Saturday, November 3, 2018

Friday Family Fun: Doing Without Daddy

A. had his own fun this Friday doing some masonry work (that's not sarcastic--that genuinely is fun for him), so it was up to me to make fun for the four kids.

And me, but I don't ever anticipate actually having fun myself. That way, I'm always pleasantly surprised when I do.


I was planning on taking them up to the new house after Poppy's morning nap, but despite many attempts, she refused to actually take one. And in the process of trying to get her to sleep, the boys got bored and started fighting and it was getting ugly.

So I made the executive decision to give up on the morning nap and haul the whole crew up to the new house right then.

I quickly threw some stuff in a bag for a picnic lunch--a chunk of cheese and a knife to cut it with, Nut Thins crackers, salami, a bag of grapes, and water bottles--made sure the stroller was in the car, and loaded the whole happy lot of them up for our admittedly lame adventure.

When we got there, I turned Poppy over to her brothers while I went into the house to do some work on the hallway walls.

Don't worry. I made sure she had a plastic bottle to keep her entertained.

Although with these three maniacs racing around, who needs more entertainment?

I left instructions with Cubby to come get me if she got too fussy and went inside to start sanding the spackle and washing down the walls of the hallway.

Unfortunately, there was nothing I could do about the (yet MORE) brown carpet.

When we bought this house, A. remarked that it was nice it was so clean, considering it was occupied by a bachelor. Bless his heart, A. is a bachelor himself in perspective if not actual fact, so he didn't even notice that the place was not actually clean. Had he seen the black water I kept having to dump out as I washed the walls, he would not have been so positive.

Anyway again.

I got about twenty uninterrupted minutes before Cubby came in to announce that Poppy was getting fussy. I told him to wheel her over to the house in her stroller, thereby buying me another five minutes. And then he volunteered to push her around outside and keep her happy for another fifteen minutes or so. This meant that she only crawled around my feet and cried for a few minutes at the end while I finished up.

A portrait of the neglected child and her mean mom.

After I finished my self-imposed task, I set up the picnic lunch for everyone.

This bench A. made is a perfect children's picnic table.

The boys were pretending that they were eating at a cafe. I brought them their water bottles, and they called me the waitress.

Not too far from the truth, as a matter of fact. Although the tips around here are terrible.

Charlie while watching the leaves blow briskly away in the wind, "Do you think they're fleeing from winter?"

I let them play a little longer in their fort/ship/tractor/whatever its current incarnation was:

Otherwise known as A.'s trailer.

I finally took pity on the drooping baby and took them all back to the house with a crib so she could have a much-needed nap.

Unfortunately, the much-needed nap only lasted a piddling 45 minutes. Fortunately, her brothers had set up an elaborate ship game on the front porch that provided plenty of opportunities to crawl around and grab things.

She was allowed to do this because she was the princess in the game. As in real life.

And that was pretty much it for the fun this Friday. It would have been a lot more fun without The Incredible Fussing Baby, but that's the way life goes sometimes.

Friday, November 2, 2018

Friday Food: Halloween Revelry on Repeat

Not listed in our menus: The large quantities of sugar my children (and, okay, me) have consumed at various Halloween-related parties and events. 'Tis the season.


Short version: Chicken tacos, leftover pork, canned black beans, zucchini, squash, carrot sticks

Long version: I had a few pieces of chicken left from the previous night's dinner, so I shredded the meat and made it into tacos by making a sauce with onion, garlic, and tomato juice left from draining the tomatoes I roasted the week before, plus spices. I used the same sauce to simmer the zucchini.

There was enough chicken for the boys to have tacos. A. ate a couple of leftover pork ribs and tortillas and cheese. I ate the beans and zucchini with leftover squash, cheese, and sour cream. Cheese and sour cream make anything good.


Short version: Restaurant food

Long version: This was the day of the village Halloween celebration. The restaurant had a buffet with a baked potato bar with a lot of toppings, plus hot dogs. I had a plate full of pulled pork, chile beans, and Fritos, and it was exactly what I wanted to eat.

There was also a dessert buffet that featured the dessert that is also always exactly what I want to eat: cake. There was a chocolate cake and a red velvet cake. I had some of each. It was a very happy dinner.


Short version: Chicken-fried venison with cream gravy, mashed potatoes, cauliflower with garlic, green peas

Long version: On the previous Monday, Rafael's son Ray showed up at our door with this:

Hello, deer leg.

