Wednesday, June 20, 2018

The Snotty, Itchy Icing on the Stress Cake

What this week of finishing up school and packing up a house for a cross-country move needed was a few kids with a cold. Plus a kid with poison ivy all over his legs. You know, for maximum sleep deprivation and general misery.

Oh well. Could be worse. They could all be throwing up. (Knocking on alllll the wood now. Good thing we live in the middle of the woods.)

Monday, June 18, 2018

An Inspirational Quote

Okay. We're at T minus 6 days before we leave this house. I am . . . not all packed. I don't even have the boxes I need to get packed at the moment.

Hold me.

But! In the course of random Internet surfing this morning--which is of course what I should be doing instead of the five million things that will actually assist me in moving in an organized fashion--I came across a helpful quote*. Allow me to share in the hopes that it might help someone else out there.

Life is like a roller coaster: Sometimes all you can do is hang on and try not to puke.

Sometimes the universe sends us just what we need, doesn't it?

* I'm not sure if quote is the appropriate term, as I highly doubt this can be attributed to an actual person.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Friday Food: A Thrifty Theme

We ate seven meals this week from just three packages of meat I purchased. That may be a record. Also, I'm trying to use up the bits of things in the pantry and freezer before we move. I'm doing pretty well with it.


Short version: Carnitas tacos, salad

Long version: One of the best things about cooking large hunks of pork is that you then inevitably have enough left over for another meal. I always either shred the pork and simmer it with barbecue sauce for pulled pork sandwiches, or chunk it up and fry it in lard for carnitas.

I went with the latter this time, frying it in the rendered fat that had solidified on top of the juices I poured off from cooking the pork butt earlier in the week. So thrifty. And tasty.


Short version: Bunless grilled cheeseburgers, porky rice, Grandma Brown's baked beans, carrot sticks

Long version: I cooked the rice in the de-fatted juices from the pork butt. Doubly thrifty.

I sure did punk out on vegetables for this meal. Carrot sticks are what I consider a "grudging vegetable," meaning I know I need to serve some kind of vegetable, but I'm feeling sulky about having to make yet another thing, so I just peel some carrots and cut them up. Cucumbers also fall into this category.


Short version: Sloppy joes, cucumber salad

Long version: A. and Jack were gone and the remaining children and I were due at baseball practice at 6 p.m., so simple was the objective here. I had some uncooked ground beef left from Saturday, which I cooked with a chopped onion, some barbecue sauce, and the remainder of two almost-empty bottles of ketchup that needed shaking with water to get the last bit of ketchup out. Waste not, want not!

Another thrifty thing about sloppy joes is that they are one of the only times you actually want to use the heels of the bread. The heels don't get soaked with sauce and fall apart like regular bread slices do.

The cucumbers this time don't count as grudging, because I made at least some effort with them. I made a dressing for the cucumber chunks with sour cream, red wine vinegar, salt, onion powder, and a little sugar. Okay, so it wasn't a lot of effort, but Cubby and Charlie seemed to like it.


Short version: Re-purposed leftovers, peas

Long version: Still just me, Cubby, and Charlie eating, so I heated up leftover sloppy joe meat with leftover rice and added some shredded cheese.

No one could ever accuse me of being a foodie.

Take note: Meal three with the ground beef I de-frosted on Saturday. But only because A. wasn't here.

And now! A break for a photo of the baby who still wants nothing to do with food except for greasy bones.

(New) toothbrushes are good to gnaw on, too, but much less tasty.


Short version: Odd pork chops, cornbread, roasted broccoli, roasted asparagus, raw radishes, baked apples

Long version: The pork chops were these boneless center cut things in odd shapes. Basically the leftovers from cutting more-standard pork chops, I suspect. Whatever, they were on sale and they were fine when grilled.

I made the cornbread to use up a bag of cornmeal that's been languishing in the freezer. While the oven was on to cook the cornbread, I roasted the broccoli and asparagus and made the apples. The apples were grocery store ones that were disappointingly soft. As they almost always are from the grocery store.

The boys ate the radishes, which A. picked up at the awesome produce store. They love them--and most other vegetables--raw. Man, I really need a garden.


Short version: Chicken and rice skillet casserole, green peas

Long version: The MiL sent A. home with several extra chicken breasts she had poached when she was making chicken salad for a party. So I cooked some diced bacon, then some diced onion, then added the diced chicken, deglazed it all with a little milk, then added some rice I had cooked in chicken broth earlier, then a couple of spoonfuls of mayonnaise, a little vinegar, and topped it all with shredded cheese before broiling it to melt and brown the cheese.

Got all that? Yeah, I don't know exactly what I did, either.

