you pick up a few cans of beans and some of those chicken broth boxes every time you shop, you can have the kids pretend they’re villagers and select one thing from the kitchen to contribute to the soup (or more than one, depending on how many kids you have. Or you can be the villager). And you have some cheese and frozen bread for grilled cheeses already, right?
Friday – Breakfast for Dinner! It’s so crazy it just might work! French Toast, Eggs, even pancakes — I like Pink Pancakes (with beets!) from Jessica Seinfeld’s book Deceptively Delicious. These are all pantry meals, they are pretty nutritious and usually crowd pleasers.
Saturday – Time to open the delivery menu drawer. Pizza is obvious, but most places will either deliver or you can pick up dinner. Pile everyone into the car for a field trip to the sushi place! Have a Gilmore Girls-style evening when you order from all the places in town!
Sunday – Also known as the day your spouse cooks. Or it’s pretty easy to trick an older kid into making dinner for you. They can do supervised cooking at around 10. Before that it’s really just more mess for you. Not that it isn’t always messier when the kids do something, but if they’ve actually prepared dinner, it’s worth it.
Now, I don’t want anyone to get the idea that I am some sort if gourmand who is making amazing healthful many-coursed meals every night. However, I do have a number of go-to meals in my arsenal that are rather tasty (I’m talking about you Creamy Prosciutto Pasta!)
BUT, there are some ingredients that I will not use. It could be the easiest, most healthy, most spot-on dish and I will turn the page if it has one of these items. And it’s not because the ingredient is too expensive or hard to find. It’s really much more arbitrary than that. Behold:
1) Leeks – Mmm, vaguely oniony tasting overgrown scallions that are really hard to clean. Why?
2) Buttermilk – I think it’s just the principal of the thing. I don’t have a good reason except it seems like you buy a whole thing of buttermilk for a few tablespoons and then you are stuck with a half gallon of buttermilk. Why can’t they sell it in half pints like heavy cream? But more importantly, it leads me to….
3) Cream of Tartar – First, I hate this – spice? herb? seasoning?- because what the hell is it? Creamy? Tartary? What does that even mean? But the thing that really sticks in my craw is that the substitute for buttermilk is mixing cream of tartar with milk. So I don’t have buttermilk and they expect me to have cream of tartar? What?
4) Lastly, (and I reserve the right to to add to this list at any time.) anything licorice flavored (anise, fennel, Sambuca). Licorice (along with coconut and banana) are very polarizing ingredients. I hate licorice so that is that. I get particular thrill when there is fennel and leeks in the same recipe – It makes me strangely gleeful because it’s like I’m stickin’ it to all those recipe makers!
Send us your recipe deal breakers (arbitrary or not)!
This morning, my husband got in the car and said one of the nicest things “It still has that new car smell.”
Well, at least there’s that.
This car has been with us for three weeks. We turned in our Toyota minivan at the end of its lease and decided to rock our world and get a totally different car.
A Honda minivan.
My husband said that if you closed your eyes, you could be driving the Toyota because it was so similar.
But I did not take his advice.
With four kids in the back, I don’t need to add driving with my eyes closed to my list of things that will make this not seem like a new car.
In fact, even with just 50 percent child attendance, things can get tricky. One week after we got our car, I was taking the twins to saxophone lessons. Nobody wanted to go. There is nothing to kill your kids’ excitement about playing an instrument like buying them said instrument. And there is nothing to get children to set the bickering to atomic like telling them to get in the car.
Even though our minivan has sliding doors on both sides, one child decided that they HAD to get in on one particular side, which happened to be the side where her sister HAD to sit and NOT MOVE HER LEGS AT ALL to accommodate her sister’s passage. I’d like to say that I was letting them try to work this out on their own, giving them the chance to put into place all of those diplomacy tips I have calmly delivered over the years, but frankly, I was trying to figure out whether this car had a nice little switch to fold in the side mirrors while you back out of the garage. It didn’t. Not that there was a big paint smear on the edge of the mirror from scraping against the garage door or anything.
So, when things were reaching a fevered pitch, “MOM, she called me a MEANIE,” I a little bit snapped and said.
“STOP being MEAN. AND STOP saying MEANIE and just go to the other side of the car Just because your sister is choosing not to be generous, which is her right, just as it is our right to notice habitual non-generous behavior and form an opinion about that person . . .
“. . . doesn’t mean you have to play into it”
“FINE I’ll move.”
Five seconds of blissful silence while she gets into the car and is seated. Probably the only five seconds of silence that day.
I put the car into gear, manually folded the mirror in, and slowly took my foot off the brake
“What was that?”
Here’s where I got another five seconds of silence I wasn’t expecting.
“Um, Mom?” said one little girl. “You know the door is open, right?”
Long story short, I said a few words that the kids sometimes repeat, which I am only okay with because we don’t know any german speakers. We drove to saxophone with the door open (and when you go over 5 mph it the car beeps like a mutterficker) and I planned a trip to the dealer to see they could adjust what was clearly a minor problem.
On the next school day, I took our minivan to the dealer. After an hour in the waiting area (they have free wifi and something akin to what they call a “Hot Beverine” on The Simpsons), a service guy who I like to call Douchebag comes out to say
“You managed to bend the rails, so it’s going to be about $600 and it will take some more time to fix”
He said it would be done by 1 pm and gave me a ride home.
