Fast Dinner

by Sky

I’m a poor cook with low standards that probably disqualify me from the Totebag, but I’m trying to improve.

Several nights a week my daughter has practice that ends at dinnertime. I’ve been coping by buying dinner at the restaurant in the same complex, but this is not doing the waistline any favors.

What reasonably healthy dinner can you prepare in 15 minutes or less?

Assume ownership of all kitchen appliances, including an Instant Pot and sous vide, but lots of distraction while cooking and limited toddler palates that aren’t going to eat sriracha :)


150 thoughts on “Fast Dinner

  1. The day before, get a rotisserie chicken and shred the meat.
    Then, that evening make quesadillas with any combination of the chicken, cheese, avocado, black beans, (Trader Joe’s has a ‘cowboy salsa’ that is like crack and great on these), etc. Ready in 10 minutes and easy to customize.

  2. I hit post too soon. For the toddler, I might do just chicken & cheese and serve with a side of sliced apples. For the grown ups, I’d pile the beans & avocado into the quesadillas and then top with the salsa.

    Also – when my kids were little and cooking supper was nearly impossible, I would often make the next night’s dinner the day before and just reheat. So after they went to be around 7, I would then make pasta & meatballs with sauce, and pull together a salad (just don’t dress it), and put it all in the fridge. To reheat pasta just run hottest tap water over it and it tastes like you just cooked it. Put meatballs and sauce on stovetop to reheat, and dress your salad. Also ready in 10 minutes. Adults watching waistlines could do just meatballs/no pasta for their dinners.

    Baked potato bar can be your best friend. Scrub your potatoes that morning, and put them in the oven. Set “delay start” so that they finish cooking as you walk in the door. Top with chopped ham, broccoli, cheese, or maybe some chili you had leftover from another evening, and you’re set.

  3. Buy thin cut chicken breasts. Salt and pepper. Dredge in flour. Heat pan. Add some butter. When it has melted, place chicken in pan. Cook for 3-4 mins. Flip and finish cooking.

    Remove chicken from pan and place on plate. Add squeeze of lemon. Serve as a sauce on the side.

    I usually serve with rice and salad, but the rice will take more than 15 mins. I would probably just bake some potatoes in the microwave make some steamed broccoli or other vegetable.

  4. Another one my kids like is pasta with broccoli and garlic:

    Cook pasta (I usually use linguini) and drain. Defrost package of frozen broccoli in the microwave. Heat olive oil and a little butter in pan. Add broccoli. Season with salt and pepper. Sauté a little. Add pasta. Cook until heated through. Adjust seasoning if necessary. Serve with Parmesan cheese.

  5. I second Lark’s recommendation of cooking ahead. I’ve found chili very easy to make–just use a mix. Very good with chili-mac, over baked potatoes, or straight.

    Shredded barbecue chicken in a crock pot is easy. You can eat it in sandwiches or in quesadillas or over a baked potato.

  6. Pork chops can be cooked really fast, too. Just season with salt/pepper and drizzle with a little olive oil. You can broil, grill or pan cook them. Serve with sweet potatoes cooked in the microwave.

  7. Sous vide?

    Toss some rump steaks in in the AM and then when you get home make a box of couscous and nuke some brocolli or snap peas and then run out and toss the steaks on the grill for 90 seconds a side.

  8. I agree with Lark & quesadillas.

    You can also make them with some tuna and cheese in them, with a quick Lipton rice mix on the side.

    We always have bag salad available. A handful on a plate/in a bowl. Done. And kids can help with that. Dressing/lemon juice/oil & vinegar on the table. Baby or shredded carrots as add ons.

  9. Fish can also be cooked very fast with salt, pepper, a bit of oil and lemon juice. Add steamed broccoli and bread, rice or pasta (if adults are not eating those carbs, then just for the kids). I make large batches of pasta and rice and steamed broccoli for use throughout the week.

    When cooking fish, chicken or pork chops – double it and save the extra for dinner later in the week.

    Add Ketchup or BBQ sauce and the kids will eat darn near anything. My kids still eat frozen peas straight from the freezer. No prep at all.

    Cheese quesadillas are also super quick. Add chopped up avocados – yum!

  10. Quiche! Pre-cook filling (ham/broccoli, spinach/sausage, leftovers–whatever) and store in fridge or freezer. An hour before you need to eat, mix filling with 3 eggs, 1 cup milk, shredded cheese and salt/pepper (if necessary). Bake at 350 in pie shell for 30-45 minutes (until set). Cooking time is over 15 minutes, but once filling is done, you can prep a quiche in 5-10 minutes.

    IME, toddlers love quiche. You can also make omelets and serve with bread/salad.

  11. Kid-friendly taco salad: arrange tortilla chips around the outside of a plate, lettuce on the inside (I use spinach, but they prefer butter lettuce or iceberg) then top with shredded lettuce. Brown about 1/2 lb ground beef, drain, stir in a can of corn and/or black beans, 1/2 cup French dressing and 1/4 cup mild salsa. Serve over the lettuce.

    My favorite option from that age: picnic! Chop a variety of fruit, put out baby carrots and sliced peppers and ranch dip, and crackers with various cheeses and ham or salami or whatever.

  12. This Instant Pot chicken adobo recipe has become popular in my house.


    4 -5 lbs. chicken thighs
    1/2 cup white vinegar
    1/2 cup soy sauce
    4 cloves garlic, crushed
    1 tsp. black peppercorns
    3 bay leaves

    1) Set your Instant Pot to the Poultry setting and add the chicken and all ingredients. You do not have to saute anything.
    2) Close the lid, and cook for 15 minutes.
    3) Serve with white Jasmine rice.

  13. This is a variation on some ideas already mentioned. I fry up ground meat several pounds at a time, usually with onions. Then I freeze it in one pound quantities that I can pull out to make a quick dinner. Three ingredient chili: Combine cooked ground meat with jarred salsa (or Rotel) and chili powder, adding beans if desired. Serve over pre-cooked taco shells or rice. Add a bagged salad. The ground meat can also be used to make sloppy joes using a canned mix.

    I’ve been relying on bagged salad greens more lately, particularly Trader Joe’s options like Power to the Greens, and adding lots more stuff (olives, cheese, edamame, avocado, pomegranate seeds, hard-boiled eggs, sliced fennel, bacon, chicken chunks, mushrooms, tortilla strips, crispy Chinese noodles, etc.) to make them more appetizing and sometimes a complete meal. Also, I’m using more of the refrigerated packaged salad dressings, which are usually better tasting. Some of this is kid-friendly, but of course YMMV.

  14. Ravioli with optional toppings of prosciutto, pear, and avocado.

    Tacos. Spaghetti (brown hamburger in pan, add marinara sauce; cook noodles at same time).

