Thursday, June 22, 2017

Embracing Low Standards

I never buy cereal. Never. Ever.

It's not that I don't like it. In fact, I like it quite a bit. So do my children. It's more that they (and I) will eat great quantities of it and still be hungry an hour later.

What a waste of money. And time, because then I have to make more food for them.

But we have guests arriving today, and I thought possibly I should have something in the kitchen that could just be opened and eaten without any prior preparation.

(This, by the way, is A.'s fondest and most-unattainable dream: Finding something in the kitchen he can just put in his mouth.)

So I bought some Cheerios.

They've been sitting in the pantry all week, but I remembered them when I realized I had bananas, blueberries, and fresh strawberries we found at an Amish farm yesterday, but sadly no yogurt. What else could I do with those fruits for breakfast?


Hey, kids! Big treat for breakfast this morning! Cheerios with your choice of fruit, WHEE!!!

"YAY!" said Cubby.

" YAY!" said Charlie. "This will be my first time eating Cheerios at home."

I know, son, I know. You can tell your future therapist all about your deprived childhood.

They each had two bowls.

This could be an advertisement for Cheerios, except that I started out by saying they were a waste of money, so I don't think General Mills will be contacting me for an affiliate deal anytime soon.

Speaking of those guests, we're expecting my sister, brother-in-law, and niece. Finding room for three more people to sleep in this two-bedroom house is significantly more difficult than at eight-bedroom Blackrock.

No worries, though. I've got it covered. As long as guests are willing to sleep on the floor of a kids' bedroom with stacked-up bed frames.

Eat your heart out, Pinterest people.

And on a fold-out couch in the downstairs playroom that has no door to shut out the noise of three small children and two adults that wake up way too early.

I will at least clear out a few stuffed animals and a few dozen building pieces. Because I am ever the gracious hostess.

And as long as my kids can manage to all camp out in the laundry room for three nights and actually sleep.

Really, who wouldn't find this relaxing and conducive to deep slumber?

Eh. Sleep's overrated. Bring on the good times, family-style.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

A Journey to Find Roots (and Soda)

My dad discovered shortly after we moved here to the Canadian border that his great-grandfather actually immigrated to the U.S. from a community in Quebec that's only about 40 minutes from our house. We found this a funny coincidence, and A., who is more into family history than I am (probably because he actually knows all of his family history, as his family on both sides has lived in the same place for hundreds of years) wanted to go take a look at the place.

So we went on Saturday.

It was a very spontaneous trip. We didn't even leave until after Jack woke up from his nap at 3 p.m. We did find my ancestral village. It's actually pretty trashy and creepy, and I think A. said it best when he remarked that it was a good thing my ancestors left. We found the cemetery with some gravestones of people with the family name, although I'm not sure exactly how they're related to me.

Charlie is not in this photo because he was sulking in the car after staging a really spectacular post-car-nap meltdown. He didn't miss much.

Up to this point, none of the children had been too impressed with our journey to find our roots. They were bored. And hot. 

So we went to the beach.

With ten square feet of sand and everything.

What we actually did was drive a few minutes to see the St. Lawrence River, and then stumble upon a public park with a small beach. Perfect. A. had mentioned before we left that we might go to the river, so I of course brought extra clothing for the children. Because any time you bring children into close proximity to water, you'd better have extra clothing.

Except I forgot Cubby's, so after we were done at the beach, he had to sit in the car in his T-shirt and underwear while I hung the Classy Flag of Drying Shorts out my car window on our way to a restaurant for dinner.

The restaurant we stopped at was one just on the Canadian side of the border very close to our house that's well known for their French fries. And, of course, poutine. Because that's what French fries are for around here: drowning in cheese curds and gravy.

I myself am not a fan of poutine--why sog up perfectly crispy French fries?--but I am a fan of French fries. Because this was our big day out, I even got a can of soda for everyone. Usually I'm totally Unfun and get the kids water or juice, or, if they're really lucky, one soda to share. Because does a two-year-old need 12 ounces of corn syrup? No. 

But this time they each got their own 7-Up. Based on the excitement this generated, you would have thought they'd won the lottery.

Turns out, it's just that easy to make lasting memories. When I asked the kids what their favorite part of the trip was, they unanimously said the beach and the soda.

Sand + 7-Up=Good times, kid-style.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

What Dad Really Wants for Father's Day

Actually, I have no idea what your dad wants for Father's Day. Not even sure what my own dad wanted for Father's Day.* But I know what A. wanted.

Biscuits: These.

Quality time with his scythe:

Cutting and stacking hay is where it's at for summer fun.

And Mass: Coming right up.

Happy Father's Day to A. He's not like any other dad I know, but he sure does do up this fatherhood gig in his own inimitable style.

Three cheers for Dad!

* What he got? A lame e-card and probably a phone call later. Celebrating in style as always, that's me.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

A Green Kind of Morning

I had to take some drastic harvesting action in the garden this morning. The hot weather we're having has inspired the radishes and arugula to start bolting.

Despite the delightful imagery, bolting does not mean they're dashing madly from their earthbound prison. Instead it means that they send up a flower shoot and simultaneously get disgustingly bitter and inedible.

So. Got to harvest 'em before the bolting.

I had to pull out and throw away several unsalvageable radishes and a few arugula plants, but I was just in time to harvest most of it before inedibility.

So this morning I washed and spun dry a gigantic bowl of arugula, plus a smaller bowl of Bibb and green leaf lettuce for those in the family (ahem, Charlie) who don't care for arugula.

The radish roots were all pickled, and this time I blanched and froze the radish greens. I have found with all kinds of greens that they are definitely a feast or famine situation. It's very easy to get sick of them during their short season, and then miss them terribly when they're no longer available. I've had my fill of radish greens now, but come about October when I'm making my beloved vegetable soup and digging around for ingredients, I will be very happy to find that bag of radish greens in the freezer.

I just finished eating some leftover pasta for lunch into which I dumped the last of the previous batch of cleaned and stored arugula. I suspect the arugula is going to be finding its way into a lot of random things in the coming week. And then whatever is left will probably be blanched and frozen as well, for some yet-to-be-determined purpose.

Definitely no need to drive fifty miles for my five calories of leaves now. Mission accomplished, A.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Achieving Perfection

Today we scored with perfect weather. Perfect. For me, anyway. It's 65 degrees, sunny, high pressure, and a slight breeze. After days of low pressure, unseasonable heat*, clouds, and sometimes high winds on top of all of that, this is bliss.

I realize, however, that perfect weather is a highly subjective thing. My mother--a woman famous for wearing long underwear in Tucson, Arizona--almost certainly does not consider 65 degrees perfect, no matter how sunny it may be.