I took it as a compliment that he handed it over to us in the exact condition it came out of the field. No nicely trimmed roast this time.

I didn't have room in my refrigerator at the rental house for that chunk of flesh, so I brought it up to our new house and stashed it in the refrigerator there. I left it there until Saturday to age a bit, then brought it back here and did the initial butchering. Meaning, I cut it all off the bone into rough cuts and trimmed off all the dry outside part. A. also hacked the bone into pieces and made stock with those.

I used the leanest and cleanest chunk to cut off some steaks for dinner on Sunday. These I pounded with my rolling pin:

The extra-burly rolling pin my dad made for me. It's so heavy, I had to make sure not to pound too much and ruin the meat.

Then I dredged the steaks in corn flour that had been mixed with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and paprika, and fried them in tallow.

I very much dislike frying things like this, but this is one of A'.s favorite preparations for meat, so I indulged him.

I even made the cream gravy--milk in the pan after the meat came out, scraped the bottom, then added cornstarch dissolved in more milk, plus a bunch of salt and pepper.

I indulged myself with the cauliflower. I just steamed the florets in the skillet until the water was evaporated and the cauliflower was tender, then added olive oil and a clove of mashed garlic, plus salt and pepper. The cauliflower got a little brown and a lot garlicky, and it was so good. Too bad I'm the only one that eats cauliflower. That's why I also made the peas.

I usually have a photo of a cute, smiley baby somewhere in these posts. Unfortunately, this week's baby has looked like this most of the time:

"Abandoned on the kitchen floor yet again. WHYYYYYY MEEEEE?

"Mother, your care this week has been unacceptable. I'm considering filing a complaint."

I'm gonna go ahead and blame those convenient infantile villains, The Emerging Teeth.


Short version: Pork, pasta, roasted sweet potatoes/onions/bell peppers, roasted beets, sauteed beet greens with garlic

Long version: Man, those pork things A. bought are HUGE. Extra-thick, with a thick layer of fat on the top and they took forEVER in the oven, even at 425 degrees.

The beets--and the greens--were from our very own garden.

I pulled out the smallest ones because I wanted them to cook through in the oven while the pork was cooking. Big beets take like two hours to roast. Then again, so did the big pork chunks.


The beets were delicious. The beet greens were fine too, but I don't grow beets for the greens. That's also why I don't grow swiss chard, which is essentially beet greens without the beets. I prefer collard greens.

Anyway again.

The children were pleased to have beets again. So was I. Yay for A. and his foresight in planting those beet seeds way back in July.


Short version: Oven-fried chicken, roasted potatoes, roasted bell pepper and onion, green salad

Long version: Am I possibly over-using the oven-frying method with corn flour? Yes. Does my family care? Quite the contrary. I made five leg quarters--so five drumsticks and five thighs--figuring I'd have some left over to make chicken salad for Cubby's sandwich the next day. There was none left over.

I put a few raw beet leaves in with the lettuce for our salad. No one noticed, and it's a good way to stretch the store-bought lettuce.

I made bell pepper and onion again because I noticed after I got home from the store that one of the peppers I got already had a bad spot and thus needed to be cooked pronto. I hate it when I do that.


Short version: Venison chili, tortillas and cheese, canned black beans, sauteed zucchini/peppers/carrots

Long version: Based on what I've been seeing online, chili appears to be the cool thing to serve for Halloween dinner before trick-or-treating. Chili eeeeeverywhere. I like feeling I'm hip and trendy because I served the right food on the right day. Even if the only reason I served it is because I had all the rough bits left from cutting up a deer haunch and it was 42 degrees that day and thus the perfect day for simmering tough meat all day.


My chili is browned stew meat+onions+garlic+canned mashed whole tomatoes and juice+chili powder+cumin+a little vinegar. And definitely enough salt. Under-salted chili is a bummer.

I usually serve it with rice, but this time I just microwaved tortillas with cheese, rolled them up, and stuck them in each bowl of chili for dipping.

I ate the vegetables with mine. The zucchini was the very last that was in my refrigerator. The end of an era.

The bell pepper and carrots came from Jack's lunch box. I guess his tuna sandwich was too filling for him to get to the vegetables. Good thing he had his Halloween party a few hours later so he could fuel up on Mummy dogs, deviled eggs with spiders made out of olives, and Ding Dongs and cupcakes to fill in the nutritional gaps.