    Pan-seared salmon with port wine sauce. Cook salmon 2 – 3 minutes each side on medium high heat. Then cook in 425 oven for 4 minutes or so). Take salmon out of oven; take salmon out of pan. Put pan back on stove. Add 3/4 cup of Port and 1 tablespoon of raspberry jam. Reduce to syrupy consistency. Add 1 – 2 tablespoons of butter to finish the sauce.

  15. “To reheat pasta just run hottest tap water over it and it tastes like you just cooked it.”

    Interesting, I’ve never heard of this idea. Nice tip, although I probably wouldn’t use it because I have an (probably irrational) aversion to using hot tap water because of lead issues.

  16. Thanks! I will definitely be trying these.

    The children and I eat at 5, and DH gets home sometime between 8-10 pm. If he has time, he gets dinner at the station before he boards, so I never know if he will be eating at home until 8:30 or so, when I’m putting the last kid to bed.

    I’ve tried making one dinner and then serving it as leftovers for a few days, but he doesn’t really like that (understandably). That’s why I got the sous vide, but then I kept wasting meat when he ate before he got on the train….

  17. I think we just have to give up the idea of having restaurant quality food each night/food we particularly desire at that moment and just go for food that is nourishing to eat.

    We do quesadillas a lot, variable and easy if you keep the ingredients in your regular grocery list.

    I also recommend the Indian staple meal (for north Indians, anyway), rajma. This is a bag of red kidney beans, soaked overnight. The next morning, put beans plus soaking water (say 1.5 inches over top of soaked beans) in slow cooker and add whatever spices you want (honestly, doesn’t matter, but Indian ones like garam masala or turmeric, cumin, etc are all fine, plus salt, pepper), and 1 can of chopped tomatoes. By the time you come home it will be nice and thick. Serve with rice. My 9yo son loves this. The good thing is that it is easy to make a ton of it, customize to your taste buds, and freeze portions you can pull out when needed.

  18. Sky, you are at home right? Cook ahead. I am often found cooking a meatloaf at 10 am. It reheats beautifully.

    Also easy – empanadas – buy the Goya shells, fill with ground beef and whatever else you like – pinch shut and keep cool. Cook at 400 for 12 to 14 mins. (my latin friends tell me these are less empanadas than hot pockets but whatever – yummy) These are also easy to customize to personal taste. DH likes mushrooms and peppers. I like some hardboiled egg.

    Finally loving these meatballs – Here’s how I make it quicker. I use meatloaf mix. I use onion powder, garlic powder etc.. instead of chopping (kids actually prefer it with the powdered stuff) After it is all mixed. I just bake for 18 mins on top shelf and broil for 3 just to crisp up. Serve with sauce and or pasta. My kids just eat them straight up.

    With both the empanadas and meatballs – I set aside some for DH so he can have them fresh when he gets home. If he doesn’t eat them. I’ll reheat for lunch or something.

  19. Oh and i do have frozen salmon on hand always. Can defrost in microwave and broil for 12 mins with Cajun seasonings, salad. Perfect no? Quick, yes!

  20. I’m going to try rajma — it sounds like my kind of dish. My family likes the easy Cuban version of Moros y Cristianos (rice and beans) I make, but you could also make it from scratch. Microwave canned black beans with Rotel. Make Vigo (or other brand) of yellow rice. Serve together and add shredded cheese if desired. Include a salad or sliced fresh vegetable.

  21. CostofCollege, glad to hear it! What is Rotel, btw? We love black beans here too.

  22. Rotel is a long-time Texas staple that has become popular throughout parts of the country — tomatoes and green chilies in a can.

  23. Last night I through some chicken sausages in a pan with chopped up sweet potato, onions and red pepper and my kids ate it to varying degrees. It may have taken more like 25 minutes all together but I go with one pot meals when I’m in a rush. I don’t use Blue Apron as a service but their recipes are quite good and you can do prep during nap time and then the cook time is usually only 20 minutes. Soup, chili, etc. made ahead of time works well. Crock pot stuff is fine once in a while (my husband thinks everything in the crock pot is just mushy so I use this tactic every other week on nights we have practice/games, etc). And yes, sous vide would work well (how much more totebaggy can we all get?) and you can make mashed potatoes or rice in the instant pot with roasted veggies cooking in the oven (prepped ahead of time).

  24. Sky, can’t you tell him to text you if he’s picked up dinner at the station?

  25. Lots of good ideas here! We love Indian dishes like rajma and Chana/ Chole for making ahead. I avoid as much canned stuff as possible, so I soak them over the weekend and when they are soaked for about 10 hours, I cook them. You can put it all together in a slow cooker and make a ton. It freezes well. To go with them, we heat naan or rice and I make indian style raita with carrots and cucumbers and plain yogurt. Delicious.

    Also, we always keep chicken dogs in the freezer that we defrost, chop up, and add to pasta. Since we don’t like to eat cold salad at night, I make shredded zucchini, carrot and cabbage mixed mini pancakes, add curry spices, cook partially and freeze individually cling wrap. I put them out in the refrigerator in the morning and cook through in a pan with a bit of oil. Done. Similar to zucchini pancakes, we also make broccoli fritters (recipe on smitten kitchen). For kiddo, I shred organic chicken and make chicken meatballs over the weekend and freeze them.

  26. When we need such a fast dinner, I open cans of Chunky soup, get out bread and deli meat, and let everyone assemble soup and sandwiches

  27. For those who have instant pot, do you like to make chicken in it?
    Also I saw that there is a Bluetooth version of it in the market where you can program more temperature controls. Would it be worth it?

  28. RMS, I’ve tried, but sometimes he does and sometimes he doesn’t. Part of the ride has very spotty reception, as does the station itself.

    I’m waiting for the day when I can just hand everyone a nutritionally balanced pill and call my meal prep duties done….

  29. Another one that is quick and popular in my house: open cans of chickpeas, open cans of tuna, and mix. Dress with olive oil, lemon juice and a little salt. You can serve over lettuce if you like, or on its own. You can jazz up with sliced olives or capers or hetnd or shaved parm or artichoke hearts or cherry tomatoes or anything else that strikes your fancy

  30. Hetnd? I am not even sure what I was trying to type on this infernal pretend keyboard

  31. DH will have dinner late on Mon and Wed due to racquetball league. Sometimes he wants dinner and sometimes not (depending on late lunch, etc.) He just helps himself to the leftovers in the fridge and puts together his own meal.

    My tween will sometimes needs a second dinner at 7:30 or 8pm. We just put together a plate from whatever food is available from the fridge. I’m responsible for getting one dinner on the table–not two or three, depending on schedules or hunger.

  32. We just eat late since no one ever gets home until 6:30 or 7. These days, my oldest never even gets his homework done until 8, so that is now our biggest delayer

  33. When I have 15 minutes, my standards are exceedingly low. Hot dogs/brats/Italian sausage/chicken sausage/kielbasa, Mrs. T’s pierogies, a box of Annies M&C or pasta and butter for the kids, deli, reheated leftovers, etc. If I’m feeling either super-guilty or super-energetic, I’ll cut up strawberries from the fridge.

