Two for One Meal: Crockpot Vegetable Soup and Pot Roast

What tastes totally delicious but looks like puke when you try to photograph it for a blog?
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Vegetable soup!

Totally unappetizing LOOKING, but amazing tasting. I promise.

This isn’t usually a recipe blog, and it’s not about to become one, but this was yummy! I had to share it.

A couple weeks ago, my friend Lindsey told me she’d made amazing vegetable soup in her crockpot AT THE SAME TIME as the pot roast she made her family. It pretty much blew my mind, and I decided to try it myself. She didn’t give me an exact recipe, so I winged it and texted her a little in between.

I did:
1 pot roast, probably about 3 pounds?
2 packets of Lipton onion soup mix
1 32 oz box of beef stock
1 can of tomato soup
1 cup of dry sherry (white wine would work)
1 bag of frozen mixed vegetables (carrots, corn, green beans, peas)
1 box of frozen spinach
3 tsp chopped garlic (probably about 3 cloves)
a bunch of shakes of worcestershire sauce
a couple pinches of salt
a giant crockpot (I don’t know the size of mine, but it’s pretty huge and was filled to the top)

I put all of that in my crockpot, cooked it on low for 8 hours and when it was done we had a semi-decent pot roast that all the kids ate, especially with the soup spooned over it AND a TON of absolutely delicious vegetable soup. And I say this as a person who usually doesn’t care that much for vegetable soup. This stuff was super savory and delicious. I think the pot roast really added to the flavor of the soup. We have enough food to last for at least one more meal for all five of us, plus more for lunch for a couple of us. So, basically, I made two different meals at the same time and both were yummy and appreciated.

It was genius. And not even really my idea, but you should all go make it right now because it was easy.

And if you don’t have something, wing it. I didn’t have a real recipe either. It will probably still be good. At least, that’s how it works when I improvise!

The only problem with this soup-and-pot roast-cooking-at-the-same-time situation is a potential for INSANE splatter if you accidentally drop the pot roast back into the soup when you are trying to remove it from the crockpot. Not that that happened to me or anything. Nope. My counter, floor and my entire body were NOT covered with red soup. I didn’t have to stop prepping dinner to go put my clothes in the wash. Not at all!

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Chapter Books

Recently the following piece of paper found its way home in Lily’s book bag.
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“I have a dream. My dream is read chaptr books”

I 100% support this dream, though the dream itself had already come true before this slip of paper came home. For the last couple months, Lily has been reading the Junie B. Jones series to herself.

My husband, however, is confused by the dream. He doesn’t understand exactly what chapter books are.

I keep explaining that for a little kid, graduating from picture books to books with chapters in them is a thing. When you are in elementary school, books with chapters in them are called chapter books. I know it’s not a term I’ve made up because our local bookstore has a whole section in it labeled “Early Chapter Books.”

Still, he won’t acknowledge that chapter books are a thing. He insists they are just books, since all adult books have chapters in them. “Are they fiction? Non-fiction?”

It’s not a difficult concept to grasp. Any book you read as a child that has chapters in it as opposed to just pictures in it is considered a chapter book. When you are 6 or 7 or maybe 8, you strive to read chapter books like a “big kid.” I remember feeling a big sense of accomplishment in second grade when I was finally able to read a Ramona book by myself. I remember bragging to relatives that I was able to read chapter books!

But no, my husband claims that “chapter book” is a made-up term he’s never heard of.

How were we educated in the same country?!

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Olympic Gender Bender

Lily: Is that a boy or a girl skating?

Me: That’s a boy.

Lily: Are you joking? He looks like a girl!

My husband: A lot of the figure skating costumes look a little girly, but that’s a boy.

Rose: Only girls can black skate.

Us: Black skate? What do you mean?

Rose: What they are doing right now.

Me: That’s ICE skating. Not black skating. And boys can ice skate. Boys can do anything girls can do, just like girls can do anything boys can do.

Rose: No! Boys can’t wear costumes!

Me: Yes, they can actually. And they do.

Lily: What about that one? That’s a girl, right?

Me: Nope. That’s another boy. We’re watching men’s figure skating, so they will all be boys.

Rose: But it looks like they are dancing! Boys don’t dance!

Me: Some boys dance.

Lily: But it looks like girl clothes!

Me: Some boys wear girl clothes. Some girls wear boy clothes. Anyone can wear any clothes they want.

Lily: You’re kidding me, right?

Clearly I haven’t prevented these girls from learning gender bias, but outside of social isolation, who can? Oh well. We’ll keep talking and they’ll get it someday.

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Big Hair

I was singing Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ on a Prayer” and Lily asked me if I’d made the song up. She’s recently learned that I am not the musical genius she once thought I was. While I may sometimes alter the words to a preexisting tune, I do not write these Top 40 Radio songs myself.

