In 2009, shortly after the birth of my daughter, I and about half of my colleagues were informed that the services at the non-profit at which we worked were no longer deemed necessary. On the day I came home to inform my wife that I was no longer employed, she was offered her dream job so my misery was mostly offset by her happiness. The catch was that we had to move from Washington, DC to San Diego.
On the surface, this sounds like a no brainer. Ditching life in the swamp of DC (that’s not a political commentary, DC was built on filled in swampland) with it’s 112% humidity in the summer and ice storm winters for the (allegedly) 72º and sunny EVERY DAY OF THE YEAR!!! (lies) San Diego.
The trick is, I moved around a lot when I was a kid: New Jersey, California, Maryland, New Jersey, Belgium, New Jersey, Belgium, Philadelphia, finally ending up in DC for college where I had been for 25 years by then. It was as though I was a lemon tree that had lived its life in a series of different pots that had finally been planted in some lovely soil and I was being told I needed to give up all the roots I had and move them someplace else. Or to put it in less cliched terms: I would be abandoning the professional and personal networks I had established over two decades and have to start afresh in a city I knew nothing about.
Moving to a brand new city in the middle of the second worst economic downturn in our county’s history (at the time) had some interesting side effects. First and foremost, if I thought that finding a job was going to be challenging because I knew no one, that was nothing compared to the fact that there were no jobs to be found in my field even if I knew every person in the city.
Second, I was a new father with a little person who could barely walk. Imagine your friend who always ends up plastered at the end of every party and then imagine that they behave that way all day long. Can’t walk in a straight line, can’t form a complete sentence, cries for no apparent reason, seems incapable of finding the bathroom, drops food, you have to carry them home, etc. That’s years 1 & 2 of parenting. All you kids should keep that in mind when you’re gettin’ busy. Don’t get me wrong, my daughter is awesome. Always has been and gets better every day. But I dare you to stand in front of any parent drinking a glass of milk and ask them “Is it true that toddlers are low maintenance?”
Ultimately, I found my footing. I am a process kind of person, so the key was setting up little “systems” that make things run a little more smoothly and saved a little money. In the beginning this took the form of simple things. For instance, planning out the week’s meals so that we aren’t wasting time running back and forth to the grocery store. And, coming up with options for using leftovers in creative ways (the big one here was chicken stock which not only comes in handy for risotto and soups, but which gives us an excuse to have roast chicken with mashed potatoes and peas once a week) so that we threw out less. Making things like pizza dough in batches that will allow for a pizza per week as dough can be frozen and pizza provides an almost unlimited canvas for making interesting meals. And that’s the reason for this blog.
A few fondly held “principles” to consider before you traipse down my weird little rabbit hole:
- “Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.” – Benjamin Franklin (yes, I know he actually said it about wine but why let reality get in the way of a good fake quote that’s pervaded the common lexicon to the point where this is probably the first most of you are learning that it’s wrong)
- Margarine is bad for you, butter is good for you. This is not opinion, this is proven scientific fact.
- Having a bit of fat in your food does not have nearly as much of an effect on your waist line (not to mention health) as sitting on your ass all day playing Candy Crush.
- That being said, deep fried Twinkies or a cheeseburger that replaces buns with Krispy Kreme donuts is just asking for a trouble.
- Stress causes more illness than food. The worst kind of stress has to be stressing over food.
- “If you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original.” – Sir Ken Robinson
- The precursor of smashing success is usually a series of shattering failures.
- The only bad word is a misused word. This is a polite way of saying that you should be aware that I avail myself of the full breadth of a vocabulary with which I was endowed in the sixth grade by a certain Irishman named Patrick Tobin (R.I.P.) and which has since been augmented by many years spent arguing in bars with is to say that some of my favorite words are the kind that one may not say on television (thank you, George Carlin). Consider yourself, and more pertinently your children, warned.
- There is nothing quite so healthy as a meal made with care from quality ingredients which is enjoyed in good company.
- If you need to consult the periodic table of elements and a chemistry text book to figure out what you are eating, it does not fall into the category of food.
- I am not a pretty 20 something doing this for “likes” on the ‘Gram. No cleavage or six pack abs for you here.
- There will be no nutritional information. If you have to ask …