Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Timely As Always

Now that it's the Tuesday after Easter, I think it's time to throw some pictures your way, right? Right.

So this girl woke up at 4:40 a.m., which definitely makes it challenging for the Easter Bunny to do her thing.

I guess she figured Jesus rose, and so should she.

Nevertheless, there were eggs* hidden outside to be hunted.

This is such a classic Charlie photo. Shirtless, with the joy of Easter just radiating from his face.

And there were baskets, too.

Chocolate crosses, peanut butter bunnies, calculators, trowels, and vegetable seeds. No jelly beans, because no one likes them. No plastic "grass" either, because that is an abomination.

After which I presented them all with egg salad and crackers, which they of course ignored in favor of eating all the chocolate.

I have fond memories of doing the same thing in my own chocolate-fueled childhood.

Then we got all dressed up and went to church.

Floofy dresses are a definite perk to having a little girl. 

Upon returning home we put the new trowels to work planting the miniature roses that were handed out at church.

Those trowels? They're Fiskars. The Easter Bunny had some help from the MiL on those, and now my children officially have better trowels than I do.

There was also a big planting frenzy by A., who helped the boys plant every single seed they got in their Easter baskets. So we now have about 40 hills of corn, five hills of watermelons, and a twenty-foot row of green beans planted. It's too early for the corn and watermelon, really, but we'll worry about that later. We can always re-plant if we have to, I guess.

Oh, and what did we have for our special Easter dinner? Not ham.

Build Your Own Nachos. Because I'm an adult and I can make what I want on holidays. There has to be some upside to this adulthood nonsense.

And there you have it. Easter is over and we are closing in fast on the end of school.


* Incidentally, are we the last people in America that dye and hide real eggs? All I see anymore are the plastic ones filled with junk. I feel about those the same way I feel about plastic grass.

Friday, April 19, 2019

Friday Food: A Rather Random Week

I feel like I was all over the place with cooking this week. Some weeks are like that.


Short version: A cobbled-together meatless meal

Long version: I was out of eggs and almost out of cheese, which left me with beans and tuna.

I made some pinto beans, into which I added most of the extra sauce from the chili from a couple of days before. I roasted a sweet potato, a bell pepper, and an onion, and ate all that together with the beans and some sour cream for my meal.

With the tuna, I made a skillet thing with onion, celery, tuna, mayonnaise, shredded cheddar, and green peas. A. ate that. The kids also ate that, with some of Miss Amelia's sopaipillas on the side. We had gone to bring her some bread earlier in the day and walked in just as she started frying sopaipillas. So the kids got to eat fresh, hot, homemade sopaipillas with honey at Miss Amelia's house, and she sent some home with us, too.

Lucky kids.


Short version: Brisket, boiled potatoes, steamed carrots and broccoli, a classic A. Stew

Long version: A. used the stock he had made from the sheep bones to make one of his pigs' feet/hominy/chili stews. So he ate that.

For the brisket, I just browned it and then dumped in sliced onion, some canned tomatoes, mustard, ketchup, apple cider vinegar, and a little maple syrup. This made something that tasted more or less like barbecue sauce. I cooked the brisket in the oven for several hours. Not as long as I was going to, though, as I checked on it at 1 p.m. and realized that the oven had stopped working.

Appliance Man to the rescue!

A. spent some time looking at repair videos online and took the oven apart to clean out the igniter that was apparently covered with ash. Such a useful man, that A.

I didn't bother putting the brisket back in, though. It was pretty much done, so I let it cool, then sliced it and re-warmed the slices in the sauce at dinnertime.


Short version: Fried eggs, fried leftover potatoes, leftover vegetables

Long version: Fry it all in bacon fat and call it dinner. The end.

A. ate more of his stew. He will be eating more of his stew for the foreseeable future. As always.


Short version: A New Mexico feast courtesy of the American Legion

Long version: We went to a dinner sponsored by the county's American Legion and they had a really impressive spread of food. There were three kinds of enchiladas--red with beef, green with chicken, and green with cheese--pinto beans, chips and salsa, tortillas, and various kinds of desserts.

My only complaint is that there were about eight different kinds of desserts, and not a single one contained chocolate.

Then again, I didn't have to cook or clean up, so in the end, I have no complaints at all. Thank you, American Legion.


Short version: Miss Amelia's leftovers, cube steaks, baked sweet potato, oven-caramelized onion, green salad

Okay, most important thing first: That salad? MY LETTUCE.

Still in its very classy cold frame.

You can see that I have waaay fewer plants than I started with, but the cold had its way with everything but the ones planted under glass.

No matter. I'm eating homegrown lettuce in April. Thank you, A.

