Wednesday, July 18, 2018

A Delicate Flower


One thing about me that never fails to amaze A. is how easily I can cut my skin. Of course, he appears to have the skin of a rhinoceros, so his standard is pretty high, but I do seem to have delicate skin.

Case in point: I once managed to draw blood with the small plastic teeth on a Snappi.

I think today's incident is even more ridiculous, however. I was trying to unscrew the top of the canning jar in which I store my sourdough starter. It was difficult, as the starter had dried all around the screw top.

Dried sourdough dough has the consistency of cement, more or less. And apparently, if it dries and then peels up a little bit, it forms a hard little shard capable of piercing a finger. At least, my finger.

Yes, I drew blood with dried dough. 

Who knew baking was a blood sport?


Sunday, July 15, 2018

Locusts on the Beach


Yesterday morning when I took two packages of pork chops out of the freezer for dinner, I thought to myself, "That's too many pork chops." The package of six wouldn't have been quite enough (yes, for the five of us--A. eats a LOT of meat), so I took out a partial package of three as well, figuring on leftovers.

But then I ended up feeding eleven people, and it wasn't enough after all.

The reason I fed eleven people was that A.'s friend Jodi showed up on our beach with his three children plus his son's friend on his pontoon boat around 3 p.m., which naturally turned into cooking dinner down on the beach. A. and Jodi's friend Matt came down, too. So there were eleven people total to feed--three men, six boys (ages 12, 11, 8, 7, 6, and 3 years) , one girl (age 3 years), and me.

Jodi brought a couple of pounds of spicy Italian sausage and a few partial bags of chips. I contributed the nine pork chops, six small fish from the previous day's catch we hadn't cooked yet, a box of Triscuits, a sleeve of other crackers, cucumber and carrot sticks with ranch dip, and a bag of cherries.

Then I watched it all disappear under the swirling crowd of children on the beach.

Seriously. It was kind of amazing. I would set something down on one of the cottonwood stumps we use as tables and minutes later, it was gone.

The vegetables and dip, crackers, and cherries were all gone before the meat was done.

When the meat was ready, we piled it on a pan and set it on the picnic table. Everyone got a pork chop, and then the boys had a junior pissing contest over who could eat the most spicy sausage.

The fish was done last. They were all whole, small fish. I just put them all in a dish and threw them in the middle of the table to be devoured by the feral pack of children. The boys picked them all apart and discussed the possibility of using the cooked eyes as BBs in their BB guns.

A short time later, I actually managed to scavenge all the necessary ingredients for s'mores--mostly thanks to the MiL, as I do not routinely have graham crackers and bars of chocolate on hand--and offered those up to the ravenous horde. Every last marshmallow and bit of cracker was eaten.

Then the party boat departed, just like a plague of locusts moves on after devouring all the available sustenance in an area.

In all seriousness though, it was really fun. I can't blame the kids for being so hungry. They must've burned thousands of calories swimming and hitting with sticks for five hours.

Perhaps I've found the next great diet: Act like kids at the lake.

Just don't eat like them.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Lucky Friday the Thirteenth


Charlie was born on a Friday that happened to fall on the thirteenth of July, which means, popular superstition to the contrary, I will always consider it a lucky day for me.

This year, his birthday was also on a Friday. It was another lucky day, kicking off with french toast requested by and prepared (with some help) by the birthday boy.

Photographic evidence of Charlie's luck comes in the form of the number of fish caught by A. and the boys on an early morning fishing trip to the village dock.


That's a hell of a lot of fish for an hour of fishing: rock bass, blue gill, sunfish, and perch. Some really big ones too.


And here we have the triumphant fisherboys with their catch.

I suggested taking the fish right down to our beach to clean and scale (thereby avoiding fish guts and scales all over the patio right outside the house door), which then turned into cooking the fish on our beach for lunch.


Along with some (literal) grilled cheese I made with pita breads and that the birthday boy refused on the grounds that they weren't "normal" grilled cheese. True, but annoying.

 Poppy even ate some bits of fish.


In this photo, it looks as if it all ended up on her shirt, but I'm pretty sure she swallowed some.

Then we all went to get ice cream.

The boys watched some cartoons when we got home, because they were all tired and needed to be out of the sun for awhile. An hour or so of Transformers perked them right up, though, and they spent some time running around doing . . . stuff. I don't know what, exactly. Building with Lincoln Logs? Picking black caps?

Whatever. They ran around while A. did some mowing.

Charlie helped me make pesto, per his birthday dinner request. His dinner request also included "a fancy dinner" up at the house, instead of the original plan of a beach cookout.

Well! You want a fancy birthday dinner? Blackrock has you covered. (Exhibit A.)

His only specifications for dinner were pasta with pesto, green salad with ranch dressing, and vanilla pudding for dessert instead of cake. Grandma made the pudding, and to the original dinner order I added Italian sausage, peppers and onions, green beans, and sparkling cider in fancy glasses for the boys.

We set the table nicely, including a tablecloth that was just the right size and that the MiL remarked was handmade lace, causing A. to panic and say, "Take it off the table then! It'll get ruined!"

However, since we weren't eating anything particularly staining--i.e., anything with barbecue sauce--we used it anyway and it was fine.


Terrible photo of a lovely meal.

Then we all had pudding, Charlie opened his cards and gifts, he went on a solo canoe ride with A., played some kind of ninja game with his brothers, and had to be dragged to bed to end his fun birthday day.

It was a good day. A fitting celebration for a good kid.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Six



Happy birthday 
to Charlie.


A prince among boys.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Friday Food: Summer Produce Gluttony


We have been gorging on cherries, black caps, watermelon, cucumbers, and green beans lately, and I'm not even a little bit sorry.

Friday

Short version: Chicken, potatoes, green beans

Long version: I had about six minutes to get dinner cooking while Charlie and Jack "watched" Poppy for me on the porch, so I separated the frankly enormous chicken leg quarters the MiL had bought ( while trying not to imagine what those Franken-chickens must have looked like when alive) and filled a big Pyrex dish with them. I seasoned them with salt and herbs de provence, because that's what I found first in the spice drawer.

There was a big cast iron skillet still on the stove from when I had cooked a ham steak earlier in the day, so I filled 2/3 of it with chunked-up new potatoes, the remaining 1/3 with fresh green beans (hooray for green bean season!), doused them both with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and slammed it all in the oven at 415 degrees until done.

Everything is easier when I can run the oven without heating the kitchen up to crazy temperatures.


And when the kids can eat chicken with their hands on the porch. Even little missy there got a bone, hence the big smile. That girl does love her greasy bones.

Saturday

Short version: Bunless hamburgers, rice, sauteed zucchini and onions with red pepper sauce, cucumbers

Long version: The MiL had pulled out a random jar of red bell pepper paste that had eggplant and stuff in it too. It looked like tomato paste, but tasted like peppers and eggplant. So I stirred some of that into the zucchini. The MiL called this "clever." I just love an easy audience.

Sunday

Short version: Celebratory London broil steaks, roasted new potatoes, green beans

Long version: We were celebrating because A. and Cubby made it back from New Mexico in the afternoon. Hooray!

I made a sauce for the London broil with thinly sliced onions, some old white wine the MiL wanted me to use up in cooking, plus some red wine, and a chunk of butter.

Do you know this trick of thickening sauces with cold butter? If you add a chunk of cold butter to a liquid sauce off heat and stir it around, the butter thickens the sauce without flour. I actually had to put a chunk in the freezer to chill quickly this time, as all of our butter was room temperature, which does not work.

