Friday, October 19, 2018

Friday Food: All About the Baby


The poor, neglected fourth child isn't supposed to have any photos of him or herself, but I seem to take way more of Poppy than her brothers. And three of them are right here in this post. Sorry, boys.

Friday

Short version: Pot roast, carrots, potatoes, tomato/cucumber/feta salad, baked apples and cream

Long version: When I unwrapped the "seven-bone*" roast given to us by the teacher and her rancher husband, I found a three-inch thick roast that must have weighed eight pounds. The MiL thought maybe it was a chuck roast.

Wherever it came from, it was definitely meant for pot roasting. So I browned it in the morning and put it in my enameled Dutch oven with onion, tomato, and a bay leaf to cook at 250 in the oven for several hours.

I also made a casserole of baked apples to cook at the same time.

About an hour before dinner, I put in some peeled carrots and potatoes to cook, too.

It was very good meat. I have hopes that the whole cow we just arranged to buy from a local rancher will be just as good.

Saturday

Short version: Chicken tacos, pinto beans, apple pie

Long version: When I was a kid, my mom always made enchiladas when we had out-of-town visitors. Apparently, my meals for out-of-town visitors are pizza and chicken tacos with pinto beans. They are awfully good, though. Convenient, too, as the chicken and beans can be made in the morning, leaving the rest of the day free for exciting activities with the guests.

Or, in this case, leaving the rest of the day free for going to the playground and going up to our new house so A. could plant garlic and I could clean the kitchen cabinets. That's exciting, right? Right.

What is definitely exciting was the apple pie the MiL made for us. The MiL is the pie master. She can whip out an apple pie like I would make scrambled eggs. She made a deep-dish apple pie with just a top crust (so there was more filling for those who don't eat the crust) and it was delicious. Of course.

Sunday

Short version: Pork chops, rice, green peas, pan-fried sweet potatoes, collard greens with garlic

Long version: An unremarkable meal, except for the fact that I cooked four separate things in one pot.

See, I had my big stock pot out to blanch collard greens for freezing. After I did that, I made the collard greens for dinner.

When I took the collard greens out, I used the same pot to make the sweet potatoes. Already had olive oil in there. Might as well, right?

Then I remembered the head of cauliflower in the refrigerator that was not improving with age, so I used the stock pot to blanch the whole head at once. (Although I didn't make that part of our meal, as I feared cauliflower and collard greens in the same meal might be a bit taxing on the digestion.)

And then, it was time to make rice for dinner, and why dirty another pot?

I find this sort of thing to be very satisfying. Especially when I'm washing dishes and only have one pot to wash instead of four.


Unrelated photo of Poppy exhibiting her pizza, with a large pink bow on her stomach. Because why not?

Monday

Short version: Burned brisket, baked potatoes, green salad

Long version: Yeah. I had a piece of beef brisket in the oven in the morning. Then I took Poppy up to the new house with me to do some more spackling and cleaning and forgot to turn the oven temperature down. I came home to a brisket that was quite charred on one side, as all the liquid in the dish had evaporated and the barbecue sauce that was in there had gone past carmelization to . . . well, to burned.

I transferred the meat to another dish and mixed it with more barbecue sauce and chicken stock to reheat later. It was edible, if you don't mind chewing for a really long time on exceptionally dry meat. Luckily, the boys don't notice things like sub-standard meat when there are baked potatoes with butter and sour cream on their plates.

Tuesday

Short version: Shepherd's pie, sauteed zucchini

Long version: Several years ago, I actually followed the recipe in a cookbook I have by Christopher Kimball for shepherd's pie. Though I no longer look at the recipe, I have retained the two ingredients that would not have occurred to me for shepherd's pie: brandy and Worcestershire sauce.

Also, I believe corn and peas are traditional in shepherd's pie, but I never have corn. Instead I use chopped carrots in large enough pieces that Charlie-the-cooked-carrot-hater can pick them out.

Kids are fun.

Wednesday

Short version: Oven-fried chicken, leftover rice, roasted cauliflower, green salad

Long version: Poppy was delighted to have one of her beloved chicken bones. However, the combination of grease from the bone and the snot that had been free-flowing due to her cold meant that she was definitely headed for a bath after dinner.


Jack wasn't quite so greasy (or snotty), but he never passes up an opportunity to have a bath.

Thursday

Short version: Birthday fajitas, sauteed zucchini, cake

Long version: Poppy is still too young to make her birthday dinner request, so I made fajitas. Because the bag of fajita meat was the first one I grabbed from the freezer.


And because I had peppers. And because I like fajitas.

Even using my big griddle, I still had to cook three separate batches. We eat a lot.

Poppy seemed to enjoy her small bits of meat, cheese, and zucchini. And she really enjoyed her cake.


No need for a fork to get between the cake and the mouth. 

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

* I don't know why it was called this, as there were only two bones in it. The MiL suggested perhaps one of the bones was in the shape of a seven. I can't say I saw that, but maybe I was looking at it from the wrong angle.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

One



Happy birthday to


Wednesday, October 17, 2018

The War on Paneling


I am proud to announce that all of the atrocious fake paneling in our new house has either been removed or painted over.

It was a big moment for me when I realized that today. I completed the conquest of the paneling by priming Poppy's soon-to-be room for painting.

Her room, which I didn't get a picture of before I started, was covered floor to ceiling with even uglier paneling than the kind in the living room. You might think that is not possible. It is. This paneling had little dark spots all over it that I guess were supposed to be fake knot holes or something. I don't know. It was awful.

The room is also tiny and, worst of all, it has no window. So try to imagine a miniscule room with no natural light, fake paneling on every surface, and brown carpet.


This is the only picture I got of the wretched paneling. It is, of course, blurry, because there's no light in there. Because there's no window.

I can't put my bubbly little girl in a depressing brown cave.


Not a bear cub; doesn't need to live in a cave.

Anyway, I got it all primed today in preparation for painting, and it occurred to me while I was toiling away in this nasty brown cave-room that we could cut a window in the door for her to get some light in. There's actually a window right across from her door in the hallway, so this would help. We'd have to cover it with Plexiglass or something. I haven't figured out the details, but I'm working on it.

The living room has also been completely primed and is ready for painting.