    My one fast-cook technique came from Jamie Oliver, who had a series called something like 15-minute meals — he had a lot of great ideas there, btw, if you can find it online. He takes parchment paper, and sprinkles a ton of whatever spice mix you’re using over it. He then puts whatever boneless-skinless meat you’re using on top (works great for chicken or pork), tops with more spice mix, and bashes lightly with a rolling pin, bottle, meat tenderizer, whatever — you’re not making a scallopine, but with chicken you want the thick end to be the same thickness as the thin end, and the thinner meat cooks better. The nice thing is that the spices also work as a coating, which means you can saute a boneless skinless chicken breast without it getting hard and dry.

    I find Italian summer staples easy for a quick cook, too. Prosciutto and melon, caprese, adding a jar of pesto from the fridge to some pasta, a deli tray with some dried fruit and raw veggies, etc. I have a great recipe for sweet-and-sour cippoline that keep in the fridge for a couple of weeks and are a great accompaniment; you could also do artichoke hearts, olives, roasted peppers from a jar, etc.

    For veggies, I have gone to the prewashed bagged stuff, which can either steam or stir-fry in a couple of minutes. Second the notion of reheating cooked pasta — I just dunk in boiling water for 30 secs or so. I also like keeping things like (pre-cooked) meatballs or meatloaf in the freezer, too — very easy to make extra on the weekends, and they reheat quickly.

    Finally, I know we talked about this before, but I am a huge fan of keeping special condiments on-hand to turn boring into special. DH likes cheesesteaks — but when I add a slug of Wegman’s truffle paste, it becomes a real treat instead of “no time/energy to cook again.”

  34. My kids are older but love omelettes with fresh spinach, mushrooms, tomatoes and other veggies. If you make one giant omelette just leave one portion free of anything a kid finds objectionable. DS makes a good omelette–they learned how in French class from watching the Julia Child video.

  35. Oh, yeah, BL just reminded me of the benefits of brinner. My favorite translates as “eggs in purgatory” — basically, eggs poached in leftover tomato sauce, topped with parmesan cheese. But pancakes or French toast is always a huge hit, especially with the kids.

  36. My kids strangely all love pot roast, which I can do easily in the crock pot. I’ve also stuck sauce and meatballs in the crock pot on warm so that when I get home I only need to quickly boil water for pasta to get food on the table. I wash & spin a lot of lettuce at a time and keep it in the fridge in ziploc bags for quick salads as sides with most dishes. Then it’s easy baby carrots, cucumbers, some form of cheese, often olives, radishes, snap peas, or whatever else looks good that week. My kids like salad if each separate vegetable/topping is in its own little pile on their plate and they can mix as they wish and dip in dressing. I’ve also done meatloaf at odd hours & reheated for dinner because the kids love it and it doesn’t seem to suffer from the reheating. I usually do at least one pot of soup per week in the crock pot as well. Dinner one night, and usually at one to two days worth of lunches for us. If I throw in quick cornbread or biscuits, my kids consider soup exciting because it comes with the bread.

  37. Starches that realistically can be cooked in 15 minutes: baguettes or rolls that you had in the freezer can be baked; peeled russet or unpeeled red/ yukon gold potatoes can be zapped in a microwave steamer and then mashed; russets can be zapped whole and then finished in a hot oven for baked potatoes; couscous. Pasta — only if you’re cooking it directly in the sauce, and even then really only ravioli or fresh pasta will be ready quickly enough given the time needed to get your sauce thrown together and hot. But ravioli does actually work quite well for this sort of thing.

    Sky, since it sounds like you are actually at home before leaving for practice, assuming you have a rice cooker you could put a pot of rice on ahead of time so it’s cooked and waiting on keep warm when you return.

    Meats that can be cooked in less than 15 minutes — if already thawed, pork chops, lamb chops, steaks, chix thighs or breasts, fish steaks or filets, either pan fried or under the broiler or in a Foreman grill. Even if still frozen, those precooked fancy sausages will come to temperature in a Foreman in less than 15 minutes.

    Beans / eggs — canned beans are the obvious choice for this time frame. As mentioned above, eggs can be poached in a tomato or other chunky veg sauce.

    Veg in less than 15 minutes — use the prepped bagged veg and your microwave steamer. Saute mushrooms and garlic — can fry or poach an egg to have over the pile of mushrooms and call that dinner.

    Meat/veg combos — if you have leftover or pre-made rice available, use the Japanese curry blocks with chicken, beef or other meet and some carrots or other veg of preference. It takes less than 15 minutes to cook if your meat is already thawed. If your meat is frozen it will take a little longer, but still less than 20. You can do the same thing with Indian style curry using those Sukhi’s or Kitchens of India packets.

    Stir-fry, again if the rice is already taken care of. The Lee Kum Kee sauce single-dinner’s-worth pouches are your friend here, and of course you can also turn to bagged prepped vegetables.

  38. A short disquisition on crockpots.

    Many of us oldsters remember when crockpots cooked at a lower temperature than they do now. Someone in corporate decided that all food needed to be way overheated to ward off fears of food poisoning. That’s why lots of crockpot recipes come out crummy with the meat all dried out and stringy.

    My Hamilton Beach crockpot has three settings: High, Low, and Warm. I filled the pot with water and set it to Warm. The water got up to 165 degrees. The manual tells you sternly never to even think about cooking on the Warm setting, but Hamilton Beach is not the boss of me. Food safety is a result of heat x time. You can heat the chicken to 180 degrees for 30 seconds and it will be fine, or 145 for half an hour or so, and it will be fine. So if you hold it at a low temp for a long time it will be fine. See, for example:

    So lately I’ve been cooking stuff in the crockpot Warm setting, and it makes a tasty chicken cacciatore, let me tell you. Next I’m going to try a pot roast.

  39. I wasn’t thinking about your sous vide, Sky. You could put in eggs set to the right temperature for poached and pull them out whenever you’re ready for dinner. For the toddlers that could be poached egg over sauteed spinach, sprinkled with cheese, buttered toast on the side. For you and your husband, you can either do the same, add in an extra like truffle oil or mushrooms, use a different cheese (e.g. raclette instead of mild cheddar), or if you’re ambitious do oeufs en meurette. And if you have eggs unused you could just put them in the fridge for later.

  40. The scales have fallen from my eyes. I’m going to have to try cooking on Keep Warm. Maybe I’ll give it an hour or two of timed cooking on high to get it to temperature, after which it’ll switch to Keep Warm and stay there all day.

  41. Lately I really like picnic dinners (raw veggies, cheese and crackers, maybe some salami). Breakfast for dinner is always a huge hit, particularly if I give them the option of blueberry pancakes instead of regular (I only ever make plain ones in the morning since I don’t like blueberry ones). I also recently got some flavored pork tenderloin medallions from Costco that were v good (on the grill on the stove) and we had those with the pre-cut stir-fry veggies from Wegman’s. Beware of Costco’s premade stuff though, some is fine and some (pulled pork, lasagna) are too sweet/cheesy/blech for us.

