Saturday, December 12, 2015

Halls: Decked

Cubby and Charlie helped me decorate for Christmas yesterday.

And by "helped," I mean they grabbed everything they could as soon as it was out of the boxes and ran around shrieking with it. At least they were enthusiastic.

We went with a minimalist theme this year. You can translate that to: "I was too lazy to bring down all the boxes at once, so we just put out what I could haul down the stairs in two trips."

Can you tell I'm wearing this weird headband with some kind of random fake gold plant on it that I suppose was meant to be mistletoe? Maybe? Nobody gave me a kiss, anyway. Probably for the best, since I'm currently riddled with cold germs. Mucous season continues unabated.

Jack helped by sleeping.

He did wear some festive pajamas that night to get in the spirit, though.

This weekend, we'll get the tree. I was going to have a tabletop tree, just to foil the adorable wrecking ball in those polar bear p.j.'s, but then Cubby came home and announced he had told all his friends at school we weren't having a Christmas tree. I protested that we were, too, it was just going to be a small one on the table. "Yeah," said Cubby, "And if it's not a big tree it's a FAKE TREE."

All right, then. Big tree it is. (In the parlor, so I can shut the French doors to keep out the crawling destroyer.) 

Friday, December 11, 2015

Practically a Day at the Spa

The school Cubby attends is very (very) small and has no provided lunches. This means that I literally have to pack him a lunch every school day if I want him to eat.

I think eating is a good thing. I don't mind packing the lunches.

Lunch packing seems to be this big topic of conversation and complaints online. I believe the people who hate it are just overthinking it. Repetition is key. In the three months since Cubby has started school, his lunch every day (with maybe four or five exceptions for exciting things like leftover pasta) has consisted of a sandwich* and some kind of fruit. Then he needs two snacks, which are almost always cut-up cheese, some kind of nuts, or, if he's really lucky, cold baked beans or yogurt**. Add milk, and he's done.

So, my almost-unvaried formula is sandwich+fruit+cheese+nuts+milk=done. And no, I make no cute shapes or attractive designs with his food. I just don't have it in me.

I pack A.'s lunch, too. He always gets leftovers, which is even easier. No cute shapes for him, either.

That said, Cubby doesn't have school on Fridays and A. has an office holiday party at a restaurant for lunch today, so I don't have to pack any lunches. It makes my morning feel suddenly free and unfettered.

Ha ha.

* Probably the most retro sandwich eater ever, this kid: PB&J, ham, salami, fish salad--like tuna salad, but made with any fish we have left over because that child LOOOOVES fish of any kind--even bologna or liverwurst when the MiL buys them. Though I must admit to faint disgust at peeling bologna and liverwurst off the stack of pressed meat and slapping it on bread. At least it's not Wonderbread.

** Someday Cubby will learn what store-bought flavored yogurt tastes like, and the sugar rush may ruin him forever for homemade yogurt with jam. But as of now, my plain yogurt mixed with strawberry jam is pretty much his favorite snack treat. Lucky, deluded child.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Unintentional Still Life

Sometimes the beauty in everyday life can be just astonishing.

The table in the living room at 3:52 p.m. yesterday. Perfect.

The Downside to Narcissism

If a blog (by which I mean my blog) is all about one person (by which I mean me), what happens when that person feels less than interesting?

I mean, do you really want to read about how Cubby and Charlie keep rubber-banding pens and pencils all over their supposedly cuddly stuffed animals to make Battle Puppy and Battle Sheep? And then I have to confiscate all the pointy writing implements before Jack rams them through his cheeks or something during his speed-crawling?

Or how sick I am of yelling, "IT'S NOT A COMPETITION!" to every damn thing that Cubby and Charlie make into a competition? Which is everything. (Seriously. How many buttons are on their shirts? Does one have more than the other? It's a competition. SERIOUSLY.)

Or how I forced myself to make yogurt yesterday even though I was really tired and didn't want to because I knew I needed to make laundry soap today and I use the same pot for both things?

