31 January 2007

Working mom survival guide

My sister-in-law discovered the wonder of crockpots recently. They are a complete staple in our house. We couldn't eat without ours. At least once a week I'll cook something in there. Often, it's enough for two meals for us, a family of five. It's a big crockpot. ;)

Work has been awful (note the lack of posts) since my boss left for his new job, and the crockpot has been doing a lot of duty.

Some favorite recipes:

Roast Beef ala Crockpot
1 roast
1-2 cans beef broth or consumme
2 Tbsp. minced garlic
2 bay leaves
Pepper to taste
1 can cola of your choice (diet or regular, does not matter)
Carrots (as many as you like)
Pearl onions (if you like)

Put everything in the crockpot. Order does not matter, though I've noticed that the carrots don't necessarily cook all the way through if they aren't in the liquid. Turn crockpot on high for 10-12 hours.

To mix it up, sometimes I'll add a 1/2 c. of sherry or red wine. Sometimes I add mushrooms (I love portabella).

I'll make either mashed potatoes or noodles when I get home.

Spaghetti Sauce
1 pound ground beef, cooked
1 small can tomato paste
2 jars tomato sauce, or 1 jar Prego or Ragu or your favorite spaghetti sauce.
2 Tbsp. minced garlic (note: I love garlic. If you hate it, leave it out.)
1 Tbsp. Italian seasoning.
Mushrooms (as many as you like)

Mix all in crockpot. Stir mushrooms and meat through well. Cook on high 8 hours. Fix spaghetti when you get home.

For variety, I'll toss in all sorts of veggies (shhhh, don't tell the kids). Green and red and yellow peppers. Leftover eggplant. Whatever works.

A variation is to toss the noodles into the crockpot about 30 minutes before serving. I prefer the more traditional serving method (sauce ladled over spaghetti before eating), but for leftovers, if there are enough noodles, I'll toss 'em in and reheat.

My Mom's Soup, ala Crockpot
1 soup bone
Enough water to cover soup bone
1 28 oz. can tomato juice
1 can crushed tomatoes
Coupious amounts of seasoned salt or Mrs. Dash of your choice
1 bay leaf
Vegatables of your choice, chopped

Throw everything in pot. Cook for 5-6 hours on high, 8 or more on low.

At the last 30 minutes, either toss in rice *uncooked* or alphabet noodles *uncooked*.

I have more; I'll add a few some other time, but SpongeBob's almost over.

One more working mommy recipe to share:

Mommy-tracked's Hot Toddy
1-2 fingers of rum
Squirt of lemon juice
Dash of both nutmeg and cinnamon
1-2 fingers of piping hot water from teakettle
1 sugar cube

Mix. Enjoy!

23 January 2007

Nine days.

That's how long it took to get power back to our house.

We are lucky: There are still about 10,000 people in the city without power. At least one professor I know is living out of his office with his family, still, 10 days after the storm.

Yesterday I took time off to clean the house, scrub the fridge and floors, and move our things over from the rental where we were staying. There's at least one more load left. I still need to clean our deep freeze of the primordal frozen ooze in the bottom. That's tonight's project. Ick.

This weekend will probably be spent chainsawing the brush and trees down in our back yard. We need to reset the rock around a flowerbed, too. The ice played havoc with that, as well.

All in all, we came out well, if a bit cranky and frazzled. And now we know what to do next time:

* Have water. Lots of bottled water. We never lost water, but I know people who did. Best to have enough to get each person through at least two days.

* Put fuel in your cars before the storm hits. We actually know this, but didn't do it. We've lived north for years, and before a blizzard comes, you fill your tank. This time, we were busy and rushed, I was sick, and so it didn't get done. Then we were among those scrambling for gas after the storm, when 90 percent of the city was out of power. No power = No working gas pumps.

* Plan what you'll need for at least a week if you have to leave your home. On this, we did pretty well. I packed clothing to get us through, warm things, and as much as I could cram in a suitcase.

* Take all your important papers with you. We forgot this, but at least we had the option of going back to our house a day later and getting them. If it had been a hurricane, we'd have been screwed. Insurance papers, passports, birth certificates, financial statements. Take them with you. Buy a fireproof safe to keep them in, one that you can carry.

* Check the batteries. The first night, we figured out we had two working flashlights, and one was a Fisher Price kids' version. Ditto on the weather radio/battery-operated radio. Once power's gone, you are toast.

* Keep a landline phone. We have this, and it helped family members to know they could call us. Our cells stayed charged (car chargers), but there's no guarantee of the towers staying up (my coverage was awful, and I had tons of dropped calls while I was trying to work that first Monday).

