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.