Overwhelmingly white at the moment, but a vast improvement from overwhelmingly brown.

So the next small chunk of time I have, I can start cutting in by the ceilings and floors, and then it's only a swish (or several dozen swishes) of the roller and I will have a fully painted living room. And Poppy won't have to sleep in a cave.

Progress.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

My Girl


When I had just the three boys, people would not infrequently ask me if I was "done," or if I was going to "try for a girl."

This is, of course, a ridiculous query. As if I had any say in the matter. You don't "try" for a baby of a specific sex. You try for a baby.

My decision to have another child was not because I wanted a girl. I said that at the time, and I say it now. I meant it then, and I mean it now. I would not have been sad if I had another boy. All I wanted was another child.

And I got one. Which happened to be a girl.

So now people say, "You must be so happy to have a girl!"

Well, no. I'm not happy to have a girl. I'm happy to have this girl. My girl.



I'll let The Temptations take it from here.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Friday Family Fun: Send In the Substitutes


This week's Friday Family Fun featured the MiL and Rafael, who stood in for me and Poppy on an adventure into the canyon.

A. had called Rafael to see if he needed help harvesting the rest of his vegetables before the hard freeze that's supposed to hit on Sunday night. The result was everyone but me and Poppy going to Rafael's ranch in the canyon. Including the MiL, who arrived on Thursday night from Tucson for a few days.

Poppy and I didn't go because there was some concern that the road would have too much water on it from recent rains and there might be some hiking necessary if anyone got stuck. For this reason, Rafael drove his truck and A. followed in our Honda. Rafael almost got stuck in mud at one point, but everyone made it out in the end.

Anyway. I wasn't there, obviously, but the MiL kindly took some pictures for me.

There are, of course, cows on the ranch.


There are chickens, too, but I don't have a picture of them.

Because I am well-accustomed to what adventures with A. are like (that is, long and remote), I made sure to quickly throw together some picnic food for him to bring with him for the boys. Cheese, crackers, and nuts and raisins go a long way in making for a fun day without whiny kids.


No picnic tables to be seen. Squatting picnics are common for us.

Rafael gave A. one of his precious calabazas, too. Not a calabacita, which are the immature ones eaten like zucchini, but the mature calabaza. Unfortunately, I didn't get a picture of it before A. brought it to our new house for curing, but it is indeed quite large. About the size of a volleyball. Also kind of warty. Apparently, we can cook it like a winter squash after it's cured. 

I'll let you know what it tastes like when I do. Stay tuned for that excitement.

The whole trip was about five hours. Poppy and I had lots of time to bond while they were exploring the ranch. This week we'll go back to our regularly scheduled Family Fun with Mommy and Baby, but I can't say I was disappointed to have half a day in a quiet house with just a baby for company.

Friday, October 12, 2018

Friday Food: Finny's Sauce Is Here Again


Wanna see what we ate this week? Oh good! Because I'm gonna show you.

Friday

Short version: Pizza, green salad

Long version: The MiL arrived Thursday night with a bag of tomatoes. Less than twelve hours later, I put several of them on a pan with a head of garlic and made Finny's sauce.


I almost went a whole year without making a batch of this. Horrors.

In addition to being The Best Tomato Sauce Ever for pasta and meatballs, it is also The Best Pizza Sauce Ever. And I already had the sourdough going for pizza on Friday. So serendipitous.

I made one pizza with chorizo and onions; the other was just cheese. Both were delicious.

Saturday

Short version: Floor-picnic grilled Italian sausages, bread and butter, carrots with curry dip, tomato and asadero salad

Long version: See this post.

Sunday

Short version: Pollo e coniglio cacciatore, spaghetti, steamed carrots and broccoli, sauteed zucchini and garlic

Long version: When we went up to the new house on Friday with the MiL, Cubby asked to bring his .22 for target practice. A. told him he could, and when A. was setting up a target by the woodpile for Cubby, a rabbit ran out.

Unlucky rabbit.

And so I had a rabbit to cook. Rabbit is best when it's stewed for awhile, and I didn't have time to do that on Friday or Saturday. Sunday was the day.

I thought it would be appropriate to make cacciatore--which means "hunter" in Italian--with it. Plus, I had some of Finny's sauce left over for pasta.

My master plan is for A. to teach the kids how to hunt, then I can teach them how to cook, and they can take care of everything. I'm trying to work myself out of a job, you see. Thus, I had Cubby help me make the coniglio cacciatore. (We filled the rest of the pan with pollo--chicken--because one cottontail does not feed six people.)




His hands were not actually moving so fast that they blurred while he was chopping. I just have a 
crappy phone camera.

I didn't actually follow a recipe. Do I ever? Instead we just browned the meat, cooked onions, garlic, and diced tomatoes, added dry vermouth, chicken stock, and a few spoonfuls of Finny's sauce, then put the meat back in to simmer until it was tender. The rabbit didn't get particularly tender, but the kids didn't care. They enjoy tearing resistant meat off the bone.

Of course, since Cubby was helping me in the kitchen, Charlie and Jack must do likewise. Charlie peeled two carrots for me.


With Poppy's help, obviously.

Jack helped me slice zucchini. I don't have a photo of that, as my hands were busy trying to keep him from slicing off the tip of his finger.

Monday

Short version: Bunless cheeseburgers, leftover rice or bread and butter, tomatoes and mayonnaise, sauteed mushrooms and onions, sick-boy soup

Long version: Cubby came home early from school with a general malaise that manifested in a headache and upset stomach. He was feeling better by dinnertime and told me he was hungry. So I made him some soup with chicken stock and leftover chicken, cooked carrots, and rice.

The ability to make Spontaneous Soup is a small talent, but very useful.

Tuesday

Short version: Pork chops, mashed potatoes, roasted squash/celeriac/onions, tomato/cucumber/feta salad

Long version: Man, that was some good feta. It's made at the cheese factory where I got all that cheddar cheese a couple of weeks ago. I will definitely be getting more of that next time I'm there.

The MiL brought me the celeriac and squash. She grew the celeriac herself. The squash looked like butternut, but the skin was much darker, so I don't know exactly what it was. Cubby actually liked it, though. Cubby and Charlie have historically been very anti-squash, though I continue to give them some to try every fall. Victory.

