Saturday, November 10, 2018

Friday Family Fun: On the Road Again

A. and I thought it had been too long since the children had been forced to sit in the car for over an hour to get to a semi-urban center. So we loaded them all in the van yesterday morning at 10 a.m. and struck out for a large town an hour and a half away. The primary purpose of this trip was for A. to get a permit to cut firewood in the canyon.

The secondary purpose was to decide if we want to make this town our center of commerce. We have to choose, you see, which town we visit once a month for a grocery run and a library visit. The small city we had been going to is kind of seedy, so we thought we'd try another place.

And so, we drove. An hour and a half and many, "Are we almost there?"s from the children later, we arrived at the Department of Agriculture office where A. was to get his permit. I allowed the children to get out and run around in front of the office building while we waited for A., which resulted in a man stepping out of his office to see what the commotion was.

I apologized for disturbing him, but he didn't seem bothered. He also didn't seem disposed to go back to work, and stood there talking to me about firewood varieties and prices for some time. When it was time for us to go, he gave the kids some canvas bags.

Next we went searching for a place to have our picnic lunch. There's a lake about ten miles from that town, but we couldn't find the right road and the troops were getting restless. I spied a playground on a side street, which turned out to be on the grounds of an abandoned elementary school.

The boys were thrilled with this. They started out playing on the playground.

Going old-school (ha) with a metal climbing structure. No plastic here.

Lots of good rocks, too. Poppy approved.

Pretty soon, they were just running wild around the grounds.

They darted up and down ramps.

About this time, Cubby said, "Well, I'll tell you, THIS was definitely worth the drive." Okay then.

They balanced on the perimeter wall.

The picnic went mobile.

They climbed entirely too high on the wall surrounding a court yard.

Well, Charlie did, because he is a monkey in boy's clothing.

And Poppy explored what looked to be a very decorative volleyball court.

She found a stick. It was apparently very tasty.

The school and its grounds, while now neglected, were actually very aesthetically pleasing in a way that modern schools definitely are not. A. thought the whole thing was probably built by the WPA. It's a shame it isn't used anymore. It didn't look as though it had been abandoned for very long, maybe just a few years.


After that, we went to check out (ha again) the library. Libraries are very important in our decision-making regarding where we choose to drive. This library, while small, was very nice, and the librarian was extremely friendly and helpful.

Next we went to the grocery store. I had been to this store only once, but remembered it as superior to any others I've been to around here. This was confirmed. It has a particularly good produce section, which is important to me.

So we decided this is our town of commerce from now on.

That decided, and the boys fortified with Mexican paletas (coconut for all three), we began the long drive home. Poppy and Jack fell asleep. Cubby and Charlie played a game with me in which I said a word and they had to think of a word that rhymed.

This is really fun to play with two little boys, because of course the greatest hilarity ensues when they can think of a rhyming word that relates to bodily functions. Cubby was particularly skilled at this. So it would go like this:

Me: Okay, how about . . . bird.

Charlie: Heard!


Me: Okay, how about . . . bush.

Charlie: Ummmm . . .


And so on.

And that was it for Fun Friday. Next Friday will be the funnest of all, as we will be driving over 600 miles to my brother's house in Phoenix to kick off our Thanksgiving week in Arizona. That's a lot of time for rhyming games. Whee.

Friday, November 9, 2018

Friday Food: Extra-special Vinegar Everywhere

Why is it extra-special vinegar, you ask? Well, read on to find out!


Short version: Laziness, thy name is Kristin.

Long version: I mixed up leftover chili with leftover rice in a skillet, added cheese, and called that good. Plus some leftover squash for a vegetable.


Short version: Bunless cheeseburgers, fried potatoes, squash, collard greens

Long version: Um. I used some of the fat that rendered off the cheeseburgers to fry the potatoes, which I had cooked earlier in the microwave until they were soft.

I guess that's it. Boy, this is boring. Here, have some pictures.

This is the church we went to Saturday afternoon for Mass.  It was in the middle of nowhere--like, for real--and there were only three other people in the congregation. Pretty, though.

Here the boys are hiding in the back because they don't want to get back in the car to go home.


Short version: Brisket, pasta, roasted beets, sauteed beet greens, squash, baked apples and cream

Long version: Okay, back on track!  Buckle up, because here's where it got really exciting!

I shoved the brisket in the oven first thing in the morning. I didn't have a bottle of barbecue sauce open, so I just put in a sliced onion, a little ketchup, a little mustard, quite a bit of salt, and some extra-special apple cider vinegar. It was extra-special because I made it with apple scraps when I was in the midst of constant apple peeling and coring for drying Mr. Billy's apples.

Speaking of apples, I had about half a dozen of those apples that were looking wrinkly and sad, plus a few random apples the MiL had brought that had little bad spots on them, so I made all those into baked apples that baked along with the brisket.

Because the brisket was in most of the day, I was also able to put in the beets to cook, and another squash. This squash was a variety called Honeynut, developed at Cornell University. The MiL brought it to me. It's very sweet and good.

So for those of you keeping track, I cooked four separate things in the oven during the course of the day. This is why I really need to get another rack for the oven at our new house, which currently only has one. I don't think the bachelor who lived there used the oven much.

I did not burn the brisket. Hooray for setting low standards.

Aaaand, here's a picture of beets, pre-roasting:

Hello, beets.


