Saturday, December 31, 2011

Oh, Right. That.

Totally forgot today is New Year's Eve until I saw all the  "Year in Review" junk on Yahoo.  So how will The Family Blackrock be ringing out the new year and ringing in the new one?

Well, we'll go to the dump.  Maybe to the feed store to get some chicken food.  A. will be running the lake pump to fill the cistern during this unseasonable warm spell.  Maybe Cubby can get something more exciting for his birthday this year than 4,000 gallons of water.  Cubby will toast to the new year with some milk and go to bed at seven, as usual.  And if we're lucky, A. and I will follow suit about an hour later.

Hey, YOU try waking up at 5 a.m. every morning and see how late you want to stay up at night.


Yes, we're lame.  And yes, we are totally okay with that.

Sp, poppets, what are your plans for this rockin' New Year's Eve?

Friday, December 30, 2011

There Was Cussing

Not in the presence of my little mimic, but cussing nonetheless, for yesterday I had to organize the freezers.

Cue the suspense music.

Organizing chest freezers S-U-C-K-S sucks.  Everything falls to the bottom and must be hauled up to get it out.  "Everything" being heavy-ass boxes of frozen meat.  Mostly, in the case of the upstairs freezer, heavy-ass boxes of liver and suet.  I hate liver, and although I make tallow* from the suet now, I was unhappy to be struggling with not even really edible meat materials.

I called them bad names.  They didn't seem to mind.

After much toil and struggle--and quite a lot of back strain--I got all the older meat arranged in the upstairs freezer, leaving the downstairs freezer mostly empty for the six boxes of new meat.  A. hauled all those boxes out of the car and down the stairs into the cellar, which was a feat of strength in itself.

In sum, we both earned a steak dinner.  Good thing we have about 100 pounds of steak to work with now.

* Speaking of which, can you believe I haven't even made any french fries with that tallow yet?  I KNOW.  Gotta get on that pronto.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Nothing To Do with Our Trip

Mostly because I have yet to get the photos off the camera and what good are stories without pictures?  No good.  That's right.

So instead, let me tell you about my birthday cake.  Unfortunately, I don't have a picture of that either.  Which is really too bad, since it was really impressive.  After much cogitation, I decided on a German chocolate cake. The MiL had never made one, so she did a search online and came up with the most complicated recipe for German chocolate cake ever devised.  Specifically, this one.  She sent me the link to see the recipe, and I told her it looked like an enormous pain in the ass, but if she wanted to do it, have at it.

So she did.  With some small alterations by me.  Specifically, no pecans, because I don't like crunchy in my cake, and no rum, because I HATE liquor in baked goods.

High maintenance, that's me.

The MiL made the cake for me yesterday, and it took her about half the day.  The end result, however, was pretty amazing.  Also enormous.  Luckily, we attended an impromptu gathering last night to which I brought a big chunk of the cake to share so other people could exclaim over the MiL's baking skills.  They did.

And on an unrelated note, it was 43 degrees in our bedroom last night when we went to bed.  Hello, winter!  On the upside, that means I don't have to worry about the half a cow in the back of my car at the moment (cut up in boxes, obviously, not just an actual half of a cow).  I haven't organized the freezers yet to accommodate the new meat, but it's quite obvious I don't have to worry about it thawing in the car anytime soon.

Cake and meat.  That's all for now.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Road Trips with Toddlers

Before we left for our recent many hours in the car with Cubby confined to a car seat, someone asked me how we keep a firecracker like Cubby entertained for that many hours in the car.

The word firecracker, incidentally, was not mine.  The kid's obviously got a reputation.


The answer?  I sit in the back and play Kristin the Great Entertainer for hours at a time.  There's lots of talking and pointing things out out the window.  So a typical "conversation" goes like this:

Me:  See the river, Cubby?  That's the Susquehanna River.  And look.  There's a boat.

Cubby:  Boat?

Me:  Yes, boat.

Cubby:  Fish?

Me:  Fish?  Maybe.

Cubby:  Man?

Me:  You think there's a man fishing in the boat?  Sure, if you say so.

Cubby:  Bobber?

Me:  The man fishing in the boat is using a bobber?  Maybe he is.

Cubby:  Hook?

And on and on and on.  Other fun topics include trucks, especially those with ladders and construction materials in the back; hammers, even though there are none in evidence in the car because I am not such a fool as to give my son a hammer when he's within smashing distance of a window; saws, though, once again, that's a hypothetical conversation as we do not routinely carry saws in the car; and dogs.

I also sing.  A lot.  And he eats things.  On this trip, the animal crackers were a big hit.  Those things are really hard to identify as actual animals, but since Cubby wasn't about to disagree with me, I'd just hand him one and announce it was a lion and that was good enough.  Then he would bite the head off and say, "Uh oh!"  And I'd say, "Uh oh!  You bit off its head!"  And he'd say, "Missing?"  And I'd say, "Yup, it's missing its head."  Then he'd eat the rest until only a foot remained and announce, "Foot!"

And then I'd give him another one and we'd go through it all again.

So you see, it's not hard to entertain a child trapped in a car seat for hours at a time.  The child is having a great time.  It's the mother sitting there in the back who could use some help.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Happy Birthday to Me

I must admit to feeling every one of my 32 years today, which might have something to do with a certain child's insistence on getting up at 5 a.m. (or EARLIER) every damn day of our recent trip to D.C., plus the twelve hours we spent getting home today.

However, it was a good birthday nonetheless, and a great trip.  More details and probably some pictures will be inflicted upon you later in the week.  So there's that to look forward to.

And now my birthday gift to myself: Going to bed at 8 p.m.

Yup.  32.  Definitely.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Tales from the Beltway

Hello, duckies!  Here I am sitting next to someone else's Christmas tree in someone else's living room.  In a long-sleeved t-shirt.  I KNOW.  Heat!  It's a good time.

We drove along a very interesting road yesterday on our way here. We were on US Route 15, which runs right along the Susquehanna River.  It's a beautiful river with these really awesome old cabins up on pilings on the banks of the river.  But that was only on one side of the road.  The other side was lined with multiple adult entertainment venues (of the triple X variety), motels you couldn't pay me to stay in, and "Indian trading posts."  And let's not forget the meth heads dumpster diving outside those motels.

It was kind of amazing.

Also amazing was the amount of heavy machinery being used on some kind of complicated construction project on the Beltway. The last 20 minutes or so of the trip were spent pointing out cranes and diggers and rollers and other machines.  It was fun.

And now here we are.  There was something called a meat bomb for dinner last night--quite good, despite the alarming name--and monkey bread this morning.  The monkey bread pretty much made my holiday.  And now we have three days of merriment to look forward to.

Merry Christmas Eve, poppets.  May your day be merry and bright.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Don't Mind Me

I just woke up at 3:45 THIS MORNING, so I thought I'd hop on here and say hi!  Because there's nothing that makes you feel ready for a long car trip with a toddler like waking up over an hour before it's necessary, after waking up about four times in the six-hour window of "sleep."


But!  I did have time (LOTS OF TIME) to take a shower, a fact which I'm sure my fellow passengers in the car will appreciate.  My eyes may be bloodshot and have black circles under them visible from outer space, but at least my hair will look good.

Oh, and an aside to my sister in case she's checking in here this morning even though I gave every indication yesterday that I would not be posting for several days: I've come to my senses about the crib and we will be buying a Pack 'n' Play somewhere along the way.  Or possibly somewhere around your house if we don't stop on the way.  Just thought you'd like to know that.

And an aside to everyone else:  I'll tell you about the crib insanity later.  Suffice it to say that sometimes my own  kind of crazy surprises even me.

Okay, now I really AM going.  Peace out, poppets!  And merry Christmas Eve-Eve.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Of Trees and Travel

Someone--an anonymous someone--asked yesterday about our tree.  I wasn't aware there was any interest in our tree.  I shan't be posting a picture of it, because A) I think everyone knows what a Christmas tree looks like, correct?  And B) It's a Toddler Tree.

