Thursday, January 23, 2020


There were many comments on yesterday's post that warrant a response, so I'm just gonna go ahead and make yet another post about our Very Important Cream to answer them all.

I'm touched you all care as much as I do about this vital issue.

Okay. So . . .

G.P.: You can indeed milk sheep, if they have lambs. We have done it! And made ricotta with the milk!  A few problems, though: 1) We have range sheep, which are pretty wild and not really the sort to submit easily to milking. Not that any sheep really does. 2) We have Merinos, which do not make a lot of milk and really need all they do make for their lambs. 3) Sheep milk doesn't have separated cream, like cow's milk. The fat is just right in there with the milk. So it's more like richer milk, not cream.

Anonymous: Sadly, we are cream snobs. None of us like creamers of any sort, be they powders, liquid, whatever. In fact, we still bemoan the fact that we can no longer get the raw cream from the Jersey cows up the road. And neither of the two restaurants near us have real cream. Probably because they can't get it easily, either. :-)

MiL: Definitely going to try freezing cream. Although I don't seem to be doing well consistently keeping a supply of milk in my freezer. Perhaps I'm still in denial about the store closing.

Linda: Ugh. Dairy animals. SO MUCH WORK. And I am SO LAZY. I am fighting becoming a dairy maid as long as I can, although I can't say I would never do it. More likely to be a goat than a cow, though. Less milk to handle. Less feed needed, too.

Okay! I think I have addressed all comments. We can all carry on with our lives now. And the next time you stop at a grocery store near your house, please note all that lovely cream just sitting on the shelf within easy reach and know how lucky you are.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

A Coffee Update

Never fear: I can taste my coffee this morning.

This is particularly timely as we finally got cream again yesterday after a week without it. Coffee without cream is a sad thing.

The reason we were out of cream was because the tiny grocery store near us did indeed close last month. We made arrangements with the even tinier store in the other village to order milk, cream, eggs, and cheese that would be delivered with his regular order twice a week, but last week, there was no delivery on Thursday.

No, I do not know why there was just a no-show on the part of the delivery person. These things happen in Extremely Rural America, especially in New Mexico.


The next-closest source of cream is sixty miles away. I must admit that I did try to talk myself into needing some other things just so I could drive 120 miles round-trip for cream, but . . . I didn't. Because that's crazy, right? Right.

So sub-par milk* in the coffee it was. For a whole week. Boo.

But the next order was delivered yesterday to the tinier store, and so we have cream again. Which is in my coffee at this very moment. Which I can actually taste. Alleluia.

That's all. Have a lovely day.

* We were close to running out of that, too, so I had to tell the children no milk drinking on Saturday because we weren't getting any more milk until Sunday after church. Ostensibly, this was so they could have their Sunday Cereal, but really it was because I was not about to face the craziness of a Sunday morning with only black coffee. 

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

A Sad State of Affairs

I'm afraid I'm on one of those days of a cold where I couldn't sleep past 3 a.m. thanks to the sneezing and the need to constantly blow my nose.

But even worse? I can't taste my coffee. Not even a little bit.

A sad morning indeed.

Sunday, January 19, 2020


About four years ago, for reasons now lost to the mists of time, I suggested to my mom that she could give Cubby a chess board for Christmas. Or maybe his birthday.

As I said, I cannot for the life of me remember now why I suggested that. Maybe he had played it at school and liked it? Maybe we had an old board at Blackrock and he liked it?

I dunno. Upshot is, we have a chess set.

Someone taught Cubby--probably A., but again, my memory on this is leaky as a sieve--so he knew the basic rules. Cubby taught Charlie at some point in the past couple of years. They would play every once in awhile when they got bored, but it was never a regular thing.

Until now.

I have no idea why, but sometime over the Christmas break from school, chess became Charlie's Thing, with a capital "T." And he is startlingly good at it.

First he played Cubby, but Charlie almost always won. Cubby would usually only play one game (probably because he always lost that game), which didn't satisfy Charlie's insatiable chess demands.

Then Charlie started playing A., who, although he knows how to play, hasn't played in years. A. usually won, although Charlie won often enough that A. has to really pay attention to avoid getting sneakily taken out.

Charlie's a menace with those diagonally-moving bishops that come out of nowhere*.

At some point in this chess battling, I mentioned to Charlie that my high school had a chess club.

"Really?" said Charlie. "I'm gonna start one at my school!"

I tried to explain that this was my high school, which was composed of people significantly older than seven years old. Not many seven-year-olds play chess, I told him. Also, my high school had like 500 people from which to pull members for a chess club, and even then, I think there were only maybe six guys in it.