Which begs the question, my lovelies: What do you consider perfect weather?

* Apparently, 85 degrees is so hot for here that Charlie's T-ball game on Monday was almost canceled for fear the kids would suffer from the heat too much. My Arizona- and Florida-dwelling family members are no doubt rolling their eyes at that at this very moment.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Boy Lessons

It's so nice for Jack that he has two big brothers. I mean, who else would think to teach him to say "diarrhea," and then prompt him to say it again and again until Killjoy Mommy shut that particular hilarious game down.

He said it perfectly the first time, too. He's a natural at this boy stuff, apparently.

Heaven help me.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Radish Wisdom for the Ages

I've never been able to get too excited about radishes. They're something I've always grown. I always plant them in the rows with the carrot seeds, because the radishes are ready way before the carrots, and pulling them out helps to space out the carrots. The efficiency of this appeals to me.

Also, I do like that radishes come up so fast. Radishes and arugula are always the first two things to eat out of my spring garden, which makes them somewhat exciting.

But only somewhat.

I could never really figure out a way to eat large quantities of radishes. I don't eat them straight, because I find them too peppery. They're fine in salad, but there really isn't a lot of lettuce yet when the radishes are ready. And anyway, that only uses up a few radishes.

But this year, I've cracked the radish code.

Pickle them.

Specifically, I pickle them using this recipe, but with about half a teaspoon of salt added. All I have to do is put all the ingredients in a wide-mouth pint jar, shake it up to dissolve the sugar and salt, then add in the sliced radishes. Sometimes I add in very thin carrot or cucumber sticks too. Whatever fills up the jar. Then they just sit for awhile.

The cucumbers and carrots are really good in the brine, but the radishes are excellent. The sugar tames the spiciness of the radishes and makes them taste just like slightly sweet pickles.

Plus, look how pretty. In pink, no less.

I can use the same brine for two batches before it gets too diluted and I need to make fresh brine.

The kids love them, and I really like having some kind of vegetable on hand that they can be counted on to eat every time. You know, for those times when we have a vegetable for dinner that they're really not okay with eating. Like radish greens.

Which brings me to the next discovery.

I was never able to deal satisfactorily with the secondary harvest of the radish tops. I would take off the greens and store them in the refrigerator. Then I would be uninspired to actually wash them and cook them, so they would invariably yellow and get thrown away in a few days.

What a waste.

This is my new plan for radish harvests. When I bring in the radishes, I dump them directly in the sink, all intact, and soak the dirt away. I usually have to drain and refill the sink a few times to get all the dirt off.

Swish, swish, drain, refill. Repeat as needed.

Then I twist off the roots, slice them up, and put them in the jar with the brine. Next, and this is key, I immediately cook the greens in a skillet with olive oil and salt. Sometimes garlic powder. If I don't have time to do this when I come in from harvesting, I'll just leave them in the water until I do have the time. 

It only takes a few minutes, and then I have cooked greens in the refrigerator rather than a bag of dirty leaves. Cooked greens never get a chance to go bad, both because they last longer, and also because they're so easy to throw into stuff--pasta sauce, stir-fry, bacon rice, or just plain with my eggs in the morning--that they get used up quickly.

And there you have it. Pickle the radishes, cook the greens immediately, and I will never again have a problem using up my radish abundance. Hooray.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Return of the Sheep

(I'm hoping at least one of you is close enough to my pop-music generation to start singing that title in your head to the tune of "Return of the Mack.")

A. has been inexorably moving towards getting some sheep for a month now. First he brought his electric net fencing up from Blackrock and used it to make a pen. Then he made a gate for the pen out of trees he cut in the woods. Then he bought some cattle panels to put around the sides of his trailer to make it safe for sheep transport. Then he got his trailer re-registered and inspected.

And then, this morning . . .

They're baa-ck. (Of course that was terrible. You expect anything less from me?)

He went to Vermont to buy five ram lambs. The white ones are a Romney-Texel cross, and the darker ones are a Dorset-Texel cross. (That's for those of you out there who know what those breeds are, and care. I must confess I am not one of those people.)

The sole purpose of these lambs is to eat grass all summer and then feed us all winter. We will not be overwintering animals in this arctic climate. A. originally thought he might sell some of the finished lambs at auction, but now he thinks he's just going to butcher all five of those. By himself, because I will be about 9 months pregnant with Child #4 and in no mood to be dealing with five carcasses.

Though I am not enthused about having sheep around again, I must admit these seem to be quite docile and quiet sheep, in direct contrast to my infamous nemesis, Bonnie the Cotswold. A. also reminded me that I should be thankful he only got rams. No one wants ram lambs around after they outgrow the cute lamb stage. Had he purchased any ewe rams, he would probably have been unable to bring himself to dispatch them in the fall, and then we would be right in the thick of sheep flocks again.

At the moment all five lambs are working away at the overgrown grass in their pen, unwittingly preparing themselves for their ultimate fate. And A. is a happy (if temporary) shepherd once again.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Fringe Laundering

I have mostly come to terms with the fact that A. and I--and by extension, our family as a whole--will never be mainstream. In fact, we've pretty much consciously chosen not to be. I am different. I do different things. I love making cider vinegar or tallow or soap; I love foraging for wild food; I love the sight of laundry on a clothesline. I really dislike television, cell phones, buying things, and anything made of plastic.

So I know I'm not a typical American. But I think in the case of my current laundry habits, I'm not only not mainstream, I'm way on the fringe.

Okay, so I still use a modern washing machine (when I start doing laundry on a wash board, then I'll consider myself really 'round the bend). But you know what I don't use in that washing machine anymore? Laundry soap. Of any kind. Not even the homemade kind that I had been making and using for years.

The reason I stopped using it is because Ruth Goodman told me I didn't have to.

If you don't know who Ruth Goodman is (and I'm guessing most people don't), you can find her all over YouTube, and she's well worth looking up there. She's a British historian who specializes in actually trying out everything she can from every time period that interests her. She makes clothing, goes without bathing (instead using dry brushing daily), uses traditional cleaning methods, and on and on and on.

Her interests seem to be nearly limitless, and her enthusiasm completely endearing. She's been in numerous BBC shows in which she and other historians try building a castle in France, or living and working on an Edwardian farm, or a Tudor monastery farm, or a Victorian farm. Or whatever.

I love Ruth. She's just so charming in her own incredibly enthusiastic way.

She has also written a couple of books, which I have of course read. I think it was in the one about Tudor England where she mentioned that she no longer uses laundry soap on a regular basis, because it's really the agitation of the washing machine that gets dirt out.

