Meal plan: Week of 2/23/14-3/1/14


Chaos is the operative word around here. Baseball practice is in full swing (ha!), plus the run-up to SXSW, which means I’m spending a lot of time in front of this machine, churning out copy like someone who doesn’t procrastinate, on top of the flurry of my regular work. Rest assured when I say that we’re doing well to get three meals a day over here. Bonus points if one of my kids chokes down a broccoli floret at least once from Sunday to Sunday.

My kids won't eat this. It confounds me.

My kids won’t eat this. It confounds me.

Sunday — We were planning a dinner out, but the LK’s asthma and related concerns resulted in scrounging for the kids and a call to Pad Thai for the grownups.

Monday — Mom 100 cheesy rice with chicken + broccoli

Tuesdaybalsamic roast beef (sandwiches?), green beans, potatoes

WednesdayMediterranean chicken, green salad

ThursdayCuban black beans + rice bowls,

Fridayoven fried fish, spinach, couscous

Saturday — something involving margaritas, if I’m lucky

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Downton Abbey, episode 8


Hello, my dearest readers. So sorry to have abandoned you last week, but I was overwhelmed with deadlines and unable to make our usual Downton Abbey appointment.

Here’s what we missed:

  • LG was called to America to help get Cora’s brother out of hot water.
  • Isobel nursed an ill Violet back to health, which deepened their friendship.
  • Mary flopped around in pig filth with Mr. Blake, which means that in some countries they’re married.
  • Tony “Lord” Gillingham came back to Downton with his evil rapist valet, whom Mrs. Hughes confronted about his evil raping ways. Of course he denies it, and Anna is deeply uncomfortable.
  • Aunt Rosamund smells a rat re: Edith, and says, “you seem so préoccupé lately.” (That’s French for “rich people’s affectation.”) Edith spills the beans, goes to get an abortion, but changes her mind.

Got it? Good. Let’s proceed with Part 8. This is a pretty juicy episode, being the season finale of sorts, so strap in. [Well, the “Christmas special” is technically the season finale, but that is typically a standalone episode.]

partytimeexcellent

Turns out Cora’s brother has gotten embroiled in the Teapot Dome scandal. Turns out Mr. Levinson owns one of the companies caught paying bribes to Secretary of the Interior Albert B. Fall to drill for oil on government land in Teapot Dome, Wyoming. Thanks, Downton Abbey, for this American history lesson! This, of course, leaves Cora to plan the church bazaar without LG’s help. Because I’m sure he’s always a huge help in every way.

Tony "Lord" Gillingham just wants to be loved by Mary. Anna just wants him to stay away, please.

Tony “Lord” Gillingham just wants to be loved by Mary. Anna just wants him to stay away, please.

Mr. Blake, with whom Mary is much more comfortable now that they’ve thrown pig shit into each other’s faces, has reached the end of his study time in Yorkshire and is headed home. And just so that we don’t forget that this is a soap opera to its very core, Mary tells Anna that Tony “Lord” Gillingham is returning to Downton to break his journey home. When Anna turns green around the gills, she’s forced to tell Mary that it was Mr. Green, the valet, who attacked her. Mary is understandably shocked and wants to tell the police, but Anna’s hell-bent for leather to keep it under wraps, and keep Bates away from Green because she knows he’ll figure it out, kill Green, then get himself hanged. Yes. We know this. You tell us this every episode since it happened. WE GET IT. (P.S. Bates can totally tell that something happened with Mr. Green, because Anna no longer jokes and laughs with him when he’s around.) (P.P.S. Tony tells Mary he plans to call off his engagement, but Mary tells him that she’s not on the market, for realsies.) Later on, Mary decides to tell Tony to dismiss his valet so that Green can’t terrorize Anna at Downton on future visits. Tony later arrives at the bazaar to report that Mr. Green is dead, having fallen into traffic in Piccadilly.

Related: Bates takes a mystery day off while Anna is in London with Mary.

Ivy receives a letter from Alfred reporting that his dad’s died and also inviting her to a.) marry him and b.) leave Downton and join him in London. She does not want. Despite sending him a letter to this effect, he plans to come to Downton anyway. Mrs. Patmore takes this opportunity to let Daisy take the day off to go see Mr. Mason, who advises Daisy to say goodbye to Alfred. “Leave nothing jagged, nothing harsh between you,” he says. Aw, he’s salt of the earth, that Mr. Mason. I SEE WHAT YOU DID THERE, JULIAN FELLOWES. She brings back a basket of goodies for Alfred, and promises lifelong friendship to him. He leaves and dear god I’m glad to see the back of him and this tortured storyline.