This was one of those sleeper hits where I wasn't sure anyone would eat it, and then they all ended up fighting over seconds and there wasn't enough.


Short version: Chili, rice, carrots, roasted sweet potatoes, homemade tortilla chips

Long version: The chili I made from a large bottom London broil roast (plus onion, garlic, tomato, cumin, chili powder, and a little vinegar).

The carrots were eaten whole by the children before dinner.

The tortilla chips I made because I found a few packages of the inferior tortillas in the freezer and a bottle of canola oil in the pantry with just a tiny bit of oil still in it. Plus, the pan from roasting the sweet potatoes was still all oily. So I just smeared the tortillas on both sides with the canola oil, cut them into triangles, spread them out, salted them, and baked them for awhile at 350. They were a hit. Unsurprisingly.

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

Thursday, June 14, 2018

This About Sums It Up

So what's life with a pack of small boys like?

It's going for an after-dinner walk . . .

That turns into a rain walk . . .

That turns into a grass fight with the cut grass left behind by the highway department mower . . .

And a boy with a clump of cut grass on his head who announces himself as "Captain Bird's Nest" (the next generation of Masked Morons* has arrived for sure) . . .

Which then devolves into three half-naked boys running around shrieking outside the house for an hour (or all-naked in one case) . . .

Because they've been locked out of the house until they submit to a freezing hose-down to remove the worst of the grass sticking to them . . .

And holding them down and hosing them while they cry and try to get away . . .

Then cycling all three in and out of the shower/bath . . .

And then cleaning about half a cup of cut grass out of the tub and wiping down mud on every wall of the shower stall.

That's what it's like.

In a word: exhausting.

Though, yes, also sometimes amusing. Except I reached the end of my amusement right about hose-down time last night.

* I had the brilliant idea of writing a graphic novel about the Masked Moron and Captain Bird's Nest. It would be a surefire bestseller with eight-year-old boys. If only I could draw.

Saturday, June 9, 2018

The Magic of Disney, Indeed

A couple of weeks ago, I was singing the Cinderelly song from the original Disney Cinderella movie, and Cubby asked me where that song was from.

He'd never seen Cinderella? Well, we must remedy that.

So I got the movie for the boys to watch.

They liked Lucifer the cat. They liked Gus the fat mouse. They liked the royal servant with the monocle.

But then we got to the ball. And when the prince and Cinderella started dancing, the older boys got all squirmy.

Then Charlie said, "I wish the prince would get flushed down the toilet."

Not to be outdone, Cubby added, "I wish they would dance over a toilet and Cinderella would flush the toilet and FLUSH! The prince would go down the toilet."

Boys are fun.

Friday, June 8, 2018

Friday Food: Grilling Is the Alpha and the Omega

I seem to keep coming full circle on either my food or choice of cooking medium.


Short version: Grilled pork chops, sweet potatoes, dinner rolls, salad

Long version: This was not at all my plan for dinner. I had thought it was going to be cooler, so I took out ground beef to make taco meat. I had the Mexican slaw made and everything. Then I realized that it was not at all cooler. In fact, it was just as hot as the day before. And then when I tried to turn on the air conditioning at 2:30 p.m., it didn't work.

There was no way in hell I was going to be simmering taco meat for 45 minutes in an 83-degree house with the afternoon sun blasting through our stupid west-facing picture window.

So instead I took out pork chops from the freezer. At 2:30 p.m. The house was so hot that they were almost all the way thawed at 5 p.m. when I put them on the grill. There's the silver lining, I guess.

I microwaved the sweet potatoes for a few minutes before wrapping them in foil and putting them on the grill too.

The dinner rolls were the same ones the MiL had brought us. The salad was made with already-washed lettuce and dressed with already-made ranch dressing.

Boom: Dinner with no cooking in the kitchen.

I am a magician.

My magic touch was confirmed when I transformed three cranky, squabbling boys into fun-loving compatriots by letting them eat their dinner with their hands while sitting on a blanket on the porch and then running through the sprinkler.


Short version: Rotisserie chicken, potato chips, corn on the cob, watermelon

Long version: For the second night in a row, I planned on tacos and then didn't make them. My planned trip to the grocery store turned into a family outing with a stop at the playground, and I decided to just buy prepared food at the grocery store for dinner so I wouldn't have to cook for once.

It reminded me of WHY I cook, though. The total for all of this was $15, and it really wasn't enough food for all of us. I really should have got two chickens, but at $7 each, I just couldn't bring myself to do it.

Plus, it didn't taste nearly as good as homecooked food.

The kids were happy, though. I even acquiesced to a seedless watermelon, and you know how I feel about those.


