New Year’s Eve–Family Style!

ny eve

Since having my first child almost nine years ago, I haven’t had much desire to stay up till midnight.  I’ve been awake at midnight, of course, many times–but rarely for, uh, “partying” purposes.

It took Mike and me a few years to realize that with a little creativity, the fun of welcoming the new year could still be enjoyed by people who like to collapse into bed long before the Cinderella lost her slipper…

Five years ago we hosted a New Year’s Eve countdown party–and counted down with Brazil.  Why?  Because when it’s midnight in Brazil it’s 7:00 pm in California!  We invited some other friends and family–many with young children and babies like us–to a pot-luck soup and sandwich party.   None of us was in a stage of life where we wanted to throw a big party single-handedly, but together we could combine efforts and put on quite a spread.

That year we decorated our house with Brazilian flags and colors. Then, at 7:00 pm local time we all gathered together and counted down to “midnight” (thanks to the help of our computer) when we cheered, kissed and blew our blowers and yelled “Feliz Ano Novo!” in Portuguese of course!  And then, thanks to our Brazilian time-line, everyone got to bed before the kids (and adults!) turned into pumpkins.

By the third year we’d moved to Puerto Rico, which celebrates at 8:00 local time.  Puerto Rican flags and colors adorned our home as we all cheered “Feliz Ano Nuevo” in Spanish together.

I had thought that by this year we’d be celebrating with New York, which is 9:00 pm locally.  Only problem is that our list of guests has grown so darn much that we actually had to move the celebrating further east–with England at 4:00 pm local time!–so we can be outside and enjoy the December Pasadena-day-time weather which should be in the low sixties  (please, please, please!) this afternoon.  The nights turn chilly and unfortunately I cannot fit 60+ people (including roughly 40 kids) inside my house for very long!

It is Monday, December 31st, 2012 and soon my stove top and counter will be a gorgeous pot-luck buffet of fabuloso homemade soups which we will sample and sip until our hearts and bellies are full.  I sincerely hope our afternoon indoor/outdoor gig works out so we can invite even more friends next time.

By the time many Californian’s will be ringing in the new year, my family and many friends will already be dreaming of confetti, blow horns and hangovers, and the very-awesome-and-just-a-bit-ahead-of schedule New Year’s Eve party we all celebrated together!


I Found My Thrill


Basically, the beauty of a batch of buttermilk-blueberry pancakes is breathtaking.  Buttermilk-blueberry pancakes are the bomb, and by quadrupling the recipe I’ve become the bountiful bearer of these bursting beauties for the rest of the week!  From, Berkley to Bogota to Belgium, I betcha ya’ can’t find a better batter for buttermilk cakes than the one you may behold on my recipe page, because it’s the best!

(FYI: I used frozen organic blueberries which I defrosted in the fridge overnight.  I let them sit out in a bowl for 1/2 hour to bring to room temp so the pancakes cook well around them.  If the berries are too cold it can make the cakes doughy)

First to the Curb!

I don’t mean to brag, but before noon today, Dec. 26, my Christmas tree was already hauled to the curb.

I love Christmas, don’t misunderstand.  I just hate looming big ol’ projects; like undecorating the tree and house, carefully wrapping and repacking up the ornaments, lights, and glittery things that have been adorning my home for the past month.

And then there’s the fun of lugging all my green and red storage boxes back upstairs to the storage closet and arranging them all like a Chinese puzzle so everything fits properly for another 11 months.

The same tree that, 3 1/2 weeks ago, was aglow with the fragrant promise of the joy of Christmas, was getting ready to wilt like a bouquet of flowers the week after Mother’s Day.  What can I say?  That’s just not the mood I’m going for today.

The only way I know how to avoid the stress of looming projects, is to tackle them before they loom for too long.  So, as has become my personal (albeit odd) Christmas tradition, I rolled up my sleeves (made my kids roll theirs up too) and  did what had to be done before anyone could say “ex-x-mas!”

So there.  It’s done.  I just ran to the market and while you can tell Christmas is over by the palpable relaxed post-holiday vibe in the air, I looked carefully and saw not a single other Christmas tree on any other curbs.

Mine’s the only one!

Ultimate Friday-night Scrounge

So last Friday night I was in the mood to drink wine and have friends over for dinner.  At this stage in my life, though, “having friends over” can mean quite a crowd.  One girlfriend now comes attached to at least two kiddos and even one of those husbands.  It can be challenging to find the time and money to provide a meal for even smaller gatherings on a regular basis.  But it’s poor form to drink wine alone.
So I called my girlfriend, Lisa, and asked what she had in her fridge.  (I told you I do this.)  She has a three daughters, including a baby so I figured she may have the goods but no time to whip them into din-din.  I was spot-on.  I grabbed (with her permission!) a bunch of great stuff: spinach, onion, carrots, celery.  What a find!  I chopped it all up, threw it in a pan with some mushrooms, dash a wine and tomato sauce, boilin’ pot ‘a pasta, and wah-lah!  Dinner is on its way!
Here’s the really great part: while this is simmering I’m on the phone with my friend Denise who happens to mention that for her family’s dinner she’s defrosting some meatballs she made a while ago…  It was like a sign from heaven.
I turned on the charm and invited Denise’s family and meatballs over to join the dinner party.  Would you believe she even threw together a salad for us all to share?
These friends of mine also happen to be neighbors which is great because when you drink as much wine as we do, it’s nice to be able to walk on home.

