Sunday, August 21, 2016

Sunday Morning Thoughts on Imperfection and Impatience

My kids are on their way home now. They should get here within the next couple of hours. I had thought I'd have my weekly grocery shopping done before they got here, so that we could spend the rest of the day just goofing off. That probably won't happen, because I'm stuck on the menu planning step.

This is unusual. I have a meal schedule I follow that usually makes menu planning pretty quick. The schedule is still essentially the same as the one I posted in 2013, except leftovers night has switched with pasta night, and sometimes I make something on leftovers night, either because I don't like the sound of any of the leftovers in our freezer or because we're out of leftovers.

But I've been trying to get back in shape, and part of living the healthiest life I'll enjoy is cooking with a little more care towards calories. So, I'm trying to figure out what to do for pasta night, and contemplating a salad with a little meat instead of the cheese and sausage laden leftover pasta dish we have in our freezer. (That dish started out as a Cooking Light dish, but my husband tends to double the cheese and meat in recipes, which then makes them not quite so light.) Also, I wonder if homemade pizza dough would be healthier than the Boboli crusts we usually use. It would definitely taste better. So I'm searching for a make-ahead dough recipe, while debating whether or not to use it.

Meanwhile, one of the things we did this week was take the opportunity provided by a long evening uninterrupted by kid bedtimes to do a full audit of our finances and talk about what we should perhaps do differently. We ran some "what if" calculations on our mortgage and debated whether we should put a little extra pre-payment on that so that our house might be paid off before we retire or whether we should focus on increasing my retirement savings again. We settled on the mushy middle, as we often do when we're not really sure which financial option is the best. I got a retirement plan set up for my company and have a plan for a schedule of contributions, and we'll increase our pre-payment a bit.

But... I can't help but think that maybe I should be a little more cost-conscious in my grocery shopping. A recent post over at the Grumpies made me realize that I no longer think about cost at all when I do the menu plan and grocery shopping and that maybe I should change that, both to help our bottom line right now and to start teaching my kids how to do that sort of thing.

Meanwhile, we want to get moving on a plan to do up our backyard. The home remodel finished more than nine months ago, and we miss having a backyard that makes us feel relaxed. So we've been talking about our long term plans, and how we might start in on them, and how much we should do ourselves vs. pay someone to do... and there's a lot to do there. Mr. Snarky is working on the first step in the plan (getting our retractable clothesline back up) right this minute, in fact.

Meanwhile, school starts a week from tomorrow, and I have no idea what, if anything, we need to buy for the kids. They'll probably want at least one new outfit whether they actually need it or not, and I remember the back to school jitters so I'm inclined to make that happen. When will we go shopping? I don't know.

So, there's a lot that I want to do, and the usual amount of time in which to do it. Plus, we're coming up on one of my favorite times of year here: September and early October, when it is still beach weather but the tourists have mostly gone home. I am looking forward to a less crowded sidewalk for my rollerblading excursions, and I want to get a least a couple of good beach trips in with the kids.

One of the things I'm really good at is making a realistic plan based on the available time. Perhaps it is my personality, perhaps it is the years of being a project manager. Probably, it is a combination of both. Either way, I can look at that list I typed above and recognize that something is going to have to give.

I keep coming back to the ideas in the Brene Brown book I read about imperfection. I am not a perfectionist, but I do tend to expect myself to do anything I set out to do as well as I possibly can. I am starting to think, though, that the secret to making this phase of my life work is to allow myself to aim for "good enough" instead of my best. I think that the "take the fuzzy middle" road we settled on in our financial discussion might be the best answer for the larger question, too. Do it all, but aim a little lower on all of it.

But I'm impatient. I want the yard done now, and I want to lose ten pounds now, and I want to see more progress toward our long term financial (and life!) goals now.

Life goal: more sunsets like this.
So really, I need to work on being patient as well as embracing imperfection. But first, I need to finish this damn menu plan.


  1. Pizza dough is super easy to make if you have a stand mixer and you can just freeze it (it tends to start tasting boozy if you leave it in the fridge). We do a whole wheat version.

