Saturday, May 20, 2017

Motorcycles, Microgreens, and May Sprinkler Play

It's been an exciting Saturday for us. We kicked if off by driving all the way to the small city 45 minutes away to pick up a rental car for A.'s upcoming out-of-town trips this week*.

Well, technically I suppose we kicked it off with apples and peanut butter for breakfast and fighting over Star Wars toys when the kids woke up, but we'll skip that part and get to the exciting stuff.

When we got to the small city, A. decided he wanted to stop in at Harbor Freight--home to massive quantities of very cheap tools--to get a couple of sawhorses. The Harbor Freight store happened to be right next to the Harley Davidson dealership, and they had set up their parking lot for some kind of rally. Which meant there were motorcycles everywhere.

Much as my sons enjoy running wild through tool stores, the lure of shiny machines was strong. Therefore, we went to tour the motorcycles while A. got his sawhorses. Eventually we made it into the actual showroom, where a very enthusiastic lady swooped down on the boys with bandanas, helium balloons, and cookies. And then she tied the bandanas into do-rags on their heads.

Possibly my favorite picture ever of my sons.

Unfortunately, that photo captures the shining moment of happiness just before it all fell apart. Specifically, before we left and Charlie lost his balloon in the parking lot. He watched it floating high up into the sky, and when he realized he could not get it back, he was absolutely inconsolable. It was very sad. Not even the fact that Jack also lost his as I was getting him into the car could make Charlie feel that the loss of his beloved balloon was anything less than tragic. He cried for several minutes.

But after we picked up the rental car we took them to a playground and let them play for over an hour--despite the deceptively sunny but cold weather that made A. and me really wish we had brought our sweaters--so that cheered everyone up.

Also, the fact that Cubby popped his balloon accidentally in the car on the way home made Charlie feel as if balloons really are ephemeral delights to be enjoyed for a fleeting moment in time before they fly off to their inevitable end.

Or maybe something less philosophical.


When we got home, I decided it was time to thin the plants in the garden. The children's enthusiastic help with the planting of tiny seeds had resulted in what can only be described as clumps of seedlings coming up. Not so much with the careful spacing. But that's okay, because after I had thinned a few rows of radishes and arugula that had been planted by Cubby and Charlie, I was left with a large quantity of fancy-pants microgreens.

See? Fancy-pants.

They're not careless gardeners; they're foodies. 

I had to wash those greens a total of five times before they were clean, but it was worth it. I dressed them with olive oil, lemon juice, and salt and pepper. The kids ate theirs just like that and, amazingly, actually ate them. Cubby even asked for seconds, and Charlie--Charlie who doesn't even like pizza--announced, "Our greens taste best."

Damn straight.

I added some pickled beets and feta cheese to mine and it was delicious. Also pretty, though I don't have a photo for you because, well, I wanted to eat it, not take a picture of it.

I do, however, have photos of the post-dinner sprinkler playing. And the reason I have photos is I wanted to document how insane my children are. It was 58 degrees. God knows how cold the water was. But A. turned on the sprinkler for the garden while he was planting some shallots and onions, and I couldn't convince the kids it was too cold to run through it. So they did.

They only stopped when Cubby announced he was so cold he couldn't run anymore and Charlie announced he was so cold that the rock he was standing on was shaking. Jack didn't announce anything except "ha ba," which means hot bath and told me everything I needed to know.

After their hot baths they went to bed. I can only hope that all the excitement of the day will mean that they sleep soundly and long. I'm certainly planning on it.

* A. very kindly conceded that perhaps he shouldn't leave me without a car for several days this week while he was gone. He knows I'm not down with the bike-as-substitute-car idea.

Friday, May 19, 2017

A No-Car Family

We still haven't replaced the dead minivan, which means that we're currently a one-car family. This is actually not a big deal for us, as A. works from home and I, uh, don't leave the house. Like ever. Sharing a car between us is definitely feasible.

But what happens when even that car isn't available? We found out.

See, A. had scheduled some maintenance work on the Subaru at the mechanic's shop in the village, and he really wanted to get all this little stuff taken care of before he was required to get the state inspection done next month. He had been meaning to buy a bike for himself anyway--because we bought bikes for the kids and already an adult has to have one too to keep up with Cubby--so he figured he could ride his bike to drop off the car and pick it up. It's only seven miles from our house to the mechanic's shop.

Well. Distance becomes a much different thing when one is on a bike. Seven miles in a car is not at all the same as seven miles on a bicycle. Especially, ahem, if one has not ridden a bike in approximately 20 years.

A. dropped the Subaru off on Tuesday morning and biked back. It took him about half an hour and he said it wasn't a bad ride at all.

The car was supposed to be done that day, but the mechanic called to say that when he test-drove it, he discovered a brake problem. Okay, said A. I can pick it up tomorrow.

We didn't really need it that night, and then he wouldn't have to make the bike trip again on the same day.

On Wednesday, the mechanic found more issues when he was working on the brakes and had to spend some time tracking down a used part. So the car wouldn't be ready that day, either. But A. had to go to the post office in the village to mail some documents for work.

No car, so that meant another trip on the bike. He left at 3 p.m. and called an hour and a half later to say he was at the post office.

I guess the heat (84 degrees), the hills, and the wind (15 miles an hour with stronger gusts) had a bad effect on his time. Just a little.

