A rant about always being the test case, about always being the competent one, about always having to double check

My friend is a department chair and head of a search committee in her department.  For their first job candidate, she checked the room she’d booked for the job talk and found that not only did it have no chairs, but the floor was wet.  Housekeeping said, sorry not sorry, but that’s your problem, not ours.

Luckily she discovered this several hours before the job talk and was able to scramble to get another room booked.  If she hadn’t checked with plenty of time upfront it would have been a disaster.  (Checking was not trivial since it’s in another building and it’s cold outside.)

I recently found out that I handle more articles than any of the other associate editors for one of the journals I’m an associate editor at.  The new EIC let that slip.  I honestly didn’t think that some of the famous people who are associate editors were doing a whole ton.  Anyhow, I also turned out to be the first person to make a decision on a paper with the new EIC in charge and he got very annoyed at *me* because whatever was set up on the editor-in-chief side wasn’t working for him!  He’s like, I got the email saying you sent something to me, but I cannot see it.  Where is it?!  And another email to me with, “You need to login to see for yourself,” including screen shots.  And I’m like, I don’t know what you’re supposed to see, but there’s nothing I can do about it (except I didn’t say that because I’ve been socialized as a female so instead I said it got archived on my side just like it always does and maybe he didn’t have the access he needed for the full EIC setup?)  So he emailed the company that takes care of that and was like, Nicole suggested that maybe I don’t have the full access I’m supposed to.  UGH.  If I weren’t so on top of things someone else would have had this interaction and it would have been a guy so the conversation would have gone differently.  But it’s not my fault he didn’t get a full tutorial before taking over!  And he’s been in transition for over a month!  Surely the outgoing editor could have assigned him something and walked him through it. [Also:  He did have full access, he just didn’t click on the obvious link, as I saw in the screencap instructions that the company then sent that I was cc’d on.]

At the end of last semester I still didn’t know what classes I would be teaching this semester because the chair hadn’t told me yet, so I checked the online courses and discovered that we had dead and retired people signed up to teach classes we no longer offer because something had gone wrong with the system and they’d posted a schedule from years ago.  I pointed this out to the department chair (succinctly and politely, I swear!).  No thanks, just irritation.

At the beginning of this semester I tried to get into my new classroom to see the set-up and where the camera was and if there were whiteboards and markers etc.  But I couldn’t get in because we no longer have keys and for some reason they cancelled all our card access, including the chair’s.  Sorry anybody with an 8am class, you would have been SOL unless you could find a maintenance person to let you in.  Chair mildly annoyed, especially when I hadn’t heard anything and asked about it again after classes started but before my first class (zie had put in a work order but hadn’t heard back yet, not sure what happened with 8am classes).

I also am generally the person to discover that the xerox machine is broken at the beginning of the semester.  I’m pretty good at fixing it, but sometimes there are things that need an actual technician.

We had a full day faculty retreat and I forced the department head to have a pre-meeting to make sure we could get everything on the agenda that zie wanted.  (Obviously we couldn’t) and to make sure that zie knew what hir priorities were for each item on the agenda.  And to make sure we HAD an agenda!!  And then during the meeting I kept things on track and pulled back to the agenda any time we started going in circles or strayed too far.  Nobody was happy about this, especially people who weren’t at the last full day faculty retreat where we accomplished nothing (but at least we weren’t indoors during a pandemic).  But we stuck to the agenda, got the answers the chair needed, and ended on time.

In multiple coauthorships I’m generally the annoying person calling for meetings or asking when they’ll have a chance to look at things.  I’m not very good at this because I stop at the tiniest sign of irritation because of too much experience with people yelling at me.  Much easier to just do stuff myself if I can.  :/

Even DC2 gets irritated at me for being the messenger when zie gets something wrong in a homework book.  It’s not my fault you did the area and not the perimeter!  Just fix it!  (We have told DC2 to stop being a jerk when someone points out a mistake.)

And yet, if I keep my mouth shut, things that I predict will go wrong go wrong.  It’s not like I’m better off not saying anything– I’m not.  If I could trust that someone else would notice or pick up the slack then I could just let things go.  I could not double check things.

I do make sure to praise my RAs any time they find a mistake or bring up something odd they’ve noticed.  Because it is valuable!  And it is really helpful to have someone keeping things on track.  I just wish it wasn’t generally me.

Do you work with competent people?  Are you always double-checking and glad you did so?  Do you feel appreciated?

