Monday, March 18, 2019

Making Dreams Come True

Clotheslines are very important to me. I've been hanging clothes outside to dry almost exclusively for years now. I like it, and I like not paying for the propane or electricity for a clothes dryer.

And now, settle in for a short history of my life with clotheslines. Whee! With many links to pictures of Clothesline I Have Known, because I appear to have a slight fixation.


The first clothesline I remember using was when I was growing up in Tucson. We had one on our back patio and my dad was pretty militant about us using it instead of the dryer. It takes clothes about two minutes to dry there, so I can see why he was so insistent about it. I found it kind of annoying at the time--teenagers are like that--but it started my clothesline experience.

The clothesline at Blackrock was always between two trees, as there are many, many trees to choose from there. First it was between the sweet gum tree and a cedar tree. (Bonus photo of that clothesline, because yikes, I have a LOT of photos of clotheslines on this blog.) Until the cedar tree almost fell right over from rot and had to be removed.

Then the clothesline was moved to a spot between a basswood tree, a utility pole, and a tulip poplar tree. Until the tulip poplar blew over in a violent storm. Then we just had the shorter clothesline between the basswood and the utility pole.

At our house in northern New York, there was no clothesline until A. put one up for me under the elevated porch. We eventually moved it to a spot between a birch tree and a spruce tree, so the clothes would get more sun and also not be right outside the back door. It was a pretty short line, though, so it wasn't good for much except hanging out blankets or whatever.

I never did get a clothesline put up at our rental house in the village here, mostly because there was nowhere convenient to run it and we didn't want to dig a giant hole in the yard to put in a standalone one.

When we moved to this house, A. put up a temporary clothesline for me between the fence and the shed. I never intended that to be the permanent spot because it wasn't long enough and also it was exposed to the often-strong winds here that would blow things right off the line with some regularity. The wind also blew loose dirt all around there.

I was determined that at this house, where we anticipate staying for many years and where the weather is good pretty much all year for line drying, I was going to have a clothesline that really worked the way I wanted it to, not just a random one put up wherever there happened to be supports for it. After all my experience with clotheslines in the past, I knew exactly what I wanted.

The preferred style of clothesline in this area is two T-bars of heavy pipe to make a double clothesline. I liked this idea very much and told A. that's what I wanted. With two full-length clotheslines, I would finally have enough space to hang two loads of laundry. I have never had this much clothesline space, and now that I have to do two loads of laundry every other day, I could only hang all my clothes out if I did a load every single day. And then I still couldn't put up sheets and other things.

I also spent some time thinking about where I wanted the clothesline positioned, eventually deciding on the backyard, which is completely enclosed by the house on the south side and a high board fence on the other three sides. This blocks the wind enough that even when it's blowing a gale everywhere else, there's never more than a pretty good breeze back there. Also, there are no trees there, which means no birds perching over the line and soiling the formerly-clean clothes with their droppings.


A. built the clothesline I specified, in the place I requested. I bought some heavy-duty clothesline to put on the frame, some really awesome metal clothespins to anchor the clothes on the line even if the wind is strong (and also to replace most of the wooden clothespins I have always hated because they seem to break far too frequently).

We think it could use an additional prop in the center to hold everything up properly, but other than that easily-remedied issue, I have the clothesline of my dreams now:

Happy sigh.

And as a bonus, A. also made me a compost bin so I wasn't just dumping garbage in a pile in the corner of the back yard:

Incredibly ugly and cheap afghan left behind by Dale. Nothing is more patriotic than a compost bin.

Three cheers for A. He sure knows how to spoil a woman.

Friday, March 15, 2019

Friday Food: Camping and Traveling

Not that Poppy and I did any of the camping or traveling, but the rest of the family did.


Short version: Tilapia, fresh bread, green salad

Long version: A. had found some frozen tilapia fillets at the grocery store the day before, so he got them for our no-meat Lenten Friday meal. He cooked them in the oven covered in garlic, lemon juice, and a full stick of butter. He joked that he's going to start a cooking site dedicated to ways to get the most fat into your food.