Hold up. No soap? Like, at all? I was intrigued.

I have, of course, heard the oft-repeated advice to use less laundry detergent than specified by manufacturers. And the water here at our house now is very hard, which tends to lead to detergent build-up on clothes anyway. There was also the point that if I wasn't using it, I didn't need to make it.

So I stopped using it. I didn't tell A. at first, because I knew he would be skeptical and I wanted to try it first to see if it worked.

It did.

Now, this does require using more hot water than would be feasible at Blackrock, but we have hot water here. I actually mostly use warm water, but I do use hot for some loads. After a few weeks of never using laundry soap of any kind, I confessed to A. He immediately sniffed his t-shirt and said, "Even my clothes?"

Yup. Even his. Nothing smelled, nothing looked bad, nothing, in fact, seemed wrong with it at all. And that's been my laundry routine now for at least the past six months.

I do have a bottle of some kind of fragrance-free liquid detergent that I occasionally use for greasy kitchen cloths and so on, because grease does require some soap to be lifted off of fabric. I also use a stain-remover for the perennially grass-stained knees of Cubby's baseball pants. But other than that, just water.

This might not work if I had professional clothing to worry about--A.'s court clothes always seemed to have ring around the collar or grease stains on them somewhere--but our dressiest clothing now is khaki pants, so that's not a great concern of mine.

Now, I am well aware that most people are not going to be going laundry-detergent-free anytime soon, which is of course fine. But it's definitely an option. You know, if you want to jump out of the mainstream and into the uncharted waters of fringe laundering. Or something.

Monday, June 5, 2017

They Got Me, But Good

Yesterday I spent about half an hour in the garden. I planted cucumbers, dill, and filet beans, helped Cubby plant his tomato plant and lettuce plant that he brought home from a field trip to a children's museum, did a little bit of weeding, and got DEVOURED by bugs.


After I came in from the garden I went straight to the kitchen to get to work on rooster stew--Ms. Rita comes through with another rooster, hooray!--and so it wasn't until quite a bit later that I went in to the bathroom and caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror.

I had little spots of dried blood all over my chest, neck, and ears. This is the signature of the wretched black fly. It's very disconcerting to inexplicably see blood all over your skin. You don't even feel them biting, so that blood is the first indication of an attack.

The bites don't actually start to itch until the next day, which would be today. And today I have to drive to a city for a 20-week ultrasound*, which means I will be appearing in public with red, scabby welts all over my neck and chest. Too bad it's not winter. Today would be an excellent day for a turtleneck.

Except NOT not too bad it's winter, because it's supposed to rain all day today, and in winter that would mean four hours of driving in the snow.

Then again, if it was winter, I wouldn't be covered in scabby bug bites.


Off I go, bug bites and all like a real northwoods bumpkin, for my big city adventure. Yee haw.

* FYI if you're thinking of going rural: You may have to drive 170 miles round trip to a big medical center for anything other than routine office visits or an ER. At least, I do. Whee.

Friday, June 2, 2017

A Small (and Temporary) Triumph

On Wednesday I decided I'd better get photographic evidence of that rarest of sightings: The completely clean playroom.

You'll probably see a Yeti before you see this again.

Okay, so it's not exactly a Pinterest-staged playroom. You don't see any whimsical alphabet wall hangings or carefully placed and aesthetically pleasing wooden toys. But you know what you also don't see? A confetti of cut paper on the floor, multiple "houses" and "bases" made out of cut and taped-together cardboard, block castles guarded by Storm Trooper action figures, and some straight-up trash. All those bits of tape and paper and random pieces of plastic wrap from when Cubby made a "video game" and . . . I don't even know. I just threw it away.

I did not, however, throw away the cardboard creations. Those  I stashed in the back of their closet so I can't be accused of throwing them away should they suddenly demand the fate of those artistic creations. And if they don't ask? Then I'll throw them away.


I got it all cleaned up and vacuumed and dusted and everything.

Pretty sure Jack's giving a fist pump for Mom here.

Twenty minutes later, Cubby and Charlie got home from school and immediately began to trash the joint again, with Jack's able assistance.

Oh well. At least they're cute.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Earplugs Are the New Bad Pennies

A. has always had a problem keeping track of his earplugs. He uses earplugs a lot, for mowing, chainsaw work, log splitting, and all the other tasks he does that require extremely loud machines.

Earplugs are pretty small and easy to lose, but the main issue was that he never put them away when he was done with them. Instead he would stick them in his pocket, where they would stay until I washed his clothes. Then I would find them in the washing machine* and throw them in a bowl on top of the dryer.

So if he needed earplugs, he would generally look there. But they weren't always there, and then there would be wailing and gnashing of teeth and demands for help locating the earplugs.

It was way fun.

Then one day he went to Home Depot and came home with a package of 80 bright-orange earplugs. Problem solved!

Except . . .

The new problem this has created is that the children are extremely enthused about large quantities of small items. They pilfered at least a few dozen of the earplugs before I stashed them high up where the little monkeys couldn't get to them. And those few dozen turn up EVERYWHERE.

They've been tied to lengths of string, jammed into holes in boxes, taped to various action figures, stuffed into the cockpits of Star Wars ships, and generally scattered hither and yon until I can't go anywhere without seeing a spot of bright-orange and finding an earplug.

This morning when I was picking up the playroom in preparation for vacuuming, I found no less than eight. When I went out to put them in their hiding place in the barn, I found two more in the grass and one in an empty water bottle. There is one sitting just under the edge of the couch right now, mocking me.

I'm maybe beginning to get a little paranoid that the earplugs can move at will and are stalking me.

Eventually I will find them all and hide them away where the small monkey-children can't find them.

Or will I? DUN DUN DUN.

* I don't usually check his pockets before I do laundry, mostly because he's a grown man and I feel I shouldn't have to, but also because his pockets are FILTHY and I am loathe to stick my hands in them. This does occasionally result in me washing things like his wallet and one time, his cell phone. Amazingly, the cell phone was still functional after that, and everything in the wallet dried out just fine.

Monday, May 29, 2017

The Annual Reminder

Before you run off to start your fun Memorial Day plans (mine include fishing en famille--whee), please read this and take your moment.


Sunday, May 28, 2017

The Great Backyard Campout

Yesterday afternoon, after we had returned from a necessary but somewhat boring trip to the small city to drop off A.'s rental car, get some tomato plants*, and buy a lug nut to replace the one that fell off of the Subaru, I suggested to A. that perhaps we should move the kids' tent outside and let them "camp out" on the lawn that night.