A Toddler Tree, for those who don't know, is a tree on which the only breakable ornaments are at the very top.  This means that the top two feet of our tree are quite crowded with the shiny, festive, and extremely fragile glass ornaments.  The remaining four feet of tree on the bottom hosts a somewhat sad and sparse collection of crocheted elves and felt things.  It looks kind of odd.  It's certainly necessary, however, as no toddler is to be trusted around breakable ornaments, and Cubby can't be trusted around the tree itself.  He's not even allowed to get close to it, because he likes to smack it with his hand.  He thinks this is fun.  

He is a, ahem, high-spirited child.  I'll be glad when I can take the tree away and remove such a source of constant temptation and tension.

First, though, we shall be removing him from the tree by taking him to my sister's house in the Washington, D.C. area for the actual holiday.  We're leaving early tomorrow morning and returning on my birthday.*

What?  You don't know when my birthday is?  FOR SHAME.  It's the 27th.  Yes, two days after Christmas.  And yes, you should feel sorry for me.  Having a birthday that soon after Christmas is kind of a drag.

But anyway!  Before my birthday celebration in the car, we have some Christmas celebrating to do with my sister's family.  I bet they don't have a Toddler Tree. 

Wish me luck.  And if I don't talk to you before then, Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.

* I don't know if I'll be posting anything in those five days, but rest assured, you'll be in my heart if not on my computer screen.  Or something.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Worst

What could be worse than getting ready for bed only to find that there are no sheets on said bed because they were washed and not put on yet?  Getting ready for bed and preparing to put the washed sheets on, only to find they aren't quite dry because a robe belt got wrapped around part of them in the dryer*.

I said a bad word.  Then I put the sheets back in the dryer for twenty more minutes.  Happy Tuesday night.

* I take that back.  The absolute worst would have been if I had done this when I was still schlepping our laundry to a laundromat because there was no dryer at Blackrock.  I guess it can always be worse.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011


It seems to be a popular idea in our culture that height is an advantage for men.  I'm sure you've heard the theories and studies about tall men predominating in powerful positions, including the presidency.  But you know when height is a definite disadvantage for males?  When they're not quite two years old but can already reach doorknobs and all the knives on the counter.

Although that's not so much a disadvantage for Cubby as it is for me, I suppose.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Yes, Cubby, There Is a Santa Claus. Maybe.

Parenting stumbling block #1693: Santa Claus.

As a grocery store cashier was cooing over Cubby the other day, she asked if he knew about Santa Claus yet. Though I answered politely enough in the negative, my brain was thinking, "Of COURSE not. He's not even TWO."

But I know there are kids his age who do know about Santa Claus. And I know he's perfectly capable of understanding at least the basic concept. I mean, this is a child who already knows exactly where the meat on his plate comes from*.

The problem, I suppose, is me.  I am unexpectedly kerflummoxed by this.  I don't really know how to explain with any kind of sincerity what sounds, frankly, like a totally ridiculous situation.  Really now.  Fat guy flies around the world in a sled pulled by eight tiny reindeer, sliding down chimneys at every house all over the world on one night a year to deliver presents?  HOW do I say all that with a straight face?

I know we should be all about maintaining our children's innocence and encouraging a belief in magic or whatever, but . . . why?  Why is it important for my son to believe in this?

I feel like an unbelievable Scrooge and cynic for even thinking that.  Though I don't remember it, I'm sure I believed in Santa Claus.  But I had two older siblings.  I bet they were the ones who explained it to me.  Which seems much more normal to me, because presumably they believed in him too.  It wasn't some adult telling bald-faced (though well-intentioned) lies.

A. doesn't remember believing in Santa Claus.  He was living in Saudi Arabia during the prime Santa Claus years, so he was more exposed to Ramadan than all the trappings of Christian holidays.  So we have no personal experience to draw on here.

Anyway, I suppose Cubby will end up learning about Santa Claus one way or another, and I won't be quick to explain to him why it's all a pack of lies.  Because then he'd be That Kid who goes around informing all the other tiny children that Santa Claus isn't real, and then they'd all go home crying to their parents and demanding explanations and their parents will all hate me for not fostering a belief in Santa.

Or something.

 It's not something I thought about much one way or the other until a random question from a cashier at the grocery store.  And now I have to think about it.

Ah, parenting.  Knocks you on your ass on a regular basis.

So what about you, poppets?  If you have/had small children, how did they learn about Santa Claus, if at all?  And for those of you without small children, do you remember believing?

* Mealtime conversation by Cubby goes like this, "Meat? De-ah? (or "sheep?") Dad? Shoo? Saw? (in reference to the meat saw) Cut? Eat?" He's gonna be a big hit at dinner parties, no doubt.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

I've Come to a Decision

I buy quite a few things in the generic brand, because I really don't care whether my toilet paper has a picture of a cuddly (and WOW so annoying) little bear on the packaging. But I have decided that one thing I will never again buy the generic version of is cotton swabs.

Generic cotton swabs suck. They're all bendy. Especially in the summer when the humidity in our bathroom reaches rain forest levels. I find it unreasonably irritating to try to clean my ears with a buckling cotton swab. I buy cotton swabs about once a year. That means buying generic ones has saved me maybe two bucks a year. I'd rather spend the two dollars and get the Q-Tips.

Life is too short for generic cotton swabs. You heard that bit of life-changing profundity here first.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Birthday Food

Beth asked yesterday if A. got his favorite meal and cake on his birthday. Of course. I mean, doesn't everybody? Isn't that an inalienable right, akin to the pursuit of happiness?

In A.'s case, that meant he got a roasted leg of lamb, of which he probably ate about two and half pounds of the meat because that man is ALL ABOUT THE MEAT, plus roasted potatoes and a yogurt sauce made of yogurt, lemon juice, and garlic.

That yogurt sauce, by the way, though it is ostensibly for the lamb and is of course delicious with that, is one of my favorite things in the world when drizzled over roasted potatoes. I may have eaten an unholy amount of potatoes with yogurt sauce last night. To each his or her own.

We also had chard, but that wasn't so much because A. loves it as because it's his least-detested of vegetables. That's really all I can ask for when it comes to forcing a vegetable at a meal.

The MiL made his cake. It was a chocolate roulade. That's a flourless cake batter baked thin and flat, then rolled around a whipped cream filling. It is awesome.

We're going to be driving home from Washington, D.C. on my birthday this year (December 27--you still have time to get my present!), so I probably won't be having a birthday meal on the actual day. And anyway, my preferred birthday food is always pasta, which doesn't sit well with most of my gluten-sensitive household (do not even speak to me of gluten-free pasta on my birthday). Which is why A. and I always go out for my birthday to a restaurant. The MiL does always make my cake, though. Any kind I want. Even this (DELICIOUS) pain in the ass.

I haven't decided on my cake for this year yet. It will be a chocolate cake, because it's always a chocolate cake of some kind, but I'm waffling between peanut butter or coconut frosting. Oh, the agony of indecision.

So what about you, duckies? Do you have a meal and a cake that must be served on your birthday or heads will roll?

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Woodchuck Man Gets Older

Were I more organized or less addled in the brain, I would have thought up some fun new verses to A.'s birthday song. But I'm not, so I didn't.

He'll just have to be satisfied with re-reading last year's song and a simple happy birthday.

So happy birthday to my entirely unique husband. And many more.

Edited to add: Uh, that's many more birthdays, not many more husbands. Just thought I should clarify . . .

Wednesday, December 14, 2011


A few days ago when I asked Cubby if he wanted a cracker, he asked for peanut butter. So I put some peanut butter on a cracker. He then proceeded to lick the peanut butter off the cracker and hold out the now-sodden and pretty nasty cracker for more peanut butter. So I figured, if the kid wants peanut butter, I'll just give him peanut butter.