Sock Drama

We had some before-school-sock-drama at our place this morning.  And since I fold laundry at the kitchen table (at our house, everything happens in the kitchen,) I’ve decided I can post about it.

Although I’m actually pretty caught up on laundry and although our home is actually in pretty good shape considering how busy this pre-Christmas week has been, a quick sock re-con revealed a total of 14 dirty socks between the two bedrooms of my three kids.  What the what!?

I don’t know if you know this, but the dirty socks must be placed into the dirty clothes bin if they are expected to be laundered.  I guess I forgot to mention this to my 5, 7 and 8 year olds over the course of the past 5, 7 and 8 years.  I caught them up to speed this morning.

Here’s the part that doesn’t add up though: out of 14 socks (an even number!) there were four stand-alones.  Man does that bug me.

I may be a whiz at meal planning and healthy family eating (I am, seriously–you should check out my workshops), but I will never understand how mateless socks seem to breed in my home.

Somebody Stop Me!

I woke up early enough this morning to make French toast for breakfast–which is silly because we still have leftover pancakes.  I guess I’m gettin’ extra fired up about breakfast this week.  I can’t stop!

Besides French toast my family will have some farmer’s market fresh fruit (sliced oranges and pears,) some juice and for mommy: coffee.

My husband and I, both teachers, are pretty level-headed when it comes to indulging our kids.  We don’t have excessive or expensive toys and gadgets, we don’t live large in any way (we can’t: he’s a public school teacher and I’m a homemaker…) 

But I’ll admit it.  When it comes to food, my kids are spoiled. 

Check out the recipe page to see what we’ll be eating soon.  Wish I could invite you over to join us for breakfast this morning!

Good Morning, Sunshine!

OK.  Yes.  Technically it’s raining outside, but it’s going to be a bright and sunny morning in my kitchen as we enjoy some of the super-yum pancakes I made on Sunday.


Is there a better way to start the day that with home-made pancakes?  I doubt it.  But who has time to make pancakes every day?  Not me.  Although I do have time to make a quadruple recipe on a Sunday morning and then eat them all week…

Check out the breakfast section of my recipe page for a few of my family’s fave pancake-ways to start the day.  Whip some of these babies up and you’ll never make pancakes from a box again!

Sunday After

I don’t like quotes about grief or a “silver lining” after terrible things happen.  Some experiences should not be tied up in a neat little bow. 
My mother-heart is broken on a Sunday morning, still thinking about all the mommies who lost babies last Friday in Connecticut.  

I got my hands busy and made pancakes for my three precious gems.  Check out my organized recipe page.  Clever quips tomorrow.

Mostly Kale… most of the time.

My name is Michelle Calva-Despard and I have a fairly healthy obsession with mostly healthy food. I’m not one of those nutrition Nazis who promote only 100% organic, no sugar added, nothing processed ever priced at a small fortune from Whole Foods diets.

I do what I can. I shop organic locally grown produce… most of the time. I feed my family an organic plant-based diet, few low-fat organic meats, push the legumes and whole grains… most of the time.

It’s work but it works–because I have some tricks up my sleeve so that I can hold on to a few scraps of sanity between the strategic shopping, meal planning and tasty-nutritious food prep that I love so much… most of the time.

At my house I’m proud to say I’ve found a way to make sure we eat a well-balanced diet of mostly healthy foods at pretty much every meal. And then… every once in a while Mike and I throw the kids in the car and go out for big ‘ol cheeseburgers, fries and a beer!


There’s something you should know about me before this relationship goes any further. I’m just gonna come clean, I guess…

I, Michelle Calva-Despard, love to scrounge.

Some people get a kick out of restoring old cars or antique furniture. Me? I get a rush out of taking a bunch of “what the heck could you possibly make out of these?” ingredients and creating a masterpiece of a meal. When I go to someone else’s house and get to see what treasures they’ve got in refrigerator drawers and pantry (I know. Seriously. Who does this!?) and then, if they let me cook it up!? Well (insert sigh here,) that’s my weird slice of heaven.

I get this from my maternal grandmother, Millie. Grandma Millie grew up in the Great Depression and although my grandparents literally died millionaires, still wondering of the bottom could fall out again, my grandma dutifully cut open her toothpaste tubes to scrape out the last of the paste before tossing the tubes in the trash.

Honey; that’s “scroungy” like no one’s business. Me combing through a bunch ‘a random food items barely compares with Grandma, but I’m still young. 😉

Making something out of what someone thought was nothing. Man do I love it.