our exciting new meal plan

We have given great thought, lately, to the reasons why we don’t cook. They are many: no food in the house, no time, no skill, no one who wants to shoulder that responsibility… no wonder we never have proper meals! So after much discussion, David came up with our new meal plan.

Please note – David came up with the plan. I did not. This is key, because historically, I jump from scheme to scheme because I always think the next one sounds better. People around here are – not surprisingly – a bit skeptical when I present a new plan. One designed by someone else is a bit less suspect.

The new plan is basically a job chart. There are three jobs:

  • Chef – the chef is in charge of planning the meal, making sure there are groceries in the house for the meal, doing the bulk of the cooking, and getting the meal on the table in a timely manner.
  • Sous Chef – the sous chef is the chef’s right-hand person, doing any prep jobs the chef requires: chopping, fetching ingredients, running to the cookbook to see how long something should simmer, and so on. This person is also in charge of setting the table.
  • KP – the “Kitchen Patrol” is in charge of cleanup: clearing the table, doing the dishes, and restoring the kitchen to its full upright and locked position.

Our particular schedule runs Tuesday through Sunday. Everyone has Monday night off to fend for themselves. David designed the job chart so that each of us has a rotating assistant: I am chef on Wednesdays with David as my sous chef, and on Fridays, when Quinland helps me.

I took Quinland out to dinner last Thursday and explained the plan to her, along with one additional rule: all meals have to be based around a vegetable dish. It could be a salad before the meal, a specific vegetable to accompany the meal, or even a vegetarian meal itself, but the veg had to be front and center. We brainstormed a list of main dishes she likes (and veggies, of course), and the plan started right up the next day.

We haven’t missed a day yet. Fabulous meals have included Chicken with Lemon and Garlic (David), chili with cornbread and spinach salad (Quinland) and beef stew (Lori). In fact, it is 8 AM right now, and the beef stew has just been readied in the crockpot. (Q is going to a sleepover tonight, and she has KP; she’ll be able to do the bulk of her work before dinner, this way.)

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Crockpot Beef Stew – veggies ready to go!

The kitchen has never been so consistently pristine; in fact, when emptying the dishwasher the other night, David remarked, “I don’t think we have ever had every single piece of silverware clean at once!” We are usually about one meal behind, with a stack of rinsed dishes waiting to go in as soon as the dishwasher is emptied… but no longer.

To the bulk of the world, this probably seems like the most ridiculous “breakthrough” ever. Of course people shop and cook and clean on a schedule, right? Yeah, unless those people are particularly – inept? passive-aggressive? resistant? – I’m not sure which adjective to use there, so I’ll just replace it with a new one: content. Oh, and nicely fed, thank you!

the queen of summer

‘Cause we keep it together the better the weather,
We love it that way…

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Last summer, when we were in Europe, I realized how much I miss having summers off. Not (just) because of the whole not-working action, but because my family is off in the summer – and I love those guys.

For seventeen years, David and I had summers off together. Most of that time, it was because we were both either students or teachers or one of each. Occasionally, we were between jobs, between states, or between countries. Whatever the reason, we had that time together.

David is different in the summer. During the school year, he is so focused on school – and playing board games to alleviate the stress of school – that he rarely has time to just relax and be himself. In the summer, he is that person… and I really like that person.

Quinland marveled over this repeatedly in Europe. David was so friendly, so chatty with strangers, so energetic, so willing to do hikes and bike rides and sea kayaking, so eager to sightsee and go to museums, so FUN. (We took to calling this aspect of him “Euro Dad.”) But really and truly, I know that David from all the summers we spent together doing all those things. It was so incredible to get to have that experience again after almost 10 years without it.

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So, this year, I decided I was going to get at least a taste of it. We took a vacation – a real vacation – and went on a road trip down through Oregon, Northern California, Nevada, Utah and Colorado, stopping at National Parks and State Parks along the way. D and Q went for three weeks; I couldn’t get that much time off, but I went for two full weeks. Camping, driving, visiting friends and relatives, hiking, just hanging out – it was like having a summer again.

Oh, I can’t forget to add this: Crater Lake is beautiful. Why had I never managed to get there before?