I was trying to prepare him for the fact that maybe he wouldn't get a great response to the idea of a chess club at an elementary school that boasts all of 25 students. I was worried that he would be disappointed if nobody signed up. I couldn't imagine that this would go anywhere.

Nevertheless, he and Cubby made posters to put in the hallways ("Chess Challenge Club. You may be a pro, but can you defeat The Master?") and a sign-up sheet. Charlie brought his chess board with him to school. They decided to hold the meetings during the last recess of the day.

I happened to be working that day, so I was there to see what transpired. And what transpired was, well, a chess club.

Charlie set up his board to the side of the playground and started playing one of the girls in his class. Some kids left the game of tag currently in progress to see what was happening and then there was a small crowd watching the chess game. And then they signed up to be in the club.

The next day that I was at work, the students in Charlie's class were playing chess in their free time and his teacher had to make rules about who could play when.

So Charlie started the chess craze at his elementary school. It probably won't last long, but for now, he's happy.

And I'm happy that my children are braver than I have ever been about being themselves and following their own passions.

Bravo, Charlie. I hope you will always be so true to yourself.

* I know this because he eventually cajoled me into playing with him a couple of times, even though he basically had to re-teach me the game. I haven't played since I was about ten, and it's ridiculous how proud I am of myself that I won both times. Beginners luck, without doubt. But I must admit, chess is pretty fun when I have the mental stamina to play. Which isn't often.

Friday, January 17, 2020

Friday Food: Ham and Potatoes To Rule Them All


Short version: Christmas dinner in January

Long version: I didn't set out to re-create a Christmas celebration at the table, but then I hauled out the giant shank ham I bought on clearance at Cubby's request. And then I decided I should cook the fresh cranberries he had also requested I buy. And of course, we have potatoes.

So I baked the ham for hours--it was like 16 pounds, so it took awhile--slathered in my last half-pint jar of the overly-sweet rhubarb sauce I canned at Blackrock years ago. According to this very blog, four and a half years ago, to be exact.


For the cranberries, I simply simmered them until they were soft with water, sugar, and the last bit of apricot jam from a jar in the refrigerator, then mashed them with my potato masher and cooked it all until it was thick.

I made a huge pot of boiled potato chunks at A.'s request. Literally my largest pot full of about ten pounds of potatoes. For this meal, I just put some of those chunks in a bowl and heated them with butter, salt, and pepper.

Amusingly, it snowed most of the day and every single family member was randomly wearing either red or green. I found this more entertaining than I should have.

Good dinner, though. And we had a few leftovers.



Short version: Ham/potato/cheese skillet, roasted bell peppers and onions, leftover cranberry sauce

Long version: Also like Christmas, it's time to get creative with leftovers! Although it's not really necessary to get too creative with any combination of ham, potatoes, and cheese. It always tastes good. I did add some garlic, though, which was a good addition.


Short version: Ham and potato break! Ground beef tacos with homemade tortillas, crispy peanut butter cookies with chocolate chips

Long version: I finished up a bag of masa while I was mixing the dough for the tortillas, but I added a wee bit too much water. I knew as I was mixing it that it was a little too wet, but I didn't want to open a whole new bag just for a quarter cup of masa. So I didn't, and guess what? My first tortilla stuck when I pressed it.

So then I had to scrape that tortilla off and then open the new bag for that quarter cup while the griddle pan was already hot and starting to smoke.

There's a lesson there. Take from it what you wish.

I asked Cubby to make the cookies. I didn't even go in the kitchen because he wanted to do it himself. The cookies have all of four ingredients, so I figured he'd be okay. The only snag was that he didn't line the baking sheet with parchment paper.

He also didn't take them out when he should have. I was out with the younger two, trying to coax them to walk back home after both of them had separate meltdowns on our "quick walk," so I wasn't in the house to tell him the cookies were done. Thus, they were, ahem, extra crispy.

They were still all eaten, though.

Pause for toddler action photo:

I wish I could borrow even a tenth of her energy.


Short version: Taco meat and potato skillet with cheese, home-frozen green beans

Long version: We had a lot of taco meat left over. We had a lot of cooked potatoes on hand still. It was a workday. This was easy, and everyone liked it.


Short version: Ham/mushroom/onion skillet, garlic bread, green salad

Long version: Diced ham, mushrooms, onions all fried together in butter until the ham was crispy.

Charlie, who dislikes all three of those things, had a couple of fried eggs. "Oh boy," said Charlie, "I love eggs! And, "Oh boy," said Jack, "I love ham and mushrooms!"

