Wednesday, November 27, 2019

how to make the worst mashed potatoes

Let me start by saying that this is not a picture of the potatoes in question. The worst potatoes I ever made were so awful that we had each taken a few bites and then we had to get the bowl off the table and far away from us. It was that bad. Even the baby refused more than one bite.

I am known for making the best mashed potatoes. Literally. The best. The kind that you can't stop eating. Except this time I tried something new. Waverly isn't a fan of chunky food so I thought I would smartly blend up some mashed potatoes in a blender, rather than a ricer. I still bought Yukon Gold and peeled them the same way. I cooked them the same way but here is when things went off the rails. Instead of mashing them with a fork or putting the potatoes through a ricer as I usually do, I decided to throw them in the Vitamix along with butter and milk. I pulsed them together for about 45 seconds but what I ended up with is hard to describe.

When I dolloped the mashed potatoes on the plate they looked super glossy and smooth. Then L and I each took our first bite and it was indescribably bad. The potatoes were smooth but gluey. They had a puffy but oily consistency. It didn't taste like food. l looked at L and said, "I have no idea. These are terrible. Done." I scraped the potatoes into the disposal.

After dinner, I Googled what went wrong. Apparently when you blitz the potatoes in a blender, the starch molecules are torn and when mixed with the liquid (milk + butter) you get the inedible gluey mix. To make the perfect mashed potatoes, work the potatoes as little as possible, and whatever you do, do not put them in a mixer.

For the ultimate mashed potatoes,  try this recipe from Bon Appetit.

Monday, November 25, 2019

your people

I was in the market this week, standing in line with a bag of Yukon Gold potatoes and a pound of butter and I had a flashback of a Thanksgiving when we first moved to the Pacific Northwest. We had left our tight-knit village of family and friends and knew no one here. Our home was in a small cul de sac and that holiday, we invited our neighbors to join us for dinner or any part of the day that they could stop by.

L and I were lucky enough to live next door to Shereen, Matt and their two kids.  We became close and we decided to host Thanksgiving together at our house. Growing up, we always had *just enough* food on the table. This holiday, my first holiday preparing a Thanksgiving meal, I wanted to be sure that we had plenty of food if our guests wanted heaping helpings. This is how we ended up making enough potatoes for thirty people.

We started with a five pound bag of potatoes but that didn't seem like enough so the guys went out and bought another five pound bag. I still didn't think it was enough but Shereen, very logically said "I REALLY think ten pounds of potatoes is more than enough." Then we went out and bought another five pound bag. That morning, in addition to the turkey, fresh cranberries, cornbread stuffing (plain, without no fruit or meat!), rolls, and green beans,  we had potatoes in bowls and pots all over covering every flat surface. Nothing quite bonds you like cooking with someone. Taking the wet, pink-tinged, gizzard bag out of the turkey together is something I will never forget. We laughed so hard, that I forgot about what I was missing back home. Later, as we sat down for dinner with a circle of friends, I remember looking around the table and thinking how lucky we were to live on a street with these incredible neighbors.

As we sat down to dessert,  I thought of our friends and family back in Massachusetts who were now three hours ahead and at this point in the day, bundled up for a traditional walk in the cold air after pumpkin pie or curled up in front of the fire playing a rousing game or just talking with friends and family sipping coffee at the dining room table, long after it was cleared, listening to the guys laughing in the kitchen as they cleaned up, giving us a moment to relax with each other. I missed that. I missed them.

But at that moment, instead of wallowing, I realized that my people will always be my people. No matter how far we roam from each other, I know that they are a call or text away and that the next time I am in Massachusetts at a dining room table or settled into a lawn chair by a fire or enjoying brunch  by the sea, that we will pick up our relationship exactly where we were before. Being apart, doesn't mean your hearts are. Those things that bond you that make no sense to anyone else will always be there. The way you fit together when you hug will always be there. Maybe you aren't together this year. Maybe you're alone for the first time or circumstances changed this year. It can be hard to remember what you had before and to want that back.

Here's what you need to remember: What you had will always be part of your history, part of your story. How wonderful that this is part of you!  If you have a tradition or an incident that reminds you of someone, let them know. Call/text, send them a note saying "I am so thankful that you are in my life. Every time I ___________, it reminds me of you, of us and I hope that today of all days, that you're happy." I hear some of you thinking "That isn't going to work in my case." Maybe they passed on or it's irreconcilable differences, wish them well in your heart and appreciate what you had at that time. You have a new normal now and your heart has an open space for new people to become your people.

