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!


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.