Sunday, September 02, 2018

the scurge of the school lunch

It is true friends, I am a meal planner and a batch cooker. You can usually find me at some point on Sunday, happily listening to a podcast while I whip up lunches, treats and doing a little pre-cooking for the week. I always make a week's worth of my own lunch to take to work because I have zero interest in figuring that mess out every single day. Also I am very much a creature of habit when it comes to breakfast/lunch which makes it ridiculously easy to whip up. These days it's always a spring mix salad with a protein and a cheese with a lot of bang for the buck. So typically goat cheese or feta, dressing is a sweet hot mustard because, 1) I love it and 2) it is next to no calories for a lot of taste and that right there is my jam.

I will also whip up some cookies, muffins, or a quick bread for the kids and Mike to have through the week as a lunch extra or an after school snack. In the colder months I will simmer a pot of soup or chili. I may pre-cook something like taco filling and grate cheese if we have a busy night coming up through the week so dinner is half way done when I am pressed for time. Summer I may whip up a salad of some description that will stay stable in the fridge, but also carry us through a few meals with a barbecued main.

Now that September has arrived with it's glorious promise of cooler weather, hoodies, pumpkin spice everything and the return of the school lunch  I also make a week of lunches for my youngest child and this little chore has been a major bone of contention between my oldest and I because I do not make a week's worth of lunches for her. In fact it has been a few years since I have made her lunch at all. On our uglier days a lot of emotional statements get thrown around. Imagine things like, you love her more than me. You baby her. Why do I have to do everything, while she does nothing. Obviously it is apparent, if you look at it intellectually, that none of that is true, but some days get fueled by emotion, while intellect takes the back burner. Life with teenagers, am I right?

Recently though, we were able to have a conversation about this topic that didn't veer into emotion and provided an answer that she could completely understand and agree with. The basis, they are two very different people. One is still a tween, while one is in her middle teen years. One is very capable, very independent and able to plan ahead to meet her needs, which in this case is, I'm going to need lunch later. The other, thinks, well I'm not hungry now, so I will probably never be hungry again and would happily go off to school with next to nothing and be starving by the time she gets back home.We are a double income household, so that going to school with nothing but a granola bar was a real thing that was happening.

It has nothing to do with babying one kid. I do not want to make her lunch. Trust. I barely want to make my own lunch, but given she still falls in the child category and not damn near close to an adult category I am legally and morally obligated to make sure she is taken care of. So if that means her ability to plan ahead despite how she feels at the moment  isn't fully developed yet, I kinda got to step up and make sure she gets taken care of.  If the other kid is the valedictorian of planning ahead, well I am going to surely nurture, encourage and take advantage of that quality for my own selfish, non-lunch making game.

To clarify, I am not, not taking care of the older one. Obviously I am legally and morally obligated to take care of her as well, but she doesn't need me in that way. She is more than capable and I feel if she went to school empty handed at this age, well that's on her. This is the kid taking meetings and accepting work opportunities based on where she needs to be in the future, two full years from now. Me making her lunch is a want, not a need.  Additionally I think it is important for her to see that the world is not equal or sometimes not even fair, by her way of thinking, anyway. I think it's valuable for them to see that as a parent I sometimes need to have a different approach for each of them because they are different people and different does not mean less. That is a big one I think. Different means not the same and that's it. It certainly isn't a unit of measure.

So as we head into this new school year, her and I were side by side this morning both prepping lunches for the week. Both of us ready to get back to structure and routines. Both of us already over making school lunches. One week down, many, many more to go.

Sunday, August 05, 2018

basic square crust pizza dough recipe

For a lot of years I used the same pizza dough recipe. It was completely fine. We had many a make your own pizza night with that very dough recipe with no complaints, but it really was nothing spectacular. It was just a nice serviceable pizza dough recipe.