Link Love and a challenge update

Banned queer books quietly disappear (Paired action: Donate to Donors Choose classroom trying to get LGBT books to kids OR write your local school board/principal/public library to support diverse books. Here’s scripts. )  I saw this in action at our local public library… they very briefly had “Who is Ru Paul” on their front page and it quietly disappeared from the catalog.  I made sure to request “Who was Harvey Milk” before it could similarly disappear.

Teacher anti-CRT bills, a state-by-state guide (Paired action: Donate to Donors Choose classroom trying to get diverse books to kids OR write your local school board/principal/public library to support diverse books. Here’s scripts. )

Charter schools can’t escape gag laws

Shannon Hale with ideas for what you can do in your local district (the replies are also full of ideas).

How police departments hunt down and silence internal whistleblowers to cover up misconduct with impunity.

Parents against mask mandates bombard school districts with sham legal claims

Not sure what to do to help LGBTQ+ kids across the country? This twitter feed from Equality Texas has suggestions for across the country, not just Texas. But Texas kids could also use a little extra support right now.  (See below for more paired actions!)

pep talk by rabbi danya r

Are we all really burning out?

How to make yourself work when you just don’t want to

18. Wrote 10 postcards to encourage voters in Indian River, FL to vote by mail through Postcardstovoters.org.  (Used burgundy vintage Sarasa.)
19. Voted in the Democratic Primary.  (Not much was contested.)
20. Sent around email to undergraduate majors with information on how to vote in the primary and where to find information about the candidates.
21. Sent $25 to Donors choose classroom (not in CA, MA, or NY) that had LGBTQ books
22. Sent $25 to Donors choose classroom (not in CA, MA, or NY) that had LGBTQ books
23. Sent $25 to Donors choose classroom (not in CA, MA, or NY) that had books for trans gender kids.
24. Bought rainbow t-shirt that I plan to wear to work for casual Fridays when it gets here.
25. Donated $25 to Equality Texas.
26. Donated $25 to transtexas (they had “any” as a choice for gender option :) )
27. Donated $25 to The Trevor Project

Ask the grumpies: How much is too much in a 529?

OMDG asks:

We are also starting to have what… seems like a lot in our daughter’s 529. Any thoughts on what is “too much?” She’s 10.

We are not finance professionals.  Consult with a certified financial planner with fiduciary responsibility and/or do your own research before making any important financial decisions.

Here’s our last ask the grumpies on realistic 529 numbers.  This post also has links to calculators.

Here’s a forbes article on the topic.  They recommend saving 75% of the expected cost of college, whatever that means.

In the previous ask the grumpies, we were talking about a situation in which the oldest of multiple kids hadn’t started college yet.  There’s less leeway to making oversaving mistakes when you only have one person that it can benefit, rather than obvious people you can pass a plan to.  Maybe you our your spouse have additional education you can get that isn’t paid for by your employers? Age 10 is a bit early to know if graduate school is a definite thing.

If you can’t think of any obvious educational use for excess money, then it might be a better idea to stop using the 529 (giving up some of the tax advantages) and put targeted money in another accessible account.  You have to pay a 10% penalty plus any taxes on earnings for anything that you withdraw for an unauthorized use.  Having to pay tax on the earnings is something you would have had to do anyway if you hadn’t put the money into a tax advantaged account in the first place.  A 10% penalty is a lot, but it’s not the end of the world, especially if you’re high income.  So if you do over-contribute, you’ll survive.  But you will also survive if you have to cash flow or take out temporary loans.

Obviously you know that you should be putting as much money as possible into retirement accounts before putting money into the 529.  If necessary, you can stop contributing as much to retirement and cash flow some college expenses with what you would have contributed beyond the employer match during those 4 years.  When you’re high income, there’s no real downside to “over-contributing” to retirement while there is still some downside risk to over-contributing to a 529.

You are in a state with one of the top public college flagships in the world.  There’s a reasonable chance that your kid may end up going to school there and getting in-state tuition.  If you can cover 4 years of that now maybe it’s time to stop contributing to the 529 and direct private school moneys to some other outlet.  (College costs will probably go up at a rate faster than inflation, but it’s quite possible that so will the stock market.)  If you’re certain that only private school (or out of state public) is on the horizon, then you may want to stop contributing once you get to the average cost for four years at a private school.