Wherever you are spending the holiday, whoever you are with, I hope that you feel happy and loved and that you have as much mashed potatoes as your heart desires.

In case you have a considerable amount of potatoes left over too, here are twenty recipes for leftover mashed potatoes. 

Monday, November 18, 2019

you earned that lesson

As I watch our two year-old, Waverly,  discover new things every day, I find that I often have to stop myself from jumping in and preventing her from experiencing something negative. (Caveat: obviously if she was in danger, I would moves faster than I ever have.) If I tell her not to drop her cookie in a puddle and she does, she has learned a lesson: We don't eat food that drops into a puddle. In the future (hopefully) she'll think twice before she dangles her chocolate chip cookie over a puddle. She tore the back page from one of her music pages when I told her to be gentle and the wire connection broke. No more music.

As a parent, it's hard to take a pause and let your child learn lessons. You want to prevent them from hurting at all costs. However, by stepping in all the time, they aren't learning how to navigate the world safely, in their own way. I want her to know that as her parents, as well as other people who love her, we will be by her side. We have her back always but I also know that she needs to learn things firsthand. There are consequences to actions.

I've been thinking about this a lot lately because it doesn't feel normal to stand aside and watch her take the steps without holding my hand but I know that if I coddle her, that she won't take the necessary paths to growth.

I look back at some of the greatest lessons I learned and they didn't happen during happy times. The moments that I was scared or anxious or angry changed me. I learned not to say things in the heat of the moment. I learned that when everything seemed like it was falling apart around me, that I was actually stronger than I thought I was.

If you are going through a period of "What the hell is happening?" at work or in your relationships or healthwise, take a moment and realize that when you come out the other side that you will have earned a lesson. Whatever you are going through is happening to elevate you to your next level. Lean into it. What you feel right now won't last forever but if you pay attention,  the growth you're experiencing will last the rest of your life.

Monday, November 11, 2019

The Happygirl Essentials: Grove Cleaning Essentials Set

I like tradition and order. I like knowing that when we get into bed on Sunday nights that our sheets will be clean, cool and crisp. I know that there are fresh items from Trader Joe's in our fridge on Saturday morning and that our whole house is vacuumed, swept and cleaned  before we start the work-week on Monday morning.

About two months ago, I was cleaning our bathroom and sprayed a new soap scum foam cleaner on the glass tile walls and marble floor. The side effects of this cleanser started immediately. ,My vision got myopic and when I tried to inhale, it felt like there was no oxygen left in the bathroom. I flung open  the bathroom door and opened our bedroom windows. I stood there, holding onto the window sill and inhaled enormous gulps of cool air. This is when I knew that I couldn't keep using these chemicals in our home.

Before Waverly, I thought  that the stronger a cleaning product smelled, the harder it was working. Ever since she was born, however, I have been trying to shift our household to a more natural state.

I had three non-negotiable requirements for new cleaning products:

1.) They have  to clean as good as the more toxic cleaners
2.) They couldn't leave a film on surfaces
3.) The scents couldn't be overpowering

I purchased some natural cleaners at Target and Whole Foods but they tended to leave  a film on surfaces and I didn't feel like our home was clean. Last week I came across Grove Collaborative products online. One of the concepts I really liked was that some of their products come in small tubes with powerful concentrated ingredients that you add to a spray bottle with water. I liked that I could use one glass  bottle for each cleaning product and just order a tube of concentrate when I was running low.The three pack of concentrated cleansers are $7.95. The set of three coordinating glass and silicone bottles are $34.95.

I bought The Grove Collaborative's Cleaning Essentials Kit in the Orange & Rosemary scent along with the color coordinated glass bottles. The tubes contained an All-Purpose Cleaner, Tube & Tile Cleaner and Glass Cleaner. Over the past few days, I've cleaned our home with these products including our bathroom (tile floors, Carrera marble counters, water closet), kitchen (quartz counters, Carrera marble table, microwave and refrigerator) as well as all of the mirrors and glass in our home.

I had been disappointed by so many different natural clearers in the past few months that my bar was pretty low. However, I can't say enough about these products. There is no film left on surfaces and I love that I am not filling out home with toxic chemicals. The one area I thought might be tough for this new cleaner was the shower but it cleaned the soap scum off the walls, floor and chrome shower head  and fixtures.

And yes, our home smells clean but not in a "Oh, you just cleaned your house!" kind of way but more like "Did you just have an orange? It smells so good in here!" I like that.

*This post is not sponsored. I love these products, They make our home feel happy. I hope it ,makes you happy too. 

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