Miss Amelia's leftovers were enchiladas, Spanish rice, pinto beans, and some eggs in red chili sauce that she sent over. The eggs were kind of an odd texture, so I threw them out--sorry, Miss Amelia--and used the sauce instead to cook the cube steaks (browned, with onion and garlic). Because I had the oven on for awhile to cook the cube steaks, I also baked the sweet potato and a beet (saved for a later meal) and then I also thinly sliced the half an onion left from the meat and put that in a dish with a bunch of butter and salt to caramelize.

I will definitely do that with onion again. Yum.

The kids ate the enchiladas and rice, A. ate his stew with some added cube steak, and I ate a salad with the cube steak, sweet potato, onion, and some leftover cooked carrots and green beans.


Short version: Leftover cube steak made into tacos, raw vegetables with ranch dip

Long version: The vegetables were the leftovers from my assigned "healthy snack" that I brought for Jack's class Easter party. The children were shocked and amazed that I bought baby carrots.

I know. Lazy and shameful.

These boys are not lazy. Or rather, these monkeys climbing this tree are not lazy. And they really like baby carrots. Don't get used to them, monkeys.


Short version: Pork chunks, rice, frozen green beans

Long version: Another class party, this time for Cubby and Charlie, although I was not assigned a healthy snack for this one, so I made brownies and chocolate-chip-cookie bars.

We did not have those for dinner.

I was kind of out of energy to make much for dinner. Sauteed pork chunks, rice, and green beans seemed manageable. And thus it was done.

Okay, your turn! What'd you have for dinner?

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Chair to 5K

For the past two years, Cubby has played baseball. He was pretty good at it, and seemed to enjoy it, and we thought maybe he'd play here, too.

Then the flyer came home for baseball sign-up and we realized that him playing would mean driving something like 200 miles or more every week. Because everything is so spaced out here, you see. His actual team would be based out of the village ten miles away. But the home games were played in a town 60 miles away, and the away games? Forget it. They could be as far as 100 miles away.

That's much too much driving, time away from home, and disruption for the entire family for a sport that they don't even offer in the high school.

So we had to tell him that he would not be playing baseball. He was somewhat disappointed. We were talking with him about the sports he could do in school when he's older, and the one he seemed most interested in was track.

This is when I remembered a few months ago when both Cubby and Charlie had asked me if they could do a road race. So I told Cubby that he couldn't play baseball, but he could run a 5K. So could Charlie.

They were very enthused about this.

The closest one I could find that was around the right time of year is in Santa Fe* on May 18. It's a 5K that encourages families and children, and even has a special 1K race for the smallest kids. That meant that Jack could also "run" a race and not feel left out.

At first we all assumed that A. would be running the 5K with the older boys, and I would do the 1K with Jack and Poppy. A. went with Cubby and Charlie on their ritual Sunday-after-church run this past weekend (which is only a mile, but serves the dual purpose of getting them out of the way while I make waffles and getting some of their pent-up energy out after sitting for an hour) and returned lamenting that he was not really in good running condition at the moment.

So I decided to go for a mile run and see what kind of running condition I'm in at the moment.

Though I've run off and on for my entire adult life, the last time I went running was right before I got shingles. Seven months ago. And the last time I ran three miles? I don't even know, but certainly years.

These days I spend more time than I would like in this chair being weighed down by 70 pounds of flailing children.

Or by the dead weight of sleeping children, but in the chair in any case.

Those children do ensure that I'm not entirely sedentary, but I was still doubtful as to my endurance when actually running for any length of time.

However, I was pleasantly surprised at how not-punishing it was to run that first mile. I probably could've gone a little farther, but I decided to quit while I was ahead.

When I got home, I told A. that I would run the 5K with Cubby and Charlie. He seemed delighted at the prospect. Unsurprisingly.

But of course, one mile is not three miles. I needed to increase my distance pretty quickly. So yesterday, I ran two miles. Again, it was not as hard as I had expected. The older boys will be joining me for this same two-mile run on Friday morning so they can start increasing their distance, too. I'm hoping that we'll be up to three miles in the two weeks before the race.

Of course, Santa Fe is a lot hillier than here, and also about a thousand feet higher, so it's possible that on May 18, I'll be sucking wind on the road while trying to keep up with two spry boys, but at least I have hope now that I can run it without completely embarrassing myself.

Fingers crossed.

* Not that Santa Fe is close exactly, but distances out here are relative. This does mean that we're going to have to get up at like 4 a.m. on race day to make it there on time. Whee.

Monday, April 15, 2019

Many Photos, Few Words

I seem to have been taking a lot of photos lately and then doing nothing with them. And so . . .