It was a little too hot to be roasting anything in the oven (story of my life lately), but new potatoes are so delicious roasted that I did it anyway. I did not regret it.

The green beans were from the farmers market, and I am SO HAPPY it is fresh green bean season again. Did I say that already? Well, I am.

Monday

Short version: Beachy hamburgers, cucumbers and carrot sticks with curry dip, cherries

Long version: This was our Fun Beach Cookout Dinner. The hamburgers were, shall we say, very flame broiled. This extreme well-doneness combined with the fact that I let the kids eat theirs as sandwiches on some gross "split top butter flavored" white bread A. had bought on their road trip made for some pretty unappealing burgers.

Luckily, with kids, you put enough ketchup on it and they don't care.

The cherries were a bag from the grocery store I had bought that very morning. Because we had finished the bag I had bought from the farmers market on Saturday morning. The bag of grocery store cherries only lasted a day, as well.

Apparently, we can really plow through fresh cherries.

Is it possible to get sick of cherries? I'll do some research and get back to you on that.

Tuesday

Short version: Weird pork things, rice, sauteed bell peppers/mushrooms/onions, steamed carrots and broccoli, green salad, watermelon (with seeds, of course)

Long version: The pork was this really strange and unidentifiable cut labeled "Western style ribs" or something. They were long, thick-cut pieces with a thick layer of fat on one side. I was a bit perplexed as to their actual location on the pig, but it doesn't really matter, I guess.

Sometime in the afternoon I shook some vinegar, salt, pepper, and garlic powder over them for the laziest marinade ever. Then at cooking time, I broiled them, flipping them several times, until they were mostly cooked, at which point I drained off the accumulated liquid from the pan, covered the pork in storebought barbecue sauce, and broiled a few minutes more.

It took me some time to learn that grocery store meat cooked in the oven should never be sauced at the start of cooking, because of all the liquid. That liquid is a major reason I dislike meat from the grocery store. Meat is not supposed to be wet.

Anyway.

My tip: Always add sauce after cooking and draining the juice, to avoid losing all the sauce in a liquid mess in the bottom of the pan. Yuck.

I have discovered that my enjoyment of a meal is in direct proportion to how many different kinds of vegetables I have on my plate. This time, as I made all of mine into a salad, I had seven: bell pepper, mushrooms, onions, carrots, broccoli, lettuce, and cucumbers. So it was a very enjoyable meal for me, which made a lot of cooking dishes that the MiL then washed. Sorry, MiL.

I also ate a rather impressive quantity of watermelon after dinner. I guess it's not just fresh cherries that are so easy to consume in mass quantities.

Wednesday

Short version: Happy ham steaks, vegetable melange with eggs, raw cucumbers and green beans

Long version: At about 2 p.m., I sauteed a bunch of vegetables (onion, garlic, new potatoes, zucchini, tomatoes) together in olive oil until the potatoes were soft, and dumped it all in a Pyrex dish to be covered with eggs and baked at dinnertime.

Good thing I did that early prep, because my watch stopped at 3:04 p.m. So when A. inquired about dinner, I airily waved him off with, "Oh, it's only three!" only to be informed that actually, it was 4:20 p.m.

Oh. Guess I'd better make dinner, then!

I cracked the eggs on top of the vegetables, put a couple of happy ham steaks (happy because they were real ham from the MiL's brother's pigs, which made me happy, if not the pigs) on a pan, and baked all of it at 400 degrees until done. I also put the ham under the broiler for a few minutes at the end, because ham should have some crispy parts on it.

Charlie will only eat green beans raw, so I gave him and Jack some while I was making dinner. Jack also ate the vegetable melange (do you like my fancy name?), but his brothers will have nothing to do with zucchini. Thus, raw cucumbers.

Then the MiL took the boys to a minor league baseball game in the Small City, and A. and I went on a date to get ice cream. Poppy came too, but she didn't get any ice cream. I had a cone of Perry's White Lightning, which made me both happy while I was eating it and sad that I will not be able to get it in New Mexico. Unlimited tortillas will not quite compensate.

Thursday

Short version: Sloppy joes, pan-fried sweet potatoes, green salad

Long version: My optimistic plan when I took ground beef out of the freezer was to make barbecue meatballs. That did not happen. Instead, I browned the ground beef with onions and dumped the barbecue sauce right in there. Just like the meatballs! Except . . . sloppy joes.

The MiL had some random pita bread in the freezer that I thought would be good to help the boys contain their sloppy joe meat. That did not work out the way I had hoped. Still meat everywhere. Oh well. Mia always likes sloppy joe meals.

Okay, your turn! What'd you eat this week?

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Philosophy in the Kitchen


I was unreasonably excited to find that the grocery store in the Small City had seeded watermelon in stock last week. My strong opinions on seedless watermelons have been well documented here, but it is a sad reality that seedless watermelons are almost ubiquitous in grocery stores.

So I was very happy to find the seeded ones. Maybe they only had them for the Fourth of July, but they had them. I bought one last week. I bought another this week. I have been eating a lot of watermelon, because of course, seeded watermelons are huge.

I can see why most people don't bother with them. Not only do you have to spit seeds, but they are probably too large for an average-sized household to eat in a timely manner. Good thing we're larger than average-sized.

They are also unwieldy to cut up, and they take up a lot of space in the refrigerator. However, they're so delicious that I'm willing to put up with their inconveniences.

The most recent watermelon was a rather large inconvenience, as it rolled off the counter while I was cutting a few pieces off and smashed down onto the kitchen floor, thus cracking in several spots. So I had to cut the whole thing up right away. There was watermelon juice everywhere, and everyone was in the kitchen for lunch so it got tracked all over. The kitchen floor is still a little sticky.

I see some mopping in my future today.

Anyway.

As I was cutting it up, Cubby and I were discussing the fact that seedless watermelons have no taste. "They taste like water, " Cubby observed.

I'm raising that boy up right.

Charlie added to the discussion by complaining, "I wish I could have a real watermelon without seeds."

This provided me with the opportunity to explain that when plant geneticists started monkeying with our food to make it more convenient, they largely made it less flavorful. The watermelon is a perfect example of this.

"And so," I concluded sagely, "You can't have a delicious watermelon without the seeds. You have to choose: convenience or taste."

I could have extrapolated from there and told them that life itself is full of seeds, but that makes it all the sweeter, or something equally profound, but I decided to just eat the watermelon instead.

A good decision. A good watermelon, too.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

A Summer Resolution


This will probably sound ridiculous, but I have made a mental resolution to have more fun this summer.

This has been a very stressful summer so far--moving cross-country with many small children will do that--and I really feel as if I am more not-fun than usual. Kind of grumpy, as a matter of fact, which is good for no one.

And so, I have consciously vowed to myself to have fun.

I understand that it is not New Year's Eve, the traditional time for resolutions. It is also not a traditional resolution, as I believe most people's resolutions are of the un-fun variety, like lose weight or keep the house cleaner.

A thing I know about myself, however, is that I'm really good at doing the not-fun stuff that requires routine and responsibility, and not good at doing the fun stuff that gets me off my routine. I'm, well, kind of uptight.

But I want to have fun! I want my kids to have fun with me!

Yesterday, that meant that I promised the boys that not only would we go swimming, but we would have a cookout down on the beach.

I dislike cookouts because it feels like more work to me to have to more or less transport the kitchen to the beach, and then eat while dealing with the sun and bugs and kids that drop their food in the gravel, and . . .

Well, like I said: I'm kind of uptight.