A. has been wanting to take them camping, but he knew it would just be a miserable experience because of the bugs. I thought maybe the bugs around the house would be tolerable at least, though I wasn't sure Cubby would be very enthused about faux-camping in the backyard.

Cubby once memorably remarked upon arrival at a state campground in Arizona, "Are you kidding? We're going to camp in this parking lot?"

Go wild or go home, that's Mountain Man Cubby's motto.

But then A. said if he set up the big tent on the lawn and told Cubby they were going to camp out there to get Jack used to the idea of sleeping in a tent, it would probably be okay.

I also added that perhaps we could cook hot dogs in the firepit A. made in the brushy area behind the house. Because every campout needs a fire.

So that's what we did.

A. decided to take his bike to the general store four miles away to get the hot dogs. I asked him to get hot dogs, buns, and chips. He came back with hot dogs, buns . . . and beer.

I couldn't very well send him back to ride another eight miles for chips, even though I was bummed about the no-chips thing. What's a cookout without fun snacks? And fun snacks are in short supply at our house. This was the best I could come up with.

Nori and anchovies just don't scream, "All-American holiday fun." 

At least I managed to scrounge up enough lemons for lemonade and the last of some marshmallows. Add in some pickled carrots, radishes from the garden, and Star Wars plates sent by my mom for Cubby's birthday that I forgot to use in February, and you have one festive cookout.

But not really.


A. got the fire going and cooked some hot dogs.

Just steps away from the garden and a freshly-picked arugula garnish.

Charlie was displeased because the only hot dogs at the general store were the red hot dogs, which are a local variety that are bright red with some kind of scary dye and which Charlie declared unfit for consumption the one time we tried them. Frankly, I agree. So he had ham and cheese in his bun, and I ate a salad.

Then they made some really gross-looking "sandwiches" with roasted marshmallows and more hot dog buns, because we didn't even have the right ingredients for S'mores. And then they finished up some coconut-flour cookies I had made the day before. (These are really good, even though the name of the blog makes me cringe.)

This was obviously the weirdest campout food ever.

They spent the next couple of hours racing around like maniacs, pretending to be raptors.

Tent-dwelling raptors, apparently.

At 8:30 p.m., A. announced that Jack was so tired he was seeing elephants, so they all got ready for bed and got into the tent. I listened to the ensuing tent insanity from the comfort of the house. The last of the shrieking died down by 9:30 p.m. 

At 3:30 a.m., A. came in with Jack, both of them cold from inadequate covers. A. put Jack right into his sleep sack and into his bed and we heard no more from him. Then A. got into bed in the house.

At 4:30 a.m., Cubby came in demanding to know why Daddy wasn't in the tent anymore. Then he said he was cold and got into his bed.

This only proves to me that everyone really prefers his own bed over a sleeping bag in a tent, and I still do not understand why anyone would ever voluntarily sleep in a tent.

But Charlie is still out there. I went out to check on him and found him sound asleep in the tent, with good old dog Mia zonked out in guard-dog position right in front of the tent's entrance.

I expect they'll all be awake shortly, requiring hot baths and a large breakfast and already ready to do it all again.

* Six Juliet plants and six Mortgage Lifters are now in the ground. Hooray for The Tomato Crazy: Northwoods Version!

Friday, May 26, 2017

Bringing the Outside In

It is a great truth that the solution to almost any behavioral problem with my children is to get them outside. Perhaps this is true for all children, but I only have experience with my own, obviously.

That's why when I see all-day rain in the forecast on the first day of a four-day holiday weekend, which is also a day that A. is out of town and therefore unable to provide any distraction, I quail a little inside.

You may recall I have some experience with this particular situation already.

All three boys woke up with all guns blazing this morning, and there was no such thing as cooperative play. It was ugly. After a lot of crying and yelling--not all of it by them--I looked at my watch and noted with some desperation that it was only 8:45 a.m.

So I pushed them all outside. Fortuitously, there was a break in the rain at that exact moment, so it was just a little misty. Not too cold, either. Totally bearable. They disappeared into the barn to get their bikes out and I went into the garden to check on progress and thin some radishes.

They ate the radishes, and then we went for a bike ride. Which really means Cubby and Charlie rode back and forth in front of the house while I pushed Jack along on his tiny bike. It rained most of the time, but as it wasn't 23 degrees below zero with snow and wind, we stayed out. Plus, the rain was keeping the bugs away, which was a great relief.

After about 45 minutes everyone was wet and a little cold, so we came back inside for a change of clothes and some creamy tea. Plus cheese crackers. Of course.

And that was the end of the respite. I had to confiscate all drawing materials due to fighting over said materials. I had to break up brawls over the Tinker Toy pieces. After some peanut butter bread, Jack went down for a nap and I let Cubby and Charlie draw again, which at least kept them quiet while Jack was sleeping.

Then he woke up. And they were all staring at me, ready to jump right back into their sibling rivalries at any second.

What I really wanted them to do was clean up the disgracefully chaotic downstairs living room, which functions as their playroom. But to entice them to do that, I needed an excuse that would require a clear floor space.

Could I build a fort down there? Not very easily--not enough furniture. Plus, forts always collapse when the three of them get to tussling in them, which they always do.

But then I remembered the tent. This was a children's tent that my parents had sent many months ago but that I had never set up before. Mostly because I knew once I set it up, they would never want me to take it down again.

But, you know, desperate times.

They picked up downstairs (hooray for manipulation!). I set up the tent (not without some difficulty--following assembly directions is not my forte) and they all dived into it immediately. Shortly there was a game in progress with Cubby going hunting, Charlie tending the fire, and Jack in charge of campsite protection. It will all go wrong eventually, as it always does, but for now?

Peace reigns.

P.S. Yeah. I was just about to hit "post" on this tale of triumphant distraction when I heard sounds of discord which ended in both Cubby and Charlie saying they hated each other and Cubby declaring he would never play with them again. It's definitely that kind of day.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Everyone Benefits When Mom Feels Guilty

I had a tater tot situation today.

I know. The drama of my life is just exhausting, isn't it?

The situation was this: I had only a small portion of a bag left from the desperation dinner I made when I was sick. There weren't enough left for more than maybe two people. The only time I feed two people is when I make lunch for Jack and me on school days. But cooking the tater tots involves firing up the oven, and I dislike doing that for only one purpose. Especially when that purpose is as frivolous as cooking a small batch of tater tots for lunch.

Therefore, I made these cheese crackers again.

I was reminded of them when I got a note from Charlie's teacher requesting some more snack foods for his class at school, with the helpful information that Goldfish are always a hit. I happened to be at the store the next day, and Goldfish happened to be on sale, so I bought some for Charlie's class. But as I was buying them, I of course couldn't resist reading the ingredients, and . . . yeah. That's worthless food right there.