Short version: Scrambled eggs, leftover chili, leftover black beans, rice, pureed squash

Long version: A few weeks ago when A. was at Walmart, he was lured in by the display of "decorative" squashes. He bought three of the larger, more unusual ones. He was pretty sure they were actually edible squash, despite not being labeled as such. The pinkish, pumpkin-y looking one proved to have a bad spot on it yesterday and thus needed to be cooked immediately.

This squash was about the size of a basketball, and I was reminded why I don't ever buy squash that size. Because processing one takes up the entire kitchen and results in way too many dishes.

An autumnal mess in the kitchen.

I ended up with a gallon or so of pureed squash. Some of it I made into a creamy squash soup using a jar of the venison stock we made with the bones of the deer haunch. We brought a jar of the soup to Ray--along with a loaf of bread, which is an excellent trade for about eighty dollars worth of meat--and a jar of it to Rafael. There was still plenty of squash left over for dinner.

The children were less than thrilled with this. I still haven't won them over to squash, but I haven't given up.

We went to church at 5 p.m., which meant that dinner needed to be something that could be ready more or less immediately after we walked in the door at 6 p.m. The squash and rice were made ahead of time, so scrambling the eggs and heating up the leftovers was all that needed to be done before we ate.

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

Thursday, November 1, 2018

How They Roll

When we were at the village Halloween celebration last weekend, I asked the dad of one of Cubby's classmates if kids still went trick-or-treating in the village, or if that celebration kind of took care of the holiday. He informed me that not only do they trick-or-treat, they all do it as a big group. And they don't walk. He drives them around on a flat-bed trailer pulled behind his truck. With picnic tables in the back to sit on.

All aboard the party trailer.

Apparently, before he started doing this, ALL the parents would drive their kids around in their separate cars. So this is more efficient. More fun for the kids, too, although I have to say I find the lengths people go to avoid walking here very amusing.

Anyway. Last night the boys and A. climbed aboard the party trailer and spent two-and-a-half hours cruising around our tiny village. It took so long because everyone had to climb on and off at every house*, plus there was a lot of talking with whoever answered the door at the house, because of course everyone knows each other. 

Besides all the houses, they stopped at the restaurant, where there was hot chocolate and freshly-baked cake. They stopped at the market, where they got full-sized candy bars. They even stopped at the bar, where they were appropriately admired by all the patrons and thankfully given candy instead of beer.

Poppy and I stayed home to answer the door (and to keep her from crawling off the side of the trailer, because that is what crawling babies do). Besides the trailer-load of trick-or-treaters the boys were a part of, only two other kids came to the door. I have a lot of candy left.

At 8:30 p.m., the revelers arrived home. Charlie collapsed on the floor, moaning that he ate way too much chocolate. Jack slumped in my arms, moaning that he was tired and couldn't wait for bed. Cubby bounced around telling me about how Charlie fell over some scrap metal in the dark and cried, and how he (Cubby) was NEVER going to be able to fall asleep.

Sounds about right for Halloween.

They had a great time, though, and I suspect their candy hangovers will be miraculously gone by tonight when it's time to choose dessert from their huge bags of candy.

And they didn't even have to walk to get it.

* Charlie and Jack apparently impressed all the men along for the ride with their dramatic and spectacular leaps off the trailer at every stop. Yup. Those are my boys. 

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Happy Halloween! Have Some Ironic Weather

This morning I woke up to 32 degrees and about a quarter inch of wet snow. The school secretary called at 6:30 a.m. and said,  "Please don't laugh at me, but we have a two-hour delay this morning."

Despite the fact that we're nowhere near the Armageddon levels of snow we became accustomed to in northern New York, I am not laughing at the prospect of the bus drivers here driving the distances they have to drive on dirt ranch roads to pick kids up in the snow. A two-hour delay seemed reasonable to me.

Plus, the delay meant a nice, leisurely morning with plenty of time to cook bacon and eggs for breakfast. Today's menu planning theme is No Added Sugar Whatsoever. Not that anything will compensate for the tsunami of sugar that will wash over the children today, starting with their class Halloween parties this afternoon, but I don't need to add to it.

The delay also meant there was plenty of time to play in the snow.

I convinced them that "playing" meant clearing snow with the broom. I'm smarter than I look.

I also delegated the porch to Jack first, the Honda to Charlie next, and the van to Cubby last before they went out, to forestall any fights over the broom. See? Definitely smarter than I look.

The high today is only going to be 41 degrees, so it's going to be a cold Halloween for trick-or-treating, but I approve of this. Make those kids work for that candy, I say.