He ate about four spoonfuls of straight peanut butter. It was kind of gross.

A couple of days ago we had some cranberry chutney with dinner. He ate a small bowl of that, straight. Also kind of gross.

Then this morning, we had fried eggs for breakfast. He wasn't really into the eggs, so I asked him if he wanted salsa on his eggs. He replied in the affirmative, so I put some salsa on his egg. Which he then licked off, leaving the egg behind. So, just as an experiment to see just how far this weird love of condiments goes, I gave him a spoonful of plain salsa. He ate it. And then several more.

Weird kid. Seriously. Just weird.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Pictures and Wit

Well, pictures, anyway.

So check out what Nana sent as an early Christmas present for A.

It's a gigantic toddler in a backpack! Just what he needed!

Actually, it is just what he needed. A. has been complaining pretty much since Cubby was born that we didn't have an appropriate backpack to carry him with us hiking and stuff. Since I don't really like hiking and stuff*, I was not too motivated to remedy the situation. We tried a couple of different carriers loaned to us by friends, but they weren't comfortable for either A. or Cubby, so we didn't use them.

Then my mom mentioned this wonderful carrier my brother got for his daughter and asked if we might want one. About two weeks later, the Deuter Kid Comfort II arrived.

Cue the angel music.

A. loves this thing. It's a serious pack, built just like real hiking packs for adults. That means it fits his big frame and has enough support and straps that A. can strap Cubby to his back with a minimum of discomfort.

Cubby also loves this thing. We took it out of the box and he immediately tried to climb in it. "Pack?" he asked, right before scrambling into it on the living room floor and falling over in it.

There was no injury to either Cubby or the pack.

So where did we take this wondrous contrivance on its maiden voyage?

How about a bucolic hike through the countryside?

To dig out a well.

That's right. We strapped Cubby into the pack and carried him through the fields behind A.'s grandma's house so A. could dig out her well and fix her slow water problem. That is, A. carried Cubby. I carried that long-ass shovel you see there.

It was approximately 20 degrees with a stiff wind when we did this. Cubby was not amused. He watched the digging for about thirty seconds before he hid behind my legs and repeated, "Cold? Cold? Cold?" (Translation: GOD, MOM. IT'S COLD, OKAY? GET ME OUT OF HERE.)

Luckily, it only took about five minutes for A. to clear the well, and then he carried Cubby back to Grandma's house, where we went inside and luxuriated in her 75-degree house for half an hour while Cubby played with her walking canes.

A. also used the pack the next morning to take Cubby out when he went out to do various chores. It was even colder then, and Cubby was even less amused. But despite our questionable choice of activities with the pack, Cubby still loves it and I foresee much use of it in the future.

Good job, Nana.

* AT ALL, which is just a cruel joke, since I married Mr. Outdoors and then gave birth to Mr. Junior Outdoors.

Monday, December 12, 2011


I have some pretty good pictures from this weekend, which was a classic Blackrock family weekend (meaning hard labor and cold temperatures), but they're still on my camera. And my witty written explanations of the pictures (what? they ARE SO witty) are still in my head. Because the time that would have been spent uploading pictures and being witty was instead taken up with setting up and decorating the Christmas tree.

That was not such a witty activity. More frustrating, as we discovered more than one string of lights was only half working; I didn't get all the boxes of tree decorations out of the crawlspace because I was trying to avoid moving all the rest of the house decorations last night in favor of focusing on the tree stuff (read: I was too lazy to make more than one trip up and down the stairs); and the MiL and I--the resident tree decorators--were both really tired.

But the tree must go up, because a certain small child in residence will probably lose his damn mind with joy when he sees it. So it's up. It's not perfect--the lights are a little bit sparse, some of the MiL's nicer ornaments are still M.I.A., and I haven't found the star for the top yet--but it's a tree. And it's jolly.

So pictures and wit tomorrow. For today, we have some Christmas cheer to view in our living room.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

First Snow

P.S. Yeah, he's adorable. He also did not nap yesterday. Maybe Santa is waiting until Christmas to grant that request. In which case, I will officially have gone as crazy as a shithouse rat* by December 25th. Fair warning.

* This lovely rustic phrase brought to you by my lovely rustic husband.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Dear Santa

Dear Santa,

It's been many years since I've written a Christmas wish list, but I feel the need for some magical intervention for some of these requests. Everyone knows you're magic, and can therefore maybe help me out with a few things I would really like this year that might not be available at my local Sears. Namely:

1) The ability to sleep past seven in the morning. Because there is nothing more irritating than A. taking Cubby away on a Sunday morning so that Mommy doesn't have to stumble out of bed and wrestle clothes on the little maniac at six a.m. only for Mommy to lie there wishing she could just enjoy this one morning off and GO BACK TO SLEEP FOR THE LOVE OF GOD. So, a little help here would be nice.

2) Proper circulation in my hands and feet. You can blame my mother for this. The woman is famous for wearing long johns in Tucson, Arizona and having hands and feet so cold they would stun a corpse. I'm not as bad as she is, but my hands, feet, and nose pretty much stay cold from November until May. This is a serious liability at Blackrock. So amp up that blood supply to my extremities, okay, Santa? Awesome.

3) A dishwasher. This would also be on the MiL's list, I suspect, since she actually does most of the dishes in our house. But when she isn't here, I do them. And DAMN, I am SICK of doing all our dishes by hand. We make SO MANY DISHES in a day, what with A., Cubby, and I all eating three meals a day at home, most of those actual cooked meals. I realize that a dishwasher is an item most people can procure without magical intervention, but most people don't live in 160-year-old house with an electrical system dating to the 1920s (people just didn't use much electricity then, and thus didn't have the amount of current available to them that a modern house might have) and barely enough hot water in the winter to keep the occupants of the house bathed and presentable.

So first we need more electrical capacity, then we need more hot water--so you'd better add a new hot water heater to this list--and then we need a complete reconfiguration of our kitchen to make a spot where a dishwasher might actually fit without blocking one of the three doors that lead in and out of that room.

Maybe I should have made that last one into a few separate requests, but I'm sure you follow.

4) A guaranteed nap for Cubby during the day. Nap times have gotten pretty sketchy lately, and there has been more than one day recently in which I have gotten all of zero naps out of him. He's too young to stop napping. Or rather, his mother is too old and tired for him to stop napping. I need a break sometime between six a.m. and seven p.m. Morning, afternoon, I don't care, as long as I get an hour in there sometime when I can go to the bathroom without a toddler in attendance whose greatest joys in life are turning on the faucet and turning off the lights. Peeing in the dark with the water running is not my idea of a fun time.

5) An immediate cease and desist order for all the damn spiders in my house that are spinning webs with such abandon that the very day I manage to sweep them all away, I find a new one in progress. Although, I suppose I should be grateful none of our spiders seem able to spell as well as Charlotte. I don't think they'd have anything very nice to write out for me.

6) And while I'm at it, peace on earth and goodwill toward men; women; children; and all cute, furry creatures great and small.

Thank you in advance for your assistance,


Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Stubborn Survivors

Last night as I was finishing up the dishes, I noticed the tomatoes sitting on the mantle in the kitchen.

That's right. Tomatoes. From the garden. Two tiny Roma tomatoes that have been sitting in the kitchen since the end of September. I sort of forgot about them. One of them is kind of wrinkly, but they show no signs of rot or anything.

I don't know what I'm supposed to do with two tiny tomatoes. It's not as if I can make salsa with them or anything. Maybe I'll just let them sit there until I can once again say that I have tomatoes at Christmas.

And then I'll eat them, because really, I just want to get them off the mantle in the kitchen already.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011


Remember the winter boots I introduced to you a few years ago because I know the whole world cares about my footwear? Well, they have another fan.

We're still working on the concepts of "left shoe" and "right shoe."