He might not be joking about that, actually.

I had to bake bread right before dinner, so instead of frying potatoes as I had planned, I decided to just slice the still-warm bread and cover it in butter. Yum.


Short version: Camp food for the boys, leftovers for the girls

Long version: For the campers, I made what A. calls Hobo Packets, which is any kind of food that can be wrapped up in aluminum foil and heated up in the coals of a fire. In this case, I put in boiled sliced potatoes--tossed with butter, salt, pepper, garlic powder, and paprika--plus slices of leftover steak on top of that. I also put a couple of extra pats of butter on the steak, as it was quite lean.

Perfection for a meat-and-potatoes man like A.

In addition, they had Fritos, cheese, carrot sticks, apples, and marshmallows. The latter three were apparently all roasted over the fire on sticks. Charlie tells me he likes carrots cooked this way, but no way else. So if I want him to eat cooked carrots, I have to spear them and cook them over an open fire. 

Duly noted. And unlikely.

Poppy and I had a mixture of diced leftover potato and pot roast cooked in a skillet with a couple of tomatoes from an open can in the refrigerator, green peas, and some garlic powder. This was very good, actually, and didn't require any real cooking to get a hot meal. Hooray for leftovers.


Short version: Tacos, with avocado! And roasted sweet potatoes/bell pepper/onion.

Long version: Yes, I get excited enough about avocado that I must use an exclamation point. A. went to a big grocery store on Friday and thus was able to get me some avocados. Avocados make everything better.


Short version: Taco meat skillet, cucumbers with salt and vinegar

Long version: Leftover taco meat + rice + cheddar and pepperjack cheese. Done.


Short version: Ribeye steaks, mashed potatoes, sauteed mushrooms and onions, frozen green beans

Long version: Nah.


Short version: Roasted chicken thighs, leftover rice, roasted broccoli

Long version: A. and Charlie left for a special father/son trip to Carlsbad this day. To keep Poppy distracted while I was making dinner, I put the little rocking chair in the kitchen, gave her her water bottle, and stationed her attendant behind her to do the rocking.

Because I know how to please a tiny toddler.


Short version: Curried chicken salad sandwiches, still-frozen green beans, grape tomatoes

Long version: I had quite a bit of chicken left from Wednesday, which Cubby and Jack requested I make into chicken salad. And then I had to bake bread in the afternoon, so we had fresh bread. It all worked out.

I gave the kids still-frozen green beans to eat while I was putting together dinner and then plopped some grape tomatoes on their plates. Lame, but they got two vegetables in one meal. Go me.

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

Wednesday, March 13, 2019


My sister sent me an areca palm as a housewarming present. I placed it in the same spot I had the Christmas tree, and the other morning I realized that it gets a direct beam of light just as the sun is rising in the morning.

Spotlight on the areca.

This makes me happy every time I see it. Lucky for me the sun rises every morning, so I have a guaranteed bright spot to my day every day.

Ha. "Bright spot." Inadvertent, but funny.

That's all. Have a bright day, my lovelies.

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Girls' Night In

A. took the boys camping last night, leaving me and Poppy to live it up at home, just us girls.

I stopped short of face masks, but I did make some brownies. Mostly because I had over-floured the counter last time I was kneading my bread and ended up with about half a cup of flour that I didn't want to just throw away. And what recipe uses just a half cup of flour? Why, this delicious brownie recipe, of course.

How handy.

In all honesty, it was not a particularly thrilling afternoon and evening. We went for a walk to the post office. We read It's Spring over and over and over and over. ("In April the robin began to sing to tell the rabbit it was spring. . . " You want to know the rest? I know the entire thing by heart.) We had some dinner.

And one of us wore bright pink sweatpants, because you have to be comfortable AND stylish for a girls' night, right?

One of us also had a bubble bath.

Still a bit skeptical of this bubble business.

That girl was in bed by 6:30 p.m. I was exhausted and seriously considered going to bed right after her, but I decided that was just too lame, as well as a waste of a rare night on my own. So I watched the movie Return to Me, which is a fantastic movie and one of my favorites. It is also, more importantly, available for free on Amazon Prime streaming.

