Saturday, July 23, 2011


What is with the biting insects this year? I'd think it would be dry enough to discourage them, since it's dry enough to kill all the plants and reduce the sheep pastures to nothing more than essentially standing hay, but my new hobby this summer seems to be scratching my numerous bug bites.

Actually, I don't think I'm being bitten by mosquitoes this year, which are usually the culprit. This year we seem to be swarming with these little flies that look like houseflies but bite with an immediately painful bite and then just keep coming back. If you don't kill those little bastards immediately, the same one will land and bite over and over.

I seem to be amassing the most bites on my ankles and feet. I even have one on my big toe. Weird. The itching is driving me crazy, especially at night. I need to get some calamine lotion or something. And figure out how to keep them from biting me to begin with.

Any thoughts on a non-Deet (I hate that stuff and don't want to apply it to my skin) bug repellent, duckies?

Friday, July 22, 2011

Ignoring the Obvious

It seems that over half the country today is on some kind of alert for high temperatures. So let's not go into how I tossed in our 95-degree bedroom for hours last night before finally giving up and sleeping for a few hours on the couch downstairs, and then stumbling back upstairs to our torture chamber for a couple of hours before Cubby woke up.

That's no fun.

Instead let's talk about my Big Outing last night. Capitalized because (wait for it . . .) I was ALL BY MYSELF.


I had informed A. earlier in the week that the final Harry Potter movie was in the theaters and BY GOD, I was going to see it in the theater this time.

When the previous one came out last November, I had probably three abortive attempts to get to the theater to see it, involving snowstorms and Cubby-storms and incredible exhaustion. And then it was out of the theater and I had to wait for it to come out on DVD.

There were a lot fewer obstacles this time, as it's definitely not winter and I no longer have to be present to put Cubby to bed. So yesterday at 5 p.m., I left Cubby in the combined care of his father, grandmother, and great-grandmother and I took off for the Small City.

I had intended to do some errands before the movie, but it was too damned hot (NOT TALKING ABOUT THAT) and this was my Big Outing, after all. So instead I went to a pub and sat at the bar and drank an apricot wheat beer. And then I ate a Reuben sandwich with steak fries. While I read my book.

It was so unbelievably wonderful, I can't even tell you.

And then I went to the movie, which was also pretty great.

Then I got out of the theater at 9 p.m. and the dashboard thermometer in the Awesome Subaru read 93 degrees. But since we're not talking about that, we'll just end here with my Reuben sandwich and steak fries and beer and much-anticipated movie in a theater. I don't require much, obviously.

Happy Friday, duckies!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Captain's Trout. But First, an Announcement.

Today's post is all about a fishing charter boat captain and his method for cooking fish on the grill. Except first it's going to be hijacked by some extremely exciting and life changing news: The First Tomato has been consumed.

What? Did you think I was going to announce I was with child again or something? No.

I ate the First Tomato last night, with a little bit of salt. And I was once again struck anew, as I always am by the First Tomato after months and months of no tomatoes, how incredibly complexly flavored and delicious a tomato is. I am not, of course, speaking of those sad imitation tomatoes in the grocery store. But a real tomato? Simply amazing.

And now on to the fish.

A. went out fishing with two of his cousins on a charter boat the other day. The captain of this charter boat is the same guy who used to take A. and his brother and dad out when the boys were young. These were very exciting and much-anticipated excursions, and A. was pretty stoked to find that the captain still does this.

A. and his cousins are all good fishermen, and of course the captain knows just where to go, since he's been doing this now for, oh, twenty years or so. The result was a LOT of lake trout. Part of the charter service is filleting the fish and, apparently, advice on how to cook them. Advice that A. duly passed on to me and that I followed last night.

So here's how to grill fish without an annoying and hard-to-clean grill basket: Leave the skin on. This is the most important part. The flesh side is brushed with oil and whatever seasoning you want and just laid on the hot grill for a minute to get some grill marks. Then, before it has a chance to stick, flip it to the skin side and leave it there until it's done. When it's cooked, you can just pull the meat up off the skin, which will stick just enough to stay on the grill when the flesh is separated. The skin will then come right off the grill, too. I thought it would stick and be horrible on the grill, but it came right off and the dogs very much enjoyed that crunchy little treat.

So there you have it. The captain's fish, straight from the lake to you.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Good Neighbors Make Good Sheep Flocks

Actually, probably the best sheep flocks exist where there are no neighbors. But since we do have neighbors, and they don't appear inclined to leave anytime soon, it's a damn good thing ours are so unbelievably nice.