Cubby never fails to make me laugh on a daily basis. He also never fails to make me consider the merits of military schools on a daily basis, but that's life with an almost-two-year-old, I suppose.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Small Things

Yesterday Cubby and I attended a birthday party for a now-three-year-old second cousin, at which there were many small children in attendance and pizza for lunch. The pizza place, knowing the pizza was for small kids, double-sliced the pizzas. That is, they cut each regular piece one more time so there were lots of narrow slices. And all the parents were sitting around looking at our little people with their little hands easily maneuvering their little slices of pizza to their little mouths and saying to each other, "These narrow slices are brilliant. How come I never thought of this?"

Because we are not so brilliant, I suppose. Sure does reduce the amount of tomato sauce to be cleaned off of faces and clothes, I'll tell you that.

Bravo, Papa John's. We salute you and your double-slicing.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Throw Those Expectations Out the Window

I think that's excellent general advice for parenting, although of course I have a specific event in mind. That is, our trip to get our Christmas tree yesterday with Cubby.

As I have mentioned before, we go to what is basically a hardscrabble farm in the hills with some trees planted around the house to get our tree--15 dollars to cut your own, 20 for a pre-cut one. The past couple of years we've just grabbed one of the pre-cut trees they lean against the picnic table in the front, extra five bucks be damned.

Big spenders, that's us.

This year, however, since Cubby was with us we decided to wander around so he could run around and play some. And then we thought, since he's such a fan of tools and since we found a nice tree still in the ground, A. would cut our tree so Cubby could watch him use the saw.

Fun for all!


First of all, the people that own the place have acquired chickens (chuk-uhs, to Cubby). And no boring old tree is going to compete with chuk-uhs. Especially since these little hens were quite obviously accustomed to getting food from people and ran right up to us when we got out of the car. And followed us part of the way to the trees.

They did not, however, follow us all the way, and when we tried to bring Cubby to the trees after a play session with the chickens, he was not so pleased with the re-direct. He was also not very pleased about the fact that he wasn't allowed to hold the saw that A. was using to cut the tree.

He was momentarily appeased by the massive truck with some kind of hydraulic hoist on it or something that was sitting outside the barn, but then, once again, not too happy about being removed from it to get back in our car.

Sorry, kid. We don't live here, and I don't think the nice man who is trying to work on this truck really wants us to hang out all day.

So, all in all, it was maybe not the making-Norman-Rockwell-memories experience it might have been, but we got our tree. Mission accomplished.

Friday, December 2, 2011

A Trip to Hallmark

Today is my newest niece's birthday--this would be my sister's fiance's daughter, so technically a step-niece, but let's just dispense with all that "step" nonsense, shall we? So, Newest Niece, hereinafter referred to as N.N. because it's shorter, is turning 1o today. The significance of this event to you will be explained later, but first! A short story about a birthday card.

I don't usually send birthday cards, but I made an exception for N.N. Cubby and I were in the Small City on Tuesday, specifically to go to the mall.

I sort of feel as if I should enclose "the mall" in quotes (like, uh, that), to convey to you how unlike this particular mall is to the sort of malls you're probably thinking of. I think it has two dozen stores. A Small Mall for a Small City.


I had some birthday and Christmas presents to buy, so off we went. And while we were there, we stopped in at the Hallmark store for a card for N.N.

I should explain some logistics of moving around with Cubby. Despite his earlier love of his stroller, he does not love it now and will not be contained. So I have the choice of either carrying him, which is somewhat detrimental to my back after a short while, or putting him down. This usually results in him eventually making a beeline for something inappropriate, being pulled back, getting mad, and then I have to pick him up again anyway. It's a challenge.

By the time we got to the Hallmark store, my back was due for a break, so I put him down.

Bad plan.

You know what Hallmark stores look like, right? All those cards! So many pictures! RIGHT AT TODDLER LEVEL.

Cubby stood there for a second while I surveyed the MASSIVE rack of cards (From the Group, For a Preteen Boy, You're Old and Here's a Rude and Not-Very-Funny Card) (that last ones's not a real category, but I think you know what I'm talking about) trying to see where to even start. And then he was off. He pulled out a card. So I said, quite reasonably, "Okay, you can look at that one. But just that one, okay?"

Sure, Mom.

Five seconds later, he had a stack of cards in one hand and was racing down the aisle straight towards the lady at the end who was giving me a look that clearly questioned my ability to control my child.

No, lady. I can't control him. Bet you couldn't either.

Anyway, I chased after him, and when I caught him, took away the cards. Then I looked at them. He had a few of all the same card, and lo and behold, they were specifically birthday cards for a niece. Well then! Our work here is done! Thank you for picking out N.N.'s card, Cubby, and let's get right out of this store before you find the highly breakable seasonal ornaments!

That's how shopping with toddlers goes.

Okay! Now here's where you come in. Now that I've made N.N. famous (HAHA) online, it's time for all you people out there to join me in wishing her a happy birthday in the comments. So everyone who left comments yesterday discussing ironing*? Stick a happy birthday for N.N. in that comment box, would you? And everyone else, too. GO!

* Thank you, by the way, for the numerous comments on what is essentially the dullest topic ever. It's nice to have company in my lameness.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

A Sign that I'm Boring?

Yes, for today, we shall discuss ironing.

I KNOW. The excitement! But you know, that's just the way my life goes. Sometimes I find myself ironing at 8 p.m. because Cubby is being, ahem, difficult, about napping, and I am therefore finding it difficult to get anything accomplished during the day. At least, anything that really must be done Cubby-free. Maneuvering a searingly hot, heavy piece of metal on a cord, with a plug, most definitely qualifies.

So. Ironing at 8 p.m. My original intention was just to iron A.'s shirt for him, because it's his only clean one and it's been sitting around for days unironed and he had to go to court this morning and so needed a shirt. So even though pretty much the last thing I wanted to do at that stage in the evening was iron, I did it.

I really hate ironing shirts. Men's shirts particularly. They're just so big, and they have so many parts, and I can never get the crease in the arm right. But I figure it's mostly under his suit coat anyway, right?

Right. Any justification for my ineptitude is aces.

Then, since I had the iron out, I decided to iron the pile of napkins and tablecloths that's been sitting around for, um, months. Yes, literally.

This being Blackrock, the House of Accumulation, we have way more table linens than any modern family needs. But of course, many of them are from the Not Modern era (several sets belonged to A.'s great-great aunt, which would make them . . . at least a hundred years old). So we use them. And when they are used, they do not get returned to the sideboard until they've been washed and ironed. Which is why there is usually a pile of napkins somewhere downstairs sitting around awaiting ironing.

I was pretty sick of looking at this particular pile of two tablecloths and about a dozen napkins, so I ironed them too. Ironing tablecloths kind of sucks, because they have to be moved around so much on the ironing board, but ironing napkins I find to be sort of soothing. I mean, I'm not saying it's something I go out of my way to engage in to calm my nerves or anything, but it is delightfully simple. One flat square ironed all smooth, then folded into the desired shape and pressed once again, and what was once a ball of wrinkled linen is now a respectable and classy napkin ready for company.

That's kind of nice.

So how about you, poppets? What's your opinion of ironing?

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

A Universal Fascination

I don't know what it is about clomping around in big shoes that is so amusing to every child in the world, but there's no denying the fascination.

Also no denying that Mia manages to get her enormous self in half the pictures I take of Cubby. Oh well. At least she loves him.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Vocabulary Lessons

Cubby has gotten to the point where he's saying (or at least attempting to say) every new word he hears. This means, of course, that I have been making an even more concerted effort to check my mouth, because while it's pretty cute to hear him say, "bumma," (bummer), it is not quite so cute to hear "sheet" (shit) come out of his pretty little mouth.

