Saturday, July 21, 2018

An Automotive Evolution

When A. and I met almost 17 years ago now, I was driving a Nissan Altima. It was a very practical car. At the time. Sure, the trunk was annoying because it was somehow hard to angle things into it, but I could always just use the backseat to haul things around. It fit five people, though I never even thought about that because I never had that many people in it.

Then Cubby was born.

I drove the Nissan for about a year after that before deciding I would really like a car in which I could load a baby into a car seat without awkward lifting and stretching. Also, the trunk was really awful for putting a stroller into, and with a kid in the backseat, that was no longer an option. Alsoalso, the A/C had stopped working.

So I bought the Awesome Subaru. And it was Awesome. So much room! So much cargo space in the back! So perfect!

Even after Charlie arrived, the Subaru was still just fine. It also sat five people. Barely, but there were only four of us.

Then I got pregnant with Jack and realized fitting three car seats in the back of the Subaru was going to be Not So Awesome. So I campaigned for a minivan, which A. bought. And it was perfect (albeit rusty). So much room! So much cargo space in back! A seven-passenger vehicle is great!

Then--I bet you can see the progression here-- the minivan died of cancerous rust and I got pregnant with Poppy. I realized that adding a fourth child to a seven-passenger minivan was going to mean losing all my cargo space in the back.

So we bought the Honda Pilot. And it was just right. So much room! So much cargo space in the back! It carried eight passengers, and we were only a family of six.

Then, just last week, the (still Awesome, but less so for a family of six) Subaru suffered a fatal computer collapse and is no longer legal to drive. So we had to look for another new vehicle. And we didn't feel that the Honda really had enough cargo space because we can't stow away all the seats in the back, as we actually need them for our children.

So where do you go from an 8-passenger SUV? Only one place to go. Up. Waaay up.

Behold, the beast.

That is a 12-passenger Chevy Express 3500. The "3500" indicates that it's heavy-duty. It's essentially a heavy-duty truck with a lot of seats, which means that it can tow easily. 

When A. showed me a photo of it before buying it, I said, "Damn, that's a van, man." It's not a minivan. It's not a van trying to pass as an SUV. It is 100%, unapologetically a real van. And it is huge.

When I was talking to my sister about it, I probably repeated a few times that it was a really big van, possibly trying to convince myself of this fact. Like, yes, I am going to be driving a really big van. After the third or so repetition of this, my sister replied, "I hate to break it to you, Kristin, but you have a really big family."

Yeah. I guess so*. And they love the van.

Charlie asked if we were going to live in it. No, son, although I suppose it's nice to have the option if things go terribly wrong on our upcoming cross-country road trip.

Speaking of the road trip, we can now rent the largest U-Haul trailer to haul the remainder of our things cross-country. The van can pull it. The van can pull anything.

So I am now a mom with four kids who drives a full-size, heavy-duty van with a towing hitch. I did not see this coming seventeen years ago.

Life is funny like that.

* Although of course, with a 12-passenger van, we could double our family size and still not have to get a new vehicle. A. pointed this out, and my response was dismissive laughter. I do not feel the need to have six more children to fill the van to capacity.

Friday, July 20, 2018

Friday Food: So Much Excitement

The Summer of Fun continues apace, with many exciting dinners. That is, if you find charred meat products consumed on a hot, sunny beach to be exciting, as my children do.


Short version: Birthday dinner, hooray!

Long version: See this post.


Short version: Beach party dinner, hooray!

Long version: See this post.


Short version: Grilled London broil steaks, grilled zucchini, potatoes with pesto, ultimate summer salad, frozen chocolate-covered banana chunks

Long version: The salad was the ultimate because it was late lettuce with early tomatoes. The time period in which those two things overlap is brief, but delicious. The lettuce was a delicate Buttercrunch variety, from the farmers market, as were the tomatoes. So, so good.

I made the bananas using this recipe, because we had five bananas that were not improving in our latest heat wave. I made the chunks because I didn't have the skewers, and I used my fingers to hold them and dip them, because it was fast and easy, if messy. Then I just had to lick my fingers, which was not a hardship. Yum.

I only used one cup of chocolate chips, despite the recipe calling for one cup of chocolate chips for only two bananas, and I still had some of the chocolate mixture left. Those would have to be some huge bananas to need that much chocolate for two.