    1. I'll mix the dough in our bread machine, which makes this a trivially easy thing to do. Not quite as easy as ripping open a Boboli pack, but still pretty easy. How long before you use it do you bring it out of the freezer?

    2. I make pizza dough in my bread machine - it came with a basic "dough and rise" recipe, to which I just add a little salt, so yes, it is trivially easy! I actually found frozen dough took about as long to thaw as fresh dough took to rise in the machine, so I gave up on freezing. This requires starting the machine about 2 hours before I want to eat, but maybe (hopefully) if you are working from home then that wouldn't be a problem? Then to actually form the pizza I just put a little olive oil on a baking sheet and spread the dough as thinly as I can with my fingers - no need to make a circle. Easy and delicious! :)

      On a side note, I just noticed that when I tried to get to your website without the "www" (e.g., it took me to a GoDaddy page - not sure if you realized that this isn't mapped to your domain!

  2. Anonymous2:14 PM

    I like this pizza dough recipe from Nick Malgieri: It's not make-ahead necessarily but it only takes a few minutes. Use instant/bread machine yeast to cut the time further.

  3. Perpetua6:45 AM

    I'm a big believer in Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a day - you can make the whole recipe in five minutes plus rising time, and then put it in your fridge for up to 2 weeks. I know pizza dough can be frozen successfully, but it's never seemed as good for me. AB has its olive oil dough recipe online. One thing you might think of for lower calorie meals is checking out some of the vegetarian/vegan blogs out there, to help getting away from meat, a lot of carbs (though I'm very pro carb, just for the record), and load up on veggies. I do quick modifications to existing recipes too like halving the oil and/or cheese called for.

  4. To be honest, we take it out when we think of it, which is usually either the night before or in the morning. It just needs to thaw. It'll thaw and rise in the fridge, or if it isn't quite done it'll finish on the counter or in a warm oven. If you leave it out too long (like more than two overnights) it can get boozy, but it's still edible. (My home town's delicacy is deep fried matured pizza dough.)

    Like Sarah says, if we decide we want pizza that night and have a frozen ball in the freezer we will make new dough instead of trying to thaw it. We also often skip rising when we're making it fresh because who has time for that? It's still better than boboli. (One of our friends in paradise tried to convince me that the way to go is TJ's pizza dough but to me the hard part has always been shaping it, not mixing it.)

    Adding to Sarah-- cornmeal is fantastic for keeping the fresh dough from sticking to the pan. Now that we have 2 kids who can eat wheat we tend to make big rectangle pizzas rather than splitting the dough in half and making one circle and freezing the other.

    1. We also make rectangle pizzas - two of them!- and the 3 kids + spouse eat a pizza and 2/3. Terrifying.

      Do bread machines need special recipes? I just use my great grandma's but with a little less flour. Here, I'll type it out in case you want it:. Mix all together the following, per one large crust: 1.5 C water, about 2.5-3 c flour (enough to make it a soft pliable dough after mixing, not too firm), 1 t salt, 1-2 T olive oil, 1 t dry yeast. Let rest at least 25 minutes, then pat out onto sheet, using a little more olive oil to grease the top. Let rise, bake. Or keep in fridge up to a week, or freeze. I like half whole wheat and half white flour. (I usually make 6 crusts at once.)

  5. Anonymous5:29 AM

    An options for pasta that I like since I've also been calorie conscious is spiral-cut zucchini or other squash. They don't exactly taste like noodles, but it gives the right feeling. Some upscale grocery stores sell them pre-cut, but you can also just buy a spiralizer on Amazon for pretty cheap.

  6. I always use the Smitten Kitchen Lazy pizza dough recipe which is very similar to the Artisan Bread in 5 minutes recipe. She's got different amounts of yeast to add depending on how far ahead you're starting the dough (night before, first thing in the morning, or noon) and then it just sits on the counter. Best texture of any pizza dough I've found so far, and doesn't require any kneading.

  7. If you want a middle of the road easy option for pizza dough, Trader Joe's usually has fresh pizza dough in their refrigerated section - they even have a whole wheat one. It's pretty good.


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