It also means that as of now his vocabulary includes quite a few words in constant use that are a bit unusual, to say the least. "Shoo" (shoot) is a frequent one now that hunting season is upon us. As are "guh-NUH" (gun) and "dee-ah" (deer), usually closely followed by "meat" (that one actually sounds just like the actual word) and the query "ee?" (eat).

Yes, Daddy shoots the deer with his gun and then we cut it up into meat and eat it. Thank you for exposing us as the woodchucks we are, my sweet.

Then there was the pleasant surprise I got the other day. I sneezed, as has been a frequent occurrence lately thanks to this wretched cold, and Cubby quite out of the blue said, "Bess-oo."

Thank you, my child. And bless you for giving your mother hope that you're not going to be a completely coarse redneck.

Just mostly.

Monday, November 28, 2011


Yesterday morning when it seemed that a nap was imminent for Cubby--and I knew this because he had started throwing himself to the ground because I wouldn't let him play with the meat saw A. was using to cut up the deer because I am a MEAN MOMMY--I decided I'd better bring him inside for some lunch. But first I wanted to look in the hay barn for some eggs.

So Cubby and I trekked through the paddock to the sheep barn, where he was delighted to discover an egg ("Ug-uh?") in the lower nest and I recovered another egg from the higher nest. On our way back to the house, he was even more delighted to be holding "his" egg for me, and then asked, "Ee?"

"Sure," I said. "We can eat them."

So we went inside and fried the two eggs Cubby had brought back from the hay barn not two minutes before, and he ate them both.

Nobody will ever be able to accuse that kid of not knowing where his food comes from.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

No, Don't Want To

That was A.'s first full sentence as a child. I must admit to feeling something like that sulky child as I gear myself up for going outside to cut up that deer. I was kind of already over the butchering thing, thanks to the two lambs we've already cut up this fall, but now I really don't want to do it because I have a cold. All I want to do during Cubby's nap right now is take a nap myself.

Unfortunately, that venison won't cut itself up, so off I go to heed the call of the carcass. Happy Sunday, poppets.

Friday, November 25, 2011

What's a Thanksgiving Without Dead Deer?

Not a Thanksgiving at Blackrock, obviously.

Three years ago on Thanksgiving, A. and I butchered our very first deer ever. As the MiL ran around like a maniac trying to prepare for 25 people coming to our house to eat Thanksgiving dinner, A. and I stood ankle deep in freezing cold mud in the shed and cut up a deer. It took us forever and was an incredible pain in the ass.

The next year, I had a Thanksgiving blessedly free of deer remains. Last year, I had to clear up the decomposing innards the dogs thoughtfully dragged home for Thanksgiving. And this year? Well, this year A. went hunting (again) yesterday morning. With functioning shotgun shells this time.

He drove off at five in the morning in my old Nissan, because his truck was out of gas and the turn signals no longer work. So when he shot a four-point buck (that's a young one, for those of you not familiar with hunting terms), he had to stuff it into the trunk of the Nissan, like some kind of mob hitman or something. It was pretty amusing.

He got home just as the rest of the family was leaving for the family dinner at the MiL's sister's house. So while the rest of the family sat around at Aunt Barb's eating stuffed mushrooms and drinking wine, Cubby and I watched A. wash the deer out and hoist it into a tree with a Come-a-long. We also got to watch Mia chow down on the deer's windpipe.

It's a wonderful way to whet your appetite for a big meal, let me tell you.

So now we have a deer hanging right next to the driveway in front of the house, to be butchered in a few days. Since we did two of our own lambs this year, this deer will be the third animal we've butchered in the last month or so. And it will be the last, that I will insist on.

Maybe next year I'll get lucky and get to have a Thanksgiving that does not involve a dead deer. That'd be nice. But I'm not counting on it.

Thursday, November 24, 2011



Happy Thanksgiving, poppets.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Mighty Mighty Pleasin', Pappy's Apple Squeezin'*

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, so today is a kind of Friday, right? Right! So let's talk about alcohol.

Specifically, let's talk about A.'s hard cider, which did indeed, uh, harden in the bucket and morph from innocent, innocuous sweet cider to nasty, alcoholic, disgusting hard cider.

Okay, so I'm not a fan of real hard cider**. But A. and the MiL, both of whom have some experience with real hard cider, have pronounced it good. Which means that A. now has six gallons of alcohol (SIX! GALLONS!) that he made for free (FREE!).

Now he just has to keep himself from drinking like a gallon a day because, you know, it's there and it was free. It's a challenge.

He's started drawing it off into screw-top bottles to further ferment and get all bubbly. So stay tuned for how that works. Maybe all the bottles will blow up from over-carbonation! You just never do know.

* For the many of you who probably have no idea about the song I'm referencing in the title, please go here for a video. For those of you who did get the reference? You're my kind of people. And you should also view the video. It's pretty awesome.

** I use the word "real" to distinguish it from commercial hard cider, like Woodchuck*** or something, which bears about as much resemblance to real hard cider as grape juice does to red wine.

*** HA! I just now registered the humor in that name. This stuff that A. made is authentic woodchuck cider. Woodchuck in the Blackrock sense, that is.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011


This morning when Cubby and I went outside to let the chickens out, it was a frosty 27 degrees. Literally frosty--every surface had a half-inch layer of frost on it. Including Cubby's beloved tractor.

The tractor had been left out by the dog pen, so it too was covered in a thick layer of frost. Cubby grabbed the steering wheel in preparation for climbing aboard for his usual play session, and then snatched his hand back. He tried this a few times, and then turned to me with the most bewildered expression on his face. "Co?" he said, holding out his cold little hand. "Wah?"

Yes, my sweet, cold and wet. This is only the beginning. Brace yourself, son. The Blackrock winter has arrived.

Monday, November 21, 2011

So I Broke the Bed This Morning

How I wish that were a joke, but no. I was pulling Cubby into bed with me so we could read his schlocky "Mommy Loves" book for the millionth time ("Mommy kangaroo loves her joey. Mommy polar bear loves her bear cubs . . .) and CRASH. Cubby and I dropped down about a foot.

A. was still in bed. We were all quiet for a second, and then I heard from under the covers, "That really just happened, didn't it?"


Were I a more self-conscious person, I might be upset about the implications of my body weight (well, mine and Cubby's) breaking a bed, but as it was, I found it sort of funny. Except for the fact that our bedframe is broken and we'll probably be sleeping on a mattress on the floor for a few nights until A. can fix it.

But still. Yeah, it was funny.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Tales from the Huntin' Logs

Yes, it is indeed huntin' season again. Opening day was yesterday, so A. got up at 4:30 a.m. and drove to the state forest where he likes to hunt. Cubby and I had many discussions about Daddy going hunting. That he was hunting ("Hut? Hut?") for deer ("Deah? Deah?"), that he would shoot ("Shoo? Shoo?") them with his gun ( "Guh-NUH? Guh-NUH?") and then we would eat ("Ee? Ee?") them.

Unfortunately, A. came home without a deer. But with a really ridiculous story.

He was all set up in his spot and had been sitting there for about an hour when a buck wandered into view. The buck didn't know he was there, and was in no particular hurry, so A. figured it would be a pretty easy shot. So he lined up the shot and pulled the trigger. Click.

The gun didn't fire.

He quickly loaded another round in the gun and . . . click. This happened with eight shells, one after the other. Click click click click . . . By the time he finally got one that would actually fire, the buck was too far away.

He couldn't believe it. The shells were a couple of years old, sure, but still. One shell, okay. So that one was defective or got some moisture in it or something. But eight? And it was definitely the shells, because he test-fired some other shells when he got home and had no trouble with them.

So, lesson learned: Make sure your ammunition is new before you sight a buck. Also, don't buy Remington shotgun shells to begin with. Let's hope the Winchester shells are better.

And while we're on the subject of shooting deer, let me tell you what happened when Cubby and I accompanied A. to the local Huge Outdoor Store to pick up some functional shotgun shells. We walked in and A. pointed out to Cubby the stuffed deer on the wall. Cubby grinned, pointed, and said, "Pshew pshew."