At that point, I remembered that I made knock-off Goldfish for Cubby that one time. I wasn't sufficiently motivated to make them for Charlie's class*, but it was in the back of my mind that I should make them again, because they are really good and I knew all the kids would be happy.

I didn't have the motivation to do it, however, until I wanted to turn the oven on for the tater tots, but felt I needed a sufficiently virtuous reason to do so.

And that's what brought us to the making of the cheese crackers today.

This time, however, I did not cut them out with any ridiculous small cookie cutter. I am now older and wiser, and really not down with wasting time like that. Instead I just rolled the dough out and cut it into strips with a knife, and then into square-ish pieces. Not real squares, because can you roll out dough with straight sides? I can't.

That doesn't matter in the least, however. Because the way I did it this time meant literally five minutes of prep work before they were in the oven, and they were all delicious regardless of their wonky shapes.

BUT WAIT. We're not done with the guilt (or the baking) yet!

As I was baking the crackers, I thought what a shame it was that A.-the-wheat-intolerant couldn't eat them. But (I continued thinking), he could if I replaced the nominal amount of wheat flour with something else. Like buckwheat flour, which, despite the name, is not a grain at all.

The oven was still hot and the food processor and baking pan hadn't yet been washed, so I made a batch with buckwheat flour.

Those taste like . . . well, like cheese crackers made with buckwheat flour. In my experience, nothing really masks the flavor of buckwheat. I'm not too fond of it myself, but A. likes it, so I suspect he'll like the crackers.

As for me, I really liked my tater tots. Especially because I could eat them without guilt.

* Though I may as well have done it to really cement the reputation I have at the school for being a weird militant hippie homemaker. I suspect it's Cubby's and Charlie's lunches that gave me that rep. Reusable bags, reusable containers, homemade pizza, homemade yogurt, homemade bread, sandwich fillings like leftover lamb and fish cakes . . . Yeah, I can see how that would lead to Cubby's teacher saying to me one time, "I'm guessing you're the sort that had all your kids naturally." 

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Totally Buggin'

I suspect that quoting the movie Clueless like I just did definitely dates me. Seriously? It came out twenty years ago? Damn. And yet, I still love it.

Anyway. Bugs. Yes.

Real bugs, that is. Real bugs EVVVVERYWHERE.

It's an unfortunate screw of the north country that winter is pretty much immediately followed by Bug Season. Capital letters for emphasis.

This is a relatively new thing for me. I know it's a problem in interior Alaska too, where I lived for three years when I was a kid, but I guess because I was a kid I didn't pay any attention to it. Or maybe because we were constantly covered in whatever totally toxic insect repellent was used at the time. Probably just a step away from DDT.

Anyway again.

Arizona obviously doesn't have much of a bug problem, and bugs weren't much of an issue at Blackrock, so this is the first spring in my memory that I've come up against them. And up against them I am.

First there were little gnats that swarmed ceaselessly around our heads at the first baseball/T-ball games of the year. They were annoying, but they didn't bite. I can deal with that. A hat more of less took care of them.

Then the biters showed up. They looked just like the harmless ones--as far as I could tell, anyway--but judging by the welts they caused that linger for days, I expect they're the dreaded black flies.

Still, it's mostly cool enough that I'm covered everywhere except my neck, which is where I currently have three good-sized welts courtesy of the little bastards. But I still haven't used any bug spray.

This definitely puts me in the minority, as every ball game or practice I attend is punctuated by the spectators stepping away to envelope themselves in a cloud of insect repellent. The fields are surrounded by woods and, at the main fields, a sluggish stream. It's a bug paradise. But I really hate bug spray, so I've resisted so far.

Then yesterday, the mosquitoes arrived. Because mosquitoes can't fly in any sort of breeze, they're not something we've seen yet. The more or less constant wind here must keep them away. But yesterday was warm, and as the sun went down, the wind calmed.

I opened the window in our bedroom to cool it down before bed, and I noticed mosquitoes swarming around the screen. Later, when we actually went to bed, I saw that that screen was loose. Like, really loose. I closed that window and opened another, but the mosquitoes found the loose screen before I did.

After the kids went to bed, I must have killed at least eight mosquitoes in the 45 minutes I was reading in the living room. And when we went to bed and turned out the lights, I heard the ominous whine of mosquitoes in the dark. I thought maybe they were just still outside the window.

Then one bit me on the neck.

When I turned on the light to look, I saw at least a dozen mosquitoes on the walls. The walls are all white, so the mosquitoes were easy to spot. I got the fly swatter and hunted them down, handing off the swatter to A. when they were too high up for me to reach.

Then we turned off the light again. And again heard the horrid whine of a mosquito close by.

Light on again. Three more killed, one courtesy of A. hopping on top of the dresser to swat it on the ceiling.

Light off. Whining. Light on. More swatting.

Light off, now at 10:15 p.m. and we are no longer amused. And there's that WHINING AGAIN MAKE IT STOP.

At this point, A. had the brilliant idea of turning on the ceiling fan to create a breeze that would keep them away. That ceiling fan makes an annoying clicking noise, but it's a lot less annoying than the whine of a mosquito in your ear and waking up covered in bites.

So we slept. Briefly.

I am currently sporting both black fly bites and mosquito bites (including one on my ear, which seems wrong somehow), and I just can't WAIT to see what fun insect is going to show up next to feast on my flesh.

Happy spring. Bah.

Monday, May 22, 2017

An Eminently Quotable Book

It's been a few years now since A. sold the last of his sheep, and not a grass-growing season goes by that he doesn't mourn the waste of fine forage with no animals to set upon it. He gets particularly voluble on this subject when he has to mow grass that--in his opinion--sheep should be eating to provide him with lambs for the freezer.

Personally, I could happily go my entire life without ever docking another lamb's tail, but for A., that would be no kind of life at all. So I'm resigned to the fact that someday we will have woolly dependents again.

But I haven't forgotten what a pain in the ass they are. No, indeed. And a book that A. brought home from the library and I started reading is bringing it all back.

The book is Country Life: A Handbook for Realists and Dreamers, by Paul Heiney. It's published by the wonderful DK Publishing Company, which has my eternal gratitude for producing non-fiction books about every imaginable subject for children that both the children and adults can enjoy and learn something from.

Do you know how hard it is to find really good non-fiction books for kids? DK does it every time.

I'm digressing, though.

I started having reluctant-shepherdess flashbacks in the section with instructions for proper fencing. He notes that while a fence with three wires should be fine for cows, sheep will probably need five wires. And this is because, as he goes on to say in the section with advantages and disadvantages of all types of farm animals, sheep are "Famed escapologists."