Earlier this year I, along with a couple of pals, led a group of kids in a Bread Club. Over several weeks we taught the kids how to make things like king cake, rye bread, sourdough, english muffins, pita, and pizza dough. I am not going to lie, I had as much fun and probably learned as much as the kids did. That's what happens when surround yourself with rock stars.

And this pizza dough recipe that TQ showed up with, also a rock star. Even though it was easily identifiable as a rock star recipe, it was a little bit before I made it at home for make your own pizza night and it was such a slam dunk with the entire family they asked, very politely, that I rip up my regular recipe and kindly never make it again.

This recipe makes a basic square pan pizza, although if you wanted to make it round I am certainly not going to narc on you, so feel free to play around with it. Based on the name you can correctly assume that this is a thicker pizza crust, so thin crust pizza loving friends, move along. Nothing for you to see here. This recipe originates at Serious Eats, which I had never heard of before Bread Club with my rock star pals. You can check out the original instructions at this link. What follows is my experience and hacks for making it.

Basic Square Pan Pizza Dough

  • 17.5 ounces (500 grams, about 3 1/2 cups) all-purpose or bread flour
  • .35 ounces (10 grams, about 2 teaspoons) kosher salt
  • .18 ounces (5 grams, about 1 teaspoon) instant or RapidRise yeast
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 12.25 ounces (347 grams, about 1 1/2 cups plus 1 1/2 tablespoons) water, room temperature

*Right out of the gate I already veer off the path. I use traditional yeast, so my room temperature water is hot water and I bloom my yeast before I throw it all in my kitchenaid.

Once I have bloomed my yeast I put the flour, 2 tbsp olive oil, salt and the water/yeast mixture into my mixer at low until all the ingredients come together and no dry flour can be seen. At that time I bump the speed up to medium high and let the dough hook do it's thing for six minutes. The dough should still be stuck to the bottom, but pull away from the sides. It will also be on the sticky side.

Now typically, I have made this dough earlier in the day that I want to use it, so I let it hang out in an oiled bowl until I am ready for it, but if you plan on using it in the next two hours you can move it from the bowl to a rimmed 13 by 18 inch sheet pan that has been rubbed with the remaining olive oil. I actually go very light on the olive oil in the pan. I put some in and then give it a wipe to make sure there is a nice thin coating over the whole pan. This is based on my personal experience with my pans and oven. You may want to follow the directions exactly the first time and then mess with it. Cover it with plastic wrap and let it hang out there for 2 hours. 30 minutes before you plan on baking this turn your oven on to 550 degrees Fahrenheit.

As this point you can remove the plastic wrap from your sheet pan and very gently, you don't want to ruin all those great air bubbles, press and stretch the dough out until it completely fills the pan by pressing out from the middle and stretching the corners out past the pan, that should allow them to settle back into the pan. Top your pizza as you wish and bake at 550 for 15 to 20 minutes. 17 minutes is the sweet spot for us, but obviously start with 15 and add more if you need to.

 I always double up the recipe and make two pizzas because my kids are picky AF when it comes to their pizza. They like simple, a teeny scraping of sauce, mozza and pepperoni. Mike and I prefer a normal amount of sauce, a bit of pepperoni and lots of veggies. This one had mushrooms, tomato and onion.

 And two pizzas allows for leftovers which are inventoried by the parties involved for lunches. Lord help you if you make a move on someone's pizza. They take their leftovers serious here friends.

Really, who can blame them? Look at how that dough cooks up!

So that's it, this pizza and a few games of cribbage or sequence is a pretty great little weekend night for the fam jam. I recommend reading over the original recipe as well as what I have here and then give it a whirl some night. It is pretty spectacular.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

play ball

For the first 14 years of my parenting career my kids had zero interest in any kind of team sport. They appeared to be only drawn to solitary sports like gymnastics and horse back riding or artistic pursuits like cartooning class and pottery with a fair smattering of life skills clubs like sewing and cooking thrown in for good measure. Their lack of desire to play soccer, for example, concerned me zero percent. I, myself, never played an organized sport of any description and I turned out pretty okay. My husband dabbled in hockey as a tyke and played baseball until his late teens, but the kids non-interest in this area didn't seem to concern him either. To be honest, I think he was just happy they didn't ask to play soccer. Sitting on the side line of the soccer field was not his jam, no offense to any soccer loving folks out there. It's just there is usually no trees, which means no shade and he ain't into that.