But this is the Summer of Fun, so I did it. I even wore my swimsuit and went in the water with the boys before dinner, which is so rare for me that they all remarked on it many times and I honestly could not remember the last time I had worn my swimsuit.

I helped Jack--who is not comfortable in the water by himself--float around and practice swimming while the older two swam in circles around us. Then I got out and had a gin cocktail that I had packed along with the food (alcohol isn't a requirement for fun, but it's a nice addition sometimes), organized the eating of the beach cookout food, and removed many rocks from Poppy's mouth*.

We were down there for three hours, which made the boys very happy. And you know what? It was fun.

Win.

* That girl wants nothing to do with actual food, but put her in proximity to rocks or leaves, and they will be in her mouth pronto. I suspect if I had the baby chair with the tray and could set her up with little pieces of soft food, she might actually eat on her own. That will have to wait, though, as the chair and tray are currently in New Mexico and we are not.

Friday, July 6, 2018

Friday Food: In Which I Can't Take the Heat


Unfortunately, I couldn't entirely get out of the kitchen, but I sure did my best to stay out of it as much as I could.

Friday

Short version: Life-saving pork, rice, broccoli

Long version: We got back to Blackrock at 5:30 p.m. after our arduous moving experience at our rental house to find that the MiL had prepared dinner. She had marinated country-style pork ribs in soy sauce and fresh ginger, then baked them with chopped garlic scapes.

The rice was plain, the broccoli was steamed, and that meal pretty much saved me and A. Both of us needed some strengthening after a whole lot of physical labor and not a lot of food in a 36-hour period.

Saturday

Short version: Bunless hamburgers, leftover rice, cucumbers with vinegar and salt, mashed winter squash

Long version: Yes, we had winter squash in June, and no, I do not live in the southern hemisphere.

See, what happened was, the kids went into the Secret Stair as soon as we got to Blackrock, as children will always do with a secret stair. In the Secret Stair, Charlie discovered a Jarrahdale pumpkin the MiL had stored there last fall and then forgotten about.

That tends to happen on the Secret Stair, as I well know myself.

It looked remarkably good, so the MiL halved it and cooked it in the oven before we entered our Hell Week of temperatures over 90 degrees every day. Unfortunately, she was gone in the evening when it was done, so I took it out and apparently it was slightly underdone. And then we didn't want to run the oven for a long time again, because Hell Week had begun. Oops.

So I put some of it in a Pyrex dish with a lid and microwaved it with a little added water and bunch of butter. It was fine.

I ate the leftovers cold on Sunday morning, which sounds like it would be gross but was actually very satisfying on a hot, steamy morning when hot food is very unappealing.

Sunday

Short version: Tuna salad, tortilla chips, green salad, rolls

Long version: It was hot. Tuna salad is not. Neither are tortilla chips, salad, and the rolls from the communion bread the MiL had baked for church the day before. The perfect meal for imperfect weather.


And here we have the perfect baby. Well, except for that whole "teething and not sleeping" thing. I could do without that.

Monday

Short version: Too hot. Much, much too hot.

Long version: My plan was for Italian sausage and fried potatoes, but it was 98 degrees that day and it rained right before dinner, which only caused the kitchen to feel as if it had been transplanted to the tropics. And not in a good way. I refused to stand over a skillet that was spitting grease for half an hour.

I made scrambled eggs, microwaved some tortillas with cheese, cut up some of the white carrots* Charlie had picked out at the farmers market, and called it dinner. No one complained.


This one might have some complaints about her shirt. Luckily, she can't talk yet.

Tuesday

Short version: Italian sausage, fried peppers/zucchini/onions, crispy garlic scapes with starchy peas, boiled new potatoes, salad, raw pepper and cucumber for the boys

Long version: It was really still too hot to be frying things, but the sausage needed to be cooked and it was at least not as hot and humid as the day before. The vegetables were all bits of things I found in the refrigerator. Not a lot of any one thing, but taken together they all made a satisfying dinner.

The peas were starchy because they were the last pods the MiL gathered before pulling the plants in anticipation of the heatwave. They were fine stir-fried with the scapes, though. I guess that cooking method is better than steaming or boiling for overly mature peas.

One benefit of the excessive heat is that I don't have to worry about under-salting my food, as the sweat dripping down my face at every meal provides plenty of seasoning right there at the table. So convenient.

Wednesday

Short version: Fried eggs, fried leftover potatoes, carrot sticks, leftover vegetables

Long version: Jack and I were the only ones eating, as the MiL was going to a party, Charlie was sick, Poppy still refuses anything but Mother's Milk, and A. and Cubby were in New Mexico.

I had considered making pasta, but thought better of boiling a big pot of water in an already-steamy kitchen.  Eggs again it is, then!

I let Jack help me stir around the potatoes in the skillet and also cut the eggs on his plate with a butter knife, so he didn't notice that this was a total cop-out dinner. The Klondike bar he had for dessert helped, too.


A festive Fourth of July porch picnic for breakfast, before Charlie wilted and the rest of the day kind of sucked.

Thursday

Short version: The heat won.

Long version: Once again, Jack and I were the only ones eating. I had taken a ham steak out of the freezer, but when the moment of truth came, I just couldn't make myself turn on a burner and start cooking. So we ate crackers, and summer sausage, and bread and butter, and yogurt with black caps, and it was fine.

Today is the first day in a week that we don't have a heat advisory. It's going to be a chilly 74 degrees. Maybe I'll actually manage to produce something worthwhile in the kitchen. Here's hoping.

Okay, your turn! What'd you eat this week?

* Which never fail to make me think of Bunnicula, and thus always amuse me.

Monday, July 2, 2018

Scenes from a Blackrock Summer



Eating snow peas picked from the garden . . .


Playing in the woodchuck wading pool (a.k.a., the utility sled) . . .


And trying desperately to stay cool.


Sunday, July 1, 2018

Some Relief


Man, yesterday was a challenge. After the last-minute rush of getting A. and Cubby on the road by 9 a.m., the MiL and I took the remaining kids with us to the dump and then to the farmers market.

I was so exhausted from the previous two days of moving and not sleeping that I kept just dozing at random times throughout the day in whatever chair I was sitting in at the time. Also, yesterday was the first day of hot weather, and I sweated all damn day, often with one or more children on my body who were also sweating.

But!

I turned on the upstairs air conditioner in the afternoon and took a shower after I (fiiiinally) got the children to bed. Poppy was up a few times last night, but because I was able to get to bed before 11 p.m.--unlike the previous two nights--and stay in bed until 6 a.m., I actually got some sleep.

The MiL took Charlie and Jack to church with her this morning. Poppy fell asleep about half an hour after they left. I made some yogurt, hung up my laundry on the clothesline, and am now sitting in the air conditioned parlor eating a stir fry I made entirely of leftovers I found in the fridge (pork, garlic scapes, broccoli, rice, and the sauce from the pork).

I am cool. I am clean. I am somewhat rested. I am eating an uninterrupted and delicious meal. And it is quiet.

A balm for the soul. Amen.

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Keepin' It Rollin'


The Great Western Move of 2018 continues.

When you move, you really want to get all your stuff in the back of the truck, drive to your new house, and unload it all. Even that is a challenge, but you add in an infant, two pit stops for more unloading and loading, AND a nail in the moving truck's tire, and you have one hellish move.

The nail was in the tire when we picked the truck up from Enterprise. A. noticed the soft tire (but not the nail yet) and asked them to check on it before we took the truck. They filled the tire, but didn't see the nail. A. saw it two hours down the road when we were stopped at a gas station.

