This crockpot easy white chicken chili is what I need right now.
Things have been pretty crazy on the domestic front lately. The husband has been in a crazy period of working until 2 or 3 in the morning every night. I am also still working my normal, mostly 9-5 job, and I’m doing 100% of the evening fetching, lunch packing, permission slip signing, homework checking, laundry folding, bedtime reading, nightmare soothing, out-of-bed dragging, and meal planning (though Mr. TDF would want me to acknowledge that he is still taking Thing 1 to school because I cannot do that and still make it to work by 9.)
The end result of all this is that everyone in our household seems to be exhausted. I can usually get going in the morning (with the help of copious amounts of caffeine) but by the time I get home at night, kids in tow, having done two childcare pickups (and driven for an hour and a half, each way), I’m practically catatonic. If dinner isn’t simple – not only easy, but stupid easy – it’s not going to happen, and I will be reduced to the sad, sad state of eating pretzels dipped in cream cheese for dinner (it’s happened. Fortunately, my kids often get fed by the kindness of others, including Thing 1’s after school program, my mom, and Trader Joe).
Slow cookers are a lifesaver in this kind of situation. Nothing is more soothing when you’re frazzled and exhausted than sitting at your desk, contemplating the hot meal, cooked from scratch, that will be waiting for you when you finally crawl home. (Of course, nothing kills that buzz more than sitting at your desk at about 2 pm and realizing that you forgot to turn on said crockpot, and that a pot full of partially cooked chicken and beans is sitting and festering on your kitchen counter. Don’t do that! Learn from my mistakes and turn ON your crockpot. This has been a public service announcement.)
Look, I want to level with you here. We all know about screen time and kids and TV and blah blah blah, but the truth of the matter is that TV is indispensable to working moms. Maybe some kids will quietly play imaginary games in their rooms on their own, but mine will draw on paintings with marker (true story, happened today), if they’re not properly distracted. I would like my children to have something to do so that I can do something besides entertain them – something like, oh, clean marker off of my paintings (windex, worked like a charm), or take a shower, or write this blog.
But just because I am OK with my kids watching TV, that doesn’t mean that I’m OK with my kids watching any old TV. While in theory, I have nothing against someone who lives in a Pineapple Under the Sea, ideally I’d like my kids to be watching something that makes them think, and inspires them to do something besides watch TV. Because eventually I’m going to succumb to my mommy guilt and turn off the TV, and I don’t want to hear the whining.
Halloween is in just two short weeks, which means you may be looking for Halloween costume ideas. Or you may have children like mine, who start planning next year’s Halloween costume on November 1.
I have many failures as a mother. I am not very tidy. I don’t volunteer in my kids’ classrooms. I refuse to iron anything. I don’t check my 7 year old’s homework (not that I could do anything with it – it’s all in Spanish). My kids eat fish sticks for dinner not-infrequently (don’t tell the home cooking police). But I have two points of pride: Homemade birthday cakes, and homemade Halloween costumes.
In the collage above, you can see the Nuni’s creations over the years. I am not a great sewer, but I’m good enough for Halloween. From the top, Tinkerbell (I made the tutu!), a Ladybug (made the jumper, with black tights and black wings and homemade antennae headband), the cutest lopsided Cinderella ever, Bernadette (this was me last year, from this book – easiest Halloween costume ever), Merida and baby brother (my mom sewed the Merida dress, and the baby was in a bear hat and black pajamas), and last year’s Eloise and Max).
Max (from Where the Wild Things Are) breaks my homemade rule – this is a PBK costume that I love so much I bought it when Bootsy was tiny (on clearance, after Halloween) and he’s wearing it again this year.
Eloise is my favorite genius costume idea.
If you’re not familiar with Kay Thompson’s Eloise (with drawings by Hilary Knight) you should go out and read it right this second. I’ll wait.
OK, back? I leaned hard on the Nuni to be Eloise last year when she was six, because Eloise after all is six, and it remains and will remain my all time favorite kid’s Halloween costume.
