Instant Pot Spaghetti

I have been in a food funk lately. I just don’t feel like cooking. I buy the groceries and then… meh.

Unfortunately for my kitchen blahs, we are trying to save money after the most expensive December I have ever seen and the other night I had no choice but to cook. Something. Anything.

I’ve seen a million Instant Pot spaghetti recipes that seemed pretty underwhelming so I made up my own on the fly.  This was dinner for the 3 of us on Wednesday and Thursday nights, plus there is enough for at least 2 days of lunches. I need to add the caveat that this is the spaghetti version of a midwest comfort food casserole. We’re not talking gourmet. We’re talking about a kid-pleasing weeknight meal that will fill tummies and get dinner on the table with one pot and very little effort. I am mostly sharing this because I totally winged it and want to remember what I did because I will 100% make it again.

Here’s what I used:

  • 1 lb sweet Italian sausage, casings removed (I used pork because I had it, but turkey would be totally fine)
  • 16 oz package of dry spaghetti noodles – I am 95% sure this would work with ANY kind of dry pasta
  • 24 oz jar of your favorite pasta sauce
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 2 cups of water (I swished it around in the pasta sauce jar to get every last bit)
  • 1/2 to 1 tsp Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 bag of fresh broccoli florets–12 oz or so (optional)
  • frozen turkey meatballs (optional–these were more for the kid, but we enjoyed them too)

Brown & crumble the sausage using the saute setting

Break the spaghetti in half and spread it on top of the sausage

Dump the can of tomatoes, the water and the pasta sauce over the noodles. Make sure the noodles are covered with the liquids–smoosh it around a bit if you have to. Sprinkle with seasoning and salt.

Top with the broccoli florets if you’re not averse to smooshy overcooked broccoli that gets hidden in the sauce once it’s cooked so your kid doesn’t know it’s there. If you hate the idea of mushy broccoli, don’t add it.

Then throw some frozen meatballs on top. Charlotte loved the meatballs.

Put the lid on, seal the vent, and use the manual setting to cook on regular pressure for about 10 minutes. Do a quick release when it’s done, and mix well before serving. The broccoli will basically disintegrate if you use it, but whatever–the kid ate some broccoli and I didn’t have to beg.

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Holidaze

About ten days before Christmas, Charlotte discovered that she could perform Cirque Du Soleil from the bars of her crib. The next day while I was at work, Catch converted the crib back to a toddler bed. You may recall that we attempted this several months ago and it was a total fail. Spoiler alert: nothing has changed. The toddler bed is still completely unacceptable to Charlotte.

We spent a number of nights lying on the floor next to her bed as she fought sleep and pleaded with us to put the bars back on. One night, I dared rest my head on her mattress and she sat up in bed and demanded, “ON THE FLOOR, MAMA. Mama sleep on the floor.” The days are a bit of a blur at this point, but that incident may have been the last straw for me as there is now a full/double size mattress in the place where the crib once was.

Charlotte is still not a fan of her bed, although at least this way I can lie next to her IN bed rather than on the floor.

We thought we did it right. We took her out and let her choose her own bedding. (Frozen—big surprise.) We involved her in the mattress selection. We talked it up and made a big deal out of how wonderful and exciting it all is. It’s still a no-go.

With the crib, we had our bedtime routine and after I sang You Are My Sunshine and we said our good nights, we would close the door and she’d put herself to sleep while we had some desperately needed down time before bed. Those days are gone, now. We both have to spend about an hour (+) lying there with her while she fights sleep with every fiber of her being. She sings songs. Makes random observations. Asks weird questions. Demands a drink of water. Untucks herself and then demands to be tucked back in. You name it. Eventually, she will start to get sleepy and demand that I snuggle her just so only she can’t articulate what it is she wants, so it becomes a frustrating battle of No, I need your other hand, mama. No mama, the other arm to snuggle you. Put your arm out to snuggle mama. No, the other arm. Until I end up twisted like a pretzel in the most uncomfortable position possible so that each of my hands is cupping her face just so with my “other arm” putting just the right amount of pressure around her middle.