We have been known to take in a Jays game or 162 and our youngest had silently started watching along with us in the living room. More importantly she started asking a lot of questions about how the game worked and why plays and calls happened the way they did. My husband was thrilled to share his baseball "expertise" with her along with a lot of double bubble. She talked about perhaps playing baseball for a year or two before she finally took the plunge. She was very concerned about getting hit with a pitch, which actually happened at her very first game and it was totally fine. She's taken many more pitches like a seasoned pro since that time and they have all been fine. Even the last one, that you could tell stung. A lot, but no way was going to let it show. Bit back the tears, took her bag, and kept her eye on second.

My major concern with the kids playing organized sports, were the other parents. Not all of them of course. You know the ones I am talking about. "The sports parents". The ones that yell, that are critical and just make it not fun. I am not about that life. First off, they are 12. This is not the MLB and it is not game seven in the world series. Also my very firm belief is people do more, do it better and enjoy themselves when they feel appreciated and supported. A person needs to hear 5 positive comments for every negative comment and that's not my opinion, that's science. So I was concerned. My husband had spent his teen years and beyond working at our local hockey arena, so he has more than his fair share of "Sports Parents" stories.

For the past two summers our youngest has been playing with, largely, the same group of girls. Many of the families are interconnected in a variety of ways, so our family came in as outsiders, so to speak. These girls have been very welcoming to our daughter, several weeks ago, after what she felt to be a rough outing for her personally one of her teammates was there in a flash with an arm around her shoulder and some words of encouragement. It touched this sappy Mama's soul for sure.

As for my own personal concerns, well I am not sure if we just got super lucky or this is the way of the future, but the team parents have made this so much fun for us and I wanted to thank them for that. For cheering on all the kids on the team. For encouraging all the kids when they are struggling at a game. For celebrating the big moments with them and for always just keeping it on the positive side. It has been an absolute treat to watch the girls grow and improve together and to cheer with all of you from the bleachers.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

the end of an era

Two days ago I attended my very last parent council meeting, ever. Next week Maya will "graduate" from her elementary school and head off to middle school in September. Yep, she doesn't want to talk about it. I kinda don't want to talk about it either, because with her leaving, that means I have to leave as well and I am not going to lie, it's a bit of a hard pill to swallow.

I was trying to explain to Abby the other night why I found this transition such an emotional one. I mean I already proved I can survive a child transitioning to middle school, so what's the big deal? I was bumbling my way through an explanation when Mike piped up to hit the nail on the head, "It's where your mother found her voice." And I may have gotten a little weepy because he is 100% right. Really, can you be more right? If so then he's that. So right.

A casual acquaintance suggested that I come out to a council meeting back when Abby was in her second year of kindergarten, that's 11 years ago for those keeping track at home. Let me tell you Shannon, 11 years ago and Shannon now are two completely different people. I'm not actually sure why I thought it was a good idea to go, but went I did. I was quiet as a church mouse back then, with a quiet little life and an incredibly tiny circle of friends.

Over the course of my years on council I held the positions of secretary and for the past 7 or 8 years as Chair or Co-Chair, depending on the year. Over that time I learned how to lead a meeting, take usable minutes, Robert's rules of order, even if we were pretty loosey goosey.  I learned how to be organized, how to fundraise, how to organize a fundraiser, how to organize people to organize a fundraiser. I learned to delegate and to always value and respect people's time. I learned how to be a leader, to be encouraging and supportive. I learned that people want to be heard, acknowledged and appreciated. I learned that a difference in opinion is not an attack. That you can still be friends, but see things from completely opposite sides. I learned how to voice my own opinion and that it had value. I learned all of these things and I continue to learn all of these things because I am far from perfect at any of it.

