Dining In the Time of Dry Wall Dust

They say if you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans. If, however, you want to make Him do more than laugh, if you want to make Him double over and fall down on the floor in stitches, write a book.

In it, be wise. So very wise. Combine the writings of the saints and Scripture with practical examples and tips from your own life about how you personally Do The Wise Thing.

Admit, ever so humbly, that you don’t always follow your own advice. But give the advice just the same.

Before the book is even off the presses, God will be in hysterics. And you will find yourself nearly incapable of following a single word of your own advice.

This doesn’t mean that what you wrote in the book isn’t wise. Or true. Or totally helpful during ordinary time (aka the times when every spice jar you own isn’t covered in dry wall dust).

But life isn’t always ordinary. Sometimes it’s a terrifying whirlwind of deadlines, duties, decisions, and dirt. Or babies, diapers, and sippy cups. Or temper tantrums, teenage hormones, and driving lessons. Whatever. Sometimes life is just nuts, and following really good advice about cooking, hospitality, and balanced diets is a near impossible task.

How do I know?

Hahahahaha. Ain’t no dinner parties happening in this dining room anytime soon.

When we moved into this house almost four months ago, I knew I could only bring a limited amount of dishes. Cupboard space in our temporary kitchen=miniscule. But, in some fit of delusion or denial, I still brought some of my white ware that I use for blog photo shoots. I really, seriously thought I could cook creative meals in the midst of all this…and blog about it to boot!

But I can’t. I can barely remember my own name right now, let alone what ingredients I need at the grocery story. Every ounce of creative energy I have is currently going into my writing and the renovations. There’s nothing left for the kitchen. Plus, my counters are covered in dust from sunup to sundown. And there’s that problem of not having any light in the kitchen…

So, how are we surviving?

  1. Roasted Vegetables (for lunches and a couple dinners a week);
  2. The kindness of friends (also for a couple dinners a week);
  3. Blue Apron.

If Chris and I were millionaires, we would take advantage of this dusty interlude to visit all the amazing restaurants Pittsburgh has to offer. But we both work for the Church, so eating amazing meals out every night isn’t happening.

If I didn’t care about things like my husband’s blood pressure or cholesterol, we could subsist on fast food, carry out, and Ramen. But I do. So, the cheap road is out as well.

And if it were just me, holed up here all by my lonesome, I could very much live off of roasted Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, and sweet potatoes. My stomach’s ability to handle roughage is almost unparalleled. But again, there’s that husband.

So, for most weeknight suppers, Blue Apron does the planning and shopping for me. And it is awesome.

(Tuesday night’s dinner.)

If you had told me four months ago, that I would be using, let alone singing the praises, of a meal kit delivery service, I would have thought you were delusional. I mean, I write a food blog. I just wrote a book about food and faith filled with tasty recipes. I can make cardboard taste good if needs be. So, why would I need someone else to do the meal planning, recipe tasting, and food shopping for me?

Because I’m day-drinking. That’s why.

In all seriousness, with Blue Apron, I can still cook (which I enjoy) and eat tasty food (which I enjoy even more), but I don’t have to be creative or worry that some recipe I gleaned off Pinterest is going to end up in the garbage. I also don’t have to spend an hour planning meals and making out grocery lists. Or send Chris running off the grocery store at 7 pm, when I realize I left something important off the list…because the space my brain cells used to occupy has been taken over by the dry wall dust.

For those of you not familiar, with these kits, here’s how they work. Every week, I go online and choose 3 meals from six possible selections (if you were doing the family plan, you get to choose four meals). They ship the ingredients to me on the day of the week I ask for them to be delivered. Then, I cook what they send me. There’s no thinking involved. Only cooking. And eating. And, most important, what we’re eating is good. Really good. Like, I would totally order these dishes in a restaurant and then go back for them again good.

Over the past three months, we’ve had only one dish we didn’t like. And it was still fine…just nothing to write home about. Everything else has been unfailingly awesome. It’s also been unfailingly easy. Most dinners require 10-15 minutes of prep and another 20-30 minutes of cooking. Which means dinner is almost always ready in under 45 minutes. Most dinners also require only one pan, so cleanup is quick. And none so far have required any tools fancier than a knife. Which is fantastic when most of the cooking tools you own are in the garage. Or covered in filth.

