Sunday, January 9, 2011

Do the right thing

But what is the right thing?  As humans, I think there is a very wide, very grey line between what the right thing is, what the easy thing is,what the hard thing is, and what makes us happy.  And when (if) you become a parent, that line gets even more complicated because then you have to also include what makes your kid happy.  In my 2011 journey of resolving to just (try and) be me, I am finding out that what may seem like the hard thing to do is actually the easiest thing to do and in the long run, is the thing that makes us happiest and then, ultimately, we can conclude that it was the right thing to do.  Confused yet?  I know I am and I'm the one who wrote it!  Let me explain:

My husband informed me that he had to work all weekend.  And when I mean all weekend, I mean e staring Friday from early morning until Sunday night.  (Now I know there are lots of you out there where this is typical, and I feel for you, but for me its not, and I can only discuss my circumstances.  I am sure that there are aspects of my life that are harder for me than they are for you but now is not the time to play whose grass is browner and crappier so let's get back to the story...)  This meant that I had to entertain my babies from for 48 hours.  And its cold out.  And it snowed like crazy on Friday night.  And they don't nap ever or go to sleep before 10.  So already I am anxious about how to fill these hours.

This is where the easy/hard/right/happy dilemma came in.  I could do the easy thing: hang out in the house for two days in our pjs and order in Pizza/Chinese/Indian food and tell myself that we are just having a lazy weekend.  But the truth is, its not a lazy weekend, its just lazy.  And at the end of the weekend, we would all being climbing the walls, on each other nerves, way more tired than we should be after 48 hours of nothing, a few pounds heavier from all the salt and fat we mindlessly consumed, and a few brain cells lighter from all the TV we watched.

Last year (a week ago) that is probably the route I would have taken.  I would have reasoned with myself that it is "too hard" and "too cold" to do anything with the kids so why bother.  It would have been an excuse for me to just veg. in front of the TV.  Not that there is anything wrong with vegging in front of the TV once in a while, but after being on vacation for two weeks and with the events prior to those two weeks that left me homebound for a week and a snowstorm that was nowhere near a house-stranding blizzard, I had definitely not earned any veg time.

I decided to do what was harder.  Or so I thought.  It turns out that the hard thing was actually the easy thing.  It was easy to call our friends and ask if we could come over on Saturday night and skate on their homemade backyard rink.  It was easy to go to Best Buy and let the kids buy something with their giftcards they'd been saving.  It was easy to get the car washed, get lightbulbs and windshield washer fluid and the other errands that I'd been meaning to do for a while.  It was easy to take my kids to the gym so we could all go swimming, play tennis, and run (well..that was just me and with was on the treadmill, but still it was running...).  It was easy to bundle up take the dog for a walk and breath in fresh air and feel the sun on my face.  It was easy to help them arrange playdates and shuttle them around the city before we got sick of each other (its normal & doesn't make us a dysfunctional family).  And it was easy to eat good, healthy food all weekend long (recipes below).

And you know what?  The hard thing turned out to be the easy thing turned out to be the thing that made me happy and, of course, ultimately the right thing to do.  Upon reflection (a teacher phrase that I find myself using a lot since I am a teacher), I think that what seems like the easy thing is actually the harder thing:  you have all those feelings of regret, guilt, and self-loathing to clean up when its all over.  And trust me when I tell you that is easier to walk the dog and take the kids skating than it is to deal with that mess.

Of course, there is an exception to every rule and this weekend was no exception; dinner on Sat. night was a big bowl of mashed potatoes, as requested by my kids.  This may seem like the wrong thing to do; I mean who lets their kids eat just a bowl of mashed potatoes for dinner?  Have I gone to the wrong side of what's right vs. what's easy and makes us happy? Well, in this case, it was both.  I made Hulk mashed potatoes (potatoes mashed with a healthy does of spinach).  I think it's quite obvious why we call them that: they are green like the Hulk and make you as strong as the Hulk if you eat them.
Enjoying a dinner that's easy and makes them happy and miraculously, still the right thing to do.

Hulk mashed potatoes

This recipe is so easy that I almost feel silly giving it to you.  But here goes:

The ingredients listed are per potato, or one serving.  Multiply for each potato you add.

Peel, cut into chunks and boil a Yukon Gold potato until fork tender.  Drain almost all of the water and return the pot to the stove.  Over very low heat, toss in 1 tsp butter, about 1/2 cup of milk or chicken stock, 1/2 tsp crushed garlic, handful of chopped spinach (or 1/4 cup thawed frozen spinach).  Mash and add more liquid and s & p to your desired taste and consistency.  

A delicious and (almost) balanced meal.  I defy you not to eat the whole bowl.  

PS.  This is what else I did this weekend:

White chocolate blueberry bars that we made for our friends to thank them for the use of their skating rink (and to say "no hard feelings" for the last time we went skating there and their son tripped my daughter which resulted in 4 hours at the hospital...but that's another story).    I could provide you with the recipe, but mine is just a simple adaptation of another recipe for the My Own Sweet Thyme blog that, judging from her picture, was probably superior to mine.

The moral of the story: always have stuff like frozen blueberries and white chocolate chips on hand for a baking emergency such as this.

 So now here we are, on Sunday evening.  The kids are being read to by my husband, their Dad, home from his weekend of hell (and pleasantly surprising my weekend of heaven) and I am about to relax with my own great book (will write about that next time) and we are all satisfied after our amazing dinner that capped off an amazing weekend.
Mango chicken Stirfry.
Harder than ordering a pizza or Chinese but still so easy to make & delicious & definitely the right thing to do.

This recipe makes four servings with leftovers for lunch.  Serve with brown rice or something (?) I am not really going to give you too many exact quantities of stuff because really, it is to your liking.  Maybe you lean more to the vegetarian side and want more veggies.  Maybe (like me) you are more of a meatatarian and want more chicken.  Whatever.

Cut a few good-sized chicken breasts into chunks and marinate in 1/4 cup soy sauce & 2 tsp chopped garlic.  While it is marinating, cut up whatever veggies you have on hand; I used red peppers, mushrooms, onions, broccolini (the longer, thinner, cooler cousin of broccoli).  

Heat 1 tbsp veggie oil in a wok or large frying pan over high heat.  I don't use olive oil here because the veggie oil tastes cleaner.  Toss in the chicken and the marinating liquid until the chicken is almost cooked through, about 3 min. Turn the heat down  a bit and toss in the veggies in order from hardest to softest (with the exception of the onions which always go in first).  Mix around until hot and softer, but not soggy (around 3-5 min) and then add in about a cup of diced mango with the juices, along with a tbsp of hoisin and a tsp of chili oil.  Stir it all around until everything is warm and bubbly.  Taste and add more soy sauce (or anything else), if needed.

Serve with chopsticks.  Everything is more fun when you eat it with chopsticks.
 That's it!  Have a happy Monday, y'all!

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for some great ideas, love the hulk potatoes, kids are going to love these.