You can get back money that your DD gets in terms of merit scholarships without having to pay the 529 withdrawal penalty.  You will still have to pay taxes on any earnings, but you would have had to do that anyway if you’d put the money into the taxable stock market.  You’re high income, so unless something changes, you’re unlikely to be getting much need-based aid.

We stopped contributing to our kids’ 529s a while back, figuring we’d rejigger for DC2 if necessary once DC1 started college.

Looking at what we have… DC1 has $256K (a year and some change away from college) and DC2 (currently in 5th grade) has 130K.  If either of them choose to go to a local state flagship and then decide not to continue to graduate school, we have way over-saved.  Given DC1’s age, it makes sense for hir to tack on a 2 year MA after college, so we’re not that worried about having over-saved.  If DC1 goes to one of the most expensive schools out there, Harvey Mudd (not incredibly likely, but it sounds like zie may try hir changes with early decision), their expected 4 year cost for us is something like $330K, so we will have to cash flow some of that (or, more likely, move some from DC2’s account and cash flow some of DC2’s college down the line).  If DC1 goes to my state school for four years and lives at home (the cheapest option), then it would be like $60K and all the excess would go to graduate school and/or DC2.

Most likely what will happen if it turns out we over-contributed is that we will just hold onto the excess 529 money and if our kids decide to go to graduate school later, we’ll use it for any unfunded portion.  If that doesn’t happen, then maybe they’ll have kids who want to go to private K-12 school or college and we’ll transfer it over.  (Or potentially we can transfer it to DH’s siblings for their kids.)  Or when we’re in retirement they’ll still have the loophole in which you can learn cheese mongering in someplace like France with the money.  Either we’ll find a use for it or it will get passed to our heirs.

The nice thing about being high income is that these choices aren’t really life or death.  We can still buy whatever we want at the grocery store if we make the wrong decision.  Optimal isn’t as important as satisficing.


  • My body has started getting more random lumps, so I finally went into the doctor a third time and asked for that u/s she said I could get for the lump in my leg that is probably a hematoma or a lipoma but could instead be a highly unlikely cancer.  It will take a month and a half to get said u/s.  DH (who is not a radiologist nor a medical doctor) did a couple of u/s before this most recent visit (he has an u/s from his previous job) and it doesn’t appear to be growing, but the addition of more lumps (one on the top of my leg, one on my right arm) is concerning.
  • DC2 attended a birthday party.  It’s 4 kids (hir best friend group from before the grade-skip who zie regularly minecrafts with) and 100% outside.  The birthday kid’s family has had covid twice already so probably has had delta and omicron (from daycare– the kid’s two younger siblings are too young to be vaccinated) and one of the other kids has had it at least once (also has a younger sibling at daycare) and they’re all vaccinated.  I think DC2 will probably be the only masked kid, but it’s outside so I’m sure it’s fine.  (Yes, yes, you probably don’t need to mask outside, but also I know of a super-spreader event back with alpha where the kids didn’t put their masks back on to go inside to use the restroom.)  Last year’s birthday party was supposed to be at the zoo (we said no because DC2 wasn’t vaccinated yet and yelp was full of pictures of anti-maskers at the zoo) but got cancelled either because of a snowstorm or because of delta, I can’t remember, and they ended up playing minecraft again.
  • Update:  DC2 was the only kid who masked and the party did move inside for part of it.  DC2 kept hir mask on (and was the only person masked in the indoor pictures).
  • FIL came and visited on the way to a hunt.  I took a test that morning (negative) and we asked him to take a test when he got in (also negative).  He spent the night and stayed another day and night before heading back out.
  • I had a lipoma on my back once in my 20s but it wasn’t as deep as these lumps are and was obviously a lipoma.  It was surgically removed at a dermatology office at the university.
  • I’ve gotten some IRL people hooked on behealthyusa.net.  One of my friends was bemoaning how they’d finally put their daughter back in daycare only to have the vaccine timeline for 0-5 get moved again.  I gave her a set of 5 disposable kids masks of different kinds because I had extras (because I have a problem or because DC2 changes hir mind, you decide) and hir daughter fell in love with the POSH small mask.  They bought 100!  (For $160, or $1.60/mask which is a really good deal. Especially if they get all the designs listed, some of which are out of stock otherwise.)  Then one of my graduate RAs was bemoaning how he can’t find disposable masks that fit his larger head, only cloth, and I was like, have you tried extra large BOTN?  And he was like, oh hey, this is where people have been getting those masks with the cool designs and my wife the K-12 teacher is totally going to order a ton of them.  (Also I gave him a Honeywell and a 3M Aura, but those are N95 which aren’t as convenient as KF94.)
  • The schools continue to have exposures even though official numbers have dropped (they’re still not low numbers!)  But I’m hopeful that things will get better.  Of course every time I get hopeful there’s a new variant, so maybe I should stay pessimistic!
  • I will continue to enjoy the fact that I have a Posh mask that matches my houndstooth pants and another Posh mask that exactly matches one of my dresses.  And another that matches one of my skirts!
Posted in Uncategorized. Tags: . 23 Comments »