The menfolk got back around 9:30 this morning, smelling of campfire smoke, covered in smears of roasted marshmallows and with many stories*. A good night for all.

* The most interesting was that an elderly Apache women in full traditional dress showed up at their campsite--one that A. found way off the beaten track by a lake--with her grandson and told them that the local tribe used to have their meetings at that site when she was young. She was very pleased to come upon a tent and a fire and three shirtless boys digging holes and chopping wood with hatchets. She said it reminded her of the tribal gatherings. 

Friday, March 8, 2019

Friday Food: Dinner Delegating

There were two nights this week that I was not the primary cook. This trend may continue.


Short version: Cubby's special hamburgers, quesadillas, tomato and cucumber salad

Long version: Cubby has a habit of standing right next to me while I'm rushing to get dinner on the table, asking questions and remarking wistfully that he wishes he could make dinner.

Believe me, I would like nothing better, son. The problem is getting from wishing to make dinner and actually being able to make it. In between those two things is a lot of instruction and interfering younger siblings.


In pursuit of the greater good--that is, one day not making every single meal myself--I asked Cubby if he would like to make dinner on Friday night. As expected, he was enthusiastic. I asked him what he wanted to make. "Hamburgers," he said immediately.

"And what else?" I asked.

"Um . . . quesadillas." (He already knows how to make quesadillas.)

"Okay. What vegetable?"


"Yes. Vegetable." I suspect he subscribes to his father's idea of a "balanced" meal. That is, meat and maybe an optional starch. Vegetables don't immediately come to mind. He needed a little coaching on this point. He decided on tomatoes.

So that's what he did. I did a lot of suggesting and unobtrusively flipping quesadillas or hamburgers to avoid burning, but I tried to stay out of his way.

Raw meat action shot.

He ended up adding the remainder of a cucumber to some grape tomatoes and using the last of a jar of previously-made vinaigrette to make a tomato and cucumber salad.

Everyone enjoyed Cubby's meal. He was very proud.

A very goofy photo of the cook and his finished product.


Short version: Leftover hamburgers, pasta, steamed carrots, ponudo for A.

Long version: I was lazy and just added butter, garlic powder, pepper, and Parmesan cheese to the pasta. The children were pleased with this. But then, they're always pleased with pasta, lazy or not.


Short version: Daddy's roasted duck and potatoes, fried mushrooms and onions, frozen green beans, peanut clusters

Long version: A. bought a duck like two months ago when he happened to see one for a good price at the market. He LOVES duck. I can take it or leave it, so he was in charge of cooking it.

He found a recipe in which the duck is stuffed with cloves of garlic and rosemary--he substituted thyme at my suggestion, because I dislike rosemary and don't have any on hand--and then it's roasted on top of sliced potatoes. So he did that.

I made the mushrooms and onions mostly because I had an open package of mushrooms to use up and an onion that was starting to go bad. And green beans because part of my Motherhood Contract is to provide some kind of vegetable at every dinner. Even if I'm not technically cooking.

It was Sunday, so Jack and I made peanut clusters for dessert. I didn't even use a recipe. I just melted chocolate chips and a bit of coconut oil in the microwave, then mixed in roasted and salted peanuts and dolloped the goop on a parchment-lined baking sheet.

I put this in the refrigerator to firm up. About two minutes after that, Cubby asked if we could call my dad. While I was dialing the phone, Jack asked if he could have a carrot. I asked him to wait a minute, but he decided to help himself. By the time I had my dad on the phone with Cubby approximately ninety seconds later, Jack had the refrigerator door open and Poppy had the tray of still-goopy peanut clusters on the floor.

What a team.

Luckily, she hadn't had time to smear the chocolate all over. The peanut clusters were all still on the parchment paper. They had sort of slid together, but I pushed them roughly back into shape and they were fine.

It was a classic Mom Moment. Kids are fun.

They are also very prone to smearing chocolate all over their faces. Like I said: Fun.


