How to: Spice up your weeknight dinners

Sometimes I really struggle with the motivation to cook healthy, nutritious, relatively quick-and-easy meals (the kids will eat) during the week.

Sometimes I want to serve up PB-and-Js, mac and cheese, scrambled eggs, or chicken nuggets every night of the week. (Absolutely no judgement if this is what you are doing. I have had weeks where every night the meal came out of a box and all I did was add water. The “vegetable” for the night was a chip that claimed to have vegetables in it. The fruit came out of a can. Nothing wrong with any of this, but I digress.)

Sometimes I want to make a quick run through a drive-thru near me and come home with 10,000 calories of hot, already-cooked food I know the kids will eat.

And then sometimes I decide to really mix it up, which brings us to today’s post!

(Drumroll…..Flashing lights…)


How to spice up your weeknight dinners:

  1. Cook a homemade meal, then freeze part of it.
  2. Insist that you will certainly not forget what is in that particular container and that you will absolutely 100% be able to tell what the frozen meal is at a later date. And do NOT label it. (This is a vital part of the future fun.)
  3. Repeat steps 1 and 2 a few times over a few weeks.
  4. Pick a day to have (drumroll again….) “Mystery Meal Night” (Lights flash, cheesy game show host announces “Mystery Meal Night” in a deep, calm, yet excited voice.)
  5. Now open the freezer and pick an unlabeled container to defrost for dinner.
  6. Take bets with your family on what you think is in said container.
  7. Look at said container and muse out loud about what light-brown-tan-red-orange-flecks-of-green meal this might be.
  8. Write your guesses down. Keep a tally over time of who gets it right most often.
  9. Now, defrost and enjoy!

I know. I know. If this is my idea of fun and spicing it up, well… things really have gone downhill. But truthfully my freezer has a few containers in there that I have not labeled. I have absolutely no idea what they are. And while we’re on the topic, why does everything look the same once it is frozen?

So, if I were my own best friend I would tell myself to follow steps #1-9 and have a little fun clearing out the freezer. And then I would buy myself tape and a pen. And I would label every leftover meal that goes into the freezer.

Happy dinner dining!


Sometimes I see a quote and it just stays with me. This is one of those quotes.

From A.A. Milne, The Adventures of Winnie the Pooh: 

       Piglet to Pooh –  “How do you spell love?”

       Pooh to Piglet –  “You don’t spell love. You feel it.”

It makes me smile. It makes me feel warm and happy. It makes me think about the things that are most important in life.

I hope you are feeling love in your life. And just in case it’s “one of those days” I am sending you a virtual hug through the ether to say “you are special. you are one of a kind. you are an amazing gift to this earth. you are loved.”


My last post was about finding my place and I finished that post with this:

And I also have a feeling there is something important in the part about the people – it’s hard to meet people here and it’s hard to make friends. And most of the people I have talked to about this agree. I think finding friendship and finding a group to belong to may be more important, to me anyway, than finding the mountains and the water and trees. Finding those people may be the way to find “my place.” But that is another post.

And the comments came rolling in. Nobody posted publicly but many, many, many of you reached out via text or email or phone. Thank you!!! The interesting thing was that the sentiment was the same across the board. It is the people. The people make the place.

Which brings me to today’s post, finding or forming your tribe.


No matter where you live I believe you have to have people who support you, laugh with you, lift you up when you are down, celebrate, commiserate, cry, love, hug, make messes, clean up, and live life with you. For some people this is their family and just their family. For me, my family fulfills some of this, but also my friends.

Those people I find along the way in life that share pieces of the same soul. Those people who feel like “home.” Those people who make the worst place in the world okay to be in, because you are surrounded by love and friendship.

I think there are a couple of key things in here I want to emphasize:

  1. It’s PEOPLE. Not just one person. I don’t think your tribe (well my tribe anyway) is complete with one person. I think multiple people bring multiple gifts and qualities that make the tribe a richer whole.
  2. Tribes are often formed over time. I think it’s quite rare to step into an already formed group of people who become your friends. I think that is especially rare as I get older. Tribes take time and effort to form. The process is organic and slow.
  3. Tribes change. People move. People move on. People die. People change. The people who make up your tribe will change. I think it is so very important to remember that (especially as we can get set in our ways) being open to new people entering our tribe is a beautiful gift we can give ourselves and the new people who may “join.”
  4. Membership should always be open. This piggybacks a bit on the previous thought but I think is important enough to merit its own mention. If you are part of a tribe, if you have a tribe, if you are a leader of a tribe, please don’t close the membership.