I also gave each boy a piece of celeriac to try. Both Cubby and Charlie asked for more. That's more than a victory; that's a miracle. Guess I'll have to grow celeriac next year.

Wednesday

Short version: Scrambled eggs, rice, collard greens, raw mini bell peppers and grape tomatoes

Long version: This was not at all my plan for dinner. I had planned on making a beef stir fry. I had the beef marinating and everything. Unfortunately, my hand and arm were so sore after all my sanding, cleaning, and painting at the new house--and I was so tired--that I just didn't have the physical ability to do all that chopping. I didn't have the mental fortitude either.

In such cases, scrambled eggs save the day.

The collard greens were from our very own garden.


It's looking much more impressive than the last time I showed it to you. Three cheers for A.

I just cooked them in olive oil with a lot of garlic. And I cooked them for at least half an hour until they were soft, because I do not enjoy tough greens. They were delicious.

I don't habitually buy mini anything, but the mini bell peppers were the only non-green ones at the tiny grocery store. And I don't do green peppers. The kids were very pleased with them.

Thursday

Short version: Delayed stir fry, random hamburgers, leftover rice, leftover mashed potatoes

Long version: Stir fry really takes far too long, what with all the chopping and separate cooking of the individual components and all. It sure is good, though.

This time I used a piece of the fajita beef, marinated in soy sauce, vinegar, ginger, and garlic powder and sliced very thin. The vegetables were onions, carrots, broccoli, and bell peppers, and I used the same marinade with some cornstarch added to make the sauce.

I had a little meat left that wouldn't fit in the pan when I made hamburgers two days previously, so I fried those for Charlie, who does not enjoy stir fry.

There was some leftover rice, and some leftover potatoes, but not enough of either for everyone, so A. and Charlie had potatoes and the rest of us had rice. Stir fry with mashed potatoes is a little odd, but A. didn't seem to mind. More filling probably than the rice, anyway.

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

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Trailer Improvement


Hey, you know what a one-year-old thinks is hilarious? The sound of sandpaper on a wall. I know this because Poppy has been accompanying me to the new house while her brothers are at school, and watching my attempts to make it less ugly.

"Less ugly" is my design aesthetic, incidentally. Somehow I doubt I'm going to score my own show on HGTV (is that the right one? I don't have a TV so I have no idea) with all my careful improvements to our added-on-to trailer.

On the upside, this is the best house for an impatient person like me to be working on. It was so bad to start with, anything I do will make it look better. Also, I don't care if my children totally destroy it, which they probably will. Sort of the same idea of driving an old beater car so you don't care if someone sideswipes you.

So far I've gotten the walls in the living room spackled, the spackle sanded, and the walls wiped down in preparation for painting. Poppy assisted me in these jobs by trying to stick her fingers in the exposed electrical outlets, pulling the step stool down on herself while I was getting a clean cloth, and breaking my sunglasses.

I got most of the living room ceiling painted today during one of her naps. It was this nasty dark brown that could best be described as "excrement colored." It really needed painting. After I did all I could while she was crawling around, I came home to drop her off * before going back to the new house to paint the ceiling, because there are some things you just don't do with a baby present. Painting a ceiling is definitely one of them.

A. has to do the rest of the ceiling for me, because I couldn't reach. And then I can paint the walls.


This one is not invited for that, either.

It's slow going getting anything done working around a baby and three other kids, but I'm getting there.

* Obviously, A. was home. I didn't just leave the baby sleeping and then drive ten miles away.

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Friday (and Saturday!) Family Fun: Now With More Family


The MiL arrived Thursday night for a visit (she made the drive from New York in TWO DAYS--that's some serious driving), so she was here for this week's Friday Family Fun.

She went with A. and the boys to see the swimming hole in the canyon while Poppy was taking a morning nap, but I was home with Poppy so I don't have any photos of that.

And then we all went up to our new house, where she got to see the hideous paneling in real life. And then she got to see me start to tear it off the walls. However, there were three boys "helping" me and a baby crawling around underfoot, so I don't have any photos of that, either.

In fact, the only photo I have is a boring one of everyone sitting around our house:


Family Fun in the living room.

But today! I have SO MANY pictures from today. The MiL left this morning to drive to Tucson to see A.'s brother and his family--she's stopping here again for a few days on her way back to New York--and right after she left, Cubby asked A. if they could go camping.

A. was amenable to the idea, but then he checked the forecast. It was calling for thunderstorms in the morning. The boys were crestfallen, so I suggested maybe they could camp up at the new house. I meant inside the house, but A. said he would set up the tent near the house. 

So in the afternoon, we all went up to the new house. I finished removing all the paneling from the living room walls:


Well, except that little bit on the back wall there. It was glued on or something.

Then I pulled out the excessive number of nails that were all over the walls. Jack helped me:


Or maybe he was playing ninja. Hard to say.

It was too late to start spackling the nail holes, because I had to take over with the baby so A. could start the fire to grill our dinner.

There's an outdoor fire thing at our house that was built by one of the previous owners. It appears to be for possibly roasting meat. You know if we had any lambs, A. would be all over that, but he had to make do with sausages*.



I took over the fire so A. could set up the tent. He put it right in our front yard area, because that was the flattest place.


Poppy approved.

The road is actually only about twenty feet from where he set up the tent, but considering this is what you see from our house . . .



And there are no houses for about fifty miles down that road, I don't think they have to worry about being disturbed by the traffic. There isn't any. Unless a cow gets out from the pasture across the road.

It was actually pretty cold and windy, so we had our dinner inside on the dining room floor:


Poppy thought it was the greatest thing ever that everyone was sitting down at her level and she wasn't restrained in any way. She spent the whole time crawling around, trying to steal sausages and spilling cups of water. She's never had so much fun at dinner.

Shortly thereafter, I took Poppy home and put her to bed. And now here I sit, alone in a silent house with nothing to do but go to bed myself. It's definitely not quiet and restful for A. right now, but at least he's a shoo-in for Father of the Year. 

* They were Italian sausages, transported all the way across the country for me* by the MiL. It seems like a silly thing to do, but man, those sausages were SO GOOD, and I am SO HAPPY she brought them.