So nice when everyone is happy.

We didn't go a day without potatoes: A. ate potatoes with his ham instead of the bread. And I actually had to cook another ten pounds of potatoes this day. We sure can plow through potatoes when they're already cooked.

Break for random photo and an appropriate song:


Short version: Dad's Special Stew, carrot sticks

Long version: I had taken out a large bag of elk the day before that didn't thaw in time for me to do anything with it Tuesday. I told A. it was in the refrigerator and if he felt like it, he could make something with it for dinner while I was at work. Otherwise, eggs for all.

He made a stew with elk chunks, garlic, dried red chiles, and potatoes that was a bit too spicy for the children. They all ate it, but did note the heat.


Short version: Elk/potato/cheese skillet, carrot sticks with ranch dressing

Long version: I cherry-picked some of the elk out of the stew and fried it in a skillet with plain cooked potatoes, garlic powder, and paprika, then added cheese to make something a bit more palatable for the children. A. ate more of his stew. I ate a salad with some of the elk meat in it.

Didn't we just have carrot sticks the day before? Yes, but this time I made ranch dressing to dip them in, so obviously, they were fancy carrot sticks.

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

Sunday, January 12, 2020

The Woodstove Smackdown

All day, every day.

Charlie: "I suddenly completely understand Flat Stanley."

Friday, January 10, 2020

Friday Food: Lambs, Ponytails, and Other Frivolity


Short version: Restaurant for me, Daddy food for everyone else

Long version: This was the night I was away at a hotel, where I got a cheeseburger and french fries in the hotel bar. I had that because everything else had chiles in it, and I didn't feel like burning my mouth.

I also had a double gin on the rocks with lime. It was a highly satisfying meal.

A. made a stew with a rabbit he had shot, carrots, cabbage, and a bunch of leftovers from our New Year's Day meal, including rice, pork, black-eyed peas. I was impressed he actually cooked the night I was gone.


Short version: Leftover stew, fried eggs, mashed potatoes, raw radishes and tomatoes

Long version: I tried a bite of the stew while I was heating it up for Jack, Poppy, and A. It was pretty good, actually.

My children have a great love for raw radishes, so I got some for them when I stopped at the grocery store before leaving the city. They were pleased. They probably would have been more pleased by doughnuts or something, but that's not the kind of mom I am. Sorry, kids.

Look! Lambs!

Well, I tried to get a photo of the lambs, but they scurried away as soon as I approached the fence. 


Short version: Chicken-fried elk, leftover mashed potatoes, steamed carrots and broccoli

Long version: Every time I make chicken-fried anything, I am reminded anew of why I really dislike making chicken-fried anything. It makes A. happy, though, and so I occasionally suck it up with the pounding and dredging and grease spatters.


Short version: Bunless cheeseburgers, fried potatoes, sauteed mushrooms and onions, frozen green peas

Long version: Back to school/work. I had boiled the potato chunks the day before, which made this a very quick meal to make after work.


Short version: Barbecue elk, garlic bread, coleslaw

Long version: I cooked the elk chunks pretty plain, with just tomato juice, onion, and salt. Half I mixed with barbecue sauce for dinner this night.

The coleslaw took care of the last quarter of a cabbage that really needed to get out of the refrigerator. Victory. Tasty victory.

Look! Dogs!

Brothers fighting, man. Can't get away from them.


Short version: Elk tacos, leftover coleslaw

Long version: This is what I used the other half of the cooked elk for. I had put in all the spices and everything the night before and just stashed the pot in the refrigerator. Good thing, as we got home almost an hour later than we usually do, so it was not a night to be doing anything requiring time.

Also this day, I got off of work and found that Poppy had demanded A. do her hair in a ponytail. She has not allowed me to so much as put a barrette in her hair in months. But the ponytail is now a requirement. Daddy Magic.

The ponytail in action.


Short version: Restaurant food, pineapple

Long version: The school where I work gave all of the teachers and staff a gift certificate to the restaurant in the village for Christmas. I decided to use it this night, as we had to be in the village anyway. Everyone had either a hot dog or a hamburger and french fries, because that's the sort of gourmet fare you can expect when patronizing a restaurant 60 miles from anywhere.

I didn't even use all of the gift certificate, so I guess there are more hot dogs in our future.

The pineapple was one I bought when I was in the city and that finally got ripe. It wasn't the best pineapple ever, but it wasn't the worst either, and the children were happy. One benefit of living so far from fresh produce is that they get really excited about things like pineapple. Or bananas.

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