Or how at the moment I have two freezers stuffed full of venison and beef, but I'm getting pretty burned out on red meat? And yet have very little energy or desire to drive all the way to the grocery store to get an alternative, which won't be that great, anyway, because grocery store meat never is and it seems that all I ever cook is meat?

Or how I think kale chips are vastly overrated?

Or how Jack is turning one next week and the best party I could come up with was basically a glorified playdate with two other mothers and their kids, at which I will hand out cupcakes and we'll sing Happy Birthday, but A. and the MiL won't be there because I have to do it during the day because having a birthday a week before Christmas means there is WAY too much going on? And I feel sort of guilty about this, because I myself am a third child with a birthday right around Christmas and I know how much it sucks. (Not that he'll remember anything about it, but this is all about me, remember?)

Or how tired I am of being tired?

See? Just not that interesting. And yet, I still typed it all out. Because it's all I got.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

There's a Direct Correlation

Cubby and Charlie are sick, with all the nighttime wakings that entails. This morning during a shower I took in a desperate quest* to wake myself up, I accidentally washed my hair with body wash instead of shampoo.

The stretch between Thanksgiving and New Year's should just be renamed something like the mucous season.

* If "quest" seems like a strange word to use there, it is. The reason I used it is because I spent, no lie, at least thirty seconds staring dumbly at my computer screen trying to think of the word "attempt." This is your brain on sleep deprivation, kids. It's an ugly thing.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

The Weekend of the Buck

A. has spent more time in the kitchen this weekend than he has in the past five years. He was determined to do all the processing of the buck himself. Except for the substantial dishes associated with butchering* that I took care of, he did do it all. All the skinning, all the quartering, all the boning out, and all the trimming.


He trimmed and trimmed and trimmed, standing at the counter in the kitchen almost all of yesterday afternoon. In the end, he stuffed about ten quart-size freezer bags full of stew meat and stowed it away in the upstairs freezer.

He also even more carefully trimmed and then tediously threaded on toothpicks many pieces of meat to put in the smoker to make jerky and, eventually, pemmican.

But he wasn't done yet. There was still a big stock pot full of meat in the refrigerator awaiting trimming and cutting up today. Perhaps out of boredom, perhaps because I had made a passing reference to possibly maybe if I feel like it attempting sausage, he decided to make sausage.

By hand.

So he trimmed some more, and then he started chopping with the cleaver. The steady thumping of the cleaver rang out from the kitchen for a good half hour as he methodically chopped his way through five and a half pounds of venison. And then another pound and a half of lard.

I had suggested we could use the food processor, but he said he didn't want to mess around with it.

We had to use it in the end after all, however, because the lard wasn't cold enough and was just kind of clumping together. So we whirled it all around in the food processor until the fat was well-incorporated into the meat.

Then the seasonings. I helped with this part, finding a recipe online for a Spanish-style sausage and then bastardizing it by substituting garlic powder for green onions, some smoked paprika for the all sweet, and a lot less salt and rosemary than called for.

(Less rosemary because I don't like it as a main flavoring, and less salt because every single recipe I have ever tried for cured or salted meat is WAAAAY too salty. Seriously. We no longer rely on salt as a preservative, thanks to the miracles of refrigeration, so there's no need to overdo it.)

We mixed it all together and then fried a test patty (no casings, so no links).

I tasted it. "Tastes like chorizo," I said.

A. tasted it. "Yeah," he said with a big grin. "It does taste like chorizo. I can't believe we accidentally made venison chorizo!"

A. loves chorizo. Really loves it. So this accidental chorizo was just about the best outcome he could have hoped for.

We froze the patties individually on parchment paper to be stored in freezer bags later. And now all that's left of the buck are some really appetizing scraps for the dogs . . .

This doesn't look appetizing to you? Well, you're obviously not a dog.

And the antlers . . .

One for each boy. Well, each boy big enough to appreciate them, anyway.

An antler fight was just inevitable.

A round of applause and three cheers for A., who took that deer from field to freezer all by himself. I didn't miss doing all that trimming one bit.

* Think small bits of flesh on pots and pans, knives and cleavers, cutting boards, counters, floors . . . flesh everywhere. Totally gross. And surprisingly adhesive.