And I made friends, guys. I made such terrific and amazing friends. Some who were teachers, Principals and fellow parents. Friends I have shared a few tears, a lot of laughs, drinks, meals, quick chats, long talks, text messages, GIFs, massive thumbs up and the #rubelife with. Friends who have picked up my kids or who have allowed me to watch and feed their little ones. Friends who have employed my kid as a babysitter, invited us to parties, movie nights, and a bunch more fun things.

My attending that first meeting was a true tipping point in my life.Without that first meeting, Jammie Movie Nights wouldn't have been a thing and without that there would be no Jersey Girls. No endless hours of walking, bonding and none of the over $50,000 that we have donated to cancer research, medical equipment and programs over the years. I wouldn't be involved with the organizations that I am and certainly not in the positions I now find myself in. I wouldn't be leading youth with really great friends. I wouldn't be helping plan community events. I would've missed out on countless coffee dates, lunch dates, backyard wine sipping and a bazillion other super fun things.

As we wound up my very last meeting the other afternoon some very sweet things were said about my time on council and I did my very best to not become a weepy mess as I listened. While their kind words were about the mark I have left during my time at the school, I was completely wrapped up in the mark that time has left on me. The people and experiences it has brought to my life. My take away from it is to always choose kind, be helpful, take a small second to really listen, because you have no idea what impact you are having on another human being, what encouragement you are sharing, that you might be a cheerleader without even realizing it. I found a community and a version of myself I was not expecting to find and I thank them all from the very bottom of my heart for such an amazing gift. Much love.

Monday, May 21, 2018


It was a some what unexceptional weekend in a lot of ways. More than our fair share of down time, which is okay by me. After a few packed weekends and last weekend that was packed to the tits, a quiet one is nice.

On the watch list this weekend; Justice League - it was okay, I prefer the Marvel movies, but one of my girls is a huge Wonder Woman fan. Coco - all of us loved it. A few of us shed some tears. Lady Bird - I dunno. I really don't have an opinion, other than, yep, I watched it.  Life in Pieces - 3/4's of us are watching this. So funny. And finally a little Grey's Anatomy as laundry folding encouragement for yours truly.  What are you watching?

Also if you follow me over on instagram, where I am getting insta-story famous, you know we were up bright and early to watch the Royal Wedding and maybe we ate wedding cookies supplied by Granny. Abby couldn't keep the family members straight, but 5am wake up calls with no coffee will do that do ya, I guess. We loved every minute of if, we got weepy where appropriate and everyone had a nap once the festivities were over

Tested out a new (to me) chocolate chip cookie recipe from Cook's Illustrated. Slam dunk. Home run. All those other sport's metaphors. A damn good cookie is what I am saying. Mike claims the best cookie I have ever made, so.....

Meal prep Sunday on a Monday, still my jam. It makes my life through the week a million times easier. Are you a meal prep fan?

Sunday, January 28, 2018

bullet journals and me

So bullet journaling. Yep, I drank the kool aid. For me though, it really is a total game changer. I am not going to show you my lay outs. Sorry gang, no bujo porn here. Mine are 100% completely utilitarian and 0% pretty. Don't get me wrong, I love a pretty bujo (oh yeah I totally use all the lingo) layout. I obsess over them even. Half my instagram follows are bullet journalers, the other half remains food, bakeries and restaurants, so don't worry, same old Shanny here. My only attempt at pretty is some ink joy pens, fine line markers and an assortment of highlighters.

I had heard about bullet journals a lot around the net, as I am sure most of you have as well. It's right up there with being a vegan and/or into crossfit/orange theory fitness. If you're hooked you want the whole world to know. I didn't full appreciate what a bullet journal was or how to make it an effective tool in your life. The very first article I read that made this whole craze make sense was this one.