At least someone got a shot off at some deer yesterday.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Gruesome Even for Blackrock

Early yesterday morning Cubby was ramming around the living room and ended up on the chair in the bay window, from which he perched to view the happenings outside. I was sitting on the couch and I heard him say, "Lee? Lee? Ee? Ee?"

"What?" I said. "Leda? Eat? Yes, Leda already ate her breakfast."

Then from Cubby, "Lee? Ee? Chukah? Chukah?"

"What? Chicken? Oh no."

I ran over to the window, and sure enough, Leda was chewing on something bloody that did look exactly like a chicken. I didn't think Leda would have killed one of the chickens, as the dogs have shown not the slightest inclination in that regard. I yelled upstairs to A. to let him know that Leda had one of the chickens and that I was afraid something might have gotten into the coop in the night. Then Cubby and I went outside to inspect further.

It wasn't a chicken. It was the head from the lamb A. had killed the day before. He had skinned it and salted the pelt in preparation for tanning, but, obviously, cut the head off the pelt. The head and the innards he had put in a feed sack and put in the back of his truck to dispose of the next day. But the dogs got there first.

I've done a lot of disgusting things since moving to Blackrock, but picking up a severed lamb's head by the ear and putting it in a bucket is by far the most grisly. That, without doubt, qualifies as gross.

Friday, November 18, 2011

A.P.D.--White-Knuckle Driving

Last night as A. and I were reluctantly leaving the house to drop the Awesome Subaru off at the mechanic, I said with some false cheeriness, "Well, at least it's not snowing!"

Them's famous last words.

It was drizzling as we pulled out of our driveway. It was snowing three miles up the road. On the way home, the snow was so bad, A. could barely see and drove about 20 miles an hour the whole way.

Driving in snow is always way worse when it's dark, of course, because then your headlights reflect off all the snow flying into the windshield, effectively blinding you. As A. was creeping our way home, I was reflecting on the worst driving conditions I had ever experienced.

I've driven in some pretty nasty snowstorms in the mountains of Arizona and through rain that was so heavy I could barely see through the waterfall on the windshield. But my absolute worst driving experience was in fog.

When I was in college I worked at a dude ranch in the mountains outside of Fort Collins, Colorado, for a couple of summers*. One very early morning--as in, around 2 a.m.--I was chauffeuring several of my fellow workers back to the ranch after a night out at a bar in Fort Collins. Everyone in the car was asleep except for me, and about halfway up the mountain, I drove straight into a bank of fog so thick, I could literally see only a few feet in front of me.

Talk about a white-knuckle drive. I thought I was going to die. I'm not kidding. I thought I was going to drive the car off the mountain and everyone in the car was going to die. This was a serious Colorado mountain road, with the sheer drops and hairpin turns and everything. It was not a road I had driven a whole lot yet either, and I couldn't see anything.

Needless to say, I did not die, nor did any of my passengers. But I did go out the next morning to find my car parked at a very odd angle and far too close to the horse barn for comfort. Yeah. The fog was so bad, I couldn't see a barn.

Now your turn, duckies! Hit me with your worst driving conditions. Fog? Snow? Ice? Sandstorm? What weather on the road made you contemplate your mortality?

* Perhaps I haven't mentioned this before. I am a woman with a mysterious and intriguing past.**

** Not really.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011


I have been lucky enough to be graced with a child who loves vegetables. LOVES them. He'll eat any fruit and vegetable put in front of him (though he's a little suspicious of eggplant). He chews on raw chard stems in the garden.

I realized last night how odd this might be as I was dishing up dinner and told A., "I don't want Cubby to see the C-A-B-B-A-G-E before he eats some of his meat and squash, because once he sees it, he won't want to eat anything else."

That's right. I have to spell cabbage lest I excite my child too much. Granted, it was Burned Cabbage, which is pretty damn good, but still. Weird kid.

But the best kind of weird. Definitely.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

What Day Is It? Tuesday?

So, not a Friday and not a Monday (which is the new Friday). But I'm still going to talk about alcohol today. I suppose this means that every day is now eligible to be an Alcohol Day here.

Don't read too much into that.

Today we will discuss the Apple Sidecar. This is apparently a thing already, but I swear I didn't know that until I started writing this and searching for things online to link to.

Last night I decided to take one of my favorite cocktails of all time and once again twist it to suit my own particular ingredients. This time, we had some cider (some, HA--about two gallons still) and applejack, which the MiL had picked up along with some more Cava so we could all have some more Manzanitas de Piedra Negra.

But I think I'm just going to call them Blackrock Apples from now on, because that Spanish name is too long to type.


We had our Blackrock Apples on Sunday, and they were again delicious. I highly recommend that cocktail. Then we still had plenty of applejack left. Applejack is basically apple brandy, but with some grain alcohol added. Brandy is the main ingredient in a Sidecar, along with triple sec and lemon juice. So, I figured if I used the applejack instead of plain brandy, then I could use apple cider in place of the triple sec--for the sweet element--and then keep the lemon juice. Plus some water, because I nearly always water my drinks. I'm weak like that.


As you may have guessed, this is a winning combination. My pleasure in it was only slightly dimmed by discovering that someone else had thought of it too. So I'm not totally original. So what? It's still a damn good drink and you should try it.

So! If you want to try this at home, it's a shot of applejack, half a shot of cider, and the juice from about half a lemon. Plus ice, and, if you're weak like me, some water to taste.

Have a happy Tuesday, duckies! Even if it doesn't feature cocktails.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Boy Crazy

Not that kind of boy crazy. No, the kind of crazy that happens when it's All Boys, All the Time, which seems to be the case more often than not in this place of boy babies.

A climbable farm utility vehicle plus a dog? Boy heaven, right there.

A swing full of juvenile testosterone. And my friend Alyssa, who is the mother of two of these boys, bless her patient and courageous heart.

These three are going to be an even more formidable trio in ten years or so. And in 15 years, all of them will be driving. God help us all.

Saturday, November 12, 2011


After a day of relentless wind and fairly cold temperatures, the temperature in our bedroom last night when I went to bed was a relatively chilly 54 degrees. Since we sleep in the north room, 54 degrees is downright balmy compared to the ridiculous readings we will have in there later in the year. But 54 degrees is plenty cold enough.

Especially since I didn't have my bed warmer on hand.

My bed warmer is A. He must have really good circulation or something, because he doesn't need to be in bed more than ten minutes to raise the temperature under the blankets at least five degrees. This is not so appreciated in our un-air-conditioned room in the summer, but in the winter, it saves my life. It takes me FOREVER to warm up when I go to bed. I don't have good circulation, and my feet will stay cold for a good hour after going to bed.

So I took appropriate measures last night in preparation for a night by myself in bed. First, I kept on the long-sleeved shirt I had worn as a bottom layer yesterday. Not removing all your clothing is key in cold weather to conserving some body heat. If you change every item of clothing, then your body first has to heat those clothes up, which saps precious heating energy from things like feet. So I left that on. Then I put on a heavy sweatshirt, fuzzy socks, and heavy pajama bottoms.

Then I jumped in our bed, which is currently covered in flannel sheets, a wool blanket, a heavy cotton coverlet, and a down comforter. And I stayed frozen in one spot for a good fifteen minutes, lest by moving I should come into contact with an inch of bed covers that had not been warmed by my body heat.

However, I did warm up and fall asleep relatively quickly, which was the goal. And then I woke up two hours later BURNING UP and had to shed the pants and socks.

But lest I sound as if I complain too much, I should mention that A. was gone because he was hunting. And camping. In the snow. So he was definitely much more uncomfortable than I was last night.

He'll be home tonight. We'll both be glad about that.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Who Am I?