It is a really good chocolate shell mixture, though. I think the MiL's idea of cutting ice cream into squares and dipping those into the chocolate mixture is brilliant. She said it would be like a homemade and much superior Klondike bar. I am totally going to try that. I just have to decide on a flavor of ice cream. Decision paralysis.


Short version: HOOOOOTTTT. Nevertheless, chicken, sweet potatoes, leftover steak, pesto bread, green beans

Long version: I had rashly promised Charlie we would have chicken drumsticks for dinner. It was 95 degrees with punishing humidity. Roasting in the oven for an hour was not happening. Instead, in the afternoon I shook some vinegar, salt, and pepper over the half-frozen (and enormous--what is WITH the gross overly large chicken legs here?) chicken leg quarters for a half-assed marinade. Half an hour later, I put the still-partially-frozen chicken in the MiL's Crockpot and turned it on high.

There was more room in the Crockpot, so I put in two foil-wrapped sweet potatoes just for kicks.

A couple of hours later, I took everything out, put the chicken on a pan, covered it in barbecue sauce, and broiled it until it was crispy. I also broiled the leftover steak, sliced and mixed with leftover pesto, and the pesto bread (slices of bread spread with leftover pesto).

I got a lot of mileage out of that pesto this week.


Short version: Fun beach cookout! Italian sausage, pork, bread and butter, tomato and cucumber salad, Fritos

Long version: The MiL had some friends coming over for cocktails before going to dinner, so I thought it would be a good idea to remove my feral children from the civilized adult cocktail hour. Thus, we packed up our food and cooked on the beach.

The children had no complaints about this.

The pork was those same odd, thick-cut "western-style ribs" from last week. This time, I noticed they were labeled as coming from the shoulder. Mystery solved.

I put the bag of bread and butter on a cottonwood stump in the sun to melt the butter while the meat was cooking, which made me think that I definitely need to get into solar oven cooking in New Mexico. It's the new woodstove cooking. I just have to get A. to make me a solar oven. I don't think he'll have any problem with that.

You know what's cool about Fritos? They have only three ingredients: corn, corn oil, and salt. I mean, they're not health food or anything, but as far as chips go, they're not bad. Plus, they're delicious. I still remember putting Fritos on my baked potato during a car trip when I was kid and eating it all together.

What, you didn't eat baked potatoes on car trips? You were totally missing out. Especially with a Frito topping.

A. gave this girl a few crumbs of Fritos and then informed me that the baby loves Fritos. A chip off the old  maternal block. Get it? A chip? HAHA. Mom humor.


Short version: Meatloaf, chicken-y rice, chicken-y mushrooms and onions, steamed broccoli

Long version: I didn't realize until after I had made the meatloaf (loaves, actually--there were four) that we were almost out of ketchup. I was going to put barbecue sauce on top of them, but then I remembered the rhubarb sauce the MiL had brought up from the cellar. This exact rhubarb sauce, as a matter of fact. I figured it's close enough to barbecue sauce for meatloaf.

I spread it on two of the loaves, and then put ketchup on top of the other two in case no one would eat the rhubarb sauce. In the end, everyone but Charlie--it's always Charlie--liked it and added more of the sauce to their plates at the table.

I cooked the rice in the saved liquid from Monday's Crockpot chicken, and the mushrooms and onions were fried in the chicken fat I scooped off the top of the liquid. Thrifty! And chicken-y.


Short version: Broiled ham steaks, leftover meatloaf, leftover rice, roasted sweet potatoes and onions, roasted beets, roasted garlic, beet greens, corn on the cob

Long version: Local sweet corn season has arrived, and there was much rejoicing among the children.

I've always found it cruel timing that sweet corn gets ripe in the hottest summer weather, and the traditional way of cooking it is to boil it in a big-ass pot of water. Who wants to be bringing a huge pot of water to the boil in an already punishingly hot kitchen? Not me. Luckily, it is absolutely possible to cook corn in the microwave. I shuck it and wrap it in a damp towel, then nuke it for about two minutes per ear. Works fine, and no boiling water. Amen.

I had all the roasted stuff because I had to bake bread in the afternoon, so I just put in the sweet potatoes, onions, beets, and garlic while the oven was on 415 degrees anyway.

A. ate the entire head of roasted garlic while I was making the rest of dinner.

I can't cast stones, though, because I ate all of the beets at the same time. There were only three, and they were really small, and they were the first of this season's beets I got at the farmers market last Saturday. I meant to serve them with dinner, but they were so sweet and delicious, I just couldn't resist them while I was peeling them.

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

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.