Four hours later (nationwide chains are not my favorite), we finally had a new tire. This meant that instead of getting to our house in the north at 2 p.m. to load the truck, we got there at 6 p.m. And then spent the next five hours loading the truck (mostly A.) and finishing packing the house, plus cleaning (mostly me).

For those keeping track, that meant we worked until 11 p.m. And then Poppy inexplicably decided she was done sleeping for awhile exactly as we moved the mattress into the living room to sleep at 11:05 p.m.

So basically, there was no sleep on Thursday night.

At six the next morning, we were back at it, finally finishing up in a mad rush at exactly 11 a.m. The truck was completely full and not all that carefully arranged*. We booked it back to Blackrock (no nails this time, hooray), getting back at 5:30 p.m.

After a life-saving dinner the MiL had made--food was not the priority during our northern moving blitz--we started unloading a third of the truck with things that are staying at Blackrock. But first we had to take out all the miscellaneous things that had been piled in front of the rugs and beds and A.'s work papers that had to come out. And then we had to put all those miscellaneous things back in.

I say "we," but it was mostly A., while I dealt with our frankly hysterical children and tried to direct A. regarding what was staying and what was going.

He finished at 9:30 p.m.

At 9 a.m., he and Cubby started off for their drive to New Mexico. They're due to stop in Wisconsin at 11 a.m. tomorrow morning to pick up furniture at my aunt and uncle's house, before continuing to New Mexico.

I will not be there to help with the unloading, obviously--and I can't say I'm sorry about that--but I contacted the secretary at the school to ask if there were any high school kids who might want to earn some money helping A. with the furniture that requires two people. She gave me the number of our neighbor, who has both a husband and a son who can help.

Yay for small towns.

So the moving continues, although my part of it is over for now. Until we get to New Mexico and I have to unpack all the very-hastily "packed" boxes and bags, and find places for it all.

But I won't think about that now. I'll think about it then.

Godspeed, A. and Cubby. May the road rise up to meet you and the nails stay out of your tires.

* One reason it was so full is because when you move from a rural area, there is no leaving things for the trash collection or for free for neighbors. Not enough neighbors and no trash collection. It all, including the bags of garbage, had to go in the truck.

Friday, June 29, 2018

Friday Food: The Moving Edition


Friday

Short version: Grilled Italian sausage and onions, grilled bread, green peas

Long version: I had already done the serious scrubbing of the stove, so I was trying to minimize kitchen cooking. Grill to the rescue!

Saturday

Short version: Scrambled eggs, tortillas with cheese (and deli ham, for those who like ham), carrot sticks

Long version: Cooking until the bitter end, yes. This was our last family dinner in our house up north.

Sunday

Short version: Car food

Long version: We were driving at dinnertime, so everyone ate some combination of the peanut butter bread, cheese, apples, peanuts, cashews, carrot sticks, Fritos, and lollipops I had packed for the car trip. Thus, no one was hungry for the ham, rice, and (garden!) peas the MiL had waiting for us when we rolled up to Blackrock at 7:30 p.m. Although Cubby did manage a plate of rice and peas at about 8:30 p.m.

He's a good eater, that Cubby. Also, bedtime? What bedtime?

Summertime rules for kids.

Monday

Short version: Steaks, potatoes, crispy garlic scapes, green salad

Long version: Three broiled steaks, a big pot of boiled potato chunks (purposely making enough for leftovers), and a big mess of garlic scapes sauteed in olive oil until they were a little crispy.

Crispy garlic scapes are a happy thing. So, so good.

The salad had lettuce from the MiL's garden, and beets and cucumbers she got from the farmers market here. It's nice to be back in the land of easily obtainable vegetables.

Tuesday

Short version: Signature skillet casserole, leftover steak and rice

Long version: Can I claim to have signature skillet casseroles now after outlining my famous chicken skillet casserole*? Sure I can. This one was diced onion, leftover ham, carrots, leftover garlic scapes, rice, and cheddar cheese. Tasty.

The leftover steak and rice was for Charlie, who is not a ham eater, but then A. ended up finishing all the leftovers of both meals, so I guess it was a good thing we had both.

Wednesday

Short version: Scrambled eggs, fried leftover potatoes, cucumbers

Long version: We were supposed to tag along with A. for errands in the Small City and then eat at the Chinese buffet (gross, but everyone but me likes it). But then Charlie wasn't feeling great, so A. went and we stayed home. Thus, last-minute food it is.

Thursday

Short version: Grocery store rotisserie chicken, mashed potatoes, fresh mozzarella

Long version: A., Poppy, and I left Blackrock at 7:30 a.m. to pick up the moving truck and drive up to our house up north to load it up.


The moving crew at the optimistic beginning of our journey.

We were supposed to arrive at the house around 2 p.m. Thanks to a nail in a tire (I DON'T WANT TO TALK ABOUT IT), we didn't make it here until 6 p.m. We stopped at a grocery store on the way to get the store-prepared chicken and potatoes, plus the mozzarella for A.

The food wasn't very good, but it was far from the worst part of the day.

We're still up north, and we still have things to put in the truck. I have some anxiety that it's not all going to fit, though I suppose it will just have to. Allll the fingers are crossed.

Okay, your turn! What'd you eat this week?

* Famous because someone (hi, Linda!) actually made it based on the sketchy description I gave of it, and, even more amazing, actually liked the result. I'm pretty sure the Food Network will be calling me for my own show any day now.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Here's the Plan


The house is mostly packed up. I even brought most of the stuff out to the barn already, so we can just back the moving truck up to the barn and wheel it all up the ramp. Theoretically. I know there will be a few boxes of randomness that I'm gonna just throw in at the last minute, but hey! I mostly did it, while working around insane end-of-year school craziness and four little kids and all their incessant needs.

Where's my medal?

So here's what's going to happen*.

Today I got all the suitcases packed with the clothes we will need for a month at Blackrock.

Tomorrow morning we're going to get the cars all packed up and ready to go before church. After church is over at noon, we'll come back to the house to pick up the geriatric collie and then hit the road for Blackrock in both our cars.

We'll be at Blackrock until Thursday, during which time I will be packing up yet more things that never made it up to this house.

Early Thursday morning, me, A., and Poppy will leave the boy children with their Grandma and pick up the moving truck to bring it up north, load it, clean the house, and go back to Blackrock on Friday. (That all sounds so simple in that one sentence. It will not be simple.)

At Blackrock, we'll unload the things that belong there (mostly rugs), load up the things I packed from there, and A. will--we hope--leave somewhat early on Saturday to start the drive to New Mexico. Possibly with Cubby along for company.

He'll make a pit stop at my aunt and uncle's house in Wisconsin to pick up some furniture that my grandfather made decades ago and that no one else in the family is using at the moment, and then continue driving until he arrives at our new house.

He and Cubby will unload the truck, then turn around and drive back to New York in the truck, arriving within ten days of picking it up. (This ended up being cheaper than a one-way truck rental and airfare.)

And then, sometime at the end of July, the whole family will drive out to New Mexico together for good.

This is not the most uncomplicated move, but we wouldn't want to make it easy on ourselves or anything.

Okay. You ready for this? Me neither. But the only way out is through, so here we go!

* As if this matters for any of you. But it makes me feel better to write it out.

Friday, June 22, 2018

Friday Food: Prepare for a Shocker


Amusingly enough, the shocker is not that the kids ate another beaver tail. That's unremarkable at this point.

Friday

Short version: We went out to eat.

STOP THE PRESSES.