Now you're singing my song, Paul.

He also lists the following for sheep diseases: "Blowfly strike, foot rot, and countless other diseases, the first symptom of which is often death."

Or, in the words of another well-known and very alliterative saying about sheep, "Sick sheep seldom survive."

The only thing he lists as a special need for sheep? "A good shepherd to keep them out of trouble."

As long as that good shepherd is A. and not me. I don't qualify. Maybe that's why ours were so much trouble.

Anyway. You should read the book if you can, even if you're not really into farming. If nothing else, Paul Heiney has a distinctive dry humor that makes the book fun to read.

P.S. Though not specific to sheep, I did also appreciate this nugget of wisdom: "Farm animals do not make good pets. If you can't kill them, get a dog or a cat and grow vegetables." For realists, indeed.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Motorcycles, Microgreens, and May Sprinkler Play

It's been an exciting Saturday for us. We kicked if off by driving all the way to the small city 45 minutes away to pick up a rental car for A.'s upcoming out-of-town trips this week*.

Well, technically I suppose we kicked it off with apples and peanut butter for breakfast and fighting over Star Wars toys when the kids woke up, but we'll skip that part and get to the exciting stuff.

When we got to the small city, A. decided he wanted to stop in at Harbor Freight--home to massive quantities of very cheap tools--to get a couple of sawhorses. The Harbor Freight store happened to be right next to the Harley Davidson dealership, and they had set up their parking lot for some kind of rally. Which meant there were motorcycles everywhere.

Much as my sons enjoy running wild through tool stores, the lure of shiny machines was strong. Therefore, we went to tour the motorcycles while A. got his sawhorses. Eventually we made it into the actual showroom, where a very enthusiastic lady swooped down on the boys with bandanas, helium balloons, and cookies. And then she tied the bandanas into do-rags on their heads.

Possibly my favorite picture ever of my sons.

Unfortunately, that photo captures the shining moment of happiness just before it all fell apart. Specifically, before we left and Charlie lost his balloon in the parking lot. He watched it floating high up into the sky, and when he realized he could not get it back, he was absolutely inconsolable. It was very sad. Not even the fact that Jack also lost his as I was getting him into the car could make Charlie feel that the loss of his beloved balloon was anything less than tragic. He cried for several minutes.

But after we picked up the rental car we took them to a playground and let them play for over an hour--despite the deceptively sunny but cold weather that made A. and me really wish we had brought our sweaters--so that cheered everyone up.

Also, the fact that Cubby popped his balloon accidentally in the car on the way home made Charlie feel as if balloons really are ephemeral delights to be enjoyed for a fleeting moment in time before they fly off to their inevitable end.

Or maybe something less philosophical.


When we got home, I decided it was time to thin the plants in the garden. The children's enthusiastic help with the planting of tiny seeds had resulted in what can only be described as clumps of seedlings coming up. Not so much with the careful spacing. But that's okay, because after I had thinned a few rows of radishes and arugula that had been planted by Cubby and Charlie, I was left with a large quantity of fancy-pants microgreens.

See? Fancy-pants.

They're not careless gardeners; they're foodies. 

I had to wash those greens a total of five times before they were clean, but it was worth it. I dressed them with olive oil, lemon juice, and salt and pepper. The kids ate theirs just like that and, amazingly, actually ate them. Cubby even asked for seconds, and Charlie--Charlie who doesn't even like pizza--announced, "Our greens taste best."

Damn straight.

I added some pickled beets and feta cheese to mine and it was delicious. Also pretty, though I don't have a photo for you because, well, I wanted to eat it, not take a picture of it.

I do, however, have photos of the post-dinner sprinkler playing. And the reason I have photos is I wanted to document how insane my children are. It was 58 degrees. God knows how cold the water was. But A. turned on the sprinkler for the garden while he was planting some shallots and onions, and I couldn't convince the kids it was too cold to run through it. So they did.

They only stopped when Cubby announced he was so cold he couldn't run anymore and Charlie announced he was so cold that the rock he was standing on was shaking. Jack didn't announce anything except "ha ba," which means hot bath and told me everything I needed to know.

After their hot baths they went to bed. I can only hope that all the excitement of the day will mean that they sleep soundly and long. I'm certainly planning on it.

* A. very kindly conceded that perhaps he shouldn't leave me without a car for several days this week while he was gone. He knows I'm not down with the bike-as-substitute-car idea.

Friday, May 19, 2017

A No-Car Family

We still haven't replaced the dead minivan, which means that we're currently a one-car family. This is actually not a big deal for us, as A. works from home and I, uh, don't leave the house. Like ever. Sharing a car between us is definitely feasible.

But what happens when even that car isn't available? We found out.

See, A. had scheduled some maintenance work on the Subaru at the mechanic's shop in the village, and he really wanted to get all this little stuff taken care of before he was required to get the state inspection done next month. He had been meaning to buy a bike for himself anyway--because we bought bikes for the kids and already an adult has to have one too to keep up with Cubby--so he figured he could ride his bike to drop off the car and pick it up. It's only seven miles from our house to the mechanic's shop.

Well. Distance becomes a much different thing when one is on a bike. Seven miles in a car is not at all the same as seven miles on a bicycle. Especially, ahem, if one has not ridden a bike in approximately 20 years.

A. dropped the Subaru off on Tuesday morning and biked back. It took him about half an hour and he said it wasn't a bad ride at all.

The car was supposed to be done that day, but the mechanic called to say that when he test-drove it, he discovered a brake problem. Okay, said A. I can pick it up tomorrow.

We didn't really need it that night, and then he wouldn't have to make the bike trip again on the same day.

On Wednesday, the mechanic found more issues when he was working on the brakes and had to spend some time tracking down a used part. So the car wouldn't be ready that day, either. But A. had to go to the post office in the village to mail some documents for work.

No car, so that meant another trip on the bike. He left at 3 p.m. and called an hour and a half later to say he was at the post office.

I guess the heat (84 degrees), the hills, and the wind (15 miles an hour with stronger gusts) had a bad effect on his time. Just a little.

And then I compounded the misery by reminding him that I needed some sunscreen to send in to school for Charlie the next day for his "beach day" (sprinklers and popsicles on the soccer field). So he had to go up to the store just a bit outside the village. This seems like a trivial distance in a car, but on a bike, that long incline out of the village becomes much more noticeable. And it added another two miles to his trip.

Sure hope Charlie enjoyed that sunscreen.

In the end, he got back three hours after he left, after riding about 16 miles. His legs were done for. He took a really hot bath with Epsom salts that night.

