The case for gal-pal dates, good food stocks and half-sheet pans

Today was as delightful as yesterday was the pits. Indeed, I am now, after thirteen busy hours, sitting on my birthday chaise, in the yard, in shorts, in the evening sunshine, with the paper and a glass of wine, timer set for a lovely dinner for one because T is out. The birds are chattering with each other as loudly as do the boys, flitting about all the while, from branch to branch, tail feathers up, down, up, the head a'cock-cock.

How did I get from there to here? With a little help from my friends, leftovers and my trusty half-sheets!

Let's begin. After dropping the kiddos off this morning, I came home and cleaned while waiting for one of my dearest pals, A, to arrive; we've had a walk-talk date scheduled for a couple weeks, and I was eagerly anticipating a leisurely time with her. Two hours, people! Two unadulterated, uninterrupted hours during which we both exercised and caught up almost completely. This is epic, not least during this psychotically hectic, end-of-school time; 22 days left, but who's counting.

That was swell and then I made a canyon-deep vat of red beans and rice for the faculty appreciation lunch in said 22 days. RB&R freeze beautifully so it's an outstanding dish to make in advance.

During the three-hour simmer that takes the dish from good to great, I planted tomatoes and the bell pepper plants Ol picked out in the hopes of sating his voracious appetite for them. Then to school, back home, and to work prepping for Ol's friend to come over for the "viewing of the desk." Ol has been planning this date for four days, practicing his Sith'iest voice so that he can spin in his new desk chair as his friend ascends the final stair, face him and intone, "I have been expecting you, Young Skywalker."

Things went perfectly according to plan, the three boys killed each other repeatedly with the swim noodle light sabers, Jack finished his homework and went off with the iPad, Ol and his friend did crafts in the basement, and sweet baby Jesus in the skies, friend's mom, M (another dearest pal), and I talked on the deck, largely uninterrupted, for nearly an hour.

Will wonders never cease?!

I made dinner for the boys, accommodated their various bath-time requests (demands?) and rummaged through the fridge in search of disparate elements to cobble into one great whole for my dinner.

Herein lies the immense value of good quality leftovers/food stocks, for I found leek confit, good goat cheese AND some Humboldt Fog, leftover phyllo and Amish bacon. Anyone could make a great dinner out of that array, especially when one also has a good half-sheet pan at the ready.

The humble half-sheet, aka rimmed baking sheet, is a quiet star of my kitchen; surely it is so for many kitchens. I have five: three are the standard half-sheet size; I received one for a wedding shower (thank you, Amy Junge, nee Ong) and the remaining two I was honored to receive from Tom's paternal grandmother's kitchen after she died. The fourth is a quarter-sheet, and the fifth is just smaller than that.

I use them all.the.time. Tonight I slicked the quarter-sheet with a bit of melted butter, patted the sorta-dry phyllo into it in an extremely casual way, brushed more butter on top, poured a little wine (nothing to do with the phyllo or half-sheet, peeps; just for moi), spread all the leftover leek confit in, dotted that with the two cheeses, fried some bacon, put it on top and threw that puppy into a warm oven. At that point I retired to the chaise and snapped the selfie above.

Naturally, J "tried everything but couldn't sleep" and so ended up on the deck with me, eating cereal and milk while I supped on my phyllo tart and tried to read an article about the a-hole Boko Haram kidnapper pricks with one eye at its outermost peripheral vision spot. This, as you might already have surmised, didn't work, so I threw in the towel and talked "great parts of our days" with my honey pie. Other than the design of his kimono in art class, I think he was making everything up as he went, but I had to hand it to his improvisational ability.

Finally, enough was enough, and "really, Jack, it's nearly 8 and most definitely time for bed." As an aside, do you remember the time Christopher Hitchens was on Real Time with Bill Maher (RIP, Hitch, I miss you all the time) and, while addressing and largely dismissing Mos Def, said, "well, Mr. Definitely...." Brilliant take down even though I like Mos Def.

In any case, I finagled that kid into bed and am now back outside, a half-moon smiling down at me, my quarter-sheet and leftover good leftovers on the counter inside, memories of time with real and dear friends still making me feel full. In the best way.