Once she falls asleep (took 90 minutes last night) I gently untangle myself from her snuggle setup and Catch and I quietly creep to the door. She will sleep on her own until she wakes up screaming for me around midnight. At that point, I usually end up falling asleep in her bed with her and stay there until morning. She’ll wake up a few more times but I’m right there, so it’s relatively easy to calm her down and get her back to sleep.

Basically, this feels like having a newborn again. My body is sore, and I am exhausted. The mattress we got is perfectly fine for a 30 pound 2 year old. It is less fine for a thirty-something, overweight mama.

Also, she won’t nap in her new bed, so pretty much the only naps she took over the holidays were in the car. Yay.

So, sleep is crap. We are all overtired and cranky… why not add a good solid dose of the holidays? Sugar and presents and people and places and non-stop excitement are REALLY great when you have an overtired, overstimulated 2 year old. It has been a living HELL. I have never been SO over my kid before. I just can’t. By Wednesday last week, Catch and I were both counting the minutes until we could go back to work. We are DONE. She has been an absolute DEMON.

That’s not to say that Christmas didn’t have its moments. We did have a lot of fun. We spent a lot of time with a lot of family, and we all felt very loved. When Charlotte woke up on Christmas morning and exclaimed, “Santa ate the cookies!” my Grinchy heart grew three sizes.

My mom put together a dress-up/treasure box for Charlotte and it included a lot of my grandmother’s old costume jewelry, which was so unexpected and cool. Catch’s cousin in Washington sent Charlotte a frozen karaoke machine, and I don’t think she possibly could have sent a more appropriate gift to my kid. She is in love with that thing. She rode her Power Wheels Jeep at Oma & Opa’s house. Played with her baby cousin. Went to her first birthday party. Had a play date at the zoo with her friends from school. Had some one-on-one time with Nana, who was beyond excited to give Charlotte some gifts that she could not have been happier about. There was a trip to Disneyland that was filled with wide-eyed toddler amazement. She saw a movie in the theater for the first time and LOVED it. We enjoyed a prime rib dinner with my parents on New Year’s Eve while our overtired, slap happy kiddo entertained us with her “Happy New Hear!” exclamations and general silliness.

We may be starting 2018 a bit tired and slow, but I have no doubt that we’ll get through this hurdle just as we’ve made it through all the others.

Ratgate vol. 2

$4,000

That is how much Ratgate is going to cost us.

Excuse me while I hyperventilate.

Merry. Fucking. Christmas.

I don’t even have a smartass, self-deprecating remark to make about this.

Ratgate

There’s a rat in my house and it has destroyed my oven.

I bought a new range today and the girl screwed up and now I have absolutely no idea when it will be delivered.

My existing range smells like rat pee and I want it gone but I am hesitant to move it outside because of the whole delivery issue above. To combat the smell, I am simmering lemongrass, lemon balm, rosemary, lemon, ginger, and cloves on the stove. I can still smell rat in my kitchen.

I feel disgusting being in my own home. I even paid someone to clean today for the first time ever and my house still feels gross to me because RAT.

I feel violated.

I have been sick for almost 4 weeks. I am so fucking tired of being sick.

My mom is seriously sick. She has the same thing I do but her body is not handling it well and I’m so worried about her. I stopped by today and she couldn’t even open her eyes to talk to me. She saw he doctor yesterday but she’s worse today. I have serious fears about losing my mom (leftover from childhood–not entirely rational, but how many emotional things really are?) and this shit just rattles me.

I kicked Catch and Charlotte out for a few days so I could get some rest but instead I am here dealing with Ratgate.

Exterminators can’t get here until Monday morning.

We are missing a family Christmas celebration tomorrow due to my illness and I am seriously bummed. But I can’t be around my medically fragile grandmother when I’m sick.

I really just want to cry but I’m too fucking tired and I need that energy to continue battling Ratgate.

Anyway.

Look at my beautiful asshole of a two year old? Isn’t she perfect?

Sewing

I don’t know where it came from, but I have started sewing. It happened suddenly. I bought some fabric from the craft store because Charlotte loved it so much. I made a blanket. Then a pillowcase. Then a skirt. And another skirt. And some cloth napkins. And flannel pajama pants…

It’s like–a thing now. The sewing machine is living on the dining room table and Catch has even stopped giving me dirty looks about it.

