Before we left for Sussex a couple of weeks ago, I was talking to a friend about the upcoming trip. As I was describing some activity we were anticipating, she cut me off to ask a very fair and very pertinent question. She couldn’t have cared less about the hike I was trying to sell her. What she wanted to know was how I got all the weekend chores done and was able to go back to work on the Monday after a trip without the whole house being in a state of chaos.This is such a mom perspective. I remember one of our first weekend trips began with just a bit of tension when I returned home from work on a Friday afternoon and Jeremy proudly proclaimed that we were all set to go. My eyes whirled around in my head moving from the mugs in the sink to the crumbs under the dining room table to the full recycling bin. I was sputtering, huffing, and banging my way around the house cleaning up while Jeremy looked on in a state of total bewilderment. He honestly could not understand what the big deal was. If we weren’t there, who cared if the house was a little messy?Well, I did and I still do. And God love him, he has come a long way on this one. He now knows that the camper isn’t pulling out of the driveway if there is any food debris whatsoever in the kitchen sink strainer. He loves our weekend trips enough not to fight city hall on this one.Another strategy for making these short trips manageable is that we never get home late on Sundays. We always drive back during afternoon nap and usually pull in around 3:30 or so. This gives us a good two hours before dinner to pull things together around the house. I am inside unpacking and doing laundry, Jeremy is outside hosing out the truck and mowing the lawn, and the boys are revisiting every toy that they missed over that long 48 hours. It sounds like we are doing our best to fulfill every suburban family stereotype out there…
So we have our routine down, and it usually goes pretty smoothly. The only thing I really struggle with every time is Sunday dinner. I never have a lot in the fridge since I try to use everything up before we go away. And I always want something very quick and simple since I am also trying to get all those chores done.
Last week I came up with the perfect solution: sweet potato risotto. I chopped up an onion and some garlic and two great, big sweet potatoes and sauteed them for about five minutes. Then I added two cups of risotto and sauteed it for another five minutes. I had a box of chicken stock in the pantry and I just kept adding it to the rice (about a half a cup at a time) until the risotto was soft and creamy (al dente is over-rated with toddlers in the house). A handful of Parmesan, a side of arugula salad, and dinner was served. You can get pretty precious with risotto, and it can be a time consuming dish if you are really particular about the results. Lucky for me, this wasn’t an episode of Chopped, and my boys–all three of them–gobbled it up.
My extra special bonus: there was plenty left over for everyone’s lunch the next day. Clean up was a snap, the boys were in bed, and I was on the couch watching The Amazing Race by eight that evening. The perfect end to a perfect weekend.