The next day was just the same weather--hot and windy. And he had to ride back into the village to pick up the car. But at least this time the car was actually ready, so it was only one way.

I suspect that the drive home, sitting in a cushioned vehicle whizzing along at fifty miles an hour, has never seemed so luxurious.

At least now A. knows it can be done. He said he didn't mind it that much, it was just a little bit of a trial by fire to do so much riding so suddenly. But he does plan on sometimes using his bike to go to the post office on nice days.

I, however, am not planning on cycling merrily off to the grocery store with Jack in a trailer or something. A one-car family I can handle. A no-car family? No, thanks.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Of Fried Chicken and Unseasonable Heat

For various reasons, A. decided not to do his big fried chicken adventure on Mother's Day. So he did it yesterday instead. And it was definitely an Event.

There was a cutting up of a whole chicken, which then resulted in me making chicken stock with the leftover bits and then chicken salad with the resulting bits of meat from the stock making. There was brining. There was shaking with cornstarch, coating with buttermilk, and dredging in cornmeal*. And then there was the frying. In two pints of lard.

And after all that, there was the straining of the lard so it can be saved, filling the dog's bowl with all the miscellaneous greasy residue, and the dishes.

A. did the dishes. Good man.

It was really good chicken. Everyone enjoyed it. Well, except for Charlie, who objected to the crunchiness of the cornmeal coating and required removal of said coating before he would eat his drumstick.

Good old Charlie.

But was it worth it? Eh. Maybe if you're really into fried chicken. A. is, so he thought it was worth it. I'm not, so I certainly wouldn't do it again. Then again, it's really A. doing it--with some assistance from me in actually finding and assembling all the ingredients and equipment--so I guess he can have at it. Especially if he does the dishes.

I kind of wish he had made more, though, so we could have the leftovers for dinner tonight. Then I wouldn't have to cook. It's going to be 80 degrees, and I don't want to turn on the oven or stove.

I know. That's not exactly Georgia in July weather--and thank God for that, because I would just die--but it's hot for us. We could turn on the air conditioner, I suppose, but that seems sort of frivolous in May.

Maybe I'll just make some tuna salad and call it a meal.

It's really too bad we don't have any fried chicken left, though . . .

* We used this recipe, which definitely worked, but was also a pain in the ass. Both outcomes were expected, because it's from America's Test Kitchen.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

A Happy Mother's Day Interlude

We're not much for Mother's Day around here. I'm not entirely sure how one would really celebrate it, anyway. Going to brunch or out to dinner seems to be a popular option, but I like the food at home way better than anywhere else. There is also the point that eating in a public place with my three hellions is not my idea of a celebration.

Breakfast in bed is another seemingly popular tradition that I just can't get behind. I have zero interest in eating on my pillow.

So this morning I got up and had my pancakes just like any other Sunday. A. always makes sourdough pancakes or waffles on Sundays. I like pancakes better, so that was my special Mother's Day request. I did get the requisite and always-appreciated Mother's Day gift made at school by Cubby and Charlie. In Charlie's case, a craft proclaiming that he loves me to the moon and back, enhanced by glitter. In Cubby's case, a list of why he loves me, which includes the gem, "I know my mom cares about me because . . . she fills my water bottles."

But mostly it's been business as usual. Lots of preparing and serving of pancakes. Arbitrating disputes over the Tinker Toy pieces. Continuing Jack's toilet training, which involves spending a good part of the morning watching him like a hawk and racing him to the bathroom, where we then camped out until he produced a satisfactory result and was then rewarded with a chocolate chip (or two, depending on the, ahem, result).

You know. Mom stuff. Because if there's one thing you learn quickly with motherhood, it's that it never stops. Not ever. Best to accept that and find your happiness where you can. It's not always--or, uh, ever--going to be grand gestures and all-day extravaganzas.

But there will be moments. My moment today came courtesy of the fact that Cubby woke up with a cough yesterday and requested soup for lunch, which meant that I had my favorite cool-weather lunch on hand today: homemade soup and sharp cheddar cheese. Combine that with A. taking the older two to church and Jack going down for his nap, and we have . . .

The solo lunch with a book is indeed a thing of beauty and a joy forever.

You know my love for a quiet meal with a book. That's what feels like indulgence to me. Beats overpriced and underwhelming food at a crowded restaurant, for sure.

Plus, A. is going to make fried chicken tonight and I'm not planning on cleaning up the resulting mess. Happy Mother's Day to me!

And Happy Mother's Day to my sisters-in-arms, whether on active duty, retired, or waiting for the call-up*. I hope you get to do whatever makes you happy today.

* Particularly, of course, my very own mother, who is a pretty sterling example of motherhood and deserves much more than a footnote at the bottom of a post all about me. I don't think she'll hold it against me, though, because she's good like that.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Farewell, Old Van

Three years ago almost exactly, I was agitating for a minivan.

There are words that several years ago I never thought I would string together. Such is the mindset induced by the imminent arrival of a third child, however.

This was shortly after Big Red left us and A. wanted to get another pick-up truck. I wanted a minivan. He thought I could manage all three kids in the Subaru. I told him the Subaru is technically mine, and if he wanted to get a pick-up, that was fine with me, but I would trade in my Subaru for a minivan.

About two days after that conversation, A. called me from work to tell me he had bought a minivan.

Oh. Surprising, but YAY!

It was only eight years old, but he bought it for just over $2,000 (from a private seller) because it was rusty.

Kind of a lot rusty, as it turned out. But it also turned out to be an exceptionally good vehicle for us. We've had to do very few repairs on it in the last three years, and it never once actually broke down to the point that it was undrivable.

But still. Rusty. And that is a problem that is not improved by all the salt used on roads in upstate New York in the winter.

Finally this spring, we decided it was really time to look for another vehicle. A. has been looking around online, but the selection is pretty limited in our vicinity. Especially because the coming fourth child is going to mean that even a minivan won't be very big with all the seats in use. The cargo area in the back isn't big enough to hold the dog.

(Actually, the selection is mostly limited because we won't go to a dealer and pay many thousands of dollars for a new vehicle. That's not our style. Our style, apparently, is to buy a rusty van for $2,000 and drive it for three years as it slowly disintegrates. Works for us.)

So A. has been trying to decide if we should get a Suburban (which doesn't really seem that much bigger than a minivan, frankly), or a full-size, no-messing-around, 12-passenger van. With the van, we can remove the back row of seats and have a big cargo area.

I think we should get the big van, if only because I can't see our need for space in a vehicle decreasing in the coming years as the children grow ever larger. I mean, I don't particularly want to drive a small bus, but these are the results of choosing to have a family of six people and a dog.