** She also brought me squashes, tomatoes, celeriac, and two different varieties of apples. This is why we get along so well.

Friday, October 5, 2018

Friday Food: Proprietary Zucchini


Hey look! It's our food in exhaustive (exhausting?) detail!

Friday

Short version: Tacos, pickled carrot and cucumber ribbons

Long version: Yes, tacos again. I had a plan to make meatballs, but we were gone a lot longer than I anticipated, and taco meat is quicker.

This time I had two pounds of ground beef and one pound of ground turkey. I've never bought ground turkey before, but it was a quarter the cost of the beef, so I figured I could try mixing the two. I couldn't tell the turkey was in there after everything was cooked, but dude. Raw ground turkey is GUH-ROSS. I don't think I can buy it again just because of the revolting task of squeezing it out of the wrapping.

Saturday

Short version: A Michaelmas feast of roast chicken, carrots, corn on the cob, rice, and devil's food cake

Long version: I grew up Catholic, and had no clue about the story of St. Michael. But I do now, because St. Michael is one of A.'s favorite saints. I must admit that the St. Michael prayer is pretty rad.

A. wanted to celebrate Michaelmas, which fell on Saturday this year. So I looked up some traditional Michaelmas foods. People get reeeally into their food traditions on saints' days. I was not that motivated (when am I ever?). The chicken was the closest I could get to the traditional goose. The traditional carrots were no problem. I made them "fancy" with butter and maple syrup.

But the cake was the best part.

See, St. Michael is most well-known for battling the devil and casting him into Hell. So apparently a lot of people make a devil's food cake and then stab it with cocktail swords.

Well! I know some boys who are ALL ABOUT stabbing anything with pretend swords. Sounds like a plan to me.

A devil's food cake is just a kind of chocolate cake. I used this recipe for a coconut flour cake, so everyone could eat it. I added a few tablespoons of leftover coffee to the wet ingredients, but I should have added some yogurt or something too. It was a bit dry. It also could have used more sugar, which is not something I often say about recipes, so I sifted some powdered sugar on top. This was a popular decision with the boys, who stabbed and consumed their cake with great enthusiasm.


I got the world's worst photo of St. Cubby vanquishing his devil's food cake.

Corn on the cob has nothing to do with St. Michael. I just had a bunch of ears I got in the city on Wednesday that I needed to cook.


This provided Poppy the opportunity to clutch a chicken bone in one hand and piece of corn in the other. It was a good night.

Sunday

Short version: Tacos with leftover meat, black beans, sauteed zucchini and onion, pan-fried sweet potatoes

Long version: It's very rare that I have enough taco meat left over for a whole other meal, but I guess everyone was too full from the late afternoon birthday party food to eat as much as they normally would. Works for me--I didn't have to cook it all again.

Well, I cooked the zucchini and sweet potatoes, but the beans came from a can and somehow it doesn't seem like real cooking if I don't have to cook meat.

Oh! And this zucchini didn't come from Rafael; it was my very own! The former owner of our new house had two zucchini plants in the yard, so our purchase price included vegetables. He didn't try to charge extra for them either. So generous.

Monday

Short version: Beef with mushrooms and onions, bread and butter, corn on the cob, fried cabbage/carrots/onions, tomatoes with mayonnaise, cucumbers

Long version: The beef was this very thin and extremely long cut that was just labeled "fajitas beef." After looking it up, I think it was a skirt steak. I also think it should have been marinated, but I didn't have time by the time we got home from shopping and I got everything put away. Next time.


My cowgirl boots* and the wide-open road. I'm trying to embrace being an official resident of New Mexico.

I obviously didn't use the meat to make fajitas, because we had just had tacos. So instead I just seared the seasoned meat (lots of salt, pepper, and garlic powder) on both sides, took it out, cooked mushrooms and onions in the pan while the meat rested, then cut the meat thin across the grain and added it back to the pan with the mushrooms.

I introduced the boys to my childhood tradition of buttering corn on the cob with buttered bread. They thought it was great fun to slide their hot corn along the buttered bread, and I thought it was great that I didn't have to butter the corn for them. Everyone wins.

Tuesday

Short version: Pork shoulder, porky rice, creamy cucumber salad, leftover zucchini, baked apples

Long version: I made the pork shoulder in the morning, because it was actually way too hot to have the oven on all day. But I already had the pork shoulder out and it had to be cooked. Thus, morning cooking. The early cooking allowed me to pour off the liquid and refrigerate it before dinner so I could separate the very gelatinous juices from the rendered fat.

I used the fat to fry chunks of the pork with lots of garlic, and I used the juices to cook the rice. This kind of thriftiness satisfies me on a deep level.

I accidentally put too much sugar in the sour cream dressing for the cucumbers, which pretty much ruined it. That salad relies entirely on getting the balance of acid/salt/sugar right, and I did not get it right. Everyone ate it, except Cubby, who complained that it didn't taste right and he didn't want to eat it. I had to agree with his assessment, so I didn't make him.

I made a big casserole of baked apples in the morning with the pork, with yet more apples from Mr. Billy the Apple Man. I can never remember his real last name, so we just call him Billy the Apple Man.

Baked apples for me, if you don't recall the time many months ago I explained this (and there's no reason you should), is basically pie filling without a crust. Apple slices with sugar (brown and white), maple syrup, lots of cinnamon, and a touch of salt and apple cider vinegar. These apples don't break down at all, so the slices are still very much intact instead of kind of mushy and saucy, but it's still delicious.

Charlie was particularly pleased to have baked apples and cream for dessert. It's rare for Charlie to admit to being pleased about anything, so this is noteworthy.

Wednesday

Short version: Scrambled eggs, fried potatoes, leftover black beans, tomato with mayonnaise, green salad

Long version: Um. I fried the potatoes in some of the rendered lard from the previous day's pork roast. That's all I got.

Oh no, wait! I have exciting egg news! Jack's preschool teacher has chickens, and I am now buying eggs from her. She only has a couple dozen a week, which means I still have to buy some at the store, but two dozen home-raised eggs brought right to the school every week for me is a pretty awesome deal. I don't know what I'm going to do when we move and the boys are taking the bus. Somehow I doubt I can trust them to get a carton of eggs home with no breakage.