Whenever she asks me about a song I’m singing, I pull up a youtube video of the song. This time, big-haired Bon Jovi showed up rocking out “Livin’ on a Prayer” for her. Rose and Lily watched him singing together.

“You see how big his hair is?” I said. “In the 1980s, a lot of people in bands made their hair big like that.”

“You mean their hair was all static-y?” Rose asked. “He has a lot of static in his hair just like me!”

Yes. That’s exactly what I meant.

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My School is Truant

Lily has not gone to school more than two full days in a row since mid-December. It is February 5.

Granted, there was a 2-week winter break in the middle of all that, but still. Let me repeat, there have not been two full school days in a row since mid-December. We’ve had 12 cancellations (so far) and at least 15 2-hour delays. Lily is in half-day kindergarten. Our school system splits the 2-hour delay between morning and afternoon kindergarten. Each class is one hour shorter, so she only goes to kindergarten for 1.5 hours on delay days and gets home an hour later than usual. If you add in the time it takes kindergartners to take on and put on winter coats, they might have an hour of actual class on those days. I have trouble seeing what the point is.

With 15 2-hour delays add up to 30 hours of missed school– another full week of classes. But we won’t be making up that time. In fact, we won’t be making up all of the 12 days we missed (so far. I suspect we won’t have school tomorrow. Another delay has already been scheduled.). They are talking about extending the school day 30 minutes and sending home extra homework to make up for the missed school, which in my world doesn’t make up for any missed school at all. In high school, an extra 30 minutes is only about 4 minutes per class. Are they really going to learn anything new in 4 minutes? Does an extra 4 minutes really make up for 12+ missed days?

If Lily were to miss 12 days of school on her own and then show up late for school another 15 days, I suspect a truancy officer would be at my house right now. We would probably be discussing whether or not she should repeat the year after missing so much school.

Instead, we have our school system trying to figure out how to get out of making up all the days of learning we “had” to skip because of the weather. I know there are financial and logistical problems in making up all of those days, but I’m more concerned with the fact that our kids are losing so many days of learning. Even when they do get to go to school, they only get to go for a couple of days and some of those days are on delays. I have trouble believing that much learning is getting accomplished with all of these interruptions.

Sometimes I wonder if the whole school system should just make up the year. It’s hard to say.

All I know for certain is that I’m glad Lily is only in kindergarten. If she were in an upper grade, I can’t even imagine where we’d stand right now.

Here’s hoping this winter lets up before we have to go to school through August.

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Kids Doing Laundry

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I probably should have stopped them from swinging their 1 year old sister around in a laundry basket, but they were having so much fun. And they weren’t swinging her very high. She was really only a few inches off the ground, so I figured she wouldn’t be hurt if they dropped her.

Luckily, this time my leniency paid off and no one was hurt. Annoyed when I eventually told them it was time to put her down? Yes. Hurt? No.

This gets me thinking, though, if they can manage to carry their 20 pound sister around in a laundry basket, surely they can carry a laundry basket full of clean clothes back to their room to put them away. Right?

Dream big.

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A Refuge for Christmas Trees

During the polar vortex last week, someone’s discarded Christmas tree blew into our yard.

“Another one of those damn trees blew into our yard!” said my husband. “Should I save it?”

It’s not the first time a discarded Christmas tree has ended up in our yard. It’s very windy and flat in this part of Ohio and, for some reason, our trash people tell us to put large trash out on a certain day and then don’t pick it up until many days of wind later. Random stuff gets blown into our yard all too often.

Based on all the trees in other people’s driveways this week, it is tree pick-up week. We wouldn’t know. We’re Jewish. We don’t have or want a Christmas tree, yet Christmas trees keep migrating to our house. It’s as if they KNOW we neglected them in December. The Christmas trees think we are lonely for a Christmas tree.

Don’t worry, Christmas trees, we hang out with MANY of you at many locations other than our house in December. You guys are kind of unavoidable. Especially when you decide to throw yourselves at our house.

Last time a tree landed in our yard, my husband “saved” it by throwing it into our backyard because he didn’t know how to get rid of it. It sat in our yard until spring. It was about as lovely as the hate fence, but whatever, it was my husband’s “project”. It was up to him to finish “saving” that tree.

This time, he was slightly wiser and left the tree near the sidewalk where it might be claimed by whoever lost it.

Nobody rescued the Christmas tree.

A few days later, I moved the tree to where trash pick-up happens since everyone else still has trees hanging out in their driveways. I assume the polar vortex delayed tree pick-up for a week the way it delayed trash pick-up for a week? (And let me tell you how much fun THAT was!!!)

Now all my neighbors probably think I gave in to the temptation of Christmas and put up a tree this year, after I told everyone we would not be decorating.