Writing used to be an important outlet for me, but lately I’m getting more satisfaction from making things. I even made a really cool banner for mini’s preschool teacher’s baby shower and it felt so good afterward.

I’ve been sick for a few weeks. Long story, but basically kid germs are working their magic on me. I’ve been miserable enough that I’ve seen the doctor three times, which is pretty unheard of for me. This endless sickness is really taking a toll on me. I’ve been so short with Charlotte. My patience is nonexistent. This morning I was alone with her and fell asleep sitting on the couch holding my coffee. I woke up when she ran over to me to tell me that it’s really cold outside and she needs her jacket. She had crawled through the doggie door and was completely alone in the back yard at 6:30am. In her pajamas. Without shoes. While I was asleep. When I told my doctor about that today she basically threw drugs at me. Let’s hope they work this time.

Hopefully a healthier me will be back soon to write some more. In the meantime, I’ll be sewing. And burning myself with the iron. And leaving pins on the couch that stab Catch in the butt when she sits down.

Hi! Remember me?

It’s been a while. I don’t really know what to make of that yet. I was just clearing some files off of my computer and I discovered a post I never posted. I wrote this in early October, so it’s outdated, but I’m going to put it up anyway because I want the record of it here. Hopefully I’ll be back soon. I feel like I have lots to talk about, but lately I just have no desire to write.

—-

Since We Haven’t Touched Her Baby Book

We had to go to the discount day at a kids’ consignment sale on Sunday morning to pick up a few things for Catch’s aunt. As we were heading toward the line to check out, Charlotte spotted the little corner where all the stuffed animals are. “Ohhhh, MICKEY!!!” she yelled as she ran toward the bins. By the time I reached her, she had grabbed a large Mickey Mouse plush and had him wrapped in a bear hug. (Mouse hug?)

“Oh Mickey, I love you. You need a hug, Mickey? I love you so much. I give you a kiss, Mickey?”

Fortunately, Mickey was only $1.50, and although we have an IDENTICAL Mickey at home, I decided that avoiding a public meltdown was absolutely worth $1.50. For once, we did not have to listen to I Like to Move It on repeat for the whole drive home. She was completely occupied with her Mickey Mouse love fest. I wish it was a legit option to just pay $1.50 every time a meltdown is looming—like a get out of jail free card.

Last night, in lieu of us reading to her at bedtime, Charlotte opted read Corduroy’s Halloween to her new Mickey. “Look, Mickey—it’s a pumpkin!”

She’s been on a bit of a Beauty & the Beast kick lately. (Understatement.) This morning when we parked at her school I opened her car door and she looked at me and sang, “I WANT MUCH MORE THAN THIS PROVINCIAL LIFE!”

Um. Yeah. Me too, kid. Go learn something so your moms can live out their retirement years in the guest house of your mansion after you invent a reliable car engine fueled by hopes and dreams.

Sunday morning. 7 am. Charlotte wakes up. Catch gathers her from her crib, and I come in a few minutes later. Charlotte leans toward me for a hug and as I wrap her in my arms to say good morning, she says, “I need a cupcake.”

Have you ever seen a child try to tuck in their bath water? Last night in the tub, she was using a wash cloth as a blanket and tucking in the water. “Lie back now. I got you. It’s sleepy time. I tuck you in.” Water. Who knew?

 

 

104.3

104.3 is a popular LA radio station. The kind of music you hear a lot in doctors offices. 

104.3 was also my daughter’s temperature at 3am on Thursday. It was even higher at 1:30 this morning, which resulted in seizure-esque jerks and twitching that had me totally freaked out. Turns out they were totally benign myoclonic jerks, which are apparently common in sleeping sick children. 

Needless to say, we’re pretty fucking exhausted around here this week. Poor Catch has to work a school dance full of idiot teens tonight until midnight, so I’m especially feeling bad for her right now. 

As for me, I am just going to sit here and self-medicate with some prailines & cream ice cream and mindless television. I should be working on our Halloween costumes, but at this point, we can all be zombies without any effort at all. 
I’ll leave you with a few pictures because it’s not all bad. Most of it is pretty damn spectacular. We’re just really sick of this radio station. 