Yes, we already have a huge calendar on the fridge. That is more a whole family tool. Lets everyone know what is going on and coming up for the month and months ahead. A quick glance can tell the kids which weekend Dad is working. Or Mom who's pay week we are at. Who has a late night at school, who has a meeting, who has a dentist appointment. All that fun busy family stuff.

Yes, I have a calendar on my phone. Which is a carbon copy of the one on the fridge. It's an on the go version. So when I am out and about and someone says are you free next Tuesday for such and such I can give them an answer right away.

Both of those are very effective organizational tools that I use on the daily, but they weren't quite cutting it. I have tried many things to help get me more organize. I mean, we fall into what can be described as a fairly typical dynamic of me, the mom, being the family CEO, which I am happy to do, but it is easy to lose yourself in that role. As I have gotten older (and far cooler if you are asking me) and my kids are getting older and requiring less of me in a hands on type of way. They feed, clean and dress themselves now. Heck sometimes they even feed me! That hands more free time back to me and I am attempting to fill it up with a lot of super fun and pretty cool things.  The problem was, I was feeling disorganized and with not enough time to get to all the things I really wanted to get to. Obviously the very most important and time sensitive stuff got too, but a lot of other stuff would slide to the wayside. Things like laundry, dusting, yoga, drinking enough water and washing my own face. Not to mention, just a general half assing of a lot of things.

Enter the bullet journal. I use a standard lined notebook, because that is what I had on hand. I list my daily, must do items across the top, things like drinking my water, getting my steps in and taking my supplements. The "to do" lists changes daily with things like emails I need to answer, 30 minute walk with my walking buddy, social media posts for our charity group, a plan to do a face mask, change the sheets or write this blog post. Writing these lists helps me to better organize my plan of attack. I have an easier time stringing tasks together in the most efficient pattern. It also encourages me to tackle these little tasks that I might set aside because I have to leave the house in 30 minutes, even though the task will only take 6 minutes to complete.

I am not going to lie, I do slide right off the band wagon from time to time. When things get extra hectic around here, it's usually the first thing I stop focusing on, which is a total mistake and I always regret it because I less feel like I get less accomplished and that just makes me angry. So my goal for 2018 is just to be better with it. Anybody out there drinking the bujo kool aid?

Sunday, January 14, 2018

sunday randoms

Hey guys! Does this thing still work. More importantly, I guess, does anyone care anymore? Don't get me wrong, this isn't a poor me statement. I don't want you out there saying, look at this asshole, she took a million year break and now she's whinging that no one is reading. Nah, I just mean the bottom really fell out of blogging. Didn't it? Oh, it's just me? Weird.

I guess I could write a few paragraphs about where I have been and why I took the break, but really.... see paragraph one. Nobody cares. Totally not trying to garner up any sympathy, it just truly doesn't much matter. I did it, it's over. I'm back. Maybe. Who knows how long before I get distracted again.

Too be honest I have been super busy getting insta story famous. It's totally happening too. I am pretty popular with the 12-15 age group. That live in my house. It actually started out as a joke with a child person who lives here with me, but I am actually having a lot of fun with them and my partner in crime has been (surprisingly) willing to take part in these stories, so there's that.

Guys, I have totally become addicted to many many new things in the million years since we last spoke. Things like Sweetlegs. I was going to blame Auntie KK for that, but dudes I ain't even sorry about it. They are a dream. And like my dear friend ML says, those are happy pants and really, who doesn't want to put on happy pants?

Also bullet journaling. Oh yeah. Big time. Total game changer. In fact the only reason I am writing this right now is because I put it in my bullet journal.

Also pretty busy watching Comedians in Cars Getting Coffe, The Crown, Bob's Burgers and Stranger Things. I am so behind on all of them. Unlimited Internet is a thing that needs to happen here.

One last also, read a couple of enjoyable books by Jojo Moyes, no not those ones (Me Before You or the other way around, whatever it is), but The Last Letter From Your Lover and The Girl You Left Behind. Can recommend.

What have you cats been up to?