The other thing we like is the variety. Over the past three months there have been no repeat menus, and we’re cooking dishes we normally wouldn’t cook—like Potato & Broccolini Samosas, Creamy Ricotta and Lacinto Kale Strata, and Spanish Style Potato and Chickpea Stew. I might want to cook these recipes if I saw them on Pinterest, but most of the time, the ingredients list would have been otherwise prohibitive. Unless it’s for a special occasion, I’m generally not going to spend $10 on some special sauce or spice that I’m only going to use once (and only two tablespoons of it at that). I also don’t have the time to make regular trips to the Asian grocery store. With Blue Apron, though, they do the shopping for us, and only send us the amount of yellow curry or lemongrass paste or soy glaze that we need.

And did I mention that I just don’t have to think about what’s for dinner? Because that’s my favorite.

This isn’t an advertisement. Nobody has asked me to write this. I get nothing out of this pitch. But Chris and I have been so genuinely happy with Blue Apron that I figured others could stand to benefit from it too.

If you have 9 kids (or 4), that’s probably not you. Sorry! While Blue Apron offers “family kits,” in addition to their couple kits, their idea of a family is four people. Size-ists.

Likewise, if you’re on a strict gluten-free or dairy-free diet, it’s also probably not for you. There are gluten-free and dairy-free options (and others that you can modify easily), but not enough to make all the meals all the time free of those ingredients. They’ve even snuck peanuts in on us a couple times. (Fortunately, we can just toss those and substitute with cashews, which make everything that normally requires peanuts 10 times better.)

So, not for everybody. But for small families, empty nesters, couples with only a couple kids still at home, single people, or childless couples like us, Blue Apron can be awesome. It also could be awesome for someone with a new baby or a couple with a bunch of littles who refuse to eat anything other than cheese and chicken fingers. You could just throw a hunk of cheese on the table for them, then eat real food with your spouse later.

And the cost? Well, it’s not like shopping at Aldis. If you’re on a super tight food budget right now, the cost could be prohibitive. But it’s not like shopping at Whole Foods either. We pay $60 for three meals, which comes out to $10 a person per meal. Sometimes there are leftovers, but not often. Still, considering I’m never buying special ingredients or meat at the store anymore—just staples like coffee, wine, and gin—our grocery bill hasn’t changed much.

Okay. Sales pitch done. Again, meal kits like this have a limited audience. They are not made for every family. But for a couple where both spouses are working, exhausted, overwhelmed, and stressed out, but still want to cook and eat good food (or like us, where one spouse is totally sane and the other is day-drinking), they’re a gift from God.

If anyone wants to try Blue Apron, I have five free meals that need giving away. (They send these offers to all their customers, so nothing special). Just let me know in the com-box, and I’ll send you an email with the offer. For the rest of you, check out my new staircase!

The original plan had us reopening the wall above it it and turning it back to its original position, but then we discovered the HVAC attack. Plus, opening it would mean losing heat in the (hopefully someday nursery). So, we did this instead. Regardless,  I love it! Mike still needs to build the benches, add the fancy trim, and refinish the treads, then I need to paint and stain. BUT…it actually looks like it belongs in the house now. Baby steps!

28 thoughts on “Dining In the Time of Dry Wall Dust

  1. Rita M says:

    Hi, Emily. We did a kitchen remodel several years back. Lived off of toaster microwave food fixed in the bedroom. Not as challenging as you. Wish I would have had Blue Apron. I would give it a try if you have one of those free meals available. Hang in there and Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

  2. Amada Beatriz says:

    Newly matried couple over here! Both go to rad school (my husband full time, I part time) and work full time. So we don’t have enough time to cook and grocery shop! I would love to tru Bule Apron and see if it’s a good fit for us!

      • Amada Beatriz says:

        Thank you! And I will keep you in my prayers.
        Sometimes I think that it’s good if the beginning of marriage is chaotic in order to teach us to “hold on” to the important – indeed, essential – things. Persevere, Emily! Much love.

      • Amada Beatriz says:

        Oh and also (in case you need a bright spot today), I recommended your book These Lovely Bones to a young Catholic married woman with two babies who is currently struggling with anorexia. She’s reading it while she is in a clinic where she’s been hospitalized and has found it immensely helpful. So, a heartfelt and profound THANK YOU is in order!

  3. Sharon says:

    I love your blog and your book! If you’re still looking for a home for any of those free Blue Apron meals, I would love to help you out! God bless you and Chris!