  42. RMS, that’s interesting because my new crockpot (electronic) cooks at a lower temperature than my old crockpot with a manual handle. I’ve been working on this problem (which may involve a controller for my 40th birthday) and have been planning to write a post.

    Regarding the original question, my kids love beans, rice, shredded cheddar cheese heated and topped with tortilla chip crumbs. (We like Trader Joe’s blue corn tortilla chips.) Several of the above recipes look appealing.

    My kids like these dinner rolls as a side dish/after school snack. They freeze well and reheat in the microwave when dinner is thrown together and are especially good with soup. We consume quite a bit of food and it’s only going to get worse. I bought 2 lb of grape tomatoes at Costco and they were gone before supper.

    Dinner Rolls (in bread machine)
    1 pkg active dry yeast
    1 c milk
    1/4 c sugar
    2 eggs
    1/3 c butter
    1/2 t salt
    3 c white flour (can be unbleached)
    1 1/2 c whole wheat flour

    Combine butter and milk and heat to very warm in microwave. Add salt, eggs, sugar, yeast to bread machine, then the warm butter/milk mixture. Add flours and let machine knead dough. (First rise is optional). After kneading, form dough into golf ball size balls and let rise in warm oven for ~45-60 min. Preheat oven then bake at 350 for 9-10 min.

    Basically, I agree that getting dinner on the table in 15 min means prepping ahead when possible.

  43. Also in the summertime we almost always follow the good old Southern tradition of meat & three. Cold ham slices, sliced tomatoes, deviled eggs, and cheese biscuits make for a great summer dinner – if you use your delay start, your oven will be ready for you and you just throw the biscuits in from the freezer as soon as you get home, and they’ll bake in 15 minutes while you assemble the ham, tomatoes, and eggs. If your kids don’t like tomatoes substitute watermelon.

  44. Another meal we eat a lot of in the summer is tuna pasta salad, made the day before and served cold, with sliced cucumbers and sliced tomatoes. So refreshing to have a cold dinner when it’s hot out. Tortellini pasta salad is another kid friendly one, you can put in whatever your kids will like – broccoli, summer sausage, carrots, make it ahead of time and then dish it up when you walk in the door.

    And shrimp if your kids will eat it – marinate it while you’re gone in lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper, and it takes less than 4 minutes to grill. Or do it on a griddle pan over high heat and it takes less than a minute each side. My rice cooker also has a delay start function, so if you do sliced cold veggies, rice, and grilled shrimp, that can come together very quickly.

    Cold meatloaf sandwiches for dinner are another summer favorite here.

    I find sushi a surprisingly kid-friendly dinner and also wonderfully cold and refreshing in the summer. Something about the saltiness and dipping in sauces that kids love? If there’s a good place near you to pick it up during the day, then that’s all ready for you when you walk in the door.

  45. if you use your delay start, your oven will be ready

    I just can’t get comfortable with the idea of cooking devices running unattended.

  46. Off topic question. Good friend. Kind of parent who is totally laissez faire. Hosts parties for the high schoolers with drinking and such. Never “tattles” on kids. Saw her son “vaping” after he got off the school bus the other day. He’s 14. One of the kids who is a total jerk to my son. Do I tell the mom?

    Arguments not to: She is pretty hands off with her kids, never tells other parents things that other kids are up to, don’t want it to get back to son that it was me who told as it could have negative impact for my son, how bad is vaping anyway, kid is a total jerk – if he wants to vape, vape away.

    Arguments to tell: She is a very good friend to me, I don’t think she’d be pleased with this activity, I would like to know were it my kid, if we don’t look out for each other’s kids then what is the point of a community?

  47. Rhett, I’m with you. Do not like the idea of the oven on when I’m not there.

  48. Rhett – I have a totally mechanical oven so have no concept of the “delay start”. I suppose I could use the “call husband to ask him to turn on the oven” button. ;)

  49. OMG I could not live without that delay start function. Walking through the door with dinner done is so luxurious. I use it in the mornings, too, so that if I’m making something for breakfast that needs to be baked (most common is bacon but sometimes scones or biscuits), it preheats itself before I even walk into the kitchen.

  50. L, there are mechanical ovens with delay start timers. It’s usually a separate timer that you set.

  51. My issue with the delay start on my oven is what happens if I run late?

    Moxie– I’m not sure on that one. I see why you’re on the fence. In the name of the friendship I’d probably try to mention it in as offhand and low-judging as possible. (I actually can’t stand that stuff, but not my battle…) That way she can say, “Oh, I know” and it’s no big deal. Or if she wants to know she can take that up with him? But then I’m not sure what that does for your son.

  52. “I just can’t get comfortable with the idea of cooking devices running unattended.”

    So, when you use the auto-clean cycle you hang around? Usually we start it when we go to bed, like Tuesday past, so we don’t have to listen to the oven run for hours and smell it.

  53. Tulip – yeah I keep hearing my mother saying “Of course you want to do the right thing by that boy, but your job is YOUR son.” Still how can I expect the community to look out for my kids if I don’t do my part?

  54. Off topic – has everyone downloaded the google app? It works best if you use gmail as your primary e-mail.

    It does everything. It sees in your e-mail that you have a flight at 5:15pm then it links up with Waze and then sends you an alert to let you know based on the current traffic patterns when to leave for the airport. If you ask it how to say, Where is the bathroom in German. It says, “Wo ist die Toilette?” If it sees that you’ve ordered something it then in the background checks UPS to let you know that the item is due to arrive today.

  55. So, when you use the auto-clean cycle you hang around?

    FFS are you insane? Self clean! While you’re sleeping?

  56. Rhett– I’ll keep that in mind in 20 years when I contemplate replacing all our appliances again. For now I think I wait.

    And self-clean while sleeping? Ideally I do it on a nice day w/ all the windows open when we’re hanging out back. Realistically I don’t remember the last time I ran self clean on our oven.

  57. Moxie– You think your friends would bring your name into it? If he was at a bus stop he was pretty public, so I don’t know that it would have to come back to you, but truth often snakes out anyway.

  58. Her name would come into it when/if the other mom confronted her son: “I know you’re doing this. Moxiemom saw you vaping!” And other boy, who apparently is already a jerk to Moxie’s son, would blame him.

    IDK, Moxie. If she’s not so close a friend that you’d be bringing up her son’s jerky behavior on the bus, is she really so close a friend that you must report the vaping? And if she’s “cool mom” she may prefer to handwave it away — her son will tell her that he was just [whatever] and how would Moxiemom even know what vaping looks like and she’ll take his word for it.