We Need Diverse Books: Where Revanche’s Most Commenting of 2021 Prize went

If you recall, Revanche of A Gai Shan Life won this year’s most commenting award again!  For her prize she got to choose a charity for us to donate to.

We Need Diverse Books

is a 501(c)(3) non-profit and a grassroots organization of children’s book lovers that advocates essential changes in the publishing industry to produce and promote literature that reflects and honors the lives of all young people.

Here’s their Charity Navigator rating.

We contributed $50 in honor of Revanche.

Link love and challenge update

Here’s a list of where to donate to abortion funds.

In local covid news, one of my colleagues who *never wears a mask* emailed to let all of us who were in the meeting he ran on Monday that he has Covid. His wife had been feeling sick since Sunday, but only tested positive on Tuesday, so I guess he didn’t see the need to mask or test or anything that could potentially protect people. He also sat next to me completely unmasked at a seminar last week (I was masked). Fortunately that was last week and fortunately I only zoom into meetings where my colleagues are unmasked. His office was also giving out valentines treats on Monday.

A Gai Shan Life explains why you really don’t want to get Long Covid and gives insight into chronic fatigue.

COVID IS OVER guy (David Leonhardt) spends a year saying COVID is over and downplaying the need for boosters.

Health Affairs special issue on health and racism is blocked from social media advertising by bots that don’t want us discussing racism. (I refereed one of the papers in this issue!)

I’ve been really enjoying Retire By 40’s food updates from Thailand (he’s visiting his aging parents because his mom needs extra care)

11. (posted on last week’s link love):  Gave $25 to a Donors choose classroom in a red state that had Queer/gender/etc. books on its list.
12. Wrote 10 postcards for Tracye Polson via Postcards to Voters.  (Used my Sarasa vintage green pen)
13. Bought more stamps from USPS (including pre-ordering Title 9 stamps) in preparation for Vote Forward starting up again and I got some new postcard stamps so now I have barns in addition to coral reef stuff.  (Also got some Star Wars robots stamps. for fun..)
14. Wrote 10 postcards for Keturah Herron. (Used my Sarasa vintage brown pen.)
15. Donated $25 to Gary Chambers for Louisiana Senate because Jenny F. Scientist suggested it.
16. Donated $25 to the United Farm Workers fund because A Gai Shan Life pointed me to a post where Jorts the cat suggested it.
17. Donated $25 to votefwd to support letter writing campaigns going forward.

Ask the grumpies: What would your alternate career be?

Lisa asks:

What would your first choice of alternative career be?

If I had a great answer, I’d probably bail and do it instead. But if I had tons of money and was looking for an alternative career, I’d want to do something philanthropic like run a leper hospital in India (did anyone else read that article in the NYTimes?) or work to reform long term elder care or something.

#1:  Realistically, probably a high school math teacher someplace unionized that pays a lot.  If I had tons of money I would have to do philanthropy or politics but I wouldn’t enjoy it.  I might actually enjoy being like a Headstart teacher or something (I am very good at teaching small kids and the more you do when they’re smaller, the bigger the benefit), but there’s no money in that, and I certainly don’t want to be a daycare teacher for no money.  It is not a dream or vocation, but if it paid as well as my current job I might consider it.

#2:  Got me.  We’ve joked about me being a night nanny because I love babies and staying up late, but that’s something I could do but haven’t.

Natka Says:

Unrealistic: I would be a full-time writer of science fiction :) Slightly more realistic: speech therapist. But I like my job and I like the money I am making, so no plans for career change here!


The accidental abduction by Darcie Wilde dragged at the beginning and then told not showed with a stupid out of character trite thing at the end.  It felt like she had a deadline that she wasn’t going to make because she spent too much time having the main characters thinking in great detail about sex and not enough time thinking about the full plot.  (Come to think of it, this is similar to the problems Olivia Wilde’s books have… though I don’t think Oscar Wilde was particularly afflicted with this problem.)

