Easy White Chicken Chili with Pumpkin

Pumpkin White Chicken Chili

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.)

Continue reading Easy White Chicken Chili with Pumpkin

TV Review: Amazon Prime Instant Video’s Creative Galaxy

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.

When Clever Girls and Amazon Prime Instant Video asked me to review Amazon’s new show, Creative Galaxy, I signed right up. (As an aside – I honestly do not know how any buy person exists without Amazon Prime – it’s a lifesaver for me. And the free Instant Video library is a great aspect of it. And this is 100% my opinion, and does not reflect any sponsorship of this post.) Creative Galaxy is produced by Out of the Blue Enterprises with Angela Santomero (Blue’s Clues and Super Why!) serving as Creator and Executive Producer. Without knowing that connection, I could have seen it- what Super Why is to reading, this show is to art. It deals with the animated characters Arty (a cute little green alien) and his alien, um, pet? Epiphany (a flying creature which reminded me very strongly of Glomer from the old Punky Brewster cartoons) who solve problems with art. Each episode deals with a different theme and type of art – one dealt with the idea if you like your creation, you didn’t make a mistake, even if it’s not 100% accurate, which brought in references to Picasso and Cubism, and another talked about making recycled art from used household items. Each episode ends with a live action sequence of kids doing a craft related to the ones in the show. There’s an overarching thing that art is everywhere and creativity is encouraged – the shows end with the invocation, “Go out and be amazing!”

amazon_studios-creative_galaxy_S1_E9-episode_still (1)

As a parent watching the show, I personally found it less engaging than say, Game of Thrones, but I think we’re waiting to introduce that for the kids. In all seriousness, I would call this good kids’ entertainment, rather than family entertainment, though I appreciate that it provides lots of ideas for art projects to do with your kids, which is not something that comes naturally for me. It would be especially great if Amazon could provide with the listing for each show a list of the crafts demonstrated and the materials required, so parents are not beset with “Mom, we need to make a treasure box right NOW.” when there are no popsicle sticks in the house. But I write recipes here, and I like ingredient lists.

I was asked to watch it with my 2 year old, so I sat down with him and the iPad and turned it on. He was engaged for about 10 minutes, and then asked to watch another show (to be fair, the only TV show he will watch straight through is Barney, and the rest of us are tearing out our hair at having to listen to that darn purple dinosaur). I think the animations were at his level, but the themes and crafts escaped him – he’s still at the scribble on a piece of paper (or paint the wall using mommy’s best mascara) stage.

 

Creative Galaxy

I called in the Nuni, who is newly 7, as a pinch hitter. She’s probably a little older than the target audience, but we tend to watch shows for younger viewers around here, so she dove right in. The show’s animation and production values makes it seem like its appealing to younger viewers, but the crafts are fairly sophisticated, and the kids doing the crafts are definitely grade schoolers. I’d personally say that 4 through 6 year olds are the sweet spot. The Nuni really loved the show – watched 4 episodes straight through, and then asked for more. I asked her for her reactions to the show, and I think you all are best served by me copying them here verbatim:

It’s so good -I think it would really appeal to kids
My favorite craft was when they made a picture frame but did everything crazy like the face and one eye was normal but the other one was on top of the normal one.
I think every person could enjoy that show. A lot of people would like it.
I think that it is good because it teaches you how to do different types of art, like when you recycle stuff that you already used and use it for art.
I think that something could be better by the pictures looking more realistic.
If I were in charge of the show, I would make things more realistic. It wasn’t really that bad – the pictures really weren’t that bad. I just think they could have been better. (I did push her to offer criticism, like all good reviewers must).

Amazon DL
And there you have it. It could be more realistic, but otherwise, it was pretty great, and every person COULD enjoy the show.

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

Halloween Costume Ideas – #TBT

Halloween Costume Ideas

 

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).

Halloween Costume Idea

 

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.

Kay Thompson's Eloise

 

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?

The Luxury of Taking Your Time

walnut

Image by Erich Ferdinand, via Flickr

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.