    And is vaping really a big deal? I mean, as a parent I wouldn’t be thrilled, but I’m also not a sure-kids-come-drink-at-our-house parent. E-cigarettes were originally intended to be the safer alternative to what high school kids In Our Day smoked at a preferred hangout on or near school grounds. The sweet-smelling liquid is a little weird — you walk through someone’s trail of smoke and it smells like cotton candy, huh? — but it beats the good ol’ fashioned cigarette smoke.

  59. Will the google app work like that on the iPhone? I gave up my Android phone years ago, but I inherited a bit of a mess from using Apple devices/laptops with everything google.

  60. Todays your money article from the NYT is a fitting end to this week on The Totebag. Last week’s final day was on brand names. This article describes the perfect “middle class” prosperous anti-consumer couple. Middle class values, thinks they are part of the 99% because they shop outlets and drive Toyotas or similar, but they have three homes and 7 figure wealth.

  61. On the running late – our oven also has a cook time function. So you can tell it, don’t start these potatoes until 5pm, but also stop cooking them at 6pm. Then if you walk through the door at 6:10 or 6:15, no big deal.

    Obviously not useful for things that require very precise baking temperatures and times. But for casseroles and baked or roasted vegetables, it’s genius.

    By the way – I am very late in the day posting this but these days I rarely have a chance to read/post during the day – so hoping maybe this will be seen Monday morning and then I can catch up later – but has anyone been on an Alaskan cruise? Any thoughts or recommendations?

  62. “I just can’t get comfortable with the idea of cooking devices running unattended.”

    Not even a coffee maker on a timer to be done when you wake up?

    We use the timer on our rice cooker about 90% of the time.

  63. Lauren,

    Yes, mine is running on a an iPhone. The key seems to be using Gmail as your email.

  64. RMS, thanks for the post about the slow cookers. It makes me feel better about what I’ve been doing for years. I cook pork roasts in them, on warm, for several hours, or sometimes overnight for a very large roast.

    Enough liquid comes out of the pork to submerge the meat, so they aren’t dry.

  65. Lark, I have nothing to add about the Alaskan cruise, but posting later in the day is fine. Threads then to stay alive at least two days, which allows people in western parts to participate, as well as those who, like you, have limited ability to read or post during the day.

  66. I use my crockpot all the time. It is the one kitchen gadget that really gets a ton of use, so I have a really high end one now. We are going to be making short ribs in it next week – I put in onions, potatoes, and carrots, lots of wine, and bay leaves. At the end, I take out a lot of the liquid and thicken it in a pan with corn starch so it has a nice consistency. It gets served over egg noodles

  67. Potato starch and tapioca starch are also very nice thickeners.

    Lark, it’s not late in the day here. Also, I think this blog has shifted away from being more of a purely work-hours distraction to being something people check in on over the weekend and in the evenings. So don’t hesitate to post in your evening hours!

  68. Lark, regarding Alaska, I’ve traveled twice on the Alaska Marine Highway System, once from Seattle to Skagway and then to Sitka (typical Inside Passage cruise route) and once to Dutch Harbor/Unalaska and back, which is a trip that happens only once/month in the summer. There are cabins available, and I don’t know how they compare to cabins on a cruise ship, but they are a basic cot coming out of the wall. To me, the main advantage of the AMHS is meeting people (lots of birders and some geologists and roustabout types on the Aleutian trip) as well as the chance to stay overnight somewhere and catch the next boat.

    The Inside Passage scenery is beautiful. I think you’d definitely want a window if you went on a cruise ship. The weather is cool and windy/rainy, even in the summer. (We were there in the second half of June/beginning of July both times). Ketchikan has interesting museums and Sitka has museums that talk about when the Russians governed Russia. (It was the Russian capital.)

    I don’t know anything about cruise options, such as food, on-board entertainment, etc. I assume that depends on the cruise line.

  69. Honolulu – thanks for your thoughts. I am not going to say anything. Vape your douchey self away young man!

    Finn – we do have the coffee maker on a timer but the combustibility vs. the oven seems a lot less. Not saying it is a rational fear. Also afraid of fish out of water.

    Lark – we took one several years ago and I cannot recommend it highly enough. Voyage of a lifetime. I get goose bumps just thinking about it! GO!!! Let me know if you want any more specifics – I can be annoyingly detailed about it if you like.

  70. Vape your douchey self away young man!

    It will end up one of his three great passions along with expensive bathing suits and cheating on his wife.

  71. Both my mother and MIL are good cooks. Both take a long time to cook their dishes. When I saw 15 minutes, I totally thought what a shock they would have ! My MIL cooks traditional dishes from scratch which takes hours. My mother reads cookbooks , goes to the grocery store for chef like ingredients and takes pictures of her creations. If she were younger, she would totally have a food blog ! The other day she was looking for a Middle Eastern spice that I had not seen even in the one middle eastern store I’ve gone to. Amongst all this, my new title is home food consultant.

  72. Lark – This is the family version of a cruise (same ship and itinerary) that DH and I took for our honeymoon nine years ago. This is all nature all the time – not everyone’s vacation choice. But an 60 person boat is about all the floating coffin I can handle – I am a bit claustrophobic -, and I was happy to disembark after a week.

    Seeing Alaska, even this little bit, OTOH, was fabulous. Sailing into Glacier Bay reminds me of the opening lines of Evangeline – This is the forest primeval… It is such a national treasure that this has been set aside almost untouched, and I recognized my privilege to have the time and money to see it with my own eyes.

    The other options are traveling the actual ferries like WCE suggested, or any one of many large cruise ships. IIRC, you have two very active boys, but perhaps age has mellowed them. I think that you might prefer the large ship with many activities and lots of space (and depending on the ship, there may be children’s activities for their age so that you all get some time alone).

  73. Moxie: Don’t tell. No benefit to anyone (mom will probably blow it off) and a heavy penalty for your son.

  74. Lark: I’m curious about an Alaskan cruise, too. The main feedback that I got is that it’s not as fun for the kids as a Caribbean cruise and there are a lot of old people. I’ve also heard that the excursions are crazy expensive.

    When DH and I went to Alaska (pre-kids), we flew in, rented a car, and drove around. We took a day cruise in a few of the major fjords and had a ball. If you go in July, the salmon are usually running, so be sure to go fishing! This is probably what we’ll do if we decide to visit Alaska again with the kids.

  75. Meme: What a perfect Totebag article. I can imagine DH and myself acting the same way. We refuse to darn socks, though I have been known to reuse the occasional Ziploc bag.

  76. Moxie– My on the fence self now agrees with Houston & Honolulu (& you) on not telling.

    I’ll join the irrational crew. I don’t like to run the (gas) oven while we aren’t home, but I have zero problems with the (electric) coffee pot, crock pot, or rice cooker. Then again, the gas hot water heater runs in our absence all the time, so my thoughts make little sense.

  77. RMS – Hamilton Beach has been the boss of me, but all that is going to change. Your post has made so much sense to me — I have stopped using the crockpot because everything is over cooked. Times are a changin at our place.

