Meal Plan; 20-24 February – Winter break, NYC sightseeing, and clearing the closets

It’ll be a quiet week with the onset of the February winter break for the schools, except for our daughter in Florida, who will “suffer” with regular trips to the beach with her friends after classes.

I’ve never been great at coordinating days off with kids’ school breaks. Mainly because I’m only focusing on the extended summer and Christmas breaks, and I cannot keep up with all the more minor holidays – not to mention the sudden decision by schools to use winter days if we get the slightest weather warning.

Had we stayed in Europe, I’m confident we would have been better at taking days off, as everybody seems to observe various school holidays better in Europe.

In the US, we are more focused on working all the time because people do not get as many vacation days as we do in Europe. It baffles me that some companies only offer five days of vacation; in Europe, it is a minimum of 4-5 weeks. Granted, unions are much more prevalent in all areas of industries, so you have better protection from treating workers as a commodity, aka modern slavery.

The Winter Break Mystery

So, why do we close schools for a whole week in February?

The winter break always falls on the week of President’s Day when most offices and public offices are closed. But, back in the mid/late 70s, most of the world was hit by an energy crisis, and Jimmy Carter urged people to turn down the temperatures in their homes and put on an extra layer of clothes instead. We had to do our bit to help.

Due to the shortage of gas, many states in the Northern parts of the Globe instituted full school closures during President’s week to help save gas. NY state closed the schools for two weeks back in 1977.

February typically also sees the regular visit of the deep winter storms called NorthEastern, bringing subzero degrees and feet of snow to that part of the country.

For some families, especially during the economic challenges we are going through lately, taking days off to be with your kids can be challenging. We must put food on the table, and staying home is not an option, but it is also complicating things when some families will have to pay for childcare to work.

My wife lost her job in December to ‘restructuring’ and new strategic planning, so we also must be extra mindful of our money. Thankfully I get paid time off (PTO), so I will spend Wednesday-Friday with the family.

Winter Break = Family Time

I would be lying if I said kids hated breaks. Imagine being off school, having no homework, no afterschool activities, a nicely heated house, and access to movies and an Xbox. They love it!

I want to take some time to clear out the house and get some home projects closed out. As any parent would agree, doing stuff around the house is difficult when we only have weeknights and weekends.

We are kicking off Winter break with a few housebound activities, but we will certainly attempt to do some cool stuff with the kids. For example, I might take them to the cinema while the missus attends training classes and interviews.

Belated Valentines Date Night

I was so lucky to get private suite tickets for the Carrie Underwood concert in Newark this past Saturday evening. So, I took my wife on a belated Valentine’s date night with free food and drinks and an incredible show.

Carrie Underwood is an excellent performer and entertainer. She has a beautiful and powerful voice and many catchy songs. She changed her wardrobe 7-8 times during the show, played the guitar, was hoisted across the audience (twice), and played a fantastic drum solo. The show lasted for almost two hours non-stop.

I’m usually a rock and metal guy, but this was a great experience, and I highly recommend an excellent kick-ass country concert with Carrie Underwood.

Tourist in NYC

During the week, we are heading to the Big Apple for a full day and will attempt to pack the schedule with museums, walking, lunches, and other sights. A lot of walking is on the agenda, and hopefully, the weather behaves.

I really want to see the 9-11 museum. We visited the sites some years ago before the museum opened, and seeing the place was powerful and emotional. The water feature and thousands of names made it very real. Friends have told us that the museum is a harsh reality and very well done, and I strongly believe that our kids and we need to be reminded about the horrors that happened. It is our responsibility as parents to educate kids about evil and work on preventing similar attacks in the future.

We are debating whether to visit the Jewish Heritage Museum in Battery Park. It is another historical reminder and might be too much for the kids. Failing that, we will visit the Intrepid Museum and look at aircraft.

There are plenty of cool places to have lunch, and we might swing by Katz deli and the Jewish quarter for some great Knish and experience some other lovely food and culture.

Around the House

Our 12-year-old daughter has been begging me to teach me how to play games on the Xbox. I’ve spent my share of gaming hours playing Half-Life, Counterstrike, and Command & Conquer, and I can rack up a severe amount of kills, BUT on the PC with a keyboard. I struggle to get the hang of it when I use a controller and end up spinning around, doing all kinds of strange moves, and getting killed within a few seconds. So, game on, suckers!

However, I still want to get some DIY projects started and finished. I have some grand ideas for stuff I want to build: an office desk for my wife’s home office, the family room workbench, a chicken coop, pantry shelving unit in the basement – to mention a few.

And then, I need to clean up and re-organize my garage workshop and clear out all the old clothes, toys, and other stuff we no longer use. Whoever said owning a house would be simple is an idiot! In addition, I want to sort out the family room and perhaps switch the dining and TV room around to get better use of the pellet stove.

Short and Easy Week!

Lunches this week will be made on the fly. We have some bread in the freezer, and I bought some spreads from the deli.

However, for dinners, I still want to prepare some lovely meals. So, I went grocery shopping and prepared several meals for the upcoming week. Just because Im off doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy some relaxing evenings.

Surprise, surprise, chicken is on the menu again this week, but this time an Italian-inspired dish – at least the recipe’s name looks Italian.

Since the weather is a little cold, we will have two classic dishes; meatballs stew and a traditional bangers & mash.

We also need to appreciate our pork friends, which means we will whip up a few pork loin chops, making them nice and crunchy, and with rice on the side.

Lunch & Dinner

MondayChicken Scarpariello with garlic pasta
TuesdayMeatball stew
WednesdayCrunchy honey garlic pork chops with yellow rice
ThursdayBangers & Mash
FridaySurprise Traeger Dinner

One day, I might get so organized that I will link the meals below to my recipes. We can only live in hope!

Have a fantastic week, my friends. I hope you enjoy these meal plans. It is much easier to make food in advance, although you must invest several hours preparing meals during the weekend.

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