Anyway, this debate will shortly be closed, because we need to buy another vehicle right now. Last night as I was driving Charlie and Jack to a T-ball game, I felt something go wrong with a wheel when I turned and then could hear (and smell) some serious friction thereafter. Luckily, I managed to make it home. This morning A. diagnosed a fatal suspension failure due to rust. It could be fixed, but when the undercarriage is as rusty as this one was, what can you attach a new part to that won't fail pretty soon itself?

So we called the local mechanic to come haul it away for us (both Randy and Andy showed up, which amused me to no end), leaving us with $120 in cash and only the Subaru as the family car* for the moment.

Guess A. got his wish of three kids in the Subaru after all. For the moment, anyway. And now the hunt is on for the next family bus. Should be exciting. Stay tuned to see what we end up with . . .

* But only after some serious cleaning out. A. does not maintain a car in a fit state for family use, as you may recall. In fact, when I remarked during my cleaning that there has been some irrevocable damage to the hatchback carpet, he admitted, "Well, there's been a few carcasses back there over the years." Indeed.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

I Feel a Ramble Coming On

Let's start with today and work our way back through some random photos of the past week or so, shall we?

Yes. We shall.

It snowed off and on all day yesterday, and this morning I woke up to this.

I may have said out loud, "You must be kidding me." Except I didn't say "kidding."

But now I have some black-eyed peas simmering away on the stove, so I'm making the most of what I hope is the last snowy day we have for a long time. I know, it's not New Year's Day and therefore it will not do much perhaps for my happiness in the future, but simmering stuff helps to warm the house up. Plus, they taste so good they'll ensure happiness for the duration of dinner anyway. And I had half a bag of dried black-eyed peas to use up. So there you go.

Speaking of Food I Make (which I usually am) . . . behold, the only sushi just south of the Canadian border.

Well, maybe my neighbors eat this all the time, but I really doubt it.

They were very easy to make. I ordered most of the ingredients from Amazon, as my local stores don't carry anything like nori (the dried seaweed sheets everything is wrapped in). Honestly, the hardest part was getting the nori sheets out of their bag without catching them on the edges and tearing them.

So what I did was, I made the rice as instructed on my bag of rice and seasoned it as suggested in this post. While I was at it, I also made some quick-pickled carrot and cucumber sticks loosely based on a recipe from here, but with a little salt added, because a pickle without salt? No.

I did not use raw fish. There is no sushi-grade raw fish anywhere within two hundred miles, I'm pretty sure. Well, unless I had A. catch me a fish, and then I froze it to guard against worms or something, and sliced it reeeeally thinly, and . . .

Yeah. I used imitation crab meat.

I made a test roll with pickled vegetables and green onions in it and ate it all myself with pickled ginger and soy sauce while everyone else was either at church or sleeping. I found that even my relatively dull and cheap chef's knife sliced just fine, if I cleaned it off sometimes.

Test completed successfully, I then made one sheet with pickled vegetables and the, ahem, "crab," and one with those plus minced green onions. Then I made a sheet with cucumber and cream cheese, and one with those plus green onions.

My very professional equipment. I declined to buy a bamboo sushi-rolling mat.

Each rolled sheet resulted in about eight pieces. We had no trouble eating all 30 or so pieces I ended up with (not counting the test batch already in my belly).

Everyone except Charlie loved them. But then, Charlie told me last night that he doesn't like (homemade!) pizza, so you can't trust him.

Cubby ate most of the crab ones himself and brought the few leftovers to school for lunch the next day. I mostly ate the cream cheese and cucumber ones, which are my favorite. Jack and A. ate everything.

It was fun. They were good. Good thing, since I have about 45 nori sheets left.

And last but not least, baseball/T-ball season has begun!

And I have a really blurry picture to prove it.

Marginally better, if shaded.

This is the first year either of them has played. Cubby LOVES it, and shows promise of being a good player. Charlie . . . well, Charlie is "saving his energy for soccer."

He doesn't love it*. Not that I blame him because, let's face it, four-year-olds can't actually play T-ball, and it's about the most boring thing ever standing on the field watching eight kids in a row swing and miss or whack the T or hit it all of two feet or whatever.


Two games a week for both of them for the next month means a lot of time spent on ball fields for all of us. I guess it really is spring. Despite the weather.

* You may be asking yourself, "Does Charlie love ANYTHING?" Good question. The answer is: Not much. Though he was very enthusiastic about the desperation meal of scrambled eggs and tater tots I made when I was sick last week, so I guess that tells you a lot about Charlie's preferences. He definitely landed in the wrong family.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Oh, What a Relief It Is

This morning was the first morning in six days that I've awakened not feeling ill. I celebrated by having my single cup of beloved coffee with chicory. And now I've started preparations for making sushi rolls for the first time.

Let the good times roll*.

* Definitely no pun intended, because that would be terrible. 

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Now That's Appreciation

This week is Teacher Appreciation Week at Cubby and Charlie's school. The school sent home a flier with helpful ideas of what we could send in to the teachers for each day of the week.

I don't much like to be dictated to, but God knows, I certainly appreciate the fact that those teachers deal with my children and many others all day long. So for Monday's "Send your teacher a healthy treat!" (there are lots of exclamation points on that flier), I decided to send in some granola I made on Sunday. Personally, I would way rather get granola than a banana or something.

I skipped over the subsequent days, including sending in a favorite drink (as if I know the teachers that well), writing a note expressing appreciation, and I forget what else. Mostly I didn't do these things because I got sick. Some kind of generally minor but still nausea-inducing digestive issue.


I've been sick now and subsisting mostly on rice and scrambled eggs for three days, but I pulled myself together enough today to make the big finale for Teacher Appreciation Week: "Send your teacher a sweet treat!"

I could have gone with my standard oatmeal-chocolate chip cookies, even though the teachers didn't remove any snow for me. Instead I made hot fudge sauce*.

I mean, which would you rather have? That's what I thought.

I made a double recipe, to make sure I had enough for three half-pint jars for the teachers (Charlie has both a teacher and an assistant teacher) and some left for us.

There was a lot left for us. Like, more than a pint.

That's a lot of hot fudge sauce.

The end result of all of this was that I made hot fudge sauce for the teachers, with a lot left over, that I didn't even want to eat.

You're welcome, teachers. Never let it be said I don't appreciate you.

* I use this recipe. It's delicious. Duh.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

The Construction Crew

What's the best way to keep kids entertained for a long time? Water and dirt. Preferably together.

Mixing mortar.

"More dirt!" commands Cubby the Supervisor to his crew.

Mighty walls from tiny piles of stone grow.