Of course, I'll probably be sitting in the nice warm house with Poppy (who has a cold) while A. trudges around the wet, cold streets with the boys, so who am I to talk, right?

I'm not going to complain about this weather too much, because two days ago it was 77 degrees and looked like this:

I'm so pleased we have some autumn color at our new house. Also pleased that this is an apricot tree that yields prodigious quantities of apricots every few years. Yum.

In a couple of days, it will look like that again and be 60 degrees, so it's a fleeting wintery experience. That's just fine with me.

Happy Halloween, my lovelies! How's the weather where you are?

Monday, October 29, 2018

A Halloween Warm-up

This past Saturday, the village hosted a county-wide Halloween celebration. There was a buffet at the restaurant, a dance at the bar, trunk-or-treat for the kids, and a costume contest for everyone.

So of course we had to go. And of course the boys had to wear their costumes.

This year, Cubby wanted to be a samurai. I originally was all, "I am not buying another costume. We have a box full of costumes. I can totally make a samurai costume out of cardboard."

Yeah. I bought the costume.

But! I did make him a sword to go with it. Along with a jet pack for Jack's astronaut costume and a dagger for Charlie's Army soldier costume, both of which we already had. In addition, I made Charlie into a "special ops" soldier by sticking some branches on his helmet and blacking his face with a mixture of ash (from burning a piece of paper) and olive oil.

Cubby's costume came with a really weird monster-looking mask. He said he was a skeleton samurai. Whatever.

I made Jack turn around so the jet pack was visible. I'm way too proud of that jet pack.

Poppy wore the lamb coat first worn by Cubby and then by Jack. (Charlie was too small his first Halloween and too big his second, so he never wore it.)

Terrible photo, but here they all are.

Poppy was my prop for my costume. I stuck on a name tag that said, "Hello! My name is Mary."

Get it? Yeah. That's as good as it gets for me and costumes.

And apparently, this is as good as it gets with my phone taking pictures. What is up with this?

Cubby actually missed the costume contest because it was so chaotic we didn't realize his age group was up, and neither Jack nor Charlie won, but they all had a great time anyway.

And now we get to do it all again for trick-or-treating on actual Halloween. What could be better than two opportunities to dress up and achieve a sugar high? Lucky kids.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Friday Family Fun: Definitely Low-Key

We didn't have a big outing planned for this past Friday, but that doesn't mean there wasn't fun to be had! Oh no! We know how to have a good time no matter what.

A. took Cubby rabbit hunting (unsuccessfully) in the morning, and the younger two boys and I spent some time prepping for Halloween.

First, we carved our pumpkin.

Charlie requested "scary," but I think the end result is more "goofy."

It was really helpful that Jack had broken the stem off it almost immediately after I bought it, so it's starting to decompose and it was a lot softer than most pumpkins.

Way to look on the bright side, right?

Then I had to make Charlie a dagger for his Army costume. I had made Cubby a Samurai sword (technically known as a katana--you're welcome for the history lesson) for his Samurai costume and Jack a jet pack for his astronaut costume, so of course Charlie must have one of my carefully crafted cardboard/duct tape/aluminum foil creations.

I've finally found my medium as an artist.

After Cubby got home from his hunting, the boys disappeared to the back of the house to play for quite awhile. A. and I remarked to each other how nice it was that they were all playing outside so nicely for so long. 

I should have known better. When I went outside to check on them, I found that they were "mixing paint" in a cooler. 

Once a mud monster, always a mud monster.

They used this paint for their original creations.

Our propane tank really was screaming for decoration.

I was less pleased about the back door as a canvas.

I guess they've found their medium as artists, too.

After baths for all of them, A. took them up to the new house with him while he split wood and did various other things.

Poppy and I did our thing here at this house.

Or rather, she did her thing. I don't generally crawl under the table and chew on plastic pipettes.

We ended Fun Friday with a popcorn and movie night. Cubby won a DVD of Moana--one of the newer Disney movies--in a raffle at the school's health fair, so they watched that. AND they got to eat popcorn on the couch. That's the really exciting part.

Poppy even got to watch for a few minutes*.

Parts of it were too scary for Jack, but he was interested enough to go back and keep watching after taking a break to tell me how scary it was.

And that was Fun Friday. No long drives or dramatic canyons, but life can't be all drama, can it?

* If you're wondering why they're watching it on a laptop, it's because we don't own a TV.