Short version: Asian pork, stir-fried vegetables, rice, baked apples and cream

Long version: "Asian" is a cop-out generic term for the fact that I marinated the pork hunks in a soy-sauce-based marinade. The marinade also included the extra-special (because I made it, remember) apple cider vinegar, garlic powder, and ground ginger. This time I cooked the pork covered in a 400 degree oven for about two hours, uncovering it for the last twenty minutes or so to allow the liquid to evaporate. It got nice and tender this way.

The vegetables were carrots, bell pepper, onion, and frozen green beans with a sauce consisting of soy sauce, vinegar, ginger, garlic powder (sound familiar so far?), a small amount of peanut butter, and cornstarch. Peanut butter is not strictly necessary in a stir-fry, of course, but just a very little seems to balance all the flavors perfectly.

Rafael stopped by in the morning with a bag of apples he had gotten from someone and had been storing in his basement. They were delicious, but quite soft, so I baked some while the oven was on to cook the pork. They were so sweet, I didn't even add sugar, just cinnamon, a tiny bit of salt, and vinegar. The extra-special apple cider vinegar, of course. Extra-special because I made it. Have I mentioned that yet?


Short version: Venison medallions with garlic butter, fried rice, squash, beets, sauteed mushrooms

Long version: "Medallions" sounds so fancy, doesn't it? What they really were were just steaks that were in odd, small pieces. But I did actually label them "medallions" when I was butchering and freezing Ray's deer leg. I already had my griddle pan out on the stove from making banana pancakes for breakfast and grilled cheese for lunch, so I figured I might as well use it one more time before washing it.

I just seasoned the venison with salt, pepper, and garlic powder, then seared it on the griddle in bacon fat until it was about medium-well done. After I took the meat off, I cooked a little diced onion on the pan, then added some more bacon fat and some leftover rice. Then a little water so I could scrape the bottom of the pan and mix all that flavor in with the rice. Lastly, some frozen peas in there, and that was the fried rice.

I cooked the mushrooms because they were on the brink of no return, and also then I could use up the rest of the onion and the other half of the clove of garlic I put into the butter.

Mushrooms and wild game just go together. So good. Garlic butter is always a good idea with lean meat, as well.


Short version: Pasta with tomato/chicken/cream sauce, bread sticks, peas

Long version: I only had one chicken leg quarter left from the big bag of extra-cheap chicken A. bought awhile ago, so I simmered it in water with aromatics to get it shreddable, and to make stock. The tomato sauce was just drained and crushed whole tomatoes from a can, garlic, basil, and oregano. I added the shredded chicken to that, along with some cream and Parmesan cheese.

I made the bread sticks because I found I had too much bread dough when I was forming loaves for baking earlier in the day. This sometimes happens because I don't measure the water as I'm mixing, so if the dough seems too wet, I add more flour and then end up with more dough than usual.

The bread sticks would have been better if I could have added more salt and garlic powder into the dough, but as it was already made, I just brushed the tops of them with a mixture of butter, salt, and garlic powder. I left them in too long, so they were too crispy. I like soft bread sticks. They were still all eaten, though.

Mondays and Wednesdays are my painting days--while all three boys are at school and Poppy is taking her afternoon nap. Here's the dining room in progress:

New yellow semi-gloss paint on the left; filthy, flat white old paint on the right.

Teaser: I also used the drained tomato juice and some of the chicken stock to make something for the next day's dinner. Stay tuned . . .


Short version: Man Skillet, pinto beans, raw vegetables and ranch dip, apple cake

Long version: I had to take Cubby and Charlie to their first ever 4-H meeting (my first too, incidentally) at 4:15 p.m., so I took out some of A.'s extra-fatty ground beef and told him he was on deck for dinner. He made the Man Skillet again. We didn't have any Velveeta this time, so he had to use sharp cheddar. Not quite as melty, but no one seemed to care.

The pinto beans were what I made the day before with the tomato juice and chicken stock.

The vegetables and dip and cake were leftover from the 4-H meeting. I had volunteered to bring snacks, so I made something healthy and something . . . not as healthy. Although this apple-yogurt cake isn't really too bad, sugar-wise. I didn't have lemon juice, so I used some of my (wait for it . . .) extra-special apple cider vinegar.

You remember I made that myself, right?

Anyway, this is the second time I've made this cake. It's very good, although it's best when it's still a bit warm. It does get kind of soggy as it sits.

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

Monday, November 5, 2018

Eavesdroppers Never Hear Anything Good

I was sitting in the bathroom with Poppy last night while she had her bath and overheard the following in the living room:

A.: You guys had better clean that up before Mommy comes out, or she will go ballistic.

Cubby: Yeah, she'll kill us.

Charlie: I'll go distract her.

Immediately after that, Charlie sauntered casually into the bathroom and said, "Oh, hey, Mommy. What are you doing? Poppy sure looks cute in her bath, doesn't she?"

This wasn't distraction enough to keep me from noticing that one of his hands was almost entirely colored green.

Cubby and Jack appeared shortly thereafter. Cubby ratted out Charlie, telling me it was his idea to color the faucet and then turn the water on to see if the water would turn colors.

Because I never keep anything but washable markers in the house, I found this more amusing than enraging, though I did tell them they'd better make sure it was cleaned up.

It was. And now we just have to hope they don't do anything more permanent in this rental house before we move out in a few weeks.

At least life is never dull with them around.