  78. My father did an Alaskan cruise a few years ago and loved it. He had always been into mountain scenery – in his younger days, he was into mountain climbing.

    I am not big on cruises, but I have a hankering to do a boat trip up the Norwegian coast. The photos I see of the fjords are so beautiful. My DH gets seasick though, so it probably won’t happen

  79. I think the secret to using a crockpot is in ingredient choice. Choose the same kinds of meat that you would normally slow-braise in the oven. I honestly do not think chicken works well in a crockpot or a braise. I don’t think any lean meat works well. But short ribs, or pork belly, or picnic shoulder – those are amazing. I also love to do collards in the crockpot along with country smoked jowl or shank bits.

  80. “Why the habits that helped many of these people save millions of dollars persist when they are wealthy is harder to say.”

    No, no, it’s really not. They got rich because they don’t enjoy buying crap. Having more money to buy more crap doesn’t lead you to buy more crap when you don’t enjoy buying crap.

    These are people who take more pleasure in putting money in the bank than they do in spending it. This fundamental personality trait does not change based on the number of zeros to the left of the decimal point.

    I would also completely disagree with the “look at money as a tool” comment. People who use money as a tool change how they use money when they achieve their goal. These people are savers, period; their money has one unchanging purpose. They are no different than spenders — they are using their money in the way that makes them happy; it’s just that their particular choice increases their wealth instead of decreasing it. Forcing them to buy a Jaguar would be like forcing a spender to live on an austerity budget.

  81. I also think there are people who don’t necessarily revel in saving their money, but also don’t revel in buying the fanciest things possible. I dislike car shopping, and don’t care too much about cars in general. If I had an income that let me buy the Jaguar, I would probably still buy a Toyota minivan because a) I don’t want to bother figuring out which Jag is which, or whether a Jaguar is fancier than a Ferrari or whaever, and b) Jaguar doesn’t make a minivan anyway, and a minivan is what we wanted. If I had a bunch of money, I might upgrade my clothing purchases to Eileen Fisher, but I wouldn’t get into high end fashion because I think most of it is butt-ugly, and trying to think about it gives me a headache. The point is, some people with more money might still stick with middle class tastes because that is what they know and like, and they don’t want to bother to learn about higher end options.

  82. I wouldn’t get into high end fashion because I think most of it is butt-ugly, and trying to think about it gives me a headache

    I am shocked, shocked to hear this about you.

  83. “Also afraid of fish out of water.”

    So you only have fish in soup? No raw fish sushi?

  84. “I don’t think any lean meat works well. But short ribs, or pork belly, or picnic shoulder – those are amazing.”

    I agree. Chicken doesn’t work well in a slow cooker, at least for me, unless there’s other liquids in there with it. I mostly cook pork shoulder or butt, both of which are pretty fatty, which allows me to cook them until they fall apart without getting dry.

  85. Well put, LfB.

    Beyond that, some savers (e.g., me) put a higher value on the security that money in the bank (or equivalent) buys, relative to spending, than spenders do. Spenders derive more satisfaction and/or pleasure from spending, and savers derive more satisfaction/pleasure from saving.

  86. SBJ…wow, that was trip down memory lane. Forgot how much I loved Haiku. And thank you for the link to your Disney cruise review. Yes, that’s what I’m hoping we can do, and I’m hoping we can convince the grandparents and maybe other extended family to come. It seems like such a good multi-generational trip. I think my main hesitation is the cabins – could the 4 of us really cram into one small cabin for 7 nights without killing each other?

  87. Or maybe it’s possible to get adjoining cabins? The DCL website is actually not that easy to navigate, but I hesitate to get a travel agent involved until I’m really ready to pull the trigger.

  88. Lark, I think that on any family vacation, there’s much to be said for mom and dad having at least some nights in a kid-free bedroom with a door that shuts.

  89. SBJ — We’re not contemplating an Alaska trip any time soon, but I loved re-reading those Haikus. So interesting to see how life has changed for some of us since 2011!

  90. Related to the topic earlier this week – just met a man who has had a career in photography, and is currently the photographer for a univeristy. Probably not a glamorous job with lots of artistic freedom, but a steady job during daylight hours (that is covering tuition for a college aged child), great benefits, etc. When people think there are no art jobs, do they think about jobs like this?

  91. Lark,

    For Alaska/Disney & Panama/HAL we got adjoining cabins with DS. That was the best, but expensive. The opening between the cabins has doors that shut from both sides. One night in Alaska, the boat rocked enough to close the door from DS’s side. I realized that I didn’t have the keycard to get into his cabin, so I had to call security late at night to let me in. Luckily DS stayed asleep, so there was no problem. For Caribbean/HAL, the three of us shared a cabin. DH & I had the main bed, and he had a bed that if IRC was slightly smaller than a twin. I don’t know how 4 would have worked in that cabin.

    My parents, brother, SIL, their two girls, DH, DS and I have done a couple of trips together – the Alaska cruise & Waikiki for my parent’s 50th wedding anniversary. The cruise had a better dynamic. My parents spend 2-3 weeks a year in Waikiki, and our family tries to spend a week a year too. (HM & Finn – DS convinced us we need to go with him this time, so we’ll be back there in August.) Each family has a routine of things they like to do and restaurants that they have to visit, and they are different. In Waikiki there were choices, and it was hard not to be a little disappointed if you didn’t get your choice. On a cruise, there are less choices, so there was less of an expectation gap. In both cases our MO is that families can do their own thing during the day but we always meet up for dinner. For that trip in Waikiki there were a few additional events that were required, so that may have also altered the dynamic.

  92. Lark, My parents took the whole family on a Royal Caribbean Alaska cruise 2 years ago. I reviewed it on here but can’t find it right now on my phone. We loved it, and I was already a big fan of RC. If I were to do it again, I’d give myself 2 weeks – either a longer cruise or time on each end to adjust to the time change. It is a LONG way from east coast!

  93. My range has an electric igniter but if you want to, you can turn the burners on without it, and you can heat up the oven igniter with a long lighter/flame to turn on the heat element. It has no self-clean or timing devices or anything like that.

  94. For an easy meal: Salsa Chicken – 1 package chicken thighs, breasts, tenderloins (whatever on sale) + 1 jar salsa (whichever you want, cheap salsa is OK, too). Shred the chicken and you have meat for tacos, quesadillas, burritos, to put on salad, or to eat with rice/polenta. Easy, cheap, and healthy.

    My family did an Alaskan cruise 10 years ago. We went on the early side – mid-May. I wouldn’t recommend that. Temperature was fine, but the wildflowers, salmon, and bears were not out yet, so not alot of action. Saw lots of Bald Eagles. Because it was early, we did get to go in the national park, though (Glacier Nat’l Park?) for a day.