* Have food ready that can be cooked over a fire. Again, I did well. We had tons of canned food. We had a woodstove, so we could eat.

* Have tons of firewood. Again, we did fine here. My parents delivered a stack this fall, and it was enough to get us through.

* Wrap pipes. My husband had to scramble to Lowe's late one night to get insulation to wrap our pipes. We should have done it years ago (just good fuel economy, actually). But it keep our pipes from freezing.

* Have a back-up, back-up, back-up plan. Our back-up plan fell through when my cousin lost power. So did our back-up back-up. It was sheer luck that we found a place to stay, and didn't have to spend a fortune in hotel fees. Plan three steps away from what you think you'll need to do. Next time, we know we can go to our church and stay. Or my office. Neither is ideal, but both were warm and had access to showers.

The more you know.

May none of you ever have to use these tips, but get them lined up, just in case.

19 January 2007

Crabby, man, am I ever

Still no power. At last count, there were 18,000 of us in the city without it. Snowstorm is on its way here, too. Joy.

Our yard is a wreck, limbs and two trees down. More could fall later, we'll just have to wait and see. Yet, we have it good: Some neighbors have trees on their homes, others are trapped by fallen trees in the next block up. They can't chainsaw the suckers: Powerlines are threaded throughout the mess.

You can tell at work now who has power and who doesn't: Those of us without power are cranky as all get out. It's been a week (as of 8 p.m. tonight). Most of us have been living elsewhere (hotels, offices, one friend had her family living in their restaurant). We've been checking property compulsively, both to keep pipes from freezing and to make sure our homes haven't been broken into yet.

It's exhausting.

Those of us still waiting for power are feeling a lot of sympathy for those who have been in hurricane hell. Katrina takes on a new perspective now. At least we can get to our stuff, and it hasn't washed away. I now understand how short-tempered you can get in a crisis. I'm trying to keep a good face for the kids and the overworked hubby (day 13 working now). But it is freakin' hard.

Does NOT help that I'm in a position of some limited power at work, and I'm getting heavier workloads from above, and folks from below who still need their projects done.

Crabby, thy name is Mommy-Tracked.

17 January 2007

Happy news followed by citywide crisis

On Friday night, I learned that they found not only the kidnapped boy from my hometown, but another boy who had been missing for four years. We couldn't have had better news.

Two hours later, we were in the middle of a horrid ice storm without power and only a wood stove for heat.

Five days later, we still don't have electricity at our house. We're fine, thanks to the generosity of my husband's boss, who has a vacant rental home in the 10 percent of the city that never lost power. The kids are safe and relatively happy.

Until the ice melts (tomorrow, hopefully it will start melting), we're in danger of having one of several trees land on our home. Our house is surrounded by trees, which are right now coated in an inch of ice. So far, so good. We've lost trees, but they've avoided hitting anything important.

Photos will go up at a later date, but you can check our local newspaper for the damage photos around town. I've lived through ice storms before, but nothing like this.

10 January 2007

Security shattered

I know that we can't keep our kids safe forever. The big bad world intervenes.

I know, for example, that there are three listed pedophiles within a mile of our house. Our kids know, too. They know pictures of these guys. They know that's why they can only play in the back yard, or the front yard with adult supervision.

But Monday afternoon, something happened to completely shatter my sense of having any secure place in this world.

A boy was kidnapped from a stop on my old childhood bus route. He's still not been found. I know his mother.

I grew up in a very rural area. People think (thought) nothing of letting kids walk a half mile home from the bus stop. Most of us hunted or hiked over miles of woods alone from the age of 10. I personally would go off on my bike with a neighbor boy and we'd go for five- or six-mile rides alone at 13.

Once, I was so annoyed at my mom, I took off through the woods for a waterfall I knew was on a neighbor's property. The sounds of water plunging four feet off the precipice soothed me.

My mother was frantic when I didn't come back for an hour. She had my uncle out searching for me. Not because she feared kidnapping, but because she feared I'd be shot.

It was deer season. I was wearing a brown coat. It was, in retrospect, an incredibly stupid thing to do.

But kidnapping was miles from her mind.

Now, when my kids go with me to the farm, I'm going to think twice about letting them hike alone. My eldest is at the same age I was granted freedom to wander the 300+ acres alone.

I can't let her do that now.

And the fact that I can't just breaks my heart.

08 January 2007

New year, new post

Dude . . . I know you are in a rush and all, and it's Sunday at Target, which is only slightly less hellish than Sunday at Wal-Mart.

But. . .

This is a parking lot, not Le Mans.

Don't run me down as you move that Suburban around the lanes, trying to find the. perfect. close. parking. spot.

Just park the damn thing and walk like the rest of us.

Thank you.