  4. Kathy says:

    I love everything you write and marvel at how you can make chaotic construction or a well orchestrated dinner party equally hilarious, so human and entertaining to read. What an awesome gift…so glad you are sharing it! Construction is surely a test of patience. …but it looks like your home will be so worth the wait ( and grit:)…esp your kitchen!! It was an unlooked for gift to catch sight of one of my very favorite author /bloggers in Rock Island! ( I introduced myself at the coffee shop). Thanks for enriching my inbox …and my mind… with these awesome posts!

    • Emily says:

      Thanks, Kathy! And I’m so glad you introduced yourself in the coffee shop. Maybe we’ll run into you there next time we’re home. My husband tries his best to get us there just about every day we’re in town!

  5. kosegarten says:

    Hi Emily,

    I worked in construction management for a few years. Remodels are so though! Hang in there: 🙂 if love to try Blue Apron if you have some coupons left. Thank you!

  6. Rosemary says:

    Your staircase is looking great! I’m more of an Aldi shopper myself, so it would take circumstances like yours to convince me to splurge on something like Blue Apron, but I’d love to give it a try if you still have invites!

  7. Sheris Catton says:

    Hi Emily. If they have a referral link, I’d be happy to follow yours as I’m going to try Blue Apron out.

  8. Apple Hill Cottage says:

    In this season of your life you have to take beauty when you can get it. And those stairs are gorgeous!
    My foodie son also tried Blue Apron and sheepishly admitted that it made their weeknight meals much easier and more delicious. I have a coupon for Hello Fresh. I wonder if it’s as good….
    Blessings on dry wall dust for it too shall disappear. 😀

  9. Ree Laughlin says:

    Lovely staircase. In the midst of the chaose it stands out like something you could stare at for a long time and blank out for a bit!

  10. Mary B says:

    Hi Emily. I’m in the UK and stumbled across “The Catholic Table” through an article in the Catholic Herald. Absolutely loved it and have recommended it to several friends and cooked from it a number of times of times already as your style of cooking and indeed entertaining is very much similar to my own. (example: my best friend from Canada is currently over, up goes the shout “Whoo hoo, when shall we come?” Result: 12 for dinner last Saturday, 9 on Sunday at least 7 tonight but great, great fun.) however I digress. The roasted tomato pesto with gnocchi, risotto caprese minus the bacon and the cauliflower and gruyere tart have already made Friday appearances round here (Friday abstinence in England and Wales is year round not just Lent) and they went down a storm. I will also get round to cooking some of the meat ones sooner or later!

    Re renovations I sympathise as we have been in our house 25 years and have undergone most of what you are going through at least once although not all at the same time. Due to any number of complications our last kitchen renovation took three months to complete but was well worth it. As yours will be. A helpful tip is to have your builder staying with you! Not only does this mean that there is never any phone call promising “I’ll be round first thing tomorrow morning, honest” but, in addition, if you are, as I was responsible for cooking not just your own evening meal but also his you get a temporary kitchen in the form of a camping stove and a temporary tap ( faucet to you) and sink set up every night amongst the rubble. He also made me a prep area that I could use.

    Otherwise what you describe seems like s good compromise! When the dust has settled – and that literally takes weeks as I also know to my cost – it will be lovely. Keep the photos though by which I mens print them off and put into an album. It’s great to be able to flick through and look back at how you have transformed the chaos and if, please God, you have kids they will be fascinated- as ours are – to see what their house used to look like. Prayers for you in that regard of course.

  11. Laura says:

    Your stairs are just lovely!! I’m so happy for you!!

    I, too, have been loving your blog. When your environment becomes more ‘normal,’ I’d love to hear more about how your manage your wardrobe. I need to transform my closets and my shopping. 🙂
    Best wishes to you and your husband. Wish I lived closer, but I’ll keep ‘stopping by’ the blog.

  12. laura Costello says:

    Hi Emily 🙂 Feels like I am missing am old friend! Miss reading your fabulous blogs – hope everything is ok? With prayers, Laura Perth, Australia

    Sent from my iPhone

  13. Bonnie Matthews says:

    Hi Emily. Just watched your episode of The Journey Home. You have such beautiful insights! I look forward to following your blog and reading your books. The house is going to be beautiful! Thank you for sharing your journey and your humor.

    Bonnie Matthews

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