Thursday

Short version: Pulled pork sandwiches with the leftover pork, leftover rice, raw cucumbers and carrots

Long version: The boys ate sandwiches, A. and I ate pork and rice; and the week is over. Amen.

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

* The boots--and a hat that I never wear--are from my two summers in college working at a dude ranch in Colorado almost twenty years ago now. Thanks for buying them for me, Mom! They've certainly held up. I am very far from a cowgirl, however, so I feel kind of like a tool wearing them, but I do anyway sometimes.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

A Man of Inaction


This morning there was an apple core in my shower. I didn't find this as strange as you might think, given the fact that I have a crawling baby who delights in absconding to the shower stall and also enjoys gnawing on apples. So I was pretty sure how it got in there.

What I did find a little perplexing was the fact that A. had taken a shower in there right before me. Did he not see it? (This sounds impossible, but I have learned that nothing is impossible when it comes to items in plain sight that have been completely overlooked by my husband or children.) Or did he see it and just not take it out of the shower?

So when I got out of the shower, I asked him, "Did you not see the apple core in the shower? Or did you see it and just leave it in there?"

"I saw it," he said. "But I was so sleepy that I sort of forgot about it immediately and failed to take action."

That's all. I just thought the whole thing was really funny.


Monday, October 1, 2018

The Grocery Run--With Pictures!


One of the things I was hesitant about when A. proposed moving to our current location was the grocery situation. Food is obviously very important to me--for evidence, please see the 674 posts under the "fun with food" label on this very blog, good Lord--and procuring it is a large part of my job as Mess Officer for this crazy army of four small people and two large people.

We eat a lot. I cook a lot. Thus, I have to shop a lot. But where? And how?

Here's the grocery sitch in our empty corner of America:

There is a micro store in the village where I can usually get a gallon of milk, a dozen eggs, and some cheese. Usually. Sometimes he's out. But I consider myself VERY lucky that that store is there at all.

Twenty miles away is a very small grocery store that carries most of the basics, though the produce and meat are very limited. But I can always get milk and eggs there.

Fifty miles away is a slightly larger grocery store with slightly more produce, but not much more meat.

Seventy-five miles away is a "normal" grocery store in a very small city that carries everything that I would usually buy.

This means going for a real shopping expedition is 150 miles roundtrip and only happens about once a month. I supplement with the limited selection twenty miles away as necessary.

So how does the major grocery run work? Well! Let me show you!

This morning at 8:15 a.m., A. said we should go to the very small city for groceries, supplies for painting*, and a trip to the library (yes, the closest library is 75 miles away).

I packed an insulated cooler with food for Poppy, who was the only child not at school, and water bottles for everyone.


Road food: Applesauce and yogurt, cheese, crackers, raisins, and a cup of water for Poppy.

A. took the bag of ice out of the freezer and put it in the two coolers, which went in the back of the Honda.

And then we drove.


A view that could have inspired Tom Petty's Into the Great Wide Open.

And drove and drove, until we arrived in the very small city.

First we went to the cheese store, where I bought ten pounds of sharp cheddar (for $2.99 a pound!!! I will convey my excitement with far too many exclamation points!!!!!!!) and put it in one of the coolers.

Then to the library.


Crawling baby's clothes revealed the absolutely filthy state of the carpet in the library. Gross.

Then to the hardware store, and then, finally to the grocery store.


Looking at this photo I am just now remembering that I forgot to get broccoli. Damn.

That was only one of our carts. A. was pushing the meat cart, in which we had the, um, meat. I didn't want to pile raw meat on top of all that other stuff, you see. I'm sure the Food Safety Administration would approve.

Forty-five minutes and four hundred dollars later, we rolled our carts out to the car.


Poppy got to sit in the meat cart on the way out, just for a change of scenery.

I then spent about ten minutes sorting the groceries, putting all the meat in the biggest cooler, and all the dairy in the small cooler. I always wish I had room for my lettuce, so it doesn't wilt slightly, but I never do.


Luckily, the giant package of t.p. doesn't have to be kept cool.

And then we drove home. Drivedrivedrivedrive . . .

When we got home, I dealt with the irritated baby while A. hauled everything inside for me. Then I spent about 45 minutes putting away groceries, which included breaking down large packages of meat into smaller portions. This time, that included a whole brisket that A. bought. That one took awhile, even though it wasn't the first time I'd done it.

From the time we left to the time I had everything put away and cleaned up was almost exactly seven hours. And I was exhausted. 

Luckily, I only have to do this once a month.

There! I'm sure you all found that thrilling. And now back to our regularly scheduled programming. (Whatever that is.)

* Best discovery of the week: The hideous paneling in our new house is only held on by very small nails every few feet that can be pulled out with a good tug, and underneath is just the wall. Apparently, it was just "decorative." Ahem. So now I just have to yank it off, caulk in the holes, and paint the wall. Hooray.

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Friday Family Fun: Party On, Wayne


Instead of a thrilling descent into a wild canyon or a long drive to the beach this Friday, we drove twenty miles to the park in the next village over for a birthday party. Cubby and Charlie were the ones who were technically invited, but of course we all went. It was at a park; it didn't matter.

They had a wonderful time. A bunch of kids had brought scooters, so there was much scootering on the basketball court. There were hot dogs and chips and lemonade and cupcakes. There were goody bags with a superhero theme. And of course, there was a pinata*. Pinatas are de rigueur--or whatever the Spanish equivalent of that would be--here for children's birthday parties. I have taken note of this for future parties for my own children, assuming I ever actually have one. Wouldn't want to let everyone down.

Our new house was on our way home, so we stopped there to let the kids run wild through the empty rooms. I remember doing this myself many times as a military child. It was always exciting.

Less exciting for the parents, I now know. A. and I spent the whole time wandering around talking about the possibility of installing a dishwasher and how to paint over tacky fake paneling.

Well, I talked about those things. A. mostly talked about how much space there was in the attached shop for his tools and where he could plant garlic.

We have different priorities.

I'm sure I'll talk more at length about the house in the coming weeks, but briefly, it's a 1970s single-wide trailer--heLLO, classy!--with a substantial addition to make it into an actual house. For the past fifteen years or so it has been lived in by an older man living on his own. To say the interior design is dated is being generous.