How I wish that were the end of this story.
One pm came and went. I called, they said they’d be done by three. I rearranged the carpool for Middle School pickup. At three I called and they said four. I ran over to the elementary school to walk home the younger kids. At four, they said it would be 5, so I got everyone on their bikes so we could ride down to deliver the middle schooler to her A Capella performance at the Farmer’s Market. Good thing the Farmer’s Market is right next to the bike shop, because the middle schooler fell of her bike and jammed the breaks, so she had to ride my bike to the performance (three phone calls on the way because she DOESN’T actually know how to get to the Farmer’s Market). I carried her bike with the little guys to the bike shop. Got to the market just in time for the performance. My phone battery was charged! I turned on the video and pressed play. They started singing! Beautiful version of “Cups!”
The phone rings, which of course automatically stops the video recording and is disturbing to everyone around me. It’s Douchebag, and the car is ready!
I send the middle schooler home on the bike with the girls and the boy and I bike over to the dealer (only two bikes can fit into the car.)
When we go to pick up the car, douchebag comes out and notes a faint smear of paint on the other side of the car. He looks at me and earns his nickname by saying
Since a large part of the country is preparing for or in the midst of a crazy storm, I thought I would take this opportunity to talk about – what else? – preparing for storms.
Now as a self-professed ill-prepared person, I get that the idea of being holed up at home for a day or two can be a bit daunting. Food and batteries must be considered. But I truly believe that the vast majority of people who are at the store buying milk and bread and batteries in the 24 hours leading up to the storm have a stockpile of items at home they could live off of for days. I mean even I have at least three boxes of pasta in my pantry!
Now you might say, “But what about Superstorm Sandy and blizzards and nor’easters that could and did leave us without power for days?” Again, I think most people will do just fine. And if you are trying to buy ice melt or rock salt in mid February after the winter we have had, you are on a fool’s errand.
So don’t give in to the urge to go to the store and stock up on things you already have at home. The stress of standing in the lines will be worse for you than having to eat leftovers for a day.
Or do what I do:
Here is a photo I posted on Facebook from a previous storm:
And here is what I got for this one (it was buy one get one free at the local Stop and Shop):
Last spring, I slipped as I was carrying laundry down the stairs and fractured my ankle. I got a lot of interesting reactions when I told people about it, but one woman said, “Laundry is THE WORST.”
Which is basically true. I can’t say I was glad to have ankle surgery and stay off my foot for six weeks. But I sure didn’t miss doing the laundry during that time.
Now I am all healed and I have to face the facts. It’s no good to just keep one pair of my husband’s underwear and socks clean (so he won’t leave me, I always say) and live in fear that someone’s sports uniform will be the bottom of the dirty laundry bin at game time.
Instead of constantly playing catch-up, I used that six weeks on the couch to strategize. I came up with a plan to get me out from under the laundry. I also watched A LOT of Food Network shows, but that didn’t really do me any good.
When I thought about it, the time consuming part of laundry is sorting. The machine does the actual washing and drying, and let’s be honest, one can catch up on a lot of Downton Abbey while folding.
One bin per kid.
So, I got a laundry hamper for everyone. We are lucky enough to have an upstairs laundry room. But with everyone dumping their clothes in there on top of all the dirty linens that go in, I was beginning to think I’d need a Sherpa to guide me in there. So, the handy drawer-like bins in the laundry room (really just trash cans hanging inside of drawer hardware, like some people have in their kitchens for actual trash) are reserved for linens and hand washables. Each kid has their own hamper only for their clothes – no wet towels. And we adults share one, with another for clothes that need to be treated nicely – hung to dry or ironed (grist for another mill.) Voila, the clothes are sorted by their wearers! This works pretty well. My next mission is to get them to turn their clothes rightside out. And in a perfect world, they would unball their socks.
Our in-room laundry bins are reserved for towels.
The second part of this process is that I do one person’s laundry each day of the week. If I’m really honest with myself, I have time to deal with one load of laundry a day. They key is that each person has to have enough clothing to last a week without washing. We have stocked up on socks and underwear, and everyone is reminded that you don’t need a new pair of fluffy pajamas each day of the week. It is okay to rewear.
The beauty of this system is that it doesn’t fall apart from neglect. If I get busy (or lazy) I can easily do two loads of laundry in one day. I have a much better sense of where in the system everything is (meaning I can easily find and wash a sports uniform in time, but somehow there is still always that feeling of a miracle happening when it is folded in the drawer at game-time.)
I have four kids, so each person in the family gets a laundry day. Then on the seventh day, I wash towels and sheets.
Still working on the sock hills.
This system works really well for our family, but I have heard lots of ideas from others. I have a friend who washes the whole family’s laundry for the week (they only have two kids, though) and then has a “shake and lay” policy, in which she shakes out the clothing as it comes from the dryer and lays it flat in a pile. She separates male and female items (they have one boy and one girl) and does a little folding and putting away as she has time. And if someone needs something at any point, they can look in their gender’s pile and grab it.
What are some other ideas for handling the family laundry?