Short version: Tacos, Mexican slaw

Long version: And on the third night, there were tacos. I was the only one who ate the Mexican slaw (cabbage, shallots, vinegar, cumin, salt). The lettuce and salsa on the tacos counts for a vegetable, right?


Short version: Choice of hamburgers or tacos, bread and butter, steamed broccoli, sauteed mushrooms and onions

Long version: I had some ground beef left, with which I made five hamburgers. I ate one with vegetables. Cubby ate one with broccoli and bread and butter. A. ate three with mushrooms and onions and bread and butter. Charlie and Jack ate tacos with the leftover meat.

Customizable food: It's what's for dinner.

Meanwhile, on the kitchen floor . . .

Watchu lookin' at?


Short version: Pork butt, baked potatoes, cucumbers with vinegar and salt, green peas, bread pudding

Long version: Is there a less appetizingly-named cut of meat than "pork butt"? No. Tastes good, though.

So I discovered a few months ago, while trying to find a use for the enormous bag of bread crumbs that had accumulated in the freezer, that I actually prefer bread pudding made with bread crumbs instead of bread cubes. It has a more uniform texture. Granted, my bread crumbs are just the ends of sourdough bread that I quickly whiz in the food processor, so they're much chunkier than the dry breadcrumbs in the cans or whatever. I would never make bread pudding with those. Gross.

Bread pudding is an excellent use for the fresh breadcrumbs from homemade bread, though. You have to either use slightly less bread or slightly more liquid, however, as the crumbs when measured actually result in more bread in the recipe. I use a Christopher Kimball recipe that calls for a 2:1 ratio of milk to cream, and a LOT of nutmeg.

I seriously love nutmeg. And I didn't drop it in the milk mixture this time. I win!


Short version: Sneaky trout appetizer, sweet Italian sausage, fried potatoes, fried cabbage and onions, steamed carrots

Long version: A. left at 1:30 p.m. to go the post office. When he hadn't returned by 3 p.m., I made a wild guess that he had taken the opportunity to go fishing in the spot near the village that he likes. Sure enough, he came home at 3:30 p.m. looking sheepish and holding two small trout. He told me they were in his post office box.

He's a funny one.

He fried them whole in bacon grease for Cubby and Jack. Charlie isn't so much into fish.

When I put some olive oil in the skillet to cook the sausage, I poured way too much. So I poured some into another skillet to cook the potatoes. And there was still too much oil in the sausage pan--I must have been afflicted with a muscle spasm at the moment of pouring--so I put some in yet another pan to cook the cabbage and onions. Thus, I fried everything and my stove was a disgusting, greasy mess.

The carrots were nice and clean, though. Particularly since I cooked them in the microwave.


Short version: Grilled chicken thighs, spaghetti with tomato/cream sauce, grilled green garlic, green salad

Long version: It's amazing to me how the green garlic (which is just immature garlic plants, just like scallions are immature onions) loses so much of its flavor when cooked. The raw green garlic is like, "WOAH, NELLIE! Take that vampires!" And the cooked garlic is all, "What did I just eat? Cucumbers with a hint of garlic?" I can't quite figure out the best use for it, is what I'm saying. I think possibly finely chopped and sprinkled over tacos has been the best I've found so far. Any suggestions?

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

Thursday, June 7, 2018

The Return of the Countdown Candy

The school year in New York goes waaaay too long. Cubby and Charlie's last day of school isn't until June 22. The weather feels summery, everyone has trouble going to sleep because it stays light too late, and everyone has a really hard time getting up in the morning due to the late bedtimes.

We're over it.

Last year I had some problems with reluctant boys not wanting to get on the school bus towards the end of the year. I got tired of cajoling and threatening and forcibly leading them out the door, so I decided bribery was definitely the answer.

Thus, the tradition of Countdown Candy was born.

I asked A. to get me some kind of small candy at the store. He chose Reese's Pieces, which I of course approved of. Then I put three Reese's Pieces in each cup of an egg carton--one for each boy*. After everyone was ready for the bus, including backpacks on, they got one Reese's Piece (I suppose that's the singular form) on their way out the door and we counted the cups that still had candy in them to see how many days were left.

It worked magically well.

We haven't had so many bad mornings this year, but I've been waiting until there were only twelve days left of school anyway. Today is the day. The Reese's Pieces are in their egg carton, ready to count down the final days of school.

The Countdown Candy is sweet, but the end of the year is sweeter still. We're almost there. Twelve days and counting . . .

* No, Jack does not actually get on the bus, but he always came outside with us to wait, and do you think he's going to watch his brothers eat candy at 7:15 a.m. without demanding his own? Ha.