After the Storm

26″ of snow later…

A giant snowstorm hit New England this weekend, just as Omicron paid a visit to Eli, I and my son – my daughter was spared, and is spending our 5 days of isolation with her father. We were feeling neither very good nor horrible, just middle of the road crummy , which led to doing a lot of nothing, in and around Eli and I working.

Saturday I felt better, and the storm was in full force, so other than some shoveling and a bit of playing outside for my son, the only thing to do was to putter around the house, make meal plans, drink tea and cook – dinner last night was Half Baked Harvest’s One Skillet Greek Meatballs & Lemon Butter Orzo, one we’ll definitely make again.

Snow Day Dinner

I contemplated a nap but it was a little bit late in the afternoon before I considered it, so I skipped it, opting instead for a long sleep into Sunday morning, when I woke up to cold and over 25 inches of snow having fallen in 24 hours.

It was profoundly lovely, although cold enough that the chickens decided that even their run was a little much.

The chickens were having none of it and hid inside

Despite Covid leaving us tired and coughing, and the frigid temps, we all got outside for a little bit and enjoyed the snow. Teddy the Doggleby especially enjoyed it, despite the snow being taller than him in most places.

Teddy watches as Connor uses the driveway as a sledding hill

Tonight’s dinner is Instant Pot Carnitas in taco form, adjusted just a little to reduce the spice by omitting the chipotle powder along with some broccoli

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Just over 3 months ago, our lives changed utterly when my brother-in-law, more brother than in-law, died suddenly. The loss reverberates daily – in our missing him always, and in small things, like making sure my sister has someone to plow her out for her shifts in the ER, to which I can only say that John, who plows me out has taken it upon himself to make sure she’s okay, even heading back to help clean off cars after a bit of a snafu at the beginning of the storm. I say it a lot, but it is so true – we’re lucky ducks, even when bad things happen. A new normal is starting to knit itself out of the tear in our hearts and lives, one that involves being there to help his loved ones hold up the sky.

As I went out to bring the chickens some scraps and overripe grapes, I watched the cold January sun sink down through the trees, illuminating our house like a Maxfield Parrish painting, and just felt grateful for this lovely place, for our family and friends, and all the blessings around us.

Saturdays in the Kitchen

Picture of our walk – photo by Eli 5 Stone

As January rolled in with our first snowstorm and kid snow day, so did a critical phase of what Eli and I are referring to as our ’10 year plan’, our combined target of some big goals, like adoption, which we are just in the waiting phase on, and some really big house renovations, and a parallel track to financial independence. In order to achieve our goals it’s going to require serious focus. And in 2022, that means tightening our belts and evaluating all of our expenses.

I’ve found that spending less feels onerous without a goal, and only minimally painful with one (or more). And we are going for strategic use of our money, with travel a priority, but focused on trips where we can use hotel, airline and car rental points or the RV, as much as possible. Our recent loss of my brother in law, still fresh and painful, has taught us not to wait to make memories, but like with all things, balance and a plan for the future – a plan that there will be a future -is required.

I sat down to start this post the other night with a glass of inexpensive wine, and a bowl of Half Baked Harvest’s One Pot Hamburger Helper , which uses up a lot of my frozen shredded zucchini, as well as a bunch of the fancy leftover Christmas cheese and is filling and warm and yummy. I used cassava pasta instead of traditional pasta and added a splash of white wine for flavor, but this recipe is good, healthy and uses up what’s in the freezer and the pantry.

Because if you preserve something you really need to eat it. Past me was admittedly terrible about this, forgetting things in the freezer and fridge, current me is getting much, much better at it. For us, meal plans, batch cooking and planning ahead are the only things that work. And because our lives get so busy, cooking ahead saves us a ton of stress.

Yesterday Eli and I went to the grocery store and then I spent about 5-6 hours in the kitchen. I made Anadama Bread, a double batch of Butternut Squash Lasagna with Garlic and Rosemary, chipotle turkey stuffed sweet potatoes with spinach, and a pot of healthy Butter Chicken with mashed cauliflower for Saturday dinner. I also took some of the last of the beets we had from our farm share, and peeled and chopped them small, coated them in olive oil, salt and pepper and roasted them at 375 degrees until slightly crunchy. Roasted beets are a no-recipe recipe that both Eli and I love.

We have lunches now to take us at least until Wednesday, between the stuffed sweet potatoes and a pot of French Onion Soup I made on Friday night. We have a squash lasagna for the freezer, which will reappear on a night where no one has the time and energy to cook and provide lunch leftovers for a few days, and we had a great dinner from about 20 minutes of effort.

Later this morning I will return to the kitchen and prep tonight’s dinner and Monday as well. Tonight is a simple batch of parmesan-crusted chicken, with broccoli and popovers on the side, and Monday is likely the bulgogi I prepped and froze in December, with a side of couscous and edamame. Eli takes meal prep Tuesday and Thursday so the next time I’m on duty is Wednesday, but we’ll see how the leftover situation is then, we might need to eat down what we’ve made, or we may pull some chili from the freezer.

We’ve tried batch cooking and eating the same thing for days, but generally that isn’t popular here, and it doesn’t help us when we have highly variable meats that arrive from our local meat subscription, or when we have to plan around garden/CSA produce, also highly variable, so we try instead to rotate meals that we enjoy that allow us to use up the food we have. And I go looking (and get inventive) when I need new recipes for when we have something to use up. Right now our pumpkins and squashes need using, so the squash lasagna and stuffed sweet potatoes served multiple purposes.