  95. Lark, you should consider adding in a Denali visit with your cruise. You can do this as an add-on with the cruise (which I did with my mom) or doing it independently (which I’ve done with my husband). The cruisetour version just gives you a superficial look into Denali while doing it independently allows you to customize but both versions give you the lovely train ride from Anchorage to Denali and the beauty and majesty of Denali. I prefer the independent route but the cruisetour was the right choice when I was traveling with my mom. Let me know if you want more info.

  96. “MO is that families can do their own thing during the day but we always meet up for dinner”

    We went on our Disney cruise with extended family and this was our MO, too. It worked very well. We did some excursions as a group and split up for some.

  97. “It will end up one of his three great passions along with expensive bathing suits and cheating on his wife.” Hilarious Rhett!

    We took Holland America for our cruise. Kids were 5 and 7. Went with the whole family. They did have a kids club but we didn’t use it much. The kids were mostly with us. They were able to do all the excursions with us. Even when my mother in law decided she didn’t want to watch the kids while we went rock climbing, they just came with us and sat at the bottom while we did it. But they went rafting, to all the dog sled stuff, to the glacier, whale watching etc… I liked that the Holland ships were smaller. Yes there were a lot of older people but really this trip was for the family, NOT for the kids. That’s why I wouldn’t take a Disney trip. Too many kids. When we went to Disney it was for the children. We all went to Alaska and it wasn’t just about them. Guess what kids? The neat thing is that you get to go to Alaska! We went on the cruise to see Alaska, not to see the shows and such. We took advantage of EVERY excursion we could and frankly in the evenings we were so spent we would have dinner and go to bed pretty quickly thereafter usually because we had an excursion at 7 the next morning. I can see all those silly shows and such at home. I’m sure some will think I’m no fun.

    2 things I wish we had done differently: Arrived a few days early so we could spend a few days in and around Vancouver. So beautiful! #2 – arranged to spend a little more time in Denali – so amazing!

  98. I think you have gotten a lot of good advice on the meal planning issue. Note that some people are the plan ahead, but may take longer to cook and others are the throw it together in a few minutes. I am the former and my DP is the latter. It makes for some interesting times in the kitchen. When the kids were smaller (ate less), I was able to make a big batch and then freeze the other half. I always froze in “single serving” size as it make toddler likes, such as spagetti, a quick frozen dinner and we might have salads with tuna or cottage cheese. When I am the one cooking, I often make casseroles ahead, but not the final cook of it and then heat at dinner time(s). I have a steamer and some casseroles heat up better that way (or microwave steamer) rather than plain microwave to keep from drying out.

  99. Adjoining cabins would make all the difference. Great to know. One more question – a friend told me today she heard you have to book a full year out or the cruise will get sold out. We can’t book until Sept. at the earliest – have to wait until plans for summer sleep-away camp are finalized. For those who have been on Disney cruises, was that your experience? We would be attempting to book for either July or August.

    I would love more info on Denali and/or Vancouver.

  100. We went on the Disney cruise during Christmas, and booked in Aug/Sept. There is a risk of the cheaper cabins selling out, but it was not really a problem. There are so many options for an Alaskan cruise that I think you’ll be ok. Also, you have more flexibility in the summer to shift your dates.

    We went through an excellent travel agent, but you can also go through Costco Travel. The price is pretty much the same, but you get Costco credit as a bonus for booking.

    I posted previously about our Disney cruise experience, but to sum it up: very expensive, but very well done. Worth every penny. Our kids were past “peak Disney age”–they were 14 and 10 when we went on the cruise, but they had a blast.

    Another tip–Disney does not mind if you bring your own wine (within reason), as long as you pack it in your carry on bags.

  101. More Tips: 1) Bring Dramamine. The water was rough pulling out of the port, and we needed it for DS2. The boat, even though it was huge, was definitely rolling with the waves. After we got out to sea, everything was fine.

    2) If you want a massage or any type of spa service on the ship, book it early.

    3) Pay attention to what level your room is on. We got a room on the same floor as the kids club and movie theater and it proved to be very convenient. Upper levels are better than lower levels.

    4) There are washers and driers on ship–just bring a few laundry detergent pods in a Ziploc and you’ll be good to go. Important for wet swimsuits, etc.

    5) The rooms are surprisingly comfortable and there was plenty of storage. We felt that one room for the 4 of us was fine. There is a curtain that separates the parents’ larger bed from the kids’ bunk beds. If we wanted some alone time, we just went to the room during the day (when the kids were at their activities) and locked the door.

    6) My only complaint is that the food is mediocre and the dinners are so. damned. long. They make dinner a production, which is great, but we were often at the dinner table for almost 2 hours. I ended up skipping a few dinners and nabbing a slice of pizza. Surprisingly, we enjoyed the food on Carnival (a much cheaper cruise) much better.

  102. Acquaintance who is a real blowhard about immigrants coming here for “free stuff” and how people on public assistance should have to take drug tests and/or scrub toilets for their money is in the median of the busy intersection by Target panhandling for money with his son’s Little League team to go to whatever tournament. Is it okay for me to throw things at him from my car? (To be clear, he can hold whatever political opinions he wants, although I don’t necessarily want to hear them. I just object to his hypocrisy re: wanting “free stuff”)

  103. MooshiMooshi – what cockpit do you have? Would you recommend it? I need a new one.

  104. MBT, you mean they’re not even selling anything? Just asking for money?

  105. You could roll down your window and yell, “Get a job, you leech!” Or if you stay anonymous, next time he gets going, pretend to agree but slightly misunderstand him and go off on a rant about people asking for money for nothing, like kids who instead of washing cars or holding a bake sale have their parents just begging for money in the middle of a busy intersection! Terrible how all these freeloaders expect hard-working Americans to support them instead of working to fund their own tournaments and trips, etc.

  106. I wouldn’t leave the house or sleep while the self cleaning feature was on, as this nearly burned our house down one night when I was a kid. The oven I have now doesn’t even have this feature, so it is not very clean! I’ve done the best I can with oven cleaner but I did not keep up with the yucky stuff in the oven, so I don’t know that I will ever get it completely clean.

    SBJ – I haven’t seen you post in a while; it is nice to hear from another Californian!

  107. We booked a Disney cruise at the end of Feb for late May. We didn’t have many choices in the room class that we wanted to book, but we were still able to get the type of room that we wanted for the cruise. There seem to be A LOT of repeat Disney cruisers and they do get priority for the rooms. Some people will book as early as possible, but the ships are so large that there will be rooms. You might just have to be flexible about the floor level or location on the floor.

    We used Small World vacations and it was easy to use a travel agent because I found that prices were identical to booking directly with Disney, but we received an onboard credit to use during the cruise. Also, I had to move the trip date and it was so easy to have an agent do all of the changes for us.