Now, I am not an interior design person. My eyes glaze over when people start talking about "spaces" and paint colors and accent walls or whatever. But even I, low as my standards are, take issue with this living room.


Even a cute baby in the middle of the floor can't make this room attractive.

The first order of business is going to be closing off that pass-through to the kitchen that Cubby and Charlie spent the whole time leaping off of. The guy who built the addition was a little obsessed with pass-throughs. This one is going to become a partial bookshelf. It can't be a full bookshelf because it would block all the heat that needs to get from the woodstove in the kitchen to the living room.

Jack was totally enamored of the old-school wall phone with extra-long cord. He spent the whole time talking on it (it is not connected), winding it around the baby--who kept crawling after him to grab the cord--and stretching it out to make an obstacle for Cubby and Charlie to jump over.

Wild times in the ugly living room.

Charlie was particularly disappointed that we couldn't just stay in the house from that moment on. Why, he asked me, can't we just move in now?

Why? Because Mommy has to paint over that paneling ASAP. Living with that would surely cause me irrevocable mental anguish. Luckily, our two big Oriental rugs will nicely cover up the hideous brown carpet. 

Anyway.

After an hour at the new house, I remembered that I had sourdough on the counter and it was surely an erupting mess at this point, so we rushed right home.


As I suspected.

So that was the fun yesterday. To be continued with another trip to the new house today so A. can unload all his tools and things from the Honda and the trailer he drove back from New York a few weeks ago. Including . . . the huge chest freezer! Let's hear it for a meat stockpile!

Leaping off of shelves and setting up the chest freezer. It's gonna be a good day.

* Yeah, that should have the Spanish "n" with the little squiggle over the top, but the instructions for doing that in Chrome were like a page long, so . . . no. Sorry. It's a gringo pinata for you.

Friday, September 28, 2018

Friday Food: A Cucumber a Day


A week in which we ate cucumbers every day, and I valiantly soldiered on subduing cucurbits despite losing my sense of taste by Thursday.

Friday

Short version: Scrambled eggs, pinto beans, leftover rice, cucumber/tomato/menonita salad

Long version: I would have been happy just eating pinto beans for dinner, but I made some scrambled eggs in deference to A., who does not eat beans. Cubby and Charlie ate at school before their play, so I only had to scramble nine eggs instead of fifteen.

Saturday

Short version: Ground beef and potatoes, creamy cucumber salad

Long version: I had planned on hamburgers, but the log of ground beef I took out in the morning was not thawed by dinnertime. Luckily, ground beef can be thawed incrementally in the skillet by browning it and flipping it periodically to scrape off the browned and thawed layer from the frozen core.

It can also be thawed in the microwave, but then you have that nasty half-cooked gray meat situation, and that I avoid whenever possible.

Though it can be thawed in the skillet, it cannot be made into hamburgers that way. Thus, I made this thing again with potatoes and paprika and so forth. Forgot tomatoes this time, though. Bummer.

Sunday

Short version: Underwhelming chicken and rice, zucchini, cucumbers

Long version: I was feeling uninspired by the chicken drumsticks and thighs I had taken out to thaw, so I searched for an interesting recipe for chicken and rice. I found this one for arroz con pollo, and made it. Loosely.

I didn't have all the ingredients--namely, bell pepper, beer, and Spanish chorizo (I used the Mexican kind, which isn't cured)--but the taste wasn't the problem. The problem was the method. There wasn't enough liquid. Cooking rice on the stovetop with anything on top of it always results in sticking rice. If you try to stir it, the rice is no longer submerged in the liquid, resulting in some grains that never cook all the way.

I had to add more liquid and cook it about twice as long as the recipe stated, and then it was all kind of gluey. Tasted good, and I'll probably use that combination of flavors again, but I'll cook the rice in the sauce first, brown the chicken, and then add it to finish cooking on top of the rice in the oven. An oven is a much better way to cook the rice than on the stove, which creates the hot spot on the bottom that guarantees sticking.

I didn't use the parchment paper layer right on top of the chicken either, instead making a layer of zucchini on the top.


That layer didn't cook all the way, either. Fail.

The cucumbers were for those who don't eat zucchini. And to keep chipping away at the multiple bags of cucumbers in my crisper drawers. Rafael's been by a lot lately.

Monday

Short version: Leftovers, fried eggs, tomato and cucumber salad

Long version: Everyone got to choose some combination of leftover potatoes+ground beef, the gluey but tasty chicken and chorizo rice, pinto beans, and fried eggs. Everyone also got the salad.

And then, while I was putting Poppy to bed at 7 p.m., the three boys ate almost an entire loaf of bread with butter, jam, and peanut butter. And then they had apples. So I guess that was Dinner: Round Two.

Tuesday

Short version: Chorizo and ground beef tacos, pickled carrot and cucumber ribbons, pinto beans, pan-fried sweet potatoes, sick-boy soup

Long version: I had some uncooked chorizo left from the other night, so I added it to a small amount of ground beef (a little over a pound, which in our house is not enough) to make taco meat. It still wouldn't have been enough if Cubby hadn't had a sore throat and refused tacos.

For him, I made soup out of chicken broth, mashed-up pinto beans, some of the gluey chorizo rice from the disappointing chicken dish, a little of the taco meat, and sour cream. It was surprisingly good. Cubby ate two bowls, and A. and Jack finished the rest of it.

See? It was serendipity that the rice ended up so gluey; it's the perfect soup thickener. Just remember, kids: Everything happens for a reason.

Someday I'm sure Cubby will appreciate a mother who can make soup appear out of nothing when he suddenly announces he's sick. Sure he will. Because children always appreciate their mothers.

I added ribbons of cucumber to the carrot ribbons for pickling this time, because I can't let an opportunity to use cucumbers pass me by these days. They were good, too.

Look! A cute baby!


It's always the right time for a baby photo.

Wednesday

Short version: Italian sausage, sauteed zucchini and garlic, roasted potatoes, tomato/cucumber/menonita salad

Long version: In New York, with its extensive Italian population and food culture, Italian sausage was a staple of my quick-cooking dinner options. Here? Not so much. I didn't even see any in the refrigerated meat section at the grocery stores I had been to. I was surprised to find some in the freezer section of the very small grocery store in the next village over, and I was excited to have Italian sausage again.