We’ll be eating stuffed spaghetti squash probably once a week for the next few weeks too, as we have a plethora of them that we grew, and they won’t last forever. I’m holding on to some tomatoes that I froze in the fall to make a giant batch of sauce later this month, and that will turn into spaghetti and meatball dinners and probably lasagna and homemade pizza too.

Come February, it will be time to go to work on the sweet potatoes and keeping onions we bought back in October before they reach the end of their life. By early March, when we start our seeds most of the pesto will be gone from the freezer and we’ll be mostly beholden to the grocery store for our fresh fruit and veggies, although my plan is to plant some greens next weekend to supplement with lettuce for salads and greens for stir fry. In April and May the farm stands will open again, and we’ll maybe wander into Boston to Haymarket to supplement now and again if time allows. By then we’ll be back in the garden as well, and by June the garlic scapes will be turning into pesto again. But for now, the unhurried afternoons in the kitchen keep us warm and well-fed, and are part of what has become our annual cycle of food use here at Sithean.

Bird Feeder in the Snow by Eli 5 Stone

All the Reasons to Love January

All the cozy

Most people I know hate January. Cold, dark, it is the month of giving up alcohol and unhealthy food, with it’s only holiday one that not a lot of people get to take off.

I used to feel the same, but after returning from a 2 1/2 year stint in Florida 5 years ago, I now love the it, dark and cold and all. As a recovering winter-hater, the peace and quiet of the month is a breath in our general busyness. There’s no birthdays, no major holidays, nothing that needs to be bought or wrapped or shopped for. Our weekends, even without Omicron putting things on hold, are calm and unplanned. Seedlings, unless I want winter lettuce or sweet peas aren’t planted. There’s no yardwork to do except the occasional shoveling.

It’s a time to get frugal and eat up what we have in our pantry and freezer. I try to limit what we buy, make meal plans, and find new and interesting healthy recipes to try with what we have. The winter squash start to soften up around now, so we need to consume them before they become compost-worthy. We still have tons of onions, garlic and sweet potatoes. Pesto, Kale, and other preserved foods are waiting to be used in cozy meals.

It’s also time to clean and declutter. On January 1, the lovely holiday decorations somehow magically transform themselves into annoying clutter that needs to be immediately put away. I like to hang on to the outside lights for a week or two, but the inside stuff needs to go. Along with that I spend my time sorting and clearing surfaces and spaces.

It’s time to be cozy. A new coverlet and knit blanket cover our bed in creams and whites with touches of red trim, making for a warm spot to curl up. There’s fires in the woodstove, there”s soup and stews on the regular, and lots of cups of tea after walks in the cold. We have throw blankets everywhere in the house, and we use them.

Hygge is a term that has been widely circulated in the US, the Danish concept of cozy, and we live it here at Sithean. Warm things, soft clothes, cozy homemade food, getting rid of clutter and time with people we love. Come February there are school breaks, my daughter’s birthday, Valentine’s day and the world starts to pick up energy again, but in January, restful and warm is the only way to be..

Over Easy

Sheep grazing in the field – Topsfield MA

After the holidays, the kids went to their Dad’s for a couple of days, and Eli and I finally took a breath. There were lots of chores to do, including deep cleans of the various bedrooms, and the start of dismantling the Christmas decor, but there was also quiet mornings sitting with coffee and my thoughts, and time together. I was also inexplicably cranky and mad at the world some of the time, despite getting more sleep than I had in probably years. Still, I managed to put my cranky down long enough to celebrate the 4 years, and immense changes in our life, since Eli and I had our first date on a bitterly cold December 30th night, a quick drink that turned into 6 hours, mostly spent laughing.

And then our New Year’s Eve feast, with our traditional homemade scallion pancakes (there’s non-paleo ones to be made as well of course, but these are so good I don’t know why you would bother), homemade lo mein and this year’s new star was Eli taking on Crab Rangoon that supplemented some take out, and was paired with the 2nd Harry Potter movie, now that the kids are old enough to work our way through the series.



The new year is coming, and I’m not too old or too cynical to set resolutions and plan for things to be different. Our eating always gets healthier in January, using up all the veggies we’ve preserved over the summer and fall, and trying to spend as little as possible on groceries. Tonight we’ll eat homemade Chicken Tortilla Soup, a simple pantry-based recipe

In addition to our New Years Day tradition of setting goals for the year, Melissa, my next-door-neighbor/close friend/life coach guru, handed me a tradition a few years ago of choosing a word or phrase each year that defines what you want of it – a mantra, so to speak, with an expiration date.

Thoughts of what it should be percolated in my head as I went to HMart to stock up last week, and as I went for long walks as many mornings as I could. This year is not one for radical change, that I knew. It’s for tweaks to make our lives more balanced, less cluttered, easier. It’s about acceptance, making peace with our loss and the things that I don’t love about myself. It’s about making things easier for myself and others.

And so this year, for 2022, Go Easy is my mantra. Go easy on the world around me, struggling with all the things. Go easy on my family, who do the best they can. Go easy on myself – I expect too much, and push too hard. I’ll invent recipes, blog and do a great job at work and as a parent and a spouse without having to feel bad when I sometimes miss the mark.

January and February are for decluttering, relaxing, exercising, and making cozy, healthy foods. Work and school of course. But I’m going to try to let up the pressure on myself and others to get it all right and go easy on all of us.

Happy New Year everyone. I hope 2022 is softer and gentler than 2021 for all of us.

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