  108. Which cockpit? Um, let me check my airplane… :-)
    I imagine that your post was autocorrected and you mean crockpot? This is the one I have:

    It also sautes, which is useful for me because I can brown things without dirtying up a second pan, and browning is a pretty crucial step for making crockpot recipes come out nice. I haven’t use the steam function

  109. Oh so craving a vacation…but, not one in sight for a while. I am living vicariously through your posts and salavating. Between all the arrangement for my dad, trying to get my mom back on an even keel, getting kids to summer activities and working part-time with a doable, but looming June 30 deadline. I’m feeling a bit wiped out. Working with a friend to see about “elder sitting” for a weekend so I can just go to a holel and be alone for 48 hours.

  110. AustinMom – I hope you can make that work.

    Our oven is about two years old and had a fan that is on the whole time the oven is on. I find it annoying, but am told it is standard on all wall ovens now, in case you leave and forget to turn it off or use the time bake and don’t come home, so you don’t burn the place down.

    HM – that’s a great idea. Should have taken a pic of him I could have posted to go with his rants about all those awful people looking for something for nothin’.

  111. ssk – I’ve been posting very infrequently under a different handle, but it didn’t make sense to use that handle to reference one of my SBJ postings.

    Another Alaska Cruise tip – pack your kid’s swimsuits in your carry-on bags. They will want to go swimming in the Vancouver warmth before the ship sails, and that way you don’t have to wait for your bags to be delivered to your stateroom.

    I think we went the first summer that Disney did Alaska, so they didn’t have access to Glacier Bay. We saw another glacier, which was very cool (and extremely cold), but if you are set on going to Glacier Bay carefully check the cruise ship’s itinerary.

  112. Is anyone else here completely underwhelmed by glaciers? I saw my first glacier and thought, “That looks like a larger version of the early March snow pile in a Walmart parking lot.” Maybe it’s just my background…

  113. Is anyone else here completely underwhelmed by glaciers?

    Rumor has it that Boston’s snow banks won’t finally melt till September. If it somehow lasts two more months then snow may fall on the previous years snow… That’s a glacier.

  114. I had a post on Alaska vanish yesterday, in which I waxed lyrical about the natural wonders of such a trip. But it wasn’t the glaciers that most impressed me, but the forest primeval as one enters Glacier Bay. It is such a wonder that politics and circumstance came together to set aside such a large area entirely undeveloped – more or less as it appeared to the first humans who paddled into that bay tens of thousands of years ago. It also made me mindful that although the parks belong to all of the people of the United States, they can only be visited by the privileged or by the hardy souls who make the long journey along with the mail and commercial traffic. As for glaciers being something like large ice piles on a parking lot, I confess that the receding ones at Glacier National Park in Montana bear some resemblance to our local leftovers. But I recall approaching an Alaskan glacier that towered over our smaller (70 guest) exploration vessel – one that can get fairly close (as opposed to a large cruise ship), seeing the blue ice and the sharp cliffs, and hearing the crack that announces that the glacier is about to “calve” and drop a possibly very large chunk not all that far away from our floating home that suddenly feels like a rowboat in comparison.

    But since we are going to Iceland and Greenland this year, and likely Patagonia next year, we obviously like glaciers.

  115. I remember tent camping on Gold Beach in Nome, which is along the Bering Sea, on the summer solstice. Crazy has a lot to be said for it.

  116. I need more money because now I want to take an Alaskan cruise! Great reviews everyone.

  117. Austin – if it makes you feel better we aren’t going anywhere this summer either. Big thing at work for DH. I will be making liberal use of our local parks and trails. 48 hours at a Doubletree sounds like heaven to me too! Good luck.

  118. I have never seen the Alaska glaciers, but as a kid I saw the glaciers in the Cascades and was duly impressed. I even got to walk on them in sneakers!

  119. CoC, have you done the Olympic National Park? We visited a few times, but I mainly remember it as being really, really, realy soggy. Even soggier than the Cascades!

  120. I went to Olympic National park when I went to visit Seattle, Victoria, and other parts of the Northwest/Vancouver. It was beautiful, but very wet.

    I wonder if Kaleberg is still checking in because she knows so much about that part of the country.

  121. Quick question – anyone have strong opinions on company stock purchase plans? I believe the money goes in post tax, stock is bought at 5% discount from market value and must be held one year. The company is blue-chip.

    If one had maxed out tax-deferred savings, is this a good idea?


  122. I would not hold a lot of stock in the company that employes you since your job security and the value of the stock may go down at the same time. That being said, we have 1/4 of a years salary sitting in stock of the wife’s company. This stock was compensation at some point over the past 25 years.

  123. Yeah, I probably wouldn’t choose to hold too much stock in the company that employs me.

    We lucked out during our trip to Olympic National Park since we had very little rain. Hurricane Ridge:

  124. I would participate in an ESPP if I thought the stock was a good one. And I would sell most of it as soon as it was no longer restricted.

  125. The travel section of our newspaper had a feature on seeing Alaska via train. I believe that it goes through some remote areas and you get to see a lot of wildlife. It might make a nice companion to a cruise!

  126. CoC, gorgeous photo. My trip was pre digital photos, so I don’t even know where the photo albums are now.

  127. Anon, how is the discount treated for tax purposes?

    If it is truly a blue chip, I’d buy, then look for the first opportunity to sell at a profit once the holding period ends.

  128. @Anon: How much of your overall portfolio would be company stock? I.e., is part of your 401(k) tied up in company stock (either your own investment or the match)? And how does it fit within your overall asset allocation?

    Generally, I’d be more interested in the quality of the company and where it fits within your overall plan; the rest of the stuff is just around the margins. Yes, a 5% discount is good, but it shouldn’t drive you to something that doesn’t fit with whatever else you’re doing. OTOH, yes, you don’t want to overweight company stock, but having 5% or so of your total portfolio in it won’t generally kill you.

    And then on the third hand, if it induces you to save money that you’d otherwise spend, then I’d call that a good thing period.

  129. “And then on the third hand” says the economist-in-training.

    5% discount isn’t that much. And despite my teasing, I think Laura’s 3rd hand point is most important if applicable.

  130. “I believe that it goes through some remote areas and you get to see a lot of wildlife. It might make a nice companion to a cruise!”

    I looked into the Inside passage cruises + train (to Mt. McKinley). Almost all are separately available but coordinated. i.e. arrive at port, go directly to train. Or vice versa. Assumption being you’re flying either in to or out of Alaska and taking the train + boat only 1 way.

  131. “5% discount isn’t that much”

    I agree. I’d find another investment that will diversify your risk.

  132. Thanks for the stock advice. I think the third-hand is key here-it is money that won’t be missed. It will be a fairly small part of the over all portfolio. Appreciate the insight.

  133. Anon – Did I understand correctly that you can sell the stock after a year? So it’s a decent, quality blue-chip stock. Let’s say it’s trading for $100 a share. This is the opportunity to buy it for $95 a share, and you’re only required to hold it for a year?

    I would definitely take full advantage of that. Yeah, yeah, you’re putting more of your eggs in one basket, but for an extra 5% return, it’s worth the risk. And the most you would ever have to have in this stock would just be one year’s worth of contributions.

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