Somewhere out there is someone (like me) looking for a tribe to join. Consider saying hi. Consider inviting that new person to coffee or lunch. Consider exchanging phone numbers or emails at the playground. Consider letting new members in. If you are part of a tribe it might be scary to let someone new join in. But please remember it’s probably even scarier for the new person who knows nobody. We all want to belong. We all need to belong. And ultimately we are all part of one large tribe called the human race.

Where is “my place”?


I live in one of those cities that often makes Top-10 lists for “best place to live for some reason or other.” And I do NOT understand why (not why do I live here but why is it so sought after?). But now that I have finally admitted to not understanding why everyone thinks this place is the bees-knees it feels better. And I shall carry on now.



I live in a city that I hear other people talking about wanting to move to someday. An ideal city. An “it” city. I am surrounded by people who seem to love this city. They say things like “it’s the best place in the world” and “I love it here” and “it’s god’s country” and “it’s heaven on earth.” And I listen and smile benignly and wonder to myself what the #@$* am I missing???

I have been here almost 5 years and it still does not feel like home. It does not feel like “my place”, whatever that means. So the question is, what makes a place feel like home? What makes a place feel like your place? What makes it feel like you belong? What makes it feel like “the best place on earth”?

This topic came up at lunch a few weeks ago at work. Everyone was talking about how much they love it here and I finally found the courage to say “I don’t.” [Shocked silence in the lunch room. People looking at me like I had grown a third eye and a horn and turned purple.] And then, to make matters more awkward I added, “Not only do I not really love it here. I also do not understand why everyone else does. Please educate me! What am I missing??” Phew. [There, I did it. Total honesty.]

And then the responses rolled in.

  • The mountains are amazing
  • The water is so beautiful
  • The hiking is the best
  • The summers are gorgeous
  • The air is so clean
  • Everything is so green
  • It is a great place to raise kids
  • The football team rocks
  • The schools are good
  • And so on and so forth…

And in my head I was thinking, but there are other places with mountains and water and hiking and summers and clean air and green stuff and kids and football teams and maybe even a few green kids who hike. Soooo, why here???

So I asked again, what makes it so special here?

  • Is it the weather? [No everyone said. The weather is just ok most of the time. And the summers are nice.]
  • Is it the people? [Goodness no was the overwhelming response. People are not terribly friendly here and it’s hard to get to know people. Hmmm. But that one seems important to me…]
  • Is it the cost of living? [Definitely not. Housing is not quite as bad as LA, San Francisco or NYC, but it’s heading that direction.]

So again, what makes it so special?

No one could really say. Other than some combination of the mountains and the water and the summers and air and the green stuff and raising kids. And that they just really like it here.

So there it is. That indefinable quality that makes somewhere “your place.” It seems this place is not mine. But I’m not sure where my place is. And I wonder how long do you stay somewhere and keep trying to make it “your place,” until you just say “nope.” And move.

But really if I get right down to it, anywhere these 3 people I share most of my life with ARE, well that is “my place.” Period. And since this place fits those 3 people it seems only right to keep trying to make this place I live in currently work for me. So I might go check out the mountains and the hiking and the water and the football team and somewhere in there I might find something that makes this feel more like I belong. [And I also have a feeling there is something important in the part about the people – it’s hard to meet people here and it’s hard to make friends. And most of the people I have talked to about this agree. I think finding friendship and finding a group to belong to may be more important, to me anyway, than finding the mountains and the water and trees. Finding those people may be the way to find “my place.” But that is another post.]


My love language is seconds.

There is a book about love languages. It has been recommended to me by multiple people and I have yet to read it. It is somewhere around #32 on my list of books to read. And the list is at least 50 deep right now. Unfortunately it is buried behind “how to get your kids to sleep” and “how to get your 4 year old to listen” and “how to fix that cracked drywall so it won’t fall on your head” books.

Anyway there are love languages, maybe 5 or so, and I think someone told me one has to do with words and one has to do with touch and that is all I remember. And I think the gist of it is that each person has a different love language that resonates most strongly with them. So when you are communicating “love” it is nice to try and communicate in that language for that person. (My apologies to anyone who has read the book, I am sure I am butchering this royally and will now have to move this book to #2 or #3 so I can read it forthwith and make amends in this blog space. At my current rate of reading books that should be around 2020.)