And then I compounded the misery by reminding him that I needed some sunscreen to send in to school for Charlie the next day for his "beach day" (sprinklers and popsicles on the soccer field). So he had to go up to the store just a bit outside the village. This seems like a trivial distance in a car, but on a bike, that long incline out of the village becomes much more noticeable. And it added another two miles to his trip.

Sure hope Charlie enjoyed that sunscreen.

In the end, he got back three hours after he left, after riding about 16 miles. His legs were done for. He took a really hot bath with Epsom salts that night.

The next day was just the same weather--hot and windy. And he had to ride back into the village to pick up the car. But at least this time the car was actually ready, so it was only one way.

I suspect that the drive home, sitting in a cushioned vehicle whizzing along at fifty miles an hour, has never seemed so luxurious.

At least now A. knows it can be done. He said he didn't mind it that much, it was just a little bit of a trial by fire to do so much riding so suddenly. But he does plan on sometimes using his bike to go to the post office on nice days.

I, however, am not planning on cycling merrily off to the grocery store with Jack in a trailer or something. A one-car family I can handle. A no-car family? No, thanks.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Of Fried Chicken and Unseasonable Heat

For various reasons, A. decided not to do his big fried chicken adventure on Mother's Day. So he did it yesterday instead. And it was definitely an Event.

There was a cutting up of a whole chicken, which then resulted in me making chicken stock with the leftover bits and then chicken salad with the resulting bits of meat from the stock making. There was brining. There was shaking with cornstarch, coating with buttermilk, and dredging in cornmeal*. And then there was the frying. In two pints of lard.

And after all that, there was the straining of the lard so it can be saved, filling the dog's bowl with all the miscellaneous greasy residue, and the dishes.

A. did the dishes. Good man.

It was really good chicken. Everyone enjoyed it. Well, except for Charlie, who objected to the crunchiness of the cornmeal coating and required removal of said coating before he would eat his drumstick.

Good old Charlie.

But was it worth it? Eh. Maybe if you're really into fried chicken. A. is, so he thought it was worth it. I'm not, so I certainly wouldn't do it again. Then again, it's really A. doing it--with some assistance from me in actually finding and assembling all the ingredients and equipment--so I guess he can have at it. Especially if he does the dishes.

I kind of wish he had made more, though, so we could have the leftovers for dinner tonight. Then I wouldn't have to cook. It's going to be 80 degrees, and I don't want to turn on the oven or stove.

I know. That's not exactly Georgia in July weather--and thank God for that, because I would just die--but it's hot for us. We could turn on the air conditioner, I suppose, but that seems sort of frivolous in May.

Maybe I'll just make some tuna salad and call it a meal.

It's really too bad we don't have any fried chicken left, though . . .

* We used this recipe, which definitely worked, but was also a pain in the ass. Both outcomes were expected, because it's from America's Test Kitchen.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

A Happy Mother's Day Interlude

We're not much for Mother's Day around here. I'm not entirely sure how one would really celebrate it, anyway. Going to brunch or out to dinner seems to be a popular option, but I like the food at home way better than anywhere else. There is also the point that eating in a public place with my three hellions is not my idea of a celebration.

Breakfast in bed is another seemingly popular tradition that I just can't get behind. I have zero interest in eating on my pillow.

So this morning I got up and had my pancakes just like any other Sunday. A. always makes sourdough pancakes or waffles on Sundays. I like pancakes better, so that was my special Mother's Day request. I did get the requisite and always-appreciated Mother's Day gift made at school by Cubby and Charlie. In Charlie's case, a craft proclaiming that he loves me to the moon and back, enhanced by glitter. In Cubby's case, a list of why he loves me, which includes the gem, "I know my mom cares about me because . . . she fills my water bottles."

But mostly it's been business as usual. Lots of preparing and serving of pancakes. Arbitrating disputes over the Tinker Toy pieces. Continuing Jack's toilet training, which involves spending a good part of the morning watching him like a hawk and racing him to the bathroom, where we then camped out until he produced a satisfactory result and was then rewarded with a chocolate chip (or two, depending on the, ahem, result).

You know. Mom stuff. Because if there's one thing you learn quickly with motherhood, it's that it never stops. Not ever. Best to accept that and find your happiness where you can. It's not always--or, uh, ever--going to be grand gestures and all-day extravaganzas.

But there will be moments. My moment today came courtesy of the fact that Cubby woke up with a cough yesterday and requested soup for lunch, which meant that I had my favorite cool-weather lunch on hand today: homemade soup and sharp cheddar cheese. Combine that with A. taking the older two to church and Jack going down for his nap, and we have . . .

The solo lunch with a book is indeed a thing of beauty and a joy forever.

You know my love for a quiet meal with a book. That's what feels like indulgence to me. Beats overpriced and underwhelming food at a crowded restaurant, for sure.

Plus, A. is going to make fried chicken tonight and I'm not planning on cleaning up the resulting mess. Happy Mother's Day to me!

And Happy Mother's Day to my sisters-in-arms, whether on active duty, retired, or waiting for the call-up*. I hope you get to do whatever makes you happy today.

* Particularly, of course, my very own mother, who is a pretty sterling example of motherhood and deserves much more than a footnote at the bottom of a post all about me. I don't think she'll hold it against me, though, because she's good like that.