Saturday, December 15, 2018

The Woodchuck Man Lives On In Song

Today we celebrate A.'s 38th year by singing a really terrible parody of "The Candyman" of my own conception called "The Woodchuck Man Can." Here are all the other versions: One, two, three, four, five, six, and seven. (That's a lot of versions.)

Okay! You ready? Let's go!

Who can move a whole house 
without a helping hand?

Who can find his family the world's raddest van?

The woodchuck man
The woodchuck man can
The woodchuck man can 
'Cause he uses what he has and makes it work for him.

Who can brace a Christmas tree 
with a bucket and some stones?

Who can find adventure wherever we may roam?

The woodchuck man
The woodchuck man can
The woodchuck man can 
'Cause he uses what he has and makes it work for him.

Who can fix a muffler 
With nothing but a shoe?

Who can make a greasy man's meal 
A woman just won't do?

The woodchuck man
The woodchuck man can
The woodchuck man can 
'Cause he uses what he has and makes it work for him.

Happy birthday to A., who brought the best of the woodchucks to the west.

Friday, December 14, 2018

Friday Food: Food Other Than Cookies

It appears the raisins have a slight edge in our oatmeal cookie poll*. It also appears that people have very definite opinions regarding cookies. At least, my kind of people do.

Anyway. I made four dozen oatmeal-raisin cookies on Wednesday, four dozen plain chocolate chip cookies Thursday with Jack's help (because I ran out of oats), and am set to make another six dozen chocolate chip cookies today with Cubby and Charlie.

But of course, man cannot live on cookies alone (although this woman might like to try it with the chocolate chip cookies). So here's the actual food I cooked this week.


Short version: Tuna and rice skillet, popcorn

Long version: We pulled into our driveway at 3:36 p.m. after our Christmas tree excursion. We had to be at church in the village at 5 p.m., leaving me with exactly one hour and nine minutes to make dinner and bake the bread that was exploding out of the pans on the counter. I didn't have any meat thawed. I also was out of eggs, my go-to quick dinner.

This is one of the few times I might have wished for a convenient drive-thru. However, 75 miles away is not convenient, so there was nothing for it but to cook something fast on the fly.

First I cooked some diced bacon. While that was cooking, I also made some rice in a separate pot. When the bacon was done, I took the bacon pieces out of the skillet and cooked diced onion and celery in the bacon grease. Then I added two big cans of tuna, a bunch of the now-cooked rice, some mayonnaise, and grated cheddar cheese.

Ta da! Just like tuna noodle casserole, except with rice. I should have added some peas to get in some kind of vegetable, but, well, I didn't.

It was actually pretty good and definitely filling. Everyone liked it. Even Charlie.

We ate so early that when we got home from church, I made some popcorn. And then everyone ended up eating slices of fresh bread with blackberry jelly about an hour later, so basically, we ate every carbohydrate in the house.


Short version: Cabbage soup, oven-fried chicken, mashed potatoes, green salad

Long version: Cubby randomly asked me a few days earlier if I could make cabbage soup. Um. Okay? I mean, sure. I have cabbage. I have lots of stock. I can figure something out. But, why?

Apparently, Charlie in Roald Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory ate cabbage soup frequently, and this detail stayed with Cubby after he read the book. I'm pretty sure impoverished Charlie and his family did not have bacon, carrots, and potatoes in their cabbage soup, but that's what I used to make it tasty.

Cubby loved it. He asked me if he could bring the leftovers to school for lunch. Um. Okay?

My Charlie did not love it. He was happy with the chicken and mashed potatoes, though.


Short version: Scrambled eggs and sausage, beanie weenies, leftover mashed potatoes with cheese, leftover rice, leftover pureed squash, Rice Krispie Treats

Long version: I was still out of pretty much every kind of protein, although I was lucky that the tiny general store in the village had eggs, pork sausage, and hot dogs when I stopped in after church. I didn't notice until I got home that the sausage was hot breakfast sausage, though. So I could only cook a little of that to mix with the scrambled eggs.

I sliced the hot dogs and added them to some of an enormous can of Grandma Brown's beans the MiL had sent us. Seriously. That can was three and a half pounds of beans. We had a lot left over.

Poppy could have eaten more beans if she had used the right end of the fork, but she did pretty well regardless.

Incidentally, there is no way I would actually call this beanie weenies with my sons present. Because you know what else you can call weenies? Yeah. Hotdogs and baked beans in much less hilarity-inducing. A. informed me they always called them franks and beans when he was a boy. Whatever you call it, it's really surprisingly tasty.

So during Advent I announced that we would only be having dessert on Sundays after lighting our Advent candle. Mostly I did this to curb the crazy sugar intake during this holiday season, but also for Advent observance and all. I did, however, promise that the Sunday dessert would be homemade.

Too bad I forgot about that until right before I was about to dish up dinner.

Rice Krispie Treats to the rescue! They take literally five minutes to make with the help of a microwave, and they are definitely better than the sum of their limited parts.


Short version: Pork, rice, green peas, steamed cauliflower

Long version: We finally got to the grocery store, and I came home with more of those boneless sirloin steaks that tend towards dry and tough. Appetizing.

Fortunately, I remembered how I had made them palatable before. So I chunked up some of the pork, browned it in chicken fat that had been hanging around in the fridge, seasoned it with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and the MiL's paprika, added a little chicken stock, and then some heavy cream at the end. Thumbs up.


Short version: Italian chicken, hot breakfast sausage patties, leftover rice and mashed potatoes, roasted sweet potatoes/bell pepper/onions, leftover pureed squash

Long version: "Italian" just means that I wanted to use up the rest of a can of tomatoes from the refrigerator, so I cooked the chicken pieces in a tomato sauce with tomato, chicken stock, onion, garlic, oregano, and basil.

I had about half the package of hot sausage left from Sunday, so I made it into two big patties. This ended up being the contested part of dinner. All of the boys wanted to eat it, despite the fact that they kept fanning their mouths and asking for more milk.

This reminds me of the jalapeno eating contest at the enlisted men's club on the Air Force base when I was in middle school. The winner went temporarily blind. I always thought that was the stupidest thing I'd ever heard, but now with boys myself, I can totally see how it happens.

I FINALLY finished up the bland pumpkin. That was a big pumpkin.


Short version: This and that.

Long version: Bacon and fried eggs, franks and beans, bread and butter, salad and radishes


Short version: Pizza, green salad

Long version: Although sourdough pizza is a very long process--two days to get the dough ready--the majority of the work is done ahead of the actual cooking. This worked out very well this day, as I was gone from 2:30 p.m.-4 p.m. I made the sauce in the morning, pulled the bag of already-grated asadero cheese out of the freezer to thaw, pressed the dough into the pans right before I left, and it was ready to assemble and bake when I got home.

I have not yet gotten another rack for my oven, so I couldn't fit both of my half-sheet pans in the oven to make the usual two big pizzas. Instead I used my smaller baking sheet for the cheese pizza and one of my 14-inch cast iron skillets for the pepperoni and onion pizza, because those will fit side-by-side on the one rack in the oven.

The one on the baking sheet got a little too done, because that smaller baking sheet has a dark coating on it. A. really liked his pizza made in the cast iron skillet. It was like a deep dish pizza. Too heavy for me, but then, I wasn't eating it.

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

* My posts usually get a little over a hundred views each. This totally random cookie poll? Currently closing in on 500 views. This is obviously a hot topic. 

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Please Pause for a Cookie Poll

As part of their "Lessons in Giving" holiday unit at school, Cubby's and Charlie's classes are putting together gift baskets for senior citizens. They were encouraged to come up with their own ideas of what senior citizens might like that the students could make.

Charlie thought of candy. Cubby's idea was cookies*. Which of course meant that they volunteered me to provide these things.

This is fine, of course. I briefly considering making fudge or something--probably the extent of my candy-making skill--before deciding to just get holiday-themed Snickers and peanut butter candies. I also got some Kit Kats, because that's what Charlie thought would be best.

But I couldn't bring myself to buy cookies. I mean, I don't particularly like making cookies, but at least they don't require a candy thermometer and such terminology as "soft-ball stage."

When I inquired of Charlie's teacher how many baskets they anticipated making, she told me 125. Say what? I was thinking more like a couple dozen. She went on to assure me that I didn't have to make that many cookies, as other people were contributing, too.

But I figure I do still have to make several dozen to have, say, three or four cookies for maybe a third of those baskets.

When I asked Cubby what kind I should make, he suggested oatmeal cookies. Unsurprisingly, that was what I was thinking, too.

Next I asked Cubby if he thought I should make them with raisins or chocolate chips. Oh, definitely chocolate chips, he replied. Chocolate chips are way better.

I must admit that I am also in the chocolate chip camp and always make them that way, which is probably why Cubby has that same preference. However, most older people I know prefer raisins. A. does, too, as those are what he had as a boy.

So I'm making one batch with raisins and one with chocolate chips (the cinnamon, however, is non-negotiable and goes in both kinds), but it got me thinking: What's the clear favorite?

And that, of course, is our poll.

What kind of oatmeal cookie do you consider supreme?

A) Oatmeal-raisin

B) Oatmeal-chocolate chip

C) Either as long as there's a cookie involved


D) Pass on the oatmeal cookie entirely (in which case, what do you consider the best cookie?)

* I suspect these were more things they would personally like to receive, but then, we all know kids are the ultimate narcissists.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

A