I should have known better. It was not good sausage. There are just some things I have to leave behind in New York forever, I suppose*. Boo.

Thursday

Short version: Leftover sausage and zucchini, scrambled eggs, rice, tomato/cucumber/menonita salad

Long version: Can I go to bed now?

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

* Yes, I could start making my own, but stuffing sausage casings is pretty high up on the list of Kitchen Things I Wish To Avoid.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Real Estate and the Unwell


Yesterday, A., Poppy, Cubby, and I drove two hours to a title company in a (very small) city to close on a house.

A. was the only one who didn't have the current nasty cold that's sweeping the boys' school. That's why Cubby was with us instead of at school. It worked out, though, as he perked up enough to help watch Poppy for me during the hour it took us to actually get everything signed and done.

As a reward, we got him a double cheeseburger at Sonic. He ate the whole thing, and then collapsed for the two-hour drive back home.

I collapsed when we got home, which is why you're getting this brief and not particularly interesting post instead of my usual clever wit.

Ahem.

So. Just signing in today to let you know we bought a house ten miles up the road from our current rental. I'm sure I'll post pictures at some point, but currently all I want to do is hide in my bed.

Wit and pictures later. For now, tissues.

Over and out.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Mystery Solved


One of the things that always amused me about the MiL was her habit of giving me the Latin name of whatever plant we were talking about at the time. I was impressed by it, but it was wasted effort for me, because I would never remember the Latin name. I barely remember the common name most of the time.

I appreciated it nonetheless, however, because that's a sign that the person you're talking to has a very in-depth knowledge of plants. The Latin name is the way real horticulturists differentiate between different varieties of the same general kind of plant, or clarify when there are many plants with a similar common name. And the Latin name is the same in any language.

I am not a horticulturalist, and my knowledge of plants and their Latin names is woefully lacking, but I know the MiL at least is going to be happy I've figured out the Latin name of Rafael's calabacitas.


Here are Rafael's actual calabacitas on my counter, with a pen for scale.

The confusion here came from the fact that calabacita is a Spanish word meaning literally "little squash." That does nothing to clear things up.

The key to solving this admittedly minor mystery was when Rafael referred to them as "Mexican squash." I did a Google search for that, and an image came up that looked like his. I clicked on it and . . . bingo.

Rafael's calabacitas are cucurbita argyrosperma. They are also known as cushaws, silver-seed gourds, and Japanese pie pumpkins.

You can see the confusion.

I found it very interesting that they are apparently cultivated specifically for their seeds in some cases, which are ground up and used like flour. Rafael had mentioned eating the seeds to A., but didn't give any specifics. I'm not sure I'll go to the trouble of making seed flour--seeing as I have other food sources than the limited native ones here--but its good to know.

It seems to be a very versatile squash. As Rafael noted, it's eaten both at the immature stage like zucchini, then when mature as a winter squash. It's used as a medicinal plant, and the seeds can even be used to extract oil. Though I should imagine that last one would be a bit labor-intensive.

So there. I've figured out the official name. Although they'll always be calabacitas to me. Sorry, MiL.

Monday, September 24, 2018

The Communal Bath


The master bathroom at our rental house is rather absurdly large. I could've done with less bathroom and more bedrooms, but it does mean there's plenty of room for a party whenever someone has a bath in there.


Wouldn't want to be lonely, now would we?

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Friday Family Drama and Saturday Family Fun


"Hold up," you say. "Saturday Family Fun? What is this 'Saturday' nonsense? And what Friday drama? WHAT KIND OF CRAZINESS IS GOING ON OVER THERE?"

Oh, you didn't say that? I'll explain, anyway.

Charlie and Cubby had school this Friday so they would have the day to prepare for . . .


All the world's a stage, you know. 

That was the school play. And incidentally, that group on the stage there? That is the entire school. Well, except the preschoolers, which is why Jack wasn't in it. But that small group in the photo is all the students from kindergarten to 12th grade.

I still have trouble wrapping my head around that one.

Anyway.

The reason they have a school play at such a tiny school is because of a program through the Missoula Children's Theater that sends two guys around in a pick-up truck crammed with all the costumes and "set" (essentially some decorated sheets and boxes, plus sound equipment) to spend a week at small schools like this one rehearsing and staging a play.

They travel to a new school every week and do this. In all fifty states. How exhausting. But great for the kids, because there is no way there would be any kind of drama program in a school this small otherwise.

The play was something entitled "The Snow Queen," and I couldn't follow the plot at all. That may have been because I spent most of the play chasing around a crawling baby and bored three-year-old. I did know that Cubby was a robber and Charlie was a snow chicken.

Yes, a snow chicken. Like I said, it didn't make a lot of sense.

It was fun anyway, though, and Cubby and Charlie both did very well with their songs and so forth.

So that's why there wasn't a Friday Family Fun adventure.

But we couldn't let a whole weekend go by without some kind of Family Fun, could we? Of course not!

Saturday Family Fun it is; canyon, here we come.

We went to the one closest to our house this time. It happens to be the canyon in which Rafael's ranch is located, and is thus the mythical source of the mysterious calabacitas*.

Rafael had shown A. a swimming hole at the bottom of this canyon, so we told the kids to wear shorts and sandals. We really should have known better.

This isn't a state park or something. There isn't even a real trail to get to the swimming hole. There is, instead, a slightly-more-clear path through the cacti to get to the swimming pool. Luckily, no one fell in a prickly pear. Unluckily, the swimming hole really was a hole and far too deep for the children to safely swim in.

Thus, Cubby tried fishing in it:


Because this boy has never seen a body of water he doesn't want to throw a hook into.

The other three played in some sand nearby:


In the shade, even.

And why was that particular spot so fortuitously shaded? Because I used my very body (and an unneeded-for-swimming towel) to shade them:


I call this "A Portrait of Motherhood."

We were only down there for about fifteen minutes before Poppy insisted on trying to crawl around into the pricker bushes and rocks, so we hiked back up.


Can you see the path? No? That's because there isn't one.

Where the brave van was, as always, waiting for us:


Another good one for my (non-existent) Adventure Van Instagram page.