Beyond Compare by Candace Camp was no good.  Hero and heroine not particularly likable.  Plot not particularly tied together.  Also an attempted rape near the end.  Glad I didn’t read it first, and I’m glad I didn’t buy it, because I liked the older sister Thisbe’s story a lot.  Read a bunch of other Candace Camps, and some were good and some were not.  A lot of attempted rape as a backstory or meet cute etc. throughout, though I assume it’s more in her older books than her newer.

Jackie Lau continues to be solid.  And without stupid third quarter out of place unnecessary drama (or if it’s there it lasts less than a full chapter).  Her characters seem more true to themselves.  As her books go on, she has more developed characters, more different characters, and more organic plotting.

I skipped most of Written in the Stars by Alexandria Bellefleur.  I will not believe that someone who likes things to be on time and neat and orderly will be able to live with an astrologer who cannot get anywhere on time and is a complete and total mess and vice versa.  That’s a disaster waiting to happen.  They can’t live together and they can’t get together.  It has nothing to do with emotional reserve.  Reserved people need caring optimistic sweet people like Amy in the Cider Bar Sisters series, not people who would be their nightmare roommate.  Flaky disorganized free-spirits need indulgent partners who are amused rather than annoyed by the other heroine’s quirks.  Also third act girl loses girl over misunderstanding thing.  Blech.

DNF The Christmas Husband Hunt.  The hero is a jerk– he has asked the impoverished dependent heroine for a favor, is not paying her, and proceeds to find fault with everything she does as well as being insulting about it.  (As she says, multiple times, if you don’t like what I’m doing, do it yourself, but yet, he never does.)  The idea that he has to wear fancy waistcoats is nonsensical (I think they’re trying to make him like the Scarlet Pimpernel, but he only wears the fancy waistcoats when the suspected spy is around and otherwise does not seem to play a role).  The husband hunter is ridiculous– like it’s ok to have a minor character/mcguffin who is TSTL, but nobody questions her bizarre choices (like why DOES she have to find a husband by Christmas?  She says it often enough that you’d think *someone* would be like, ok, why Christmas?  But no.)  I gave up at a third.  Hopefully that’s the last of the Christmas romances on my wait list.

Never fall for your fiance by Virginia Heath was fine, but it had too much repetition and dragged a bit.  It would have made a better novella, OR instead of repeating the hero’s same worries and the heroine’s same worries in their thoughts over and over and over again, maybe it could have had more of them interacting with each other.

A Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking by T. Kingfisher was quite good.  I do think a middle schooler could read it even though it has death in it and even though it’s under Ursula Vernon’s YA name.  It dragged a bit in the third quarter but picked up.  It’s also got a lot of messages for today even though it was initially written pre-Trump (according to the author note in the back– she had trouble getting it traditionally published and yet it’s won and been nominated for a number of prestigious awards).

I cranked through the Rockliffe books by Stella Riley.  They’re not always perfect (occasional stupid third act misunderstanding, one of them has rape (and a villain that died before the series started was killed because he was a child rapist) as a backstory (though it’s never discussed in detail), and it is difficult to keep all the characters in order (especially since she isn’t careful about names!), but they’re pretty engrossing.  Some of the books you can read without having read the earlier books, but most of them you really can’t.  I think there was one I didn’t buy (of the three my library had, I bought two, and I bought all the ones the library didn’t have, one at a time, though if you’re smart you’ll get the box sets instead).

Enjoyed, as always, the latest Shinigami detective book, Death Over the Garden Wall, by Honor Raconteur.

If the Shoe Fits by Julie Murphy was a surprisingly angst free story (given it’s about a reality show).  It’s definitely light– there could have been a lot more character development and relationship development than there was, but it was a nice read.

Started reading a number of regencies (and Georgians) by Laura Matthews.  These are a bit old fashioned, but not bodice rippers and so far strong heroines and delightfully absurd other characters and everybody worthy of getting matched (and some who aren’t!) gets matched in the end.  The Nomad Harp was so delightful I bought myself a copy.  A Very Proper Widow was fun.  The Lady Next Door was more of an ensemble production without any deep insight into character, but charmingly funny just the same.

One of the problems with reading a bunch of excellent books in a row is that one has way less patience for the mediocre right after.

