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.