NOPE! We didn’t have a Christmas tree. Other people’s Christmas trees just feel sorry for us.

Or something.

Gosh, I hope the trash guys pick that tree up soon… and don’t charge us extra for the pick-up. STOP VISITING US, TREES!

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Not an Olympian

Rose is a gymnastics drop out.

A few months ago, I signed the girls up for a kindergarten gymnastics class. It was for ages 4-6, so I just shoved them both in the same class, which also included two of their best friends from the neighborhood. At first, everyone seemed happy, but a few weeks in Rose started having issues with the class. Somehow, she’d end up in the lobby crying about halfway through almost every single class. The problem didn’t happen regularly until I’d signed her up for a second session of classes, so we ended up with her leaving the better part of seven classes to cry in the lobby.

That will be $90 for your child to cry, please.

When we went to pay for Lily to continue the gymnastics class because she loved it, my husband informed the owner that Rose would not be taking class anymore and the owner actually said “Good!”

That’s right, our gymnastics teacher said “Good!” regarding our child quitting gymnastics.

It was THAT bad.

I’m so proud!

Needless to say, Rose won’t be an Olympic gymnast.

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No Cooking

Evidence that my mom did not cook a lot when we were kids: The other day I told my mom I was excited because Lily had liked* the chicken tenders I made.

“You made them from scratch?!” my mom asked, shocked. “Well, I’m impressed.”

My mom thought that chicken tenders were a fancy complicated dish. She wanted to know how you made them because she had no idea. This is a dish that most of my friends make for their kids on a semi-regular basis. My friends were surprised to hear I’d never breaded chicken myself, but given how impressed my mom was by my doing this, you can guess why it hadn’t happened up until this point. If you’ve never made chicken tenders, it’s not complicated. You dip raw chicken in eggs and then in bread crumbs, then bake it.

More evidence Mom was not a frequent flyer in the kitchen: She didn’t know what a garlic press was and was surprised to discover that both my sister and I owned and used garlic presses. She was surprised that we actually cooked with raw garlic and thought this was fancy.

Cooking for my mom revolves around different types of meat (usually chicken) seasoned with Lawry’s Season Salt and garlic salt. No cooked dinner from childhood was ever complete without Lawry’s. Often, our chicken was microwaved. If you’ve never had chicken that went into the microwave raw and came out cooked ON PURPOSE, it’s extremely rubbery. DO NOT TRY THIS. Now that I’m an adult, I refuse to ever eat that again.

There were also a lot of delicious things my mom made, but those things usually appeared on holidays or if we had guests for dinner.

Apparently none of those dishes involved fresh garlic. But why would you need it if you had garlic salt and Lawry’s to season every dish?

But anyway, I’m a master chef because I can make chicken tenders.

*Lily allegedly liked the chicken tenders that first meal, but has hated them ever since. I think she wants to die of malnutrition by eating only Tyson’s chicken nuggets, hot dogs and peanut butter and jelly for every meal. No matter how delicious the meal I make may be, she hates it and refuses to eat more than two bites of it. I GIVE UP.

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Back to Reality

For the past semester, I have been extremely spoiled. Every morning, while I took a shower, my husband would come down and make breakfast for the kids. He would watch the younger kids in the house while I waited at the bus stop with Lily, and then he would drive Rose to school on his way to work. Every single day.

Basically, my mornings were hassle-free until preschool pick-up. I was so spoiled. I actually probably should have pitched in more, but I hate mornings SO MUCH, especially breakfast prep, and he never complained.

Since I’m married to a college instructor, every semester is a gamble when it comes to what my parenting support schedule will look like. My little idyllic morning ritual is OVER until at least May thanks to this semester’s early morning course load. Starting tomorrow, my husband will have left at least before the bus comes. So I’m in charge of most of the morning stuff. I’m not so sure about breakfast yet, but I’m for sure in charge of getting Lily on the bus (I’m required by the school system to wait outside with her) and dropping Rose off at preschool.

Man, this is going to be a shock to the system. I think I may go into withdrawal if I start having to make breakfast for the kids myself too.

Or maybe the kids will go into withdrawal. Their dad makes them some really elaborate breakfasts, and I hate to cook breakfast more than any other meal. I’m not sure I’ll be able to keep up at his level of morning amazingness. While I will definitely feed the kids, I’m not so sure they’ll be getting THREE hot items plus fruit on their plates when I’m in charge!

Gasp, they may even have cereal some days.

THE HORRORS.

Now, I know I can do this. I can get over being completely spoiled. I can get everyone to the right place by the right time and feed them too. Other moms do it with far less support for far longer periods of time far earlier in the morning.

But man, this first week of adjustment is going to SUCK.

It was fun while it lasted.

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