What excellent and mediocre books are you reading, Grumpeteers?

How we are currently doing meal planning

We have talked about our menu planning before (and how we’ve used different methods throughout our lives based on time and money considerations), but I thought I’d give a bit of an update since we cycle through cookbooks and we’ve gone through some new ones since we last posted.

First off, let me tell you about and our constraints.

We go grocery shopping once a week on Saturday morning, but are currently doing the actual ordering groceries on Thursday for curbside pick-up.  So we have to have our grocery list for the next week ready by Thursday.  We can add or subtract after that point, but it’s a little bit of a hassle so we try to avoid it.  Every other week DH can stop in at the other grocery store during DC1’s violin lesson (which is virtual every other week), but usually zie just gets fancy cheese there.

We both work and no longer have the time for lengthy unpredictably long cook-times.  We need things that are quick and easy and don’t take three hours when we think they’re going to take 20 minutes.  (We can do longer things on weekends, but our “weekend meal” is a lot like many people’s “weekday dinner.”)

No red food dye or caramel color (DC2 is allergic) and no yeast extract (it gives me terrible headaches). DC2 hates *the idea* of mushrooms and both kids dislike fresh tomatoes.  DC1 has unpredictable dislikes so we’ve taken to largely ignoring hir complaining, other than tomatoes.  We don’t make separate meals for the kids, but we do let them eat leftovers or fruit etc. after they’ve tried dinner if they decide they don’t like it.

I’m totally ok with pre-prepared frozen food so long as it seems reasonably healthy.

I like having variety and there hasn’t been much movement in restaurants around town (that is, we keep getting boring duplicates of the same kind of brunch place, same kind of chicken tenders place etc.) since about a year before the pandemic started.  Which means food variety must come through what we make.

That said, the children have been agitating for more of the easy stuff that we’ve made forever and never use a recipe for.  Your spaghetti, macaroni and cheese (with tuna and peas at our house), or White people Taco night meals.  And those are easy and fast and great week night dinners.  The list in the middle is a pretty new addition and there are still more things to add (just now while writing a previous paragraph I remembered I should put omeletes/scrambled eggs on the list!).  (Since then we have also added grilled cheese, avocado toast, and chili.)

Three lists on a refrigerator, one of groceries, two of meals

The left is the grocery list for the week. The middle is the list of foods that are super easy to make that the kids have indicated they want more of. The right is our menu plan with dark lines indicating where a week ends (note that these lines move if we don’t exactly follow the plan). Note also Penzey’s magnet and Jetpens sticky-note tape impulse purchase. *Disclaimer– I don’t eat lamb.  Anything that says “lamb” we substitute with beef.


Let me talk about cookbooks. We just finished going through a bunch and I’d like to give them brief descriptions.

Cookbooks we recently finished:

Pizza by Williams Sonoma was a great week-night book and nobody here minded having pizza or calzones once a week.

Quick and Easy Korean Cooking was as advertised and got us hooked on gochujang.  There are still some things we never made because we don’t have the ingredients, but pretty much everything we did make was quick, easy, and ranged from “good” to “excellent” in our notes.  (I love writing in cookbooks.  Do you write in cookbooks?  I figure if I’m going to splatter food on them, writing isn’t a big deal!)

My First Cookbook (“1st” in the notes above) is DC2’s book, but the savory dishes in it were surprisingly varied and good. And, of course, quick and easy.  You may recall how this book has changed how we make French Toast forever.  There’s some desserts left that we didn’t make, but we’ve finished all the savory dishes so it’s off the rotation.

Jerusalem by Ottolenghi.  This is NOT a quick and easy book.  It was on our weekly rotation while DH was unemployed and we would make maybe a dish every two weeks on a weekend after we both started working again.  Everything in it is excellent, but you can’t really predict how much effort anything will be.  We’ve often been surprised both directions compared to our reading of the text.  It’s also really veggie forward, which is great if you’re trying to get more vegetables in your diet.

Home Baking:  We’d actually already done almost all the savory meal type dishes from here a while ago, but it came back out when we realized we could substitute capers for anchovies.  As you can see on the above notes, those recipes were really weekend recipes, not weeknight.