It snowed all day on Saturday.

The tulips were brave.

As were our neighbors across the street: the horses and bull.

The boys were thrilled with the enormous snow balls they could roll. This is Cubby.

And this is Jack.

Poppy was slightly less thrilled.

Then yesterday, it was sunny and 70 degrees and all the snow was gone. The boys chopped down two and a half trees.

Because A. told them they could, not because they just went to town with the hatchet. Though I wouldn't put that past them.

Meanwhile, Poppy gave some of the farm animals a bath in a bucket.

Safely out of range of any falling trees.

And that's pretty much it. I think you're all caught up now. Over and out.

Friday, April 12, 2019

Friday Food: A Very Mutton-y Week


Short version: Pizza pizza (I hope you are also now hearing the Little Caeser's commercial in your head)

Long version: Guests=pizza. One plain cheese, one with mushrooms and bell pepper. Always good.

I even stole some of the tiny leaves from the juvenile basil in the kitchen for the vegetable pizza. The seedlings didn't seem to mind.


Short version: Picnic food

Long version: We went with my parents to the historic church about 30 miles away that only has Mass once a month. Since Mass was at 3 p.m., and the kids always want to run around outside that church, I packed a picnic for us to have after church. So we had chicken salad sandwiches, Fritos, cheese, Triscuits, carrot sticks, bell pepper slices, and grapes.

It was perfect picnic weather, and every single scrap of food was consumed.

All the food that wasn't stomped on by Poppy-zilla, that is.

And one more photo, because the light in this one is very celestial:

A benediction on the after-church picnic.


Short version: Grilled mutton and beef steaks, grilled bread, pan-fried sweet potatoes, green salad, blueberry pie and vanilla ice cream

Long version: This was the last night my parents were here, and A. was all, "We can't let them leave without cooking some of the sheep!" 

Actually, we probably could, but we decided to cook some anyway. This was half of the tenderloin that had been aging in the refrigerator. A. trimmed away most of the copious fat and stuffed sliced garlic into little cuts in the meat, and marinated it in salt, vinegar, and olive oil. A. claims that the vinegar marinade is the secret to making gamy meat taste acceptable. This meat wasn't actually gamy to start with, and the grilling over juniper wood probably helped, too, but it was very good, in any case.

The pie was one left at my parents' lodging by the lady who runs it. It was a store-bought frozen pie, but I swear it tasted homemade. No weird ingredients, not too sweet . . . I think even the MiL would have approved. The ice cream was pretty average, but you can't have everything.


Short version: Different for everyone, pineapple

Long version: This was Sheep Day. We--mostly A.--spent most of the day butchering the sheep, making stock, and rendering fat. So when 4:30 rolled around and I was faced with a kitchen crowded with pots and bowls of stock, Dutch ovens full of rendered fat, and pans of bones, I took the path of least resistance.

For the boys, I pulled meat off the bones removed from the stock, mixed it with some leftover barbecue sauce from the restaurant we went to with my parents for lunch on Sunday, and made them sandwiches. Poppy and Cubby also had some of the green chili hamburger soup Miss Amelia gave us on Saturday.

For A., I fried leftover steak in the bit of fat left in the Dutch oven from rendering. I topped this with half an avocado and some green chili sauce.

I made a salad with cheese, chicken, and avocado my parents left behind.

The last time I bought pineapple, it was unpleasantly acidic. This one was so sweet it literally tasted like pineapple-flavored candy. Next time maybe I'll get one somewhere between the two and it'll be just right.


Short version: Mutton tenderloin, boiled potatoes, pan-fried sweet potatoes, fried onion, frozen green beans

Long version: Finally finished up the last of the sheep's tenderloin that had been hanging out in the fridge. It was marinated in olive oil, a little red wine, and garlic, and then I just pan-fried it.


Short version: Bunless Italian sliders, pasta with marinara, fried bell peppers and onions, frozen peas

Long version: I made pasta because I had pizza sauce left over from Friday. Then I took out ground beef. I couldn't figure out a good name for the meat things I made for this meal. They were just ground beef seasoned like meatballs, but without the egg and bread crumbs, and cooked flat like small hamburgers. Mini hamburgers? Flattened meatballs?

Then I remembered the tiny hamburgers called sliders that seem to be so popular. Once again, I am hip and cool. Ahem.


Short version: Mutton chili, fresh bread and butter

Long version: There are always a lot of gnarly bits left after butchering an animal. The pieces with sinew or fat or whatever. I have found over the years and the many animals we have butchered that chili is the best use for these pieces. So chili it was.