Yesterday afternoon, Cubby and I were hanging out in the shop with A. while he made a sheath for one of his homemade knives. He used a squirrel hide that he had salted some time ago and sewed it up with a needle and some button thread I found in our sewing drawer.

Exactly when I became a mother who spends quality time with her family that involves stitching dead animal hides, I do not know, but it seems clear I am no longer going country. I am so, so gone.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Canine Resignation

Oh no. Here he comes again. I know how this ends.

Yeah yeah. Trot trot. The same thing, every time.

Please. A little respect, child.

So this is how it's gonna be from now on then, huh? Fine. But you owe me BIG TIME, lady.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011


Already this morning I've had to change both my clothes and Cubby's, due to an unfortunate incidence with dog poop. He both stepped in it (GROSS) and then got it all over my pants when I picked him up, AND picked it up with his hands (SO MUCH GROSSER, CHILD, STOP THAT). And then, after we had been inside to wash our hands, we went back outside and he fell into a pile of (cold, not to worry) ash on the driveway from leaf burning*.

So, new clothes for all, then!

And then A. and I went to vote, so I put on some semi-respectable clothing for my public outing. But now I have to change AGAIN back into not-respectable clothing so I can go clean out the gutters.

That's just how mornings with toddlers--specifically at Blackrock--go, I suppose.

Off to the gutters I go. Wish me luck.

* A pile of ash in which I found the metal part of my trowel. Cubby ran off with it about a week ago and I couldn't find it. Apparently it was hiding in the leaves that got raked up and subsequently burned. The handle was rubber, and it burned clean off. The blade part is still all there and fine, though, so I can get A. to make me a wooden handle to stick on there, I guess. Fun.

Monday, November 7, 2011

A Poll

Is there anyone who actually likes Daylight Saving Time? Anyone? Seriously, all I see and hear from people is how much they hate it, how it screws up their schedules, and especially how it makes children into raging demons for at least a week or so as they try to adjust to their new bedtimes and wake-up times.

YOU try explaining to a not-quite-two-year-old why he's still awake at 6:30 p.m. when he can quite obviously tell that it is really 7:30 p.m. and therefore past his bedtime so PUT ME TO BED RIGHT NOW, MOM, SCREW THAT CLOCK.

In Cubby's case, that takes the form of manic hyperactivity and repeated queries as to, "Nap? Nap? Nap?" In case you were curious.

So really, now, in all seriousness: Who out there can profess to actually liking the time change? And if no one does, why in the name of everything true and holy and my child's schedule are we still doing this stupid thing as a country?*

* Although not everyone in the country does, of course. Oh, Arizona. I hated so many things about you, but your refusal to acknowledge DST was one small thing about you that I LOVED.

Sunday, November 6, 2011


When Belle the Devil Cat is really trying to avoid Cubby (which is much of the time, due to his desire to "feep!"--flip--her*), she scuttles under the Awesome Subaru.

I know you're under there, Belle . . .

He tried a couple of times to crawl under there with her. Then he got stuck and didn't enjoy the process of being hauled out. Also, I have taken great pains to point out the pipes ("pup!) under the car and explain how they can be hot after the car has been driven ("ha?"). So he doesn't crawl under the car anymore and Belle is safe.

But only as long as he gets distracted by something else before she decides to come out. But if he's still there monitoring her movements when she tries to escape? Then the chase is on.

Don't worry; Belle always wins.

* I must admit, however, that even the times when Cubby has eluded me and caught up with her and grabbed handfuls of her fur or done something else to cause her pain and him a no-doubt deserved clawing, she's done nothing more than meow loudly and run away at the first opportunity. It turns out that, to everyone's surprise, the Devil Cat is good with children. Okay. I guess we'll keep her.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

An Indulgence

I took Cubby with me to the grocery store in the Small City yesterday and, on the way out, he was nothing less than electrified by the sight of the shiny helium balloons near the checkout.

So I bought him one. Perhaps I am setting a dangerous precedent of indulgence at the grocery store, but let me tell you, never have I spent a more-appreciated four dollars. That cheap, shiny, "Hope You're Feeling Better" balloon has provided hours of entertainment.

He punches it; tackles it; races across the room dragging it by the string; accidentally pinches his finger in the clip on the end (whoops--but he only did that once and apparently learned his lesson); throws it; pushes it under the coffee table and then kicks it out with his feet; tries to feed it to his rocking horse; and generally plays with it with no activity needed on my part. I just sit there and watch him go crazy.

And that, my friends, is worth WAY more than four bucks.

Friday, November 4, 2011

The Birds

This is the time of year for birds. Probably just because the leaves are dropping off the trees and so we can actually see them, or maybe because particularly this year I spend every moment with a tiny budding ornithologist who delights in pointing out every single bird. Whatever the reason, the birds, they are everywhere.

Yesterday morning Cubby and I were outside around 8:30, hanging sheets on the clothesline and burning leaf piles, when he announced the presence of birds. I looked up, and sure enough, there were a bunch of crows. And then there were more. And more and more and more and more. They came in waves. I would think they were all gone, and then there would be another bunch of them, silently flying overhead. We must have seen 200 crows fly over the house.

I suspect that they spend the night in the gully near the house and then take off for the cornfields early in the day. I'll have to keep an eye out in the next few days to see if this is their pattern.

I had explained to Cubby that the birds were crows, and so when he saw some more birds overhead, he proudly announced, "Co!"

Except they weren't crows--they were seagulls. Once again, at least a hundred of them in small groups, taking the same general flight path as the crows. Except seagulls don't sleep in the gully, so I don't know what was up with that. Or maybe they DO sleep in the gully. What do I know? My knowledge of birds is pretty limited.

Although with Cubby around, I think that knowledge may be growing exponentially in the near future.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Time for the Traditional Tally

With the freezing of three quarts of melted apple butter, I officially (REALLY officially officially, not just kidding officially) declare the end of Canning Season 2011.

And now for the traditional list. And photos.


8 quarts corn
8 quarts maquechoux
8 quarts chard (what's with all the frozen stuff coming in 8-quart quantities this year?)
9 quarts green beans (never mind)
3 quarts melted apple butter
10 quarts German red cabbage with apples
2 gallon bags of pesto cubes
2 gallon bags of bell peppers


3.5 pints peach jam (MiL)
9 pints strawberry jam (MiL)
9 pints bread and butter pickles (MiL)
8 pints apricot jam (MiL)
3 pints damson plum jam (MiL)
8 quarts mulberry juice
12 quarts chicken stock (from our chickens, but of course)
7.5 quarts sauerkraut
16 pints salsa
7 pints tomato sauce
9.5 pints apple chutney
6 pints dilly beans (dill-pickled green beans)
16 quarts applesauce
30 quarts peaches
22.5 pints pickled jalapenos (that's OBSCENE)
54 quarts pears (DEAR GOD)

And 5 quarts of refrigerator dill pickles, which are not actually canned but just put in the, uh, refrigerator.

That's 274 containers of food stored in the Pit of Despair and the freezer. What's not on that list? Tomatoes. No plain tomatoes. None. SUCK SUCK SUCK. I actually had to BUY a few cans of tomatoes from the store the other day. It was sad, duckies. Very sad.

But still, thanks to the cuh-RAZY fruit this year, the shelves are far from bare. As you can see.

Top shelf: Jams and jellies.
Second shelf: Pickles, chicken stock, pears, and mulberry juice.
Third shelf: Peaches and pears.
Fourth shelf: Why yes, I do believe that's more pears!
Fifth shelf: ENOUGH WITH THE PEARS ALREADY. And sauerkraut.

Top shelf from left: Salsa, applesauce, tomato sauce. And one lonely jar of plain tomatoes left over from last year that I will now guard as the most precious commodity I possess.
Second shelf: Jalapenos, chutneys, and pickled green beans.

Then there are the boxes of potatoes; the numerous squashes hiding on the steps in the Secret Stair; the bags of garlic, onions, and shallots in the first pantry; and the brussels sprouts, kale, chard, parsnips, and leeks still in the garden.