Our current batch of cookbooks:

Nadiya:  This is Nadiya Hussain’s (of great British Bakeoff fame) weeknight cookbook called, “Time to Eat.”  It is definitely a cookbook for a time-pressed home cook and she even starts with the assumption that if it’s easier you’ll want to make a double batch and freeze half, or make a double batch of part of the meal and use the excess for a different meal.  I got it because I tried the recipe for Kiwi salad from it and it was AMAZEBALLS so I figured I should get the entire cookbook.  And it has been really great and the kids have loved pretty much everything in it.  Lots of familiar but also different options.

Insta:  Instant Pot:  Fast and Easy by Urvashi Pirtre.  We got this cookbook because we finished the amazing Indian Instant Pot cookbook and were excited to try another instapot book by the same author (this was after trying and giving up on another Instant Pot cookbook that was boring and not particularly quick or easy).  She really gets using the technology not as a gimmick but as a way to make food faster and easier.  Also it’s all very tasty and the kids even like her lentil dishes.  If you’re just getting one, I’d recommend the Indian one, but if you want more variety (or more meat) Fast and Easy is great.

CC:  Cooks Country– this is a “quick and easy” cooking magazine subscription that we get about once every two months from Cooks Illustrated (we used to get their main magazine which wasn’t quick and easy instead, but then we had a second kid…).  Back in the day it was only New American and eventually we got tired of it and cancelled, but we re-upped sometime after DC2 was born when they switched to mostly American Fusion.  They have about 8 recipe cards in the middle of each that have been pretty reliably quick and easy meals, and none of the other recipes are too onerous.  So far they’re mostly pretty good.  We don’t go through every single recipe in each magazine, but when we get the magazine we ask both kids to go through the back (where almost all the issue’s meals are pictured) and circle the recipes they’d like to eat.  Once we’ve gone through those we shelve it and move to the next magazine.  We’re about 8 months behind at this point, I think.

Simple by Ottolenghi.  While “Simple” is definitely misleading (he has a 6 part definition of “simple” many parts of which really aren’t), it is more simple than Jerusalem.  And everything we have made has been like eating at a really good restaurant.  I feel like I’m pre-pandemic in the city at a trendy new fusion lunch place that prides itself on farm fresh meals and sells lots of different kinds of salads and toasts.  Or at one of the many hummus plus places in the SF South Bay area.  Everything is just a little more special than what you’re expecting.  We mostly leave stuff from this book to the weekend because we never know how long anything is going to take.  The kids, have, unfortunately, started disliking tahini from too many Ottonlenghi dishes.

Mexican:  Quick and Easy Mexican Cooking by Cecilia Hae-Jin Lee.  It’s by the same author as Quick and Easy Korean, but isn’t as good.  (Why is a Korean-American writing a Mexican cookbook?  Her parents owned a bodega!)  The recipes are good and they’re more varied than the American-Mexican foods that we make without recipes and they’re less fatty than our “authentic” Tex Mex cookbook and quicker and easier than our ginormous bible of Latin American food (there’s a mole recipe in there that takes over a day, fills up a good portion of your freezer, and is orgasmic), so we’ll likely keep cycling through it at the rate of one recipe a week.

/end sidenote

So how do I get that list on the right?

On Saturday after the week’s groceries have come, I count up 7 meals on the list, that’s this week’s meals that we should have ingredients for, I put a line after that, and then count add up enough meals so that there are an additional 7 after that line.  Any ingredients we need for those 7 meals are put on the left-most list for next week’s grocery run.

Sometimes other folks add to the list– you can see where DH decided he wanted stuffed pizza (#ChicagoPizza).  And also berebere peanuts, though that’s more a reminder to him and not an actual meal.  Sometimes there’s a little overflow one week for whatever reason, and those meals get pushed off to the next week.  Sometimes I feel like procrastinating during the week and do some of the menu planning early.  It’s very flexible.

To get the next week’s meals, I take my pile of five cookbooks and I go through the book systematically.

Nadiya’s book is split up into Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner sections, so for hers, I start at the beginning and just go through on receipt per week (we did skip some breakfasts for being too sweet to make a good dinner, though the kids did LOVE having her cheesecake croissants one weekend).  We’re currently partway through lunches.