The great thing about this costume is that it was very easy to put together black pleated skirt, black suspenders, white blouse, knee socks, black mary janes and pink bow – but you can wear all of it again! The Nuni wore the skirt and blouse to school as part of her uniform for the rest of the year, and the knee socks and shoes went into the regular rotation, too. We even got a little stuffed weenie dog to hold.
We’ve got great things planned for this Halloween too, and I’ve got to log some sewing time this weekend. The Nuni is requiring me to dress up this year, too. What about you? What are your Halloween plans?
Last week I peeled walnuts. I sat down with a sharpened skewer and a bowl of walnuts, doused in boiling water. I slowly, methodically, lifeted the sheer skins off the nut, scraping each surface, excavating each tiny canyon.
Most of my days are measured by time. I wake (too early) to the alarm, then it’s rush all day long to meet one deadline after another – beat the traffic, get to school by the first bell, get to work on time, get to daycare before it closed, get the children fed and bathed and in bed by a reasonable hour, and then squeeze in whatever leisure I can before I must go to bed, too, in order to have the energy to tackle the next day.
Meals, too, are hurried affairs. What breakfast can be eaten in the car? Do I have time to pack lunch or is it cafeteria day again? How quickly can I get dinner on the table? Do the grownups get to eat before 9 pm? What I’m primarily looking for in a recipe is some combination of efficiency, taste and health – I don’t have time for precision or technique.
But occasionally, I will be able to steal an hour to sit down and peel walnuts.
I was making chiles en nogada – a Pueblan dish of stuffed chiles topped with a creamy walnut sauce and pomegranates. We had guests visiting from out of town, and I wanted to make something special. The recipes I found warned that the walnut peels added a bitterness to the sauce, and so I sat down, ignoring the piles of laundry, the dishes in the sink, the emails to be answered, and I lifted the skins off those walnuts with a pointed skewer, bit by bit, seeking, as I did so, the touch of the sublime.
There is joy in this kind of work, if you can find it. If you can leave behind the deadlines for some time and work with your hands at a tedious task that will take your finished product one step closer to perfection. If you can inhabit your task, thinking only of what is in front of you – not today’s crises, or tomorrow’s challenges, but only this – the walnuts, the skewer, the bowl of creamy nuts, stripped of their protective skin.
This is why I love to cook, and the type of cooking I love to do – to take the time to make something, to take the extra time to make it well, to make it right. Not every meal is like this. Heck, not one in ten meals is like this. But if it weren’t for these meals – these meals prepared without the pressures of the world – I couldn’t make the others – the dinners on the table in ten, the breakfasts on the go, the brown bag lunches. There have been a slew of articles lately about people who hate cooking – the drudgery of it. I get it! I do! Getting meals on the table can be a real slog. I value shortcuts – and I share them with you here – because I need shortcuts. I need the tips and the tricks to keep the domestic front from losing us the war. And that’s why a lot of the recipes I post here on The Domestic Front are just that – recipes that help you get meals on the table, even when it’s a chore (and by you I mean men and women. I’m not trying to tie women to the kitchen. But we need to eat, and our kids (if we have them) need to eat, and there is value in eating good, home-cooked food, in a culture of cooking, and of developing skills and self-reliance.
But if the only cooking you ever get to do is the kind you have to do, it will always feel like a slog. It will be hard and hateful. But if just sometimes you can take the time, have the luxury to cook something because you want to, not because you need to, take the time to make it just a little better without bringing down the whole operation, find your groove in a quiet kitchen – that’s where the good stuff is.
I didn’t peel all the walnuts. I decided, after an hour or so, with my fingers pruned and my shoulders hunched, that I would prefer bitterness in the sauce to bitterness in my soul if I continued. It was delicious anyway. The point is in the process.
I'm Kate, and between my day job and my home job, life is pretty full. Look around to find some of the recipes, projects, stories and tips that keep me sane on the domestic front. Read more about me here and feel free to email me with any questions or feedback!