On a trip into Thirsk, Branson spies Rose having tea with and stroking the face of Jack the Black American Jazz Singer. He reckons this situation will make some people unhappy. (The narrative also presents him with a potential love interest-philosophical sparring partner in Sarah Bunting, a local schoolteacher whom he met at a political meeting in the previous episode.) Anyhoo, he tells Mary what he saw; Mary confronts Rose about it and warns her not to lose control of her life. Rose fancies herself progressive and anti-imperialist in that she plans to marry Jack and have lots of progressive mixed-race babies in 1920s England and is going to tell Mummy of her plans straight away. Yep, totally in control of her life, that one. She later tells Mary that she’s engaged to Jack. Mary goes to visit Jack in London, where he tells her that he plans to break off the relationship because he is realistic about the world they live in.

edith

Meanwhile, Edith reckons she can have her baby, then adopt it out to some tenant farmers at Downton who have been trying unsuccessfully to have a child (and who are also charged with the running of the new pig operation). Aunt Rosamund thinks this is reckless and reckons Edith should have the baby abroad and adopt it out there, but Edith wants to be a part of its growing up. This gives rise to a rather hilarious scene in which Rosamund says to Cora, “I have this plan. I’ve always wanted to … speak better … French than I do. [Ha! Because her daily speech isn’t affected enough!] So I thought I’d take a few months off and go to … Switzerland … and really learn it.” She’s totally making this up on the fly, a la Jan Brady and her boyfriend George Glass.

She wants to take Edith with her because it’s cleaner than France, is void of French people, and has good hospitals. You know, in case they get ill. Cora, such a sanguine lady, is all for it, exclaiming, “Golly! Life is full of surprises!” If she suspects anything, she masks it well. Violet compares Edith’s upcoming sabbatical to Lord Gillingham “thinking his way around the Highlands.” If only it were that simple for women. (P.S. Violet totally groks what’s up with Edith and calls her and Rosamund on it at lunch. Sharp old lady is sharp.)

Speaking of women, as Mr. Baxter, Evelyn Whatsis, and Tony “Lord” Gillingham all depart from Downton, the women (Mary, Rosamund, Edith, Cora, and Rose) are lined up outside to see them off. You see that the women’s color palette is shifting from purples and mauves to shades of blue, gray, and pewter accented with creams and browns. I’m not sure if the costume designers are making these choices a la Vince Gilligan and Breaking Bad, but it is noticeable and I’m hoping someone somewhere will write a think piece about it. Anyhoo, the ladies tease Mary about the carful of suitors driving away, calling it a “desire of suitors.” Har-dee-har-har, says Mary, plus whatever the genteel version of “go eff yourselves” is.

Isobel is invited by Violet to stand in for the family at luncheon with Lord Merton, who seems interested in her. He later sends her a magnificent bouquet of flowers, and the two old-lady friends have a bit of a giggle over it. (But is Violet a wee bit jealous? Surely not.)

weknownothing

LG returns from America just in time to enjoy the bazaar. BECAUSE OF COURSE. Mr. Baxter also comes to the bazaar, under the pretense of just having come from a conference nearby, in order to make his feelings for Mary known. He, too, vows to fight for Mary’s love, which means that season 5 will invariably feature a cage match between him and Tony “Lord” Gillingham. (My money’s on Tony, mostly because he way sexier than Blake.) Tony asks Blake for a ride home to London, Mary sees them off, and LG  says, “What sort of menage has that turned into since I’ve been away?” Everyone shrugs disingenuously and we’re done here.

See you next time for the “Christmas special,” which features the triumphant return of Shirley Maclaine with bonus Paul Giamatti! Yay!

Dowager Countess Zingers: To Isobel, who enters the room saying, “It’s only me.”: “I always feel that greeting betrays such a lack of self-worth.” To Edith, discussing the trip to Switzerland: “Switzerland has everything to offer, except perhaps conversation, and one can learn to live without that.” Of Rosamund’s plan to act as Edith’s patron during her baby-having sojourn: “She’s done quite enough as it is. Take any more, and she’ll start exacting annual tribute.”

Meal plan: Week of 2/2/14-2/8/14


Last week was all about purging the freezer of leftovers I’d stashed over the course of January. And y’all, there was so. much. pasta. So, this week, I wrote a meal plan that is 100% pasta-free.

A crucial part of the weekly meal plan -- the fruit bowl!

A crucial part of the weekly meal plan — the fruit bowl!

Sunday: The husband and LK were both sick, so BK and I went to a Super Bowl party wherein I ate ALL THE QUESO.

