Welcome to the Winter of My Discontent

5:16 PM

More snow today. Wahoo! The weather report reported between 10 and 15 inches and we got that--easy.

So, what exactly do snow days mean when you're on maternity leave? Well, for one, they mean you don't leave the house. This is a rare treat when you're working 40+ hours per week, but when you are always in the house, it becomes a rare form of torture. No Mommy Group today, and no outings for the Tadpole and her rather ill-tempered Mother. Also, Daddy "worked from home" today, which meant he was in the house refusing to do things like watch the Tadpole so Mommy could take a shower, shovel the walkway, or move laundry around.

I'm trying to make the best of it. And, in fact, we had an OK day in spite of the house arrest. Because the weather is so miserable, I figured it was the perfect day for fish chowder which is simmering as I type. Cooking fish chowder with a baby who constantly wants to be held is a unique challenge. I suppose it would be less challenging if I was capable of letting the baby cry, but I'm not. So, prep involved much running back and forth: "Hold on, Sweetie--Mommy's here. She just needs to wash the salt pork/fish/onion off her hands." Hopefully, dinner will be worth it.

I use my mother's recipe, which is from the World War II era edition of the Hood Cookbook. It's very simple and, depending on the price of fish, is not an expensive dinner (it was really cheap for us since the fish was given to us by my parents following a deep-sea fishing adventure undertaken by my dad). Here it is (including my substitutions):

You'll need
1/4 cup salt pork, diced
1 onion, sliced
2 cups diced potatoes
2 to 2 1/2 pounds white-fleshed fish (I used cod)
2 cups boiling water
1 pint milk (I used half-and-half)
cayenne (I used ground black pepper)

You'll do
Heat the diced salt pork in a large, heavy saucepan over low heat until the fat is extracted. Remove crisp pork if desired. Cook the sliced onion in the fat until slightly yellow. While the pork is heating, boil the fish in the water for 10 minutes or until the flesh can be separated from the bones (or until the fish is opaque/cooked if you're working with fish that has been deboned). Cool slightly; remove bones and skin (again, you can skip this step if your fish has been skinned and deboned); save the stock to flavor the chowder. Separate the fish into flakes or dice. Add the potatoes, fish, and fish stock to the fat and onions. Cover and cook gently until the potatoes are tender (10-15 minutes). Add the milk and seasonings; reheat to boiling. Serve chowder with pilot or Boston crackers (I skip the crackers, myself).

It's not a heart-healthy meal, though my mother has made it moderately better by cooking the onions in vegetable oil and using 2% milk. It's OK, but my thought is that comfort food best serves its purpose in its high-fat form. That's what makes it comforting. I don't make fish chowder every day--in fact, I can't remember the last time I made it (when I was pregnant, I'd go out to Newicks for the fish chowder fix as theirs is pretty close to mine and there's no cleanup involved). So, I feel no guilt about cooking with salt pork and half-and-half.

I also plan to make a batch of cookies because my sainted neighbor (hallowed be his name) snowblowed our walkway and driveway, leaving us only our cars and steps to unearth. I cannot properly express my gratitude for this supreme kindness, so chocolate chip cookie bars will have to suffice. I will have to try and hide them from my beloved spouse, who may have served as a model for the Cookie Monster.

All in all, not a horrendous day--even if stuck inside. The good part about the snow day was that it allowed me one more day free of day care worries. I'm scheduled to return to work on April 13 and am having a hard time finding infant care for the Tadpole. Now, if I had not done anything at this point (I return in 6 weeks), I would have only myself to blame. And perhaps I really only have myself to blame for this anyway, but seriously? The baby has been waitlisted since September at my preferred place. It looks like they won't have an opening until June or July. I was in contact with another place who reported having availability when I initially contacted them (in 2008), but when I went for my tour last week, they have a waitlist of 10 (they have space for 24 infants) that they neglected to tell me about via e-mail or over the phone, and they charge $100 to even go on the wait list (Tadpole will not be going there--there are other things about the institution that did not impress me, but I'm not paying $100 when I'm not working for a school that's more of a last resort, anyway).

The Beloved has been very supportive in his own way. Basically, if I have to stay home because we can't find child care, we will be OK. And if I have to quit my job because they won't hold it while I find child care, that's what will have to happen (we're hoping we don't have to go that route). His latest idea is that his mother can come and live with us until the Tadpole can get a spot somewhere, but that plan really doesn't thrill me. I love my mother-in-law, but I have a tiny house and I have a feeling that having another adult living here will send me over the edge.

Fortunately, the Tadpole knows nothing of our grownup worries. She's just doing her thing, and doing it to the best of her ability. And she's being exceptionally cute while she does it:


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