But the point of this post is NOT to do a really poor job paraphrasing someone else’s work without having even read the work. No. The point is to say, without ever reading this book I figured out my love language. It is seconds.

Not the kind on the clock, although I like seconds, because they equal time. And I certainly never seem to have enough of that. So, sure, I will take more seconds. Thank you very much.

But I digress, the kind of seconds that speak to me are second-helpings. The kind when I have cooked a meal and someone eats it and then says “Is there more? I want seconds.” Aaaaah, love. Warm squishy happy in my heart love. That is speaking my language.

Now I’m not saying everyone who eats my food should ask for seconds, because then we will have issues with portion control and I will be contributing to the growing obesity epidemic in the US. And frankly every meal I cook is NOT seconds worthy. But every once in a while, blammo, things just come together. The meal speaks to the person and then the person asks for seconds and then my heart is happy in a really crazy, unreasonable way, because it’s just food.

So, I have no idea what love language that is, but if seconds is a language, then that is mine! And to keep with the theme of this blog, if I were my own best friend I would listen to that happy, squishy warm heart feeling and try to recreate that when I can. And I would try to figure out other people’s love languages because it would be nice to make them feel happy, squishy warm hearted too.

(Or maybe I could just read the book… it happens to be called “The Five Love Languages: The secret to love that lasts” by Gary Chapman. Ha. I looked it up!)

My worst self.

I woke up a few weekends ago and SOMEONE ELSE had overtaken my body. Completely overtaken me. It was as if I went to bed as me and I woke up in the morning with some alternate-me in my body. Someone who was not very nice. In fact if I was meeting myself for the first time that morning I would have said I was a major b#*!.

I was grumpy. I was short with people. I wanted to slam doors and break dishes. I did not want to take care of anyone else. I wanted to stay in bed and block out the world. I wanted a pedicure and a bubble bath and a $1000 shopping spree and a pink pony. And one of the worst parts was that I knew it. I KNEW I was behaving like my worst possible self. And the other worst part was there was no reason. There was absolutely NO reason to be so grumpy. Nothing horrible had happened. Everyone around me was in the same relative happiness and health as they had been the night before. There were no disasters and no bad news. There was no discernible reason for my case of the major grumpies.

And yet, I could not seem to stop. I am a grown adult who is supposed to be parenting two small children and I all I wanted to do was behave like one. And so I finally put myself in time out. It was as if I was floating up above myself and I looked at my WORST SELF and I had to say “you are behaving atrociously. it is time for a time out. come back when you can behave like an adult.”

And while my adult time out did not completely work it did take the edge off. I became my not-QUITE-worst-self and slowly started to redeem the day. I found a few reasons to smile and that led to a few reasons to laugh and that turned into a pleasant late-morning and so on and so forth.

So if I were my own best friend I would remind myself that sometimes adults need a time out too. A time out doesn’t really fix the grumpies but it does give you a chance to reset and sometimes that is the best you can do in the moment.

Unless someone wants to give you a pink pony and a pedicure and then I say “yes!” and let’s see where that goes.

Polka dots

I knew it was going to be a really rough day at work. It was going to be busy with busy-ness heaped on top and maybe a little grumpy-ness and upset-patients sprinkled in for good measure. I was not looking forward to it.

I usually wear stripes. I likes solids. I tend to stick to fairly quiet patterns and softer colors.


But there’s a section in my closet that is slowly growing. It has brighter colors, reds and pinks and corals. Teals and turquoise and blues. There are some different patterns, flowers and bold geometrics. And polka dots. Big white polka dots on a bright red background. I don’t wear polka dots.

I reached for the black dress and then paused. Instead I grabbed the red dress with white polka dots. My son said I looked like Minnie mouse. My husband said I looked like a ladybug.

I smiled.

Can a day be that bad when you look down and think about being a Disney character or a happy little bug? Unfortunately yes, but at least I smiled to myself every time I looked at my lap. And at least for that day it made it a bit more bearable.

So while polka dots might not change the world, cure cancer, or decrease busy days, they do make me smile. And sometimes that is the best you can hope for. So if I were my own best friend I would tell myself (and you) to wear fun clothes every once in a while and see if it makes that day you were dreading a little bit better.