We drove all the way through the canyon to where it met back up with the paved road and came back home. It was a relatively short adventure this time, but it got everyone out of the house for a couple of hours. 

I'm sure we'll make up for the brevity of this trip with some sort of epic all-day Drive of Dread next Friday, but for a Saturday adventure on a short weekend (as a two-day weekend now seems to us spoiled three-day-weekend people), this was just right.

* I think I've identified them for real, but this post is already too long, so you'll have to wait for the big reveal. Hold on to the edges of those seats now.

Friday, September 21, 2018

Friday Food: Fun Cheese Ahead


Friday

Short version: Non-traditional Cheesy Deezy, steamed broccoli

Long version: Cheesy Deezy (no idea how that's spelled, but who cares) was a staple of A.'s childhood. The MiL made it with three ingredients. I didn't use any of them.

She used a box of macaroni. I used a bag of gluten-free corn penne.

She used mozzarella. I used asadero and menonita cheese. Menonita is named after the Mennonites in northern Mexico who apparently make a cheddar-style cheese. Menonita is supposed to be like cheddar. This wasn't. More like saltier, slightly aged mozzarella. Good, but not cheddar.

She used a jar of marinara sauce. I made a tomato sauce with garlic, thinly sliced collard greens and beet greens from our garden, a drained can of whole tomatoes mashed with my potato masher, dried oregano and basil, and some chicken stock.

I did follow the procedure for assembly, though. That is, mix the cooked pasta (slightly undercooked, because corn pasta is no good at all when it gets overcooked, and I knew it would cook further in the oven) with the sauce and a hell of a lot of grated cheese, then top with more grated cheese. I mixed in the asadero and topped it with the menonita. Then I baked it at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes, and finally, I put it under the broiler for just a minute to brown the cheese on top.

It was good. Though I may have to give it a new name that reflects its new ingredients. How about Queso Doble? That means "Double Cheese" in Spanish. Or maybe Queso Divertido ("Fun Cheese").

Or maybe I should forget about being clever and just call it pasta. Probably that.

Hey, guess what? We have a new baby distraction cabinet in this house.


The contents don't make such a satisfying clattering sound as in the one at Blackrock, but they do make a satisfying mess for Mom to trip over while she's cooking. 

Saturday

Short version: Bunless cheeseburgers, bread and butter, sauteed mushrooms and onions, green salad, burned sweet potatoes

Long version: The sweet potatoes burned because they were in the oven with the baking bread in the afternoon when A. called to get directions to a Harbor Freight tool store in Springfield, Missouri. By the time I looked it up online and managed to figure out that the Kansas Expressway is also Missouri State Route 13, the sweet potatoes were burned.

It took awhile. Maps are not my forte.

I ate them anyway. The sweet potatoes, I mean. Not the maps.

Sunday

Short version: Antelope, mashed potatoes, tomatoes with mayonnaise

Long version: The antelope wasn't as good this time because I was lazy. I did not brown it in separate batches, so it kind of bubbled and steamed in the liquid released, rather than really browning. I didn't finely dice any onion, instead just shaking on some garlic powder. I forgot to add chicken stock.

Not my finest cooking moment. Oh well. We ate it. And A. was home! HOORAY! Too bad I didn't welcome him home with a more spectacular meal, but after a week of shingles + solo parenting (or rather, thanks to my parents' well-timed visit, five days), it felt like victory that all the children were still alive and dressed in clean clothing.

Low standards. I am all about them.

But at least the tomatoes were good, because A. drove them all the way across the country from Blackrock. Thanks, MiL.


A Tomato Bowl on the counter makes this crazy tomato lady happy.

Monday

Short version: Sausage Surprise, cucumbers

Long version:

Cubby: What's for dinner?

Me: Uh. Something . . . I am . . . making.

Cubby: What're you making?

Me: Um. A sausage skillet?

Cubby, while I was dishing up dinner: I think we should call this Sausage Surprise.

Cubby, eating his second helping: Can you make Sausage Surprise again?

Sure! And to help me remember what the hell I did, here is Cubby's Sausage Surprise: browned spicy "sage sausage" and ground beef, diced onion, garlic, tomato juice and tomato chunks trimmed from the tomatoes that were starting to rot on the counter, rice cooked in chicken stock, green peas, basil, oregano, vinegar, and grated menonita cheese.

Feel free to use that detailed recipe to create your own Sausage Surprise at home. It really will be a surprise. Perhaps a photo of the completed dish would be helpful?


Surprise! It's dog food.

Tuesday

Short version: Chicken, roasted sweet potatoes, roasted bell pepper and onion, choice of leftover rice or mashed potatoes, tomato/cucumber/menonita cheese salad

Long version: I marinated the chicken--drumsticks and thighs--in yogurt, lemon juice, and garlic, and then roasted it with the vegetables, finishing it under the broiler to get crispy. The rest of it is pretty self-explanatory.

Wednesday

Short version: Antelope tacos, pickled carrots, cucumbers

Long version: I didn't have quite enough antelope meat left over to make a full meal. It needed more cooking to tenderize it anyway, as well as more seasoning, so I decided to make it into taco meat. I made a sauce with onion, garlic, tomato, chicken stock, cumin, and chili powder, then simmered the diced antelope meat in that until it was tender. The boys ate theirs on corn tortillas with cheese, carrots, and lettuce.

A. ate the rest of the leftover Sausage Surprise with some of the antelope meat on top.

I made the pickled carrot strips in the morning out of, well, carrot strips (made with a vegetable peeler) submerged in vinegar, salt, and a bit of sugar. They were really good. I like topping tacos with something crunchy and vinegary. It's a good complement. Usually I make Mexican coleslaw with cabbage, but no one else likes it as much as I do. Everyone liked the carrots.

Thursday

Short version: Roast beef, baked potatoes, roasted calabacitas/carrots/onion, creamy cucumber salad

Long version: I made the roast beef exactly the same way as last time, because it was good that way. It was good again.

The calabacita I cut up for roasting was big enough that A. and I were wondering when they start being called calabazas.

Every time I make cucumber salad with onion, sour cream, vinegar, salt, and sugar, I wonder why I bother eating cucumbers any other way. So good.

Of course, the combination of the cucumber salad and the baked potatoes meant rather a lot of sour cream on the plates. No one complained.

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