Let the eating season begin!

Edited to add: Per the MiL's reminder in the comments, there are also four gallons of sweet cider in the freezer (or there WERE--probably more like three now) and what will--we hope--be six gallons of hard cider currently fermenting in the dining room. Stay tuned on whether A. manages to create six gallons (SIX! GALLONS!) of alcohol for free. Because that is going to be awesome. If it works. And if it doesn't? Then I'll have six gallons of apple cider vinegar. So there's no losing on this one. Though I think we can all agree that the alcohol would be way more fun than the vinegar.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Halloween: The Day After

I know I was supposed to wish you a Happy Halloween yesterday, complete with photos of my adorable child in his adorable and lovingly prepared costume.


You may have noticed that I post really early in the morning. Nothing remotely Halloween-y had happened before 6:15 yesterday morning. The first Halloween activity was the pumpkin carving around 8 a.m. And that only happened because Cubby and I were out looking for chicken eggs and I saw the pumpkin that the orchard owner had given the MiL for free and thought, what the hell. Might as well carve it, right? It's my duty as a mother to provide these seasonal festivities.

So I got out the knives ("Nuf? Nuf? Nuf?" Cubby-speak for knife, with which the child is unfortunately somewhat obsessed) and a big spoon to scoop out the fetid-smelling pumpkin innards.

The chickens happened to be scratching around right next to my operating table, so I threw the innards to them. And then spent the next five minutes--which is how long it took me to complete my totally amateur carving job--chasing the dogs away from the pumpkin guts and Cubby away from the rooster. I was rewarded with a brief smile from Cubby when he saw the completed jack-o-lantern.

I think he was hoping I'd left the nuf in there.

Leda was unimpressed with my lame carving skills.

The chickens liked the pumpkin guts, though.

And so did Mia.

Then, when it got dark, we put a candle in the thing and that child LOST HIS DAMN MIND.

It was one of the moments when we should have had a video camera. He was shouting and laughing, clapping his hands and literally falling to the floor in excitement. So I guess my five minutes of pumpkin butchery was worth it in the end.

As for the costume . . . yeah. I didn't actually get him a costume. Because I wasn't taking him trick-or-treating* (he's not even two--I would have ended up eating all the candy myself) and I wasn't planning on going anywhere. But then I ended up going to the medical center in the village to get a flu shot and we stopped at the library on the way home, so I thought he had to have something.

Behold, my half-assed attempts at costumery. And the cutest Mousketeer in existence.

The only reason Cubby had even a crappy costume this year is entirely thanks to Drew, who sent Cubby this hat when he was born. It fits him perfectly now, and made for a pretty darn cute semi-costume. So thanks, Drew. You've saved me from being a complete Halloween failure as a parent.

Also, did you know that Cubby was the name of an actual Mousketeer? I didn't either, until the assistant librarian told me yesterday. Just a fun fact for you.

And that was Halloween at Blackrock: dogs, chickens, jack-o-lanterns, and Cubby the Mousketeer.

So who's sending Cubby his Halloween costume for next year?

* Though he did end up getting a few bites from the mini-Kit Kat I snagged from the reception desk at the medical center. So he wasn't entirely deprived of Halloween sugar. I'm not a complete kill-joy.

Monday, October 31, 2011


Capital letters, exclamation point, the whole bit. You should make this cocktail recipe. Except you should make it the way I made it, because it was really, really good.

You need brandy, cider, orange bitters, and Cava. Here's how it goes in our house:

Brandy=Christian Brothers

Cider= Freshly pressed thanks to Alyssa and her dad (thanks, Alyssa and her dad!).

Orange Bitters= Fee Brothers (what's with all the brothers going into intoxicating beverages?)

Now you need your Awesome Cocktail Shaker. Into which you put one shot of brandy, one shot of cider, and a couple of shakes of the bitters.

Or, if you're us, you actually do two shots each of brandy and cider and several shakes of bitters, because what's the point in a tiny drink? None. That's right.

Then you add ice and shake that Awesome Cocktail Shaker until frost forms on the side and you get kind of tired of shaking. That's how you know it's cold enough. Then you pour that through the little holes of your Awesome Cocktail Shaker into your glass, and then top it off with the Cava. It's supposed to be a Champagne glass, but we just used wine glasses because the Champagne glasses are safely stored in the attic. You can add the Cava to taste--if you make a double like I did, you just add the Cava until the glass is pretty full.

What this makes is a not-too-sweet, bubbly, very refreshing, and quite delicious beverage. Also sort of intoxicating.

Not that I would know anything about that last part. Ahem.

If you like it sweeter, you can add the suggested sugar cube to the bottom of your glass before you fill it up, but we found it definitely unnecessary.

And last, the name. We get to name this version, since we didn't use the apple brandy or sugar cube AND we used our OWN cider. The name was suggested by A., who knows quite a bit more Spanish than he speaks. Since we used Cava--basically the Spanish version of Champagne--a Spanish name seemed appropriate. And so A. christened this cocktail Manzanita de Piedra Negra. That is, Blackrock Apple. Seems pretty reasonable, right?

Right. Now go make a cocktail. Forget that it's Monday. Monday is the new Friday. So happy Friday, duckies! Cocktails for all.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Take the Back Roads

We went to a state forest last weekend for a family outing and Cubby thought the miles and miles of smooth gravel roads were pretty much the best thing ever.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Wild Animals of the Domestic Variety

The dogs broke down the fence that was protecting the hanging lamb and devoured one of the forequarters before having a wicked fight over the rest, thereby alerting me to their misdeeds. So A. had to climb into the loft of the shed and hoist the lamb up there to keep it safe from our own semi-tame wolf pack. He was pretty pissed, but what else can we expect from such fierce dogs?

The sheep have been breaking through every enclosure that A. has tried to keep them in in the last week. They've been on the neighbors' back pasture and on their lawn; on our front lawn in front of the electric fence; in the woods behind their own pasture; and in the road. It's all Bonnie's fault, of course. A. is seriously considering sending her away with the lambs he wants to sell at the Pennsylvania auction next year. I wouldn't stop him.

One of the hens has decided to get all broody. Now. When we're staring down the barrel of a nasty Blackrock winter. This is not an auspicious time to have tender young chicks around. So A. has been crawling into the dog pen every night to remove Ms. Maternal from her nest there and deposit her in the coop where she belongs.

Also, Otty is in heat and has to be closely watched lest she take herself off and then deliver unto us some unexpected puppies in a couple of months.

Animals are such a pain in the ass sometimes.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Just Another Thursday . . .

Yesterday afternoon, in search of eggs, I heaved myself over the livestock gate to squelch through the mud and sheep shit in the paddock. It was about forty degrees and raining, as it had been pretty much all day, and I was intent on getting to the chickens' nest and back into the house as fast as possible.

I was not so intent on that goal, however, that I failed to notice the lamb on its back in the mud, kicking its legs in the air.

That's not a good thing. Just so you know.

I went over to him (all the sheep in the paddock right now are boys) and pushed on his back, hoping he had just slipped and couldn't get traction in the mud to get up. I got him up on his feet, but he buckled in front and went down on his knees. So I ran inside to tell A., who promptly got his gun and sent that lamb to its reward a little earlier than we had planned.

The male lambs were all due to go to the butcher in a couple of weeks anyway. We've had problems before with male lambs succumbing to pneumonia or whatever, brought on by cold, wet weather in the fall. So A. figured that rather than go out in the morning to find the lamb dead in the paddock, he'd just take care of it while there was still light enough to work on it.

He gutted it and skinned it and hung it in the shed, where it will stay for a few days to age, slowly driving the dogs insane. It's going to be a fun few days. And then probably on Sunday, we'll cut it up and have lamb in our freezer once again.

You just never do know what a random Thursday at Blackrock may bring.