Long version: Charlie graduated from kindergarten Friday morning (but still had to go to school this week, which he was displeased about), so we went to the diner to celebrate. Of course, the guest of honor didn't think anything on the large menu sounded good except grilled cheese. I had made him grilled cheese for lunch, but I figured, whatever, it's his party.

Then he discovered the restaurant grilled cheese had "the gross cheese" that he hates--Kraft singles--so he didn't want that, either. He traded his sandwich for a few of Cubby's french fries and two shrimp, then came home and ate apples and cheese and yogurt.

I didn't even order anything, instead having a few bites of A.'s fries and then coming home to eat cold leftover sweet potatoes and chili meat.

So basically, we fail at eating out.

Graduation picture!


Cubby had a field trip this day, which is why it's just the five of us. "Just." Ha.

Saturday

Short version: Fish fry, tacos, Mexican slaw, carrots

Long version: A. and Cubby went fishing in the afternoon, returning with five fish (I think four trout and one perch).


And here they are. They stuck terribly to this stainless steel skillet, leading A. to proclaim, "Let this be a lesson to you, children: ALWAYS COOK IN CAST IRON." Amen.

Jack insisted on helping A. cook the fish, despite the very real danger of spitting bacon grease.


Three-year-olds can do everything by themselves, as they will tell you at any opportunity.

Cubby caught three of the fish, and stated somewhat petulantly during all this picture-taking, "Of course you won't take a picture of the person who caught the fish."

So I did, and this is the result.


Tinkertoy ninja CHOP.

Cubby ate so much fish he didn't want any tacos, but everyone else ate them. I made them by the simple method of browning ground beef and dumping in leftover chili (which was mostly sauce at that point.) Boom: Instant taco meat.

Sunday

Short version: Cliched steak, mashed potatoes, sauteed mushrooms and green garlic, raw radishes, green peas

Long version: Is it a rule that you have to have steak on Father's Day? Probably not, but it's pretty much A.'s favorite meat, and I found some rib eyes and T-bones (multiple, yes--A. can eat A LOT of steak) on deep discount last week, which I froze in anticipation of this very day. I grilled them. Happy Carnivore Daddy.

Monday

Short version: Pasta with meat sauce, cucumber, hamburgers

Long version: I had half a can of tomatoes left from making the chili, plus a couple of cups of frozen leftover pasta sauce, so I combined them with some leftover ground beef for a meat sauce.

I made the pasta almost all the way at 7:45 in the morning, because our forecast was for well over 80 with high humidity, the A/C is still not working, and I had to spend a few hours at the school in the middle of the day hauling Jack and Poppy around to a couple of end-of-year events. I knew I would be tired, hot, and not happy about cooking by dinnertime. So I made the sauce and pasta early and stuck it in the refrigerator. At dinnertime I reheated it with some added milk and beef stock from the freezer, stirred in some green peas and added grated Parmesan at the end.

None of the boys were interested in the cucumber until I cut it into four pieces the entire length and handed them each an 8-inch-long cucumber spear. Then they were all about it. I suspect Freud would have a lot to say about that.

Then A. came home from his trip earlier than expected, so I made him some hamburgers from more of the ground beef. And then it stormed and finally cooled down a little, alleluia.

Tuesday

Short version: Beaver tail appetizer, rotten pork tenderloin, fried potatoes, bacon, scrambled eggs, green salad with ranch dressing, grilled garlic bulbs

Long version: The beaver tail has been in the freezer over a year. Not even wrapped up, just a scaly, naked beaver tail hanging out on the top shelf of the upright freezer. Well, we wouldn't want to waste it, now would we? So A. cooked it on the grill and handed it over to the feral boy children, who devoured it in short order.

When I opened the pork tenderloin to cook it, it smelled bad to me. I checked the "good until" date, which was still several days in the future. I remembered reading somewhere that vacuum packed meat can off-gas when it's opened, so I thought maybe that's what it was. But after it was grilled, it still smelled bad. I tasted a bit. It tasted bad. I made A. taste a bit. (Nice of me, I know.) He said it tasted bad.

Great.

Onto plan B: Bacon and eggs. I had already made garlic scape butter to put on the now-trashed pork, so I used some of that to cook the eggs, because flexibility is the hallmark of a good cook.

Actually, not cooking rotten meat is probably the hallmark of a good cook, but whatever.

Wednesday

Short version: Cornell chicken, beefy rice with chive flowers, pan-fried sweet potatoes, salad with ranch dressing

Long version: I sauteed the rice with the rest of the green garlic butter from the night before, then cooked it in the last of the beef broth I found in the freezer, and then added chive flowers when the rice was done.

I actually like the flowers better than the chives themselves, for the simple reason that you don't need a knife to prep the flowers. You just twist the base of the flower off and the individual little florets or whatever are the right size to use. Neat.

Thursday

Short version: Grilled pork chops, rice, more pan-fried sweet potatoes, green peas

Long version: I had just a bit of mustard left in a bottle, so I shook it up with some vinegar and oil and covered the pork chops with that to marinate. They were kind of dry and bland when I tasted the thinnest one after it was done, though, so I spread some mayonnaise and salt on them while the rest were finishing up on the grill. Still bland.

We had to put barbecue sauce on them at the table.

Mediocre Dinners 'R' Us.

Okay, your turn! What'd you eat this week?

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

The Snotty, Itchy Icing on the Stress Cake


What this week of finishing up school and packing up a house for a cross-country move needed was a few kids with a cold. Plus a kid with poison ivy all over his legs. You know, for maximum sleep deprivation and general misery.

Oh well. Could be worse. They could all be throwing up. (Knocking on alllll the wood now. Good thing we live in the middle of the woods.)

Monday, June 18, 2018

An Inspirational Quote


Okay. We're at T minus 6 days before we leave this house. I am . . . not all packed. I don't even have the boxes I need to get packed at the moment.

Hold me.

But! In the course of random Internet surfing this morning--which is of course what I should be doing instead of the five million things that will actually assist me in moving in an organized fashion--I came across a helpful quote*. Allow me to share in the hopes that it might help someone else out there.

Life is like a roller coaster: Sometimes all you can do is hang on and try not to puke.

Sometimes the universe sends us just what we need, doesn't it?

* I'm not sure if quote is the appropriate term, as I highly doubt this can be attributed to an actual person.


Friday, June 15, 2018

Friday Food: A Thrifty Theme


We ate seven meals this week from just three packages of meat I purchased. That may be a record. Also, I'm trying to use up the bits of things in the pantry and freezer before we move. I'm doing pretty well with it.

Friday

Short version: Carnitas tacos, salad

Long version: One of the best things about cooking large hunks of pork is that you then inevitably have enough left over for another meal. I always either shred the pork and simmer it with barbecue sauce for pulled pork sandwiches, or chunk it up and fry it in lard for carnitas.

I went with the latter this time, frying it in the rendered fat that had solidified on top of the juices I poured off from cooking the pork butt earlier in the week. So thrifty. And tasty.

Saturday

Short version: Bunless grilled cheeseburgers, porky rice, Grandma Brown's baked beans, carrot sticks

Long version: I cooked the rice in the de-fatted juices from the pork butt. Doubly thrifty.

I sure did punk out on vegetables for this meal. Carrot sticks are what I consider a "grudging vegetable," meaning I know I need to serve some kind of vegetable, but I'm feeling sulky about having to make yet another thing, so I just peel some carrots and cut them up. Cucumbers also fall into this category.

Sunday

Short version: Sloppy joes, cucumber salad

Long version: A. and Jack were gone and the remaining children and I were due at baseball practice at 6 p.m., so simple was the objective here. I had some uncooked ground beef left from Saturday, which I cooked with a chopped onion, some barbecue sauce, and the remainder of two almost-empty bottles of ketchup that needed shaking with water to get the last bit of ketchup out. Waste not, want not!

