Monday, May 28, 2007

Monday Musings

Yesterday we went to visit some of my husband's extended family at his mother's cabin a little way up the mountain from us. It was nice. My youngest got to play with his little cousin and the older kids played ping pong, badminton and chess among other things. I chatted with the relatives, and read old Ladies Home Journals and Good Housekeepings. The LHJ had some really nice pictures of "reading nooks" of different types. One was a window seat. We have three window seats-- my mother in law dressed them up beautifully when we first moved in -- she is a prizewinning artists and has the visual sense I would like to have.

For several years the older kids used them to sleep in. They liked sleeping in the loft, next to the window, rather than in their own rooms.

Now of the window seats: one, my 11 year old sleeps NEXT to -- he keeps his stuff on the window seat.

Another has become my daughter's music nook and contains 2 guitars, a keyboard, an atlas (???) and lots of musical scores.

The third is the one I'm sitting in now, and it is, YES, a computer nook but is under-utilized. I could easily make it nicer.... thinking about it, but that's for the future.

Anyone, the "reading nook" in the magazine had built in shelves under the seat. See, ours have built in cupboards... which is theoretically nice but practically, almost worthless because they weren't sealed off from the wall, and mice can get in .... yuck.

I showed my husband the shelving and he said he could do it. Hurray! I am not holding my breath though because there is a long line of DIY projects waiting ahead of this one. This will be SOMETIME, but still, it's nice to have a dream.

You are wondering why I am chattering on about window seats... YES, I am avoiding Monday Menu Plans.

I have realized this about myself. I hate meal planning. Last week -- I admit it -- I put what I had made the week BEFORE, not what we were planning to have the COMING week. I was hoping to do better this week, but it's not happening.

I haven't had any trouble with any other of my habit memes. I am doing fine so far with my Smart Habits, my fitness project, my Tackle-Its. But Menu Plan Monday brings a wall of resistance that I can almost feel.

Several years ago I wrote a meal rotation. It was one of the most useful things I ever did. The kids, who are generally fussy eaters, could look at my chart and either say: "Yay, we are having tacos tonight! That means I can save up my appetite all day and have 20 tacos for dinner!" OR "Hmm, we are having tacos. Guess I better break out the peanut butter and jelly and make sure to take some bread out of the freezer."

The kids loved the meal rotation, and it made life so much easier for me. No more 4 pm decisions. The flaw -- the reason I have never written it out on this blog -- is that I honestly have only about 6 or 7 dinners that we regularly eat around here. I have about 7 more that we eat occasionally, but wouldn't go over well if we ate them more frequently.

Why is this? I'm not an exceptionally fussy eater. I usually enjoy eating new things. But making them, dealing with those raw ingredients, PLUS eating them -- too much sensory overload.

DH likes making new things AND eating them, but has too much else going on to be the regular cook.

The kids aren't really into cooking at all. I have my one daughter and one son who will cook occasionally. Several of them will help -- the younger they are, generally, the more eager they are to help. Only one, my oldest, likes to do DIY cooking. The others prefer to make tried-and-true recipes.

Most of the kids have decided food preferences and dislikes. There is much more validation for me as cook, in making a few predictable dinners than in making a wide variety.

One solution we have tried is to make a small, interesting dish for the "adults" in the family and something boring for the rest of the kids. Say, make chile verde enchiladas for 4 and then tacos for the rest of the crew. Aidan and Paddy count as adults here. They absolutely LOVE it when I make enchiladas or lasagna or scalloped potatoes or chicken fettucine.

But it's hard to make 2 dinners in an evening, and the clean-up is a bear.

Well, enough rambling. I feel better making these confessions.

After pinpointing this heart of home issue, I think what I'll do is write out my basic menu rotation for next Monday. That is:
  • Oriental on Monday,
  • Mexican on Tuesday,
  • crock pot or oven dish on Wednesday,
  • Italian on Thursday,
  • fish or meatless on Friday,
  • American BBQ on Saturday,
  • pizza and soup on Sunday.

See, then I can go from there and try to introduce a bit more variety.
This will have to stand in for a MPM this week.