And this is how I found the time in the morning to make the chili (as well as yogurt) with a four-year-old and an eighteen-month-old in attendance:

Motherhood often feels like a conscious weighing of mess versus peace. Is it indelible? Is it wet? How long will it keep them happy? How long will it take me to clean up? These are the choices I make on a daily basis.

I was going to make rice or tortillas and cheese for the kids, but then, as so often happens, I had to bake bread right before dinner. And there is nothing better than fresh bread with butter.

Go ahead and challenge me on this. I won't back down.

Okay, your turn! What'd you eat this week?

Monday, April 8, 2019

Eating My Mutton Words

Okay. Time for me to eat crow. Or rather, mutton.

Remember when I was all, "Mutton is strong. Mutton is gross. I do not want to eat mutton.This wether is going to be disgusting and I want to get rid of it." Or something to that effect?

Well, I was wrong.

We ended up only having Big Boy for about 24 hours before A. decided it would be kindest to just slaughter him. Sheep are flock animals, and without his flock and in an unfamiliar place, he was very distressed and unhappy. So A. killed, skinned, and quartered him on Wednesday night and hung the meat up in the shed to age.

It was pretty warm during the days, but very cool at night, and the meat was in game bags to keep off any flies. A. also cut off the tenderloin and put that in the refrigerator to age. He decided to grill some of it last night. I smelled the raw meat. It had no smell at all that I could discern, so I allowed myself to hope that it might be edible.

Not only was it edible, it was downright tasty.

I've eaten some pretty good lamb and some pretty rank sheep in the last several years, and this was one of the best we've had. Not only was it not strong tasting, it didn't taste of lamb at all.

Never have I been more surprised.

I thought maybe it was because of the vinegar marinade A. used and the grilling over juniper wood. So today, when we butchered the remainder of the meat and A. made stock from the bones, I tasted some of the meat from the boiled bones.

Nothing. No lamb taste. It may as well have been beef. Even the fat A. rendered doesn't have an unpleasant sheep-y taste.

I don't know if it's the breed, the fact that it was a wether, or the aging process--or maybe a combination of those factors--but whatever the reason, I'm very, very happy to be proven wrong.

I'm still going to leave the line-dried sheep jerky to A. and the boys, though.

My clothesline isn't just for clothes anymore.

Friday, April 5, 2019

Friday Food: Another Beef-ful Week


Short version: Tuna melt sandwiches, cheese omelets, pinto beans, carrot sticks with ranch dressing

Long version: Sandwiches for kids, omelets for A. and me, slightly spicy pinto beans because the chili powder got away from me, and leftover ranch dressing from the 4-H snacks.


Short version: Bunless cheeseburgers, bread and butter, roasted sweet potatoes/bell pepper/onion, sauteed mushrooms and onions, frozen green beans

Long version: Nah.


Short version: Pot roast thing; pasta with marinara, pot roast, and asadero; frozen peas

Long version: I made the pot roast earlier in the day. At dinner time, I added some of it to the pasta for the kids, plus the leftover marinara sauce from the week before and some grated asadero cheese.

For A. and me, I fried bell pepper and onions and a carrot made into ribbons with the vegetable peeler--I'll call them "coodles," which sounds just as strange as the ubiquitous "zoodles"--then added the shredded pot roast and asadero cheese. This was very tasty, but very heavy. Fried meat and cheese tends to do that.


Short version: Pork chunks, rice, nuked sweet potato, frozen green beans

Long version: The unavoidable pork sirloin steaks are back. Which means it's time to chunk 'em up and fry 'em with salt, pepper, paprika, and garlic powder. Repetitive, but tasty. And a nice break from beef occasionally.


Short version: Bunless cheeseburgers, garlic bread, green salad

Long version: My lettuce is growing nicely, but there still isn't enough of it to eat yet. I'm hopeful that this will be the last bunch of store lettuce I'll have to buy for some time, though.

Just keep on watering, Poppy.


Short version: Steaks, leftover rice, green salad

Long version: Have I said everything there is to say about steak by now? Possibly. Cooking steak so often that it becomes unremarkable is a good problem to have.


Short version: Tacos (with avocados!), roasted broccoli/bell pepper/onion/sweet potatoes, leftover pinto beans

Long version: The best part of roasted vegetables is how pretty they look raw.

Looks good enough to eat. (Sorry. I had to.)

My parents arrived at 5:30 p.m. after the long drive from Tucson and contributed many avocados to this meal. The kids all ate their tacos with actual tortillas and cheese. The adults all made bowls with the various ingredients, because apparently that's what adults do.

Okay, your turn! What'd you eat this week?