Another thrifty thing about sloppy joes is that they are one of the only times you actually want to use the heels of the bread. The heels don't get soaked with sauce and fall apart like regular bread slices do.

The cucumbers this time don't count as grudging, because I made at least some effort with them. I made a dressing for the cucumber chunks with sour cream, red wine vinegar, salt, onion powder, and a little sugar. Okay, so it wasn't a lot of effort, but Cubby and Charlie seemed to like it.

Monday

Short version: Re-purposed leftovers, peas

Long version: Still just me, Cubby, and Charlie eating, so I heated up leftover sloppy joe meat with leftover rice and added some shredded cheese.

No one could ever accuse me of being a foodie.

Take note: Meal three with the ground beef I de-frosted on Saturday. But only because A. wasn't here.

And now! A break for a photo of the baby who still wants nothing to do with food except for greasy bones.


(New) toothbrushes are good to gnaw on, too, but much less tasty.

Tuesday

Short version: Odd pork chops, cornbread, roasted broccoli, roasted asparagus, raw radishes, baked apples

Long version: The pork chops were these boneless center cut things in odd shapes. Basically the leftovers from cutting more-standard pork chops, I suspect. Whatever, they were on sale and they were fine when grilled.

I made the cornbread to use up a bag of cornmeal that's been languishing in the freezer. While the oven was on to cook the cornbread, I roasted the broccoli and asparagus and made the apples. The apples were grocery store ones that were disappointingly soft. As they almost always are from the grocery store.

The boys ate the radishes, which A. picked up at the awesome produce store. They love them--and most other vegetables--raw. Man, I really need a garden.

Wednesday

Short version: Chicken and rice skillet casserole, green peas

Long version: The MiL sent A. home with several extra chicken breasts she had poached when she was making chicken salad for a party. So I cooked some diced bacon, then some diced onion, then added the diced chicken, deglazed it all with a little milk, then added some rice I had cooked in chicken broth earlier, then a couple of spoonfuls of mayonnaise, a little vinegar, and topped it all with shredded cheese before broiling it to melt and brown the cheese.

Got all that? Yeah, I don't know exactly what I did, either.

This was one of those sleeper hits where I wasn't sure anyone would eat it, and then they all ended up fighting over seconds and there wasn't enough.

Thursday

Short version: Chili, rice, carrots, roasted sweet potatoes, homemade tortilla chips

Long version: The chili I made from a large bottom London broil roast (plus onion, garlic, tomato, cumin, chili powder, and a little vinegar).

The carrots were eaten whole by the children before dinner.

The tortilla chips I made because I found a few packages of the inferior tortillas in the freezer and a bottle of canola oil in the pantry with just a tiny bit of oil still in it. Plus, the pan from roasting the sweet potatoes was still all oily. So I just smeared the tortillas on both sides with the canola oil, cut them into triangles, spread them out, salted them, and baked them for awhile at 350. They were a hit. Unsurprisingly.

Okay, your turn! What'd you eat this week?

Thursday, June 14, 2018

This About Sums It Up


So what's life with a pack of small boys like?

It's going for an after-dinner walk . . .

That turns into a rain walk . . .

That turns into a grass fight with the cut grass left behind by the highway department mower . . .

And a boy with a clump of cut grass on his head who announces himself as "Captain Bird's Nest" (the next generation of Masked Morons* has arrived for sure) . . .

Which then devolves into three half-naked boys running around shrieking outside the house for an hour (or all-naked in one case) . . .

Because they've been locked out of the house until they submit to a freezing hose-down to remove the worst of the grass sticking to them . . .

And holding them down and hosing them while they cry and try to get away . . .

Then cycling all three in and out of the shower/bath . . .

And then cleaning about half a cup of cut grass out of the tub and wiping down mud on every wall of the shower stall.

That's what it's like.

In a word: exhausting.


Though, yes, also sometimes amusing. Except I reached the end of my amusement right about hose-down time last night.

* I had the brilliant idea of writing a graphic novel about the Masked Moron and Captain Bird's Nest. It would be a surefire bestseller with eight-year-old boys. If only I could draw.

Saturday, June 9, 2018

The Magic of Disney, Indeed


A couple of weeks ago, I was singing the Cinderelly song from the original Disney Cinderella movie, and Cubby asked me where that song was from.

He'd never seen Cinderella? Well, we must remedy that.

So I got the movie for the boys to watch.

They liked Lucifer the cat. They liked Gus the fat mouse. They liked the royal servant with the monocle.

But then we got to the ball. And when the prince and Cinderella started dancing, the older boys got all squirmy.

Then Charlie said, "I wish the prince would get flushed down the toilet."

Not to be outdone, Cubby added, "I wish they would dance over a toilet and Cinderella would flush the toilet and FLUSH! The prince would go down the toilet."

Boys are fun.

Friday, June 8, 2018

Friday Food: Grilling Is the Alpha and the Omega


I seem to keep coming full circle on either my food or choice of cooking medium.

Friday

Short version: Grilled pork chops, sweet potatoes, dinner rolls, salad

Long version: This was not at all my plan for dinner. I had thought it was going to be cooler, so I took out ground beef to make taco meat. I had the Mexican slaw made and everything. Then I realized that it was not at all cooler. In fact, it was just as hot as the day before. And then when I tried to turn on the air conditioning at 2:30 p.m., it didn't work.

There was no way in hell I was going to be simmering taco meat for 45 minutes in an 83-degree house with the afternoon sun blasting through our stupid west-facing picture window.

So instead I took out pork chops from the freezer. At 2:30 p.m. The house was so hot that they were almost all the way thawed at 5 p.m. when I put them on the grill. There's the silver lining, I guess.

I microwaved the sweet potatoes for a few minutes before wrapping them in foil and putting them on the grill too.

The dinner rolls were the same ones the MiL had brought us. The salad was made with already-washed lettuce and dressed with already-made ranch dressing.

Boom: Dinner with no cooking in the kitchen.

I am a magician.

My magic touch was confirmed when I transformed three cranky, squabbling boys into fun-loving compatriots by letting them eat their dinner with their hands while sitting on a blanket on the porch and then running through the sprinkler.

Saturday

Short version: Rotisserie chicken, potato chips, corn on the cob, watermelon

Long version: For the second night in a row, I planned on tacos and then didn't make them. My planned trip to the grocery store turned into a family outing with a stop at the playground, and I decided to just buy prepared food at the grocery store for dinner so I wouldn't have to cook for once.

It reminded me of WHY I cook, though. The total for all of this was $15, and it really wasn't enough food for all of us. I really should have got two chickens, but at $7 each, I just couldn't bring myself to do it.

Plus, it didn't taste nearly as good as homecooked food.

The kids were happy, though. I even acquiesced to a seedless watermelon, and you know how I feel about those.

Sunday

Short version: Tacos, Mexican slaw

Long version: And on the third night, there were tacos. I was the only one who ate the Mexican slaw (cabbage, shallots, vinegar, cumin, salt). The lettuce and salsa on the tacos counts for a vegetable, right?

Monday

Short version: Choice of hamburgers or tacos, bread and butter, steamed broccoli, sauteed mushrooms and onions

Long version: I had some ground beef left, with which I made five hamburgers. I ate one with vegetables. Cubby ate one with broccoli and bread and butter. A. ate three with mushrooms and onions and bread and butter. Charlie and Jack ate tacos with the leftover meat.