Cook’s Country isn’t really organized at all, so I just go from top to bottom from the pictures on the back of the magazine, though I’ll often skip things and come back depending on our ingredients needs (for example, that fennel, potatoes, and sausages recipe got put on there before other recipes because we had a bunch of leftover gold potatoes from a previous recipe, btw, if you haven’t tried roasted fennel, it is a REVELATION)

The rest of the cookbooks are broken by category, like raw veggies/cooked veggies/chicken/etc.  For these we go one chapter at a time, so a salad the first week, a cooked veggie dish the next, chicken the week after that.  Occasionally I will skip a meal or a chapter and come back if, for example, we’ve already got a lentils dish for the week and don’t need another (ex. cooked veggie lentil stew from Simple and lentil stew from Insta, I skip the second lentil stew and do a different stew or a chicken dish from Insta instead).  I try to have exactly one seafood dish each week and at least one dish with meat (since I have kids and am too lazy to make sure they’re getting the right veggies for a completely vegetarian diet), but not too many with the same kind of meat.  But generally I will pick up whatever book is on top of the pile, see what the last recipe on the list was, then go to the next recipe we haven’t made yet.  Then the next book, and so on.  After I’m done, there will be five new recipes on the page.  Since it’s the school year, we’ll often eat pre-made freezer meals like lasagna or frozen pizza, so “freezer” reminds me to check the freezer.  I’ve also started adding one meal from the middle list to each week.  And that’s 7!

Of course, we do eat more than 7 meals/week because we usually also have lunches on weekends (for a total of 9).  We generally do have a couple extra meals that either don’t make it to the list or are added after my 7 are done. Getting take-out is often spontaneous and doesn’t show up on the list (sometimes it does, but mostly not).  DH and I usually have leftovers for lunches during the week.  Occasionally we’ll have too many leftovers and have them for a dinner as well.

This other pile of cookbooks that we keep in the kitchen are for things like desserts (DC2 has decided that hir easy cookbooks are too easy and zie only wants to make things out of that enormous Gourmet book now– last week’s vanilla cupcakes turned the kitchen into a DISASTER area, but weren’t really any better than easier vanilla cupcakes), books that are waiting in the wings to be the next “quick and easy” book that we try after we finish one of the current five (if they’re not good enough, we may get rid of them), and books that are there because we needed to reference something and haven’t put it back yet (The Old Fashioned Cookbook– where we got a quick vanilla frosting after the first frosting failed after 2 hours of work and umpteen separated eggs).

So, to sum:

  • Take 1-7 cookbooks known to be quick, easy, and good (maybe one for weekends that is more risky in terms of time)
  • Go through them systematically (generally pulling one from each chapter for each dinner, skipping and coming back in a later week to things that duplicate other recipes for the week too much)
  • List the ingredients you need for each on the grocery list
  • Put a line for the week after you have 7
  • Repeat

When we get home, we usually start at the top of the list and see if we feel like making and eating the first thing listed.  If not, we go to the next thing.  One slight deviation from this method is when we have fresh food that is best at the beginning of the week– that’s why the jicama salad is crossed off before the lentils and rice meal.  I will also often look at the list after dinner to see if there’s anything requiring me to defrost meat from the freezer and if so, stick that in the fridge before we go to bed.  (But we only defrost chicken breasts in the microwave.)

What I like about this method is that it allows for a lot of variety and novelty without forcing me to think too much or to be wedded to some sort of strict list.  I just pick the first thing unless I don’t like the first thing and then go to the second instead.  We’re currently doing it with 5 cookbooks because we didn’t really want to eat pizza 7 days a week or to keep the instapot clean and dry every single day, but you could easily just take the Nadiya cookbook and go through it from start to finish.  If it’s just you or you and a partner at home, you can use this exact method with just Help! My apartment has a kitchen!, which was the first cookbook we used this menu planning method with all by itself.

I leave you with a picture of the rest of our cookbooks.:

Do you menu plan? How do you menu plan? Do you own cookbooks?  What are your favorite quick and easy meals?  How often do you grocery shop?  Any questions about any of our cookbooks?

Link love

Fox News is promoting the alt-right Trucker Convoy currently occupying Ottawa, Canada.  It could happen here.  I don’t have a paired action.  :/  If you have cable, you could call them to ask if you could get an option without Fox News, since Fox gets a lot of its funding from cable (more than any other channel).  Though I don’t know how many people have cable anymore.

Paired action to the above:  Gave $25 to a Donors choose classroom in a red state that had Queer/gender/etc. books on its list.

Despite what the media wants you to believe, masking remains popular.  Because a surprising number of people are not sociopaths.  Though if the media keeps pushing, folks will forget that masks are there to help other people.

Nathan Chen short program.  (NBC won’t let it play in this window– you have to go to youtube to see it.)