Short version: Pot roast, carrots, green beans, A.'s Joyful Stew

Long version: Yeah, A.'s stew . . . when he prepared his duck, he found giblets. He asked me what to do with them, and I told him they're usually used to make stock. So he did that. Then he added the bones left after the kids were done eating--they never get all the meat--and simmered it some more. The next day, he added some pigs' feet and then a rabbit that Cubby caught in a snare.

Right at dinnertime, he added the potatoes left from roasting the duck and a couple of the carrots from the pot roast. He said it was Joyful Stew because it was so satisfying. It actually tasted better than you would think, and both Cubby and Jack elected to eat Daddy's stew. Charlie went with the less-exciting pot roast. Poppy ate both.


Short version: A Fat Tuesday feast of smothered pork chops, collard greens, and cornbread

Long version: In the northeast, Shrove Tuesday is celebrated with pancakes. I like pancakes, but I'm not from the northeast. Neither is my mother. She's from New Orleans, and so, in honor of my heritage, I made not-pancakes.

Smothered pork chops=browned pork chops simmered in a sauce of onions, bell pepper, garlic, and tomatoes.

The collard greens came from the last bag of frozen blanched greens from last summer. There's more in the bag. I may make those greens last until I have lettuce from our garden.

Children make almost as much mess with cornbread as they do with rice.

Lovely. A lot easier to sweep up than rice, though.


Short version: Scrambled eggs, stir-fried vegetables in peanut sauce, rice

Long version: Ash Wednesday means no meat and church at 5 p.m. I made the vegetables and rice before we left to pick the boys up from school so when we got home at 6 p.m. with an exhausted baby and three hungry boys, all I had to do was heat everything up and scramble the eggs. Peanut sauce just means I add peanut butter to my standard soy sauce/vinegar/ginger/sugar/cornstarch sauce. The peanut butter makes the sauce way better than you'd think it would.


Short version: Ribeye and T-bone steaks, leftover rice, green peas, A.'s leftover Joyful Stew

Long version: Cubby and Jack chose the stew; Charlie, Poppy, and I ate the steak; and A. ate it all.

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

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

A Plethora of Possibility

Yesterday was an exceedingly boring day. The cold temperatures--it never got above 12 degrees--and the snow meant that Poppy and I didn't go outside. The boys did have school, though there was a two-hour delay and the other bus just didn't run.

The other bus brings the majority of the elementary kids, so Cubby was the only one in his class yesterday, and there was only one other student in Charlie's class.

Anyway. Poppy and I spent a long day inside. She was bored. I was bored. It was cold.*

But there were seed catalogs!

Looking at seed catalogs is an interesting experience now that I find myself with a couple of acres of bare dirt of my own. Blackrock, of course, was already fully planted with many kinds of plants, as the MiL is a very knowledgeable and active gardener.

The last two houses I lived in were rentals. This is the first time I find myself with the responsibility of planning out gardens by myself. Well, by myself with A., of course, who is also pretty knowledgeable about plants.

We could get a climbing rose for the ramada! We could put lilacs by the fence! We could plant sedum around the patio!

One nice thing about starting from nothing is that anything is an improvement. There will be some trial and error, I'm sure (lots of error, probably), but it's fun to do the planning part. Especially when it's 12 degrees outside.

* Even in the house. The living room was 58 degrees. We have to work on the heating situation before next winter.

Monday, March 4, 2019

The Traditional March Snow

For the two years we lived on the Canadian border, we experienced severe winter storms on March 14th. Both years.

Honestly, that sort of thing was one of the reasons we moved.

I was not expecting March 14th to feature heavy snow here in New Mexico. I don't think it will. March 4th, however?

This is pretty severe winter weather for our current location.

It all started with ice on Saturday night, which ensured that the subsequent snow would stick to everything. It dropped into the single digits last night and hasn't been above freezing for 48 hours now.

The big difference here is that it was almost 70 degrees the day before all this started, and it's going to be 70 degrees again on Thursday.

I can take a winter storm in March when I'm pretty sure I'm not going to be seeing winter weather for the next two months.