Customizable food: It's what's for dinner.

Meanwhile, on the kitchen floor . . .


Watchu lookin' at?

Tuesday

Short version: Pork butt, baked potatoes, cucumbers with vinegar and salt, green peas, bread pudding

Long version: Is there a less appetizingly-named cut of meat than "pork butt"? No. Tastes good, though.

So I discovered a few months ago, while trying to find a use for the enormous bag of bread crumbs that had accumulated in the freezer, that I actually prefer bread pudding made with bread crumbs instead of bread cubes. It has a more uniform texture. Granted, my bread crumbs are just the ends of sourdough bread that I quickly whiz in the food processor, so they're much chunkier than the dry breadcrumbs in the cans or whatever. I would never make bread pudding with those. Gross.

Bread pudding is an excellent use for the fresh breadcrumbs from homemade bread, though. You have to either use slightly less bread or slightly more liquid, however, as the crumbs when measured actually result in more bread in the recipe. I use a Christopher Kimball recipe that calls for a 2:1 ratio of milk to cream, and a LOT of nutmeg.

I seriously love nutmeg. And I didn't drop it in the milk mixture this time. I win!

Wednesday

Short version: Sneaky trout appetizer, sweet Italian sausage, fried potatoes, fried cabbage and onions, steamed carrots

Long version: A. left at 1:30 p.m. to go the post office. When he hadn't returned by 3 p.m., I made a wild guess that he had taken the opportunity to go fishing in the spot near the village that he likes. Sure enough, he came home at 3:30 p.m. looking sheepish and holding two small trout. He told me they were in his post office box.

He's a funny one.

He fried them whole in bacon grease for Cubby and Jack. Charlie isn't so much into fish.

When I put some olive oil in the skillet to cook the sausage, I poured way too much. So I poured some into another skillet to cook the potatoes. And there was still too much oil in the sausage pan--I must have been afflicted with a muscle spasm at the moment of pouring--so I put some in yet another pan to cook the cabbage and onions. Thus, I fried everything and my stove was a disgusting, greasy mess.

The carrots were nice and clean, though. Particularly since I cooked them in the microwave.

Thursday

Short version: Grilled chicken thighs, spaghetti with tomato/cream sauce, grilled green garlic, green salad

Long version: It's amazing to me how the green garlic (which is just immature garlic plants, just like scallions are immature onions) loses so much of its flavor when cooked. The raw green garlic is like, "WOAH, NELLIE! Take that vampires!" And the cooked garlic is all, "What did I just eat? Cucumbers with a hint of garlic?" I can't quite figure out the best use for it, is what I'm saying. I think possibly finely chopped and sprinkled over tacos has been the best I've found so far. Any suggestions?

Okay, your turn! What'd you eat this week?

Thursday, June 7, 2018

The Return of the Countdown Candy


The school year in New York goes waaaay too long. Cubby and Charlie's last day of school isn't until June 22. The weather feels summery, everyone has trouble going to sleep because it stays light too late, and everyone has a really hard time getting up in the morning due to the late bedtimes.

We're over it.

Last year I had some problems with reluctant boys not wanting to get on the school bus towards the end of the year. I got tired of cajoling and threatening and forcibly leading them out the door, so I decided bribery was definitely the answer.

Thus, the tradition of Countdown Candy was born.

I asked A. to get me some kind of small candy at the store. He chose Reese's Pieces, which I of course approved of. Then I put three Reese's Pieces in each cup of an egg carton--one for each boy*. After everyone was ready for the bus, including backpacks on, they got one Reese's Piece (I suppose that's the singular form) on their way out the door and we counted the cups that still had candy in them to see how many days were left.

It worked magically well.

We haven't had so many bad mornings this year, but I've been waiting until there were only twelve days left of school anyway. Today is the day. The Reese's Pieces are in their egg carton, ready to count down the final days of school.

The Countdown Candy is sweet, but the end of the year is sweeter still. We're almost there. Twelve days and counting . . .

* No, Jack does not actually get on the bus, but he always came outside with us to wait, and do you think he's going to watch his brothers eat candy at 7:15 a.m. without demanding his own? Ha.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Life Goals


Jack: Soon I'm going to be a grown-up, and then I'll be happy.

Me: Oh yeah? What's good about being a grown-up?

Jack: Big machines*! And eating cheese all day!

Me: Cheese?

Jack: Yeah, because I love cheese. And I can have coffee! And BEER!

So, heavy machinery and gluttonous consumption. Sounds like a plan to me.

* So far on Jack's list of dream machines: motorcycle, dump truck, pick-up truck, Jeep, excavator, riding mower, weed trimmer . . . I think he should just own an equipment rental company and live the dream day in and day out.

Sunday, June 3, 2018

A Bicycle Ride for Two


Early this morning while hanging out with Poppy, I had a train of thought that went like this, "I guess I'll give the kids Baca toast* for breakfast. Except we're out of honey. I could go get some from the honey stand down the road. Seems stupid to drive such a short distance, though. Hey, I could ride the bike."  

So when A. woke up, I told him I was going to ride the five miles to get honey. Cubby was the only boy awake at the time, and he begged to go. I couldn't refuse.


This was the darkest photo ever, which I only semi-successfully managed to lighten in editing.


Cubby's photography skills are obviously much better than mine. (Although I do not know why I look so short and squat in this photo. Maybe because I'm downhill of the photographer?)

It was a perfect morning for a bike ride: 60 degrees and sunny with a light wind. This road is very rural, with hay fields and woods all along the way. We only saw three cars the whole 40 minutes. The 2.5 miles to the honey stand are slightly uphill, but then the whole way home is coasting downhill. Cubby was so happy to be with me, I couldn't be disappointed that my solo bike ride had become a bonding experience. 

He dropped the following gems at different times on the ride:

"We're really free now! Just you and me--no Charlie, no Jack, no Poppy crying . . ."

While coasting fast downhill, "We're really leaving our worries behind now! Even they can't go this fast!"

And at the very end, where the slope is steepest and we were really whipping right along, "I don't know why, but for some reason today I feel the need for speed."



And there's the speed demon himself, clutching his prize.

When we got home, Cubby actually elected to have cinnamon toast rather than Baca toast, so I guess the trip for honey was unnecessary. In this case, however, it was definitely the journey and not the destination that mattered.

* Baca toast is toast with peanut butter and honey. It's named for my dad--given the moniker "Baca" by the first grandchild--who frequently has this toast for breakfast. It's a weekend treat at our house, given its drippiness and likelihood of requiring a change of clothing.

Friday, June 1, 2018

Friday Food: All Hail the Grill


I used the grill every night this week except one. I like not having a greasy frying pan to wash every night. Or at least, one less greasy frying pan to wash.

Friday

Short version: Lamb lap, fried potatoes, another exciting salad

Long version: "Lap?" you say. "What the hell is a lap?" I'm so glad you asked! It's the breast.

Unlike a chicken breast however, the breast on a home-raised lamb is pretty thin. It's pretty much a thin layer of muscle sandwiched between skin and fat.

It is not an appealing cut of lamb unless you really, really like lamb. And know how to cook it.

A. prepared it the same way he prepares the ribs: He marinated it in olive oil, garlic, and a lot of vinegar, then cooked it slowly in the oven covered for a couple of hours before transferring it to the grill to get crispy.

The boys LOVED it. They ate most of it themselves. I even gave a piece to Poppy to chew on (is it still chewing with only one tooth?), and it kept her happy and quiet for the entire meal. It also made her a bit greasy, but oh well.

Cave Baby loves her flame-cooked meats.