Leash Laws

On my way to work this morning on a very busy street—school on one corner, major hospital on the other, huge office complexes on another, and freeway on-ramps just beyond the intersection—I watched in horror as a 10-ish year old boy on a skateboard came within millimeters of being hit by a car. He flew into the crosswalk without stopping or looking just as the car in front of me was turning right. The car was barely able to stop in time. The boy never stopped at all, and just kept going as fast as he could. He wasn’t wearing a helmet.

Charlotte also flew into the street this morning. I was carrying our things to the car—her backpack & nap mat, my purse, lunch bag and coffee mug. She had been inside the house playing with her race cars, and I figured I’d just pop out there and load up while she was occupied. She ran out the door behind me straight into the middle of our street before I could even open my mouth to yell.

I don’t know what my point here is exactly, except to say that I am truly surprised that it is illegal for my dogs to be outside without a leash and a collar, but it’s frowned upon to do the same with children.

Manners and tantrums and feelings, oh my!

One of my mom’s friends—a very nice, very outgoing woman who has split her career between business and film (lots of IMDB credits for this lady)—started working at my office as a temp this morning. She’s at a cubicle about 25 feet from my office. I should REALLY go say hello. I have known this woman since I was a little girl. Instead, I am hiding in my office with my door closed because I am too damn tired to be social and play, “let’s catch up on the last 15 years.”

It turns out that two year olds can suck the life out of you faster than a newborn can. I always hated the phrase terrible twos because I felt like it implied that the child was terrible. I get it now, though. I love my kid. I do not believe she is terrible. But this particular developmental stage is terrible.

Everything is a battle of wills. My SIL thinks we give in too easily, but sometimes we just don’t have it in us to fight her. I mean, seriously, how many times can you stop your child from jumping on the couch like a wildebeest before you say fuck it. Let her break her damn arm. I give up.

OK, that was a bad example. We don’t actually do that. I mean, the whole jumping on the couch thing is a constant battle right now, and it usually ends with one of us picking a screaming, fighting child up off the couch, removing her from the room, and then chasing after her as she runs back to the couch laughing maniacally… rinse & repeat. I swear we do everything we can to keep her from breaking bones. You get the gist, though.

It feels like dealing with our kid right now is all about mind games. We have to outsmart the 2 year old. I am absolutely shocked at how hard it can be to outsmart a determined 2 year old. I mean, I am a reasonably intelligent human being, but that kid is a force to be reckoned with. My child has successfully used reverse psychology ON ME. It’s freaking witchcraft. Too much Harry Potter while I was pregnant.

Every day, I leave for work feeling so excited to get home and see my kiddo.  By the time I’ve been home for 30 minutes, I’m already counting the seconds until bedtime.

I just wanted to throw this out there to all of you because I know I talk a lot here about how my kid is my favorite person and how I love the age, blah blah blah. And while both of those things are often true, right now I am really longing for a few days free from all of this two-ness.

Petty

When Free Fallin’ was released in 1989, I was an 8 year old little girl living in Reseda. While there was no freeway running through our yard, mentions of the Valley… Mulholland… Ventura Blvd… they were familiar to me. It was my home. We “moved west down Ventura Blvd.” every day to get home from my school. I loved that song. That tape was rewound many, many times. (Right now, I am thinking about how my daughter will never have to rewind anything. Wow.)

Mary Jane’s Last Dance was the soundtrack to a one night stand pre-Catch.

Then, early in my relationship with Catch, I had a completely ridiculous and totally bizarre sex dream about Tom Petty. It was a running joke between me and Catch for a long time after.

Just last week, about 2/3 of my Facebook feed was filled with photos of Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers at the Hollywood Bowl. So many of my friends were there. I wanted to go so badly, but there was no way we could afford the tickets. I appeased myself by saying we’d see him next time.

Last night, I asked Alexa to play Tom Petty while I was cooking dinner. After a few minutes Charlotte ran into the house and yelled, “No song! No song! Alexa, play Let it Go!” That’s about as far as my Tom Petty memorial got. His loss hurts my heart, though. He was the same age as my parents, and that’s kind of hard to swallow. My mom is going to live forever, right?

Someday, I will convince my kid to give Tom Petty a shot. I mean, he’s no Idina Menzel, but she’s certainly no Tom Petty.