Friday, September 14, 2012

Essentials vs Luxuries

Ok so I'm going to let you in on a little secret. Actually this is probably more like a confession, but roll with me if you would please.

If you have two babies close in age, you have to seriously prioritize your life in order to stay on top of feeding hungry mouths, changing dirty bottoms, and soothing the cries and whines of two babies at once. A baby is a very demanding little person. TWO babies requires that you now spell DEMANDING in all caps.

Basically, pare down to the core- the absolutely essentials-the underwear of housekeeping. I learned that I had to focus on those and let the frills go unattended and ignored. I had to close my eyes to all of the "It would be so nice if I could do this" ideas and spend my energy on the things that HAD to get done or my house would absolutely fall apart and my family would starve or both. It's all about survival, really.

For example, after I had my two children nineteen months apart (but once you add in the developmental delay, it seemed tighter than that), I made myself the following list (well, sort of):

Cut up cheese for a snack for your toddler? Essential
Cut up cheese in the shape of animals paired with the matching animal cracker? Luxury
Deliver the animal shaped cheese to your toddler while vocalizing minor arpeggios and performing a dance scene from the Black Swan? Insanity

Wash laundry? Essential
Fold laundry fresh out of the dryer? Luxury
Iron those little booties with the matching onesie? That's hilarious

Empty Diaper pail? Essential

Do a weekly scrub of each corner of the diaper pail? Luxury
Train the diaper pail to alert you when its full since your eyes are blurry from lack of sleep? Unnecessary. You can just follow the smell...and the flies

Read to your children? Essential
Create an animated cartoon for each of their favorite bedtime stories? Luxury
Perform a ten piece puppet show with puppets you made from scratch from materials that you harvested yourself from your garden/barn/lumber yard? That superwoman cape is looking an awful lot like a noose...

Pick up the house each night? Essential

Deep clean the linen closet and the freezer and your shoe closet and your alphabetized spice collection? Luxury
Redesign your entire house after your Pinterest board on steroids with a dash of sugar and a drizzle of caramel? Make sure you update your will first

Indulge in the occasional pan of ooey gooey brownies? Essential

Make from-scratch HAPPY FRIDAY cupcakes with homemade buttercream frosting and a weekly roundup spelled out in sprinkles highlighted by rainbow frosting swirls? Luxury
Volunteer to make a free wedding cake for a party of five hundred gluten-free vegans? Death by...fake chocolate

Feed your family? Essential
Plan elaborate menus, serve dinner on a silver platter while wearing a French maid costume, leave swan shaped napkins on each high chair? Luxury
Takeout Chinese? Saturday night

It's all about figuring out what is the absolutely most important- focusing on that- and kissing goodbye to the unnecessary. It's the only way to stay sane. (IMHO)

You may be reading this and shaking your head. "Deanna- I have five kids under five and my homemade puppets were the hit at that vegan wedding right after they consumed the cake I made them and admired the album of my newly Pinterest designed house"

To that I say- good for you- you are a better woman that I am. For me? I've had to stick to the essentials, and while nothing on that list is a bad thing to do- I've had to say NO to a lot of good things so that I could focus on feeding, diapering, laundering, washing- repeat. If you've managed to still do it all, I hold no grudge or ill will towards you (well, very little anyway). We're all very different housekeepers and mothers so it makes sense that we would handle stresses very differently as well.

Now to the confession (and the point of this post lol). For the past year, I have cooked pretty much the same set of meals- no variety, no changing- no extras. I didn't have the time or thought capacity to plan new, interesting menus, and plus if I put new items on the grocery list I would forget something and then wouldn't be able to carry it through since I couldn't just run back to the store.

I am the type of person who loves to try new recipes- buying ten new items JUST for that new recipe. This past year I've had to say NO to that good thing and focus on just cooking SOMETHING to throw into the waiting open mouths of the people I'm responsible for.

My list included a lot of the same ingredients- some of them used leftovers from others- all of them were very loved by Aaron and I (and Addison...and now Carter)

1. Southwest chicken bean burritos
2. Peanut butter salsa chicken
3. Lasagna (frozen ahead of time)
4. Hamburgers
5. Marinated meat on the grill
6. Fried rice (with leftover grilled meat) (can't find the recipe I use online)
7. Homemade pizza
8. Hot dogs or Italian Sausages
9. Tacos

Simple. Familiar. Grocery shopping meant that I always have the ingredients for these recipes on hand. The essential. (judge if you want. I survived this past year, so I'm pretty happy about this choice that I made)

But now? My kitchen transformation is complete (for now) I still have more to do, but it's time for me to take a pause.

Cleaning your kitchen? Essential
Painting your kitchen? Luxury
Posting pictures of your newly painted kitchen while aiming snarky comments at the last year of pain? Friday morning

The picture on the left is what my kitchen looked like when we bought the house three and a half years ago. Aaron and his friend Chris built the countertop, tore down the extra cabinets and installed the new appliances (over a year and a half ago). The paint job is what i just finished. I still have to paint the walls. (-: 

And it is now officially time to call it: time to break into some of the previously out-of-reach luxuries and live on the wild trying some NEW RECIPES? I know, calm down, right?

What is your one favorite go-to recipe? Please share. Please, please, please. The essential that kept me sane this past year now feels like a rut, and my kitchen is inspiring me to BREAK FREE! Even if you don't have a link for it, just tell me the name of it and I can look it up. I need some ideas!

These two will thank you:


  1. My favorite super easy but tasty dinner involves a crock pot a 3 super simple ingredients: chicken, beans, salsa(or chile verde). Soak beans (iuse black /pinto) over night (or use a couple cans), defrosted boneless skinless chicken (i use 4 for leftovers), and a jar of whatever salsa use choose (if you're in luxury mode, you can even make your own!! Gaaassp!) Place beans then chicken then salsa in crockpot, set low for 6-8 hourse, or high 4 hours. Make some rice before you serve, or just warm up some tortillas for tacos. It's my go-to easy meal.

  2. Oh, I forgot to mention, there is no real exact measurements of the beans or salsa, i throw in what I can before a toy is thrown across the room or a child is rolling under the feet of the other. This two under two thing is a little nuts. Lol.

  3. We love Asian turkey meatballs. Just 1lb (or whatever you need) ground turkey, mixed with some breadcrumbs, soy sauce, and garlic powder. I put them in my muffin pans and slide them in the oven. Then I throw 2-3 cups of Jasmine/ Asian rice in the rice cooker. I usually steam a veggie in the microwave right before we eat. So easy and super yummy!!!

  4. Mac and cheese is a must. add bacon, tomatoes or mushrooms and its even better. We do porkchops a lot. the Deen brothers recipe for italian chops is super easy and quick. ;-)

  5. Pasta salad : super easy and fast. Pasta and add what you prefer: ham, cheese, tuna, eggs, variety of greens, tomatoes, olives , nuts ...etc
    Here in Spain we add olive oil to the salads . Yummmm , delicious and super healthy.


Thanks for reading about my Everything and Nothing. I would love to hear from you!