I also had A. cook the last teeny beef bottom round "roast" from our half cow on the grill for me. It was literally three inches long. I didn't know a roast could be that small. It was just the right size for my salad, though, which was good because I don't eat lamb lap. Much like I don't eat lamb ribs.

Cave Mother would not have survived long in cave times.

The salad was exciting again because it had some of the MiL's spinach, some of her radishes, and some of her green onions. Garden produce makes me feel that cooking and eating are worthwhile again. Insert sigh of happiness here, along with frustration that I'm not growing a garden this year thanks to our imminent cross-country move. Boo.

Saturday

Short version: Bunless cheeseburgers, fried onions, fried potatoes, salad

Long version: Yeah, I pretty much just switched out the meat and made all the same stuff from the night before. This was the only night I didn't use the grill. It was storming. Plus, I often have trouble with hamburgers kind of falling through the grill grates. Maybe I need to be more aggressive when pressing the meat into patties.

Anyway.

Hey, is there anyone out there who doesn't know the easiest way to make a vinaigrette? I didn't before I learned from the MiL (mostly because I had never made any kind of homemade salad dressing). The traditional method is to put all ingredients except the oil in a bowl and then whisk the oil in slowly to emulsify the dressing. This is not happening--like, ever--in my kitchen.

The easy way to do it is to put all the ingredients including the oil in a jar with a screw-top lid on tight and shake the hell out of it before you pour it on the salad. Even easier? Get a kid to shake it for you. Just make sure the lid is on really, really tight for that.

Sunday

Short version: Grilled country-style pork ribs, French potato salad, cucumbers with vinegar and salt

Long version: We ran out of propane for the grill on Friday and I wasn't going to bother getting a replacement canister as we're moving in a month. However, the canisters are only ten dollars, and I decided after eating the grilled ribs that that is totally worthwhile for another month's worth of meals. Everything tastes better when cooked on a grill.

The potato salad is this one. I no longer have a copy of Mastering the Art of French Cooking--it was the MiL's--so I just made up the dressing based on sketchy memory. I should have made more dressing, because the potatoes absorbed it all and were a little dry. I also should have looked at my post about it before I made it, because then I would have remembered to add bacon, which is always the right thing to do.

Monday

Short version: Grilled London broil with garlic butter, mashed potatoes, grilled asparagus, salad, stewed rhubarb, Grandma's peanut butter cookies

Long version: The MiL arrived this day for a short visit. She brought some asparagus from her garden, which I promptly dumped on the grill with the meat. Definitely the highlight of the meal for me.

She also brought another five bunches of enormous rhubarb, from which I made three quarts of stewed rhubarb. The boys got to have a peanut butter cookie AND stewed rhubarb with cream. That would be their highlight.

Random photo break, all the way back to December:


Would you look at that tiny grub? (Poppy, that is, not A.)

Tuesday

Short version: Hot dogs with buns, leftover London broil, broccoli, sweet potatoes, cannellini beans with olive oil and garlic, salad

Long version: When I went to the grocery store last Friday, I had all four kids with me. This meant it was 30 minutes of, "Can we get ____?" from all directions. The only things I said yes to were the fresh pineapple for Charlie and the hot dogs for Cubby. I asked if I should make buns, like I did for our Easter cheeseburgers, but Cubby was firm in wanting the store-bought buns. Considering how often we have hot dogs (perhaps twice a year), I was fine with that.

Charlie won't eat hot dogs, but likes the buns and ketchup, so I chopped up some of the leftover London broil to go in his bun.

I don't like hot dogs, either. I had a salad.

Wednesday

Short version: Cornell chicken drumsticks (yup, grilled), rice cooked in ham broth, cucumbers with ranch dip, radish greens

Long version: I was the only one who had radish greens, which I made from the, um, greens of the radishes the MiL brought me. No one else likes them. More for me!

Thursday

Short version: Grilled Italian sausage, grilled bell peppers and onions, sauteed mushrooms, dinner rolls

Long version: Our landlady's grill has three tiers, the top two of which fold back into the grill when the top is closed. Food must be kept on the top tiers if one does not wish to incinerate one's food, but you know what happens when sausages are on moving grill grates? They roll off. I had to barricade the sausages on there with the peppers and onions. Tricky.

The dinner rolls were storebought ones the MiL had brought with her. They were some kind of sprouted whole grain variety. Charlie liked them. Jack only ate half of his. Cubby probably would have eaten the whole bag if he had been feeling well enough to eat anything other than a single hardboiled egg.

Okay, your turn! What'd you eat this week?

Thursday, May 31, 2018

A Light in the Dark


I was up most of last night because only one of my children managed to sleep through the night. The other three were up at various times due to nursing needs, blanket issues, and illness.

As I was sitting on the couch at 3:15 a.m. waiting on the ill child to come out of the bathroom (again), I saw a tiny light moving around outside in the brush. It was a firefly*.

I love fireflies, but rarely see them as the dark hours in the summer coincide with my sleep hours. But this night, I wasn't sleeping, so I saw the lone firefly that had emerged too early in the unseasonable heat. There weren't any other fireflies to respond to its flashing, though, which was kind of sad.

Or maybe anything seems sad when you're sitting on a couch awake in the wee hours.

That's all.

* A poll: Do you call them lightning bugs or fireflies?

Monday, May 28, 2018

Like Riding a Bike


***It's Memorial Day. Please take your moment before carrying on with your day.***
(Okay. Onward.)

Fun fact about me: I am the only one of my siblings who has never completed a 100+-mile bike race.

Both my older brother and sister did El Tour de Tucson with my dad when they were in high school. I remember this as a lot of early morning training rides where they would return red-faced, dying of thirst, and walking funny from hours on a bike seat.

I can't imagine why I wasn't inspired to follow their example.

Anyway.

I'm sure it was a big disappointment to my dad that I stubbornly resisted the opportunity to challenge myself and achieve a big goal and all those other good things that come with doing something insane like a 109-mile bike ride. But I did not like riding a bike, so I didn't. The last time I sat on a bicycle was at least 20 years ago.

Until yesterday afternoon.

A. was feeling sick again; Jack and Poppy were asleep; and Cubby and Charlie were bouncing off the walls. Usually I take them on a walk when I want to get them out the door, but Bug Season is in full force, and they're particularly bad on the sheltered dirt road where we go. Anywhere without a pretty strong breeze is Black-Fly Heaven. So instead I took them on a bike ride, because then we could create our own breeze.

I rode A.'s bike, which certainly was not designed for an average-height woman, but worked fine for the purpose.

Guess what? You really don't ever forget how. Sure, I had a bit of a wobbly start getting going, and I did turn too wide at the end of the road and plow into the grass, but those were minor considering my lack of practice. Cubby found my lack of skill hilarious.  "You ride like me, Mommy!"

It was--dare I say it?--kind of fun. Even on a bike that definitely didn't fit me (I had to lean forward on my hands a lot because the frame is too big for me, and holy hell, that is the MOST uncomfortable seat EVER), I enjoyed going faster than walking speed and outrunning the bugs.*

I think I might have to get my own bike for rides with the kids in the future. Much like my return to hiking after having children, bike riding seems to have come back into my life.

I'm sure my dad is pleased. But I'm still not going to sit on the bike for 109 miles, Dad, sorry.

*  Except for when we had to stop at their grapevine fort on the side of the road so they could decorate their bikes with ferns and throw themselves down the bank over and over. And when we stopped so they could pick the long grasses and chew on the stems. I got eaten alive then, but that's par for the course with little kids. They never just go from Point A to Point B.