Monday: Vietnamese chicken & rice soup. I had breakfast with my friend Jodi at Elizabeth Street Cafe last week and she ordered the chicken & rice soup, which was divine. So buttery and chickeny, filling yet not heavy. I’m obsessed with it now. I hope it turns out!

Tuesday: Steak salad with avocado and grapefruit (this recipe calls for shrimp)

Wednesday: Slow cooker chicken and vegetable pot pie

Thursday: Dual-language potluck at the BK’s school. I plan to bring roasted carrots and parsnips.

Friday: Black bean tostadas with pickled veggies

Saturday: Husband and I are going to a media preview dinner at a new restaurant, so the kids will probably have pizza with whomever winds up babysitting them.

What is your family having for dinner this week?

Downton Abbey: “Come to bed and dream of Ragtime”


Here it is, folks, the most boring episode of Downton Abbey that ever bored us. Onward through the slog, shall we?

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Did someone say toast?

Daisy gives Alfred first crack at the hot toast. (Not a euphemism, but should be.) Why is Alfred getting special treatment? Because he’s staying, of course. Oh, Daisy. Don’t you know the rules of Chekhov’s rejection letter? Naturally, Alfred learns that he’s gotten a spot at the Escoffier school after all, blurts an expression of gratitude to the family that embarrasses everyone, and breaks poor Daisy’s heart. Later, as Ivy moans about Jimmy having tried to make it beyond first base after a night out, saying “I suppose he was sweet-talking me so that he could have his way. All this time I thought he was so nice.” Mrs. Patmore responds drily, “I wonder how many women have said that since the Norman Conquest.” Ha! Daisy tears Ivy a new one, accusing her of having driven Alfred away through her flirtation with Jimmy. Mrs. Hughes and Mrs. Patmore reckon Ivy had that one coming. 

Alfred’s departure creates a space for Mr. Molesley, who is brought on as footman despite Carson’s misgivings (he thinks Poor Molesley is ungrateful). No one knows his first name, though (duh, it’s “Poor”), make an educated guess that it’s “Joseph” (wrong), so he remains Molesley despite his reduced status. Ha-ha.

Downton as a business is expanding into agriculture in the form of raising pigs. LG is nervous. Mary is smug because Downton is doing so well, but we get some clues that maybe that’s not the case. She exchanges barbs with Mr. Blake, Evelyn Napier’s boss, so you know they’re totally going to do it. 

Anna is better, but not 100%. She and Bates decide they need a mini-break to make some good new memories together and go out for dinner at a fancy place. The maitre-d is snooty and tells them that there’s no table available for them despite their having made a reservation. Cora enters from the dining room, her face arranged into a creepy rictus meant to be a warm smile of friendship; this association convinces the maitre’d to change his tune and finds the Bateses a table. 

Violet keeps losing knick-knacks in her house. She thinks it’s the new gardener and sacks him, but they keep turning up in odd places. Either Violet is going a bit senile or someone is messing with her head (or both; I don’t trust her shifty-eyed butler, Spratt, who seems to have very conveniently found the netsuke figurine in the maid’s cleaning bucket). The previews for next week suggest that maybe she’s not well. 

Edith is sad and worried because Michael has gone incommunicado. Making matters worse, she receives a letter from her doctor informing her that the mole she had checked out is actually pregnancy, which is why it’s a good thing I’m not a medical doctor. Escandalo! Look where your feminist fantasies of having it all have gotten you now, Edith! 

Thomas pumps his spy, Miss Baxter, for dirt on the family. I’m not sure where this storyline is going. 

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Nothing bad can come of this.

Cousin Oliver Rose has secretly hired a band to play for LG’s birthday party. Surprise, it’s Jack Ross, the guy from the night club in London who is a — black American! This does lead to a funny scene wherein a scandalized Carson (first an Australian opera singer, now a black American jazz singer? What is this world coming to?) suggests that Jack visit Africa. “Why would I? I’m no more African than you are. Well not much more.” He goes on say that while his people came over from Africa in 1970, the circumstances of which are too ghastly to articulate, there’s really not more of a connection than that. Mrs. Hughes congratulates Jack on finding the one thing about the past that Carson doesn’t agree with (slavery). Har-har. Despite the initial shock of the band, LG loves his birthday surprise and offers to pay the bill for their performance. When Mary goes downstairs to pass along this information, she catches Rose and Mr. Ross smooching in the dark. Oy. Such a renegade, that Rose. 

Dowager Countess Zingers: To Isobel, who suggests Violet is too focused on material possessions rather than on justice: “I wonder you don’t just set fire to the Abbey and dance around it, painted with woad and howling.”