The lady on the one side always calls with an uncontrollable giggle in her voice to tell us the sheep are over there. She thinks they're funny. She also likes to take pictures of them when she sees them.

The two ladies on the other side--the ones who make serious margaritas and throw a hell of a beach party--bear the brunt of the sheep escapes, because their property includes a large pasture that adjoins the sheep pasture. Since they have no animals on their land, their pasture is always in much better shape than ours, and is much more appealing to the sheep. Probably about once a month, the sheep will lean enough on the fence to break through at a spot where it's tied together or something, and then I get a call from those neighbors. As I did last night when A. was at court.

Big sigh, trudge up with bucket of mineral, pull down the fence more so they can get back over, then cobble it back together with rope and a pallet. Corralling wayward sheep is a pain in the ass, but at least I don't have to sooth an angry neighbor at the same time.

Good fences would probably make better neighbors, but our fences are obviously not good and our neighbors are still pretty great. Thank God.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

A Photo Catalog of Firsts

Vacations are all about new sights and experiences. Especially when you're a kid. Cubby had many firsts on our recent trip to Wisconsin.

The first ride on Daddy's shoulders.

I believe Cubby very much enjoyed suddenly being seven feet tall.

The first encounter with a dinosaur.

At the Kenosha Public Museum. Don't laugh. Kenosha, Wisconsin has a really impressive museum. Also a whole museum devoted to the civil war that we didn't have time to see. Kenosha is where it's at.

The first experience playing in a Great Lake.

On the shores of Lake Michigan, in New Buffalo, Michigan. The water wasn't too cold, and I think Cubby enjoyed being on an actual sand beach. (Ours is all rocks.)

The first ride in a swing.

Most children go to a park every day and swing. Cubby goes to the beach every day and swims. I don't think he feels deprived at the trade-off.

The first slide.

With Nana, who is the BEST playground companion.

Also the first time swimming in a pretty pink life vest--courtesy of my niece--but we'll save those photos for another time.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Balanced Nutrition

Why yes, I do consider last night's dinner of scrambled eggs with salsa and a side of homemade cherry pie to be a balanced meal.

Sometimes you just have to be creative. And lazy.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Because You Never Know Until You Try

The night before A. and my's wedding eight years ago, A. went carp fishing on our beach with his friends. Better than a strip club, I guess. Also a good indicator of the sort of man I was marrying.

A. loves to fish for carp. They're so big, you see. And you can catch them from shore, which is much easier than loading all your fishing gear into a boat and sitting out in the sun all day. A. has caught a lot of carp over the years, but he always releases them. Because carp aren't good to eat. Everyone knows that.

Everyone is totally wrong.

See, my soon-to-be-brother-in-law spent his childhood on the Mississippi River, where his dad caught fish to sell commercially. And they ate carp. He told A. all about it when we were in Wisconsin last week.

Yes, carp are bottom-feeders, but so are a lot of other fish that people eat regularly. It all depends on the waters the fish live in. If you're pulling fish from disgusting, polluted rivers or lakes, then any fish is going to be nasty. But our lake is very clean and clear, so there's nothing those carp are eating that will make them taste gross.

So of course, when A. heard that, he was all fired up to try eating carp. And then his cousins came for their week of camping on the beach and pulled this in yesterday afternoon.

What's for dinner? Ugly-ass whiskered fish, of course!

I don't actually know how much it weighed, because I was not inclined to pick it up myself, but it was a heavy fish. Let's say ten pounds. Which could be completely off, but whatever. The point is, some BIG-ASS fillets came off that thing. A. hauled it right up to the house from the beach, filleted it, skinned it, soaked it in buttermilk, rolled it in flour, cornmeal, and pepper, and fried it in tallow. Half an hour after it was pulled out of the water, we tasted it.

Carp is really, really good.

In fact, I bet most people couldn't tell it from chicken in a blind taste test. That's how mild it is. Like chicken, there's white meat and dark meat. In this case, the white meat is better. When raw, the flesh looks a lot like tuna, and cooked, it's very firm and mild. Like, well, chicken. It had no fishy flavor whatsoever. Way, way better than lake trout. Carp are actually a highly prized game fish in Europe and also common in Chinese cooking.

Carp does have what are called "free-floating bones" in it, which means that even if it's filleted, you do have to watch out for bones. But we're pretty used to that, since the pike and pickerel we normally eat are very bony as well. I guess the bony fish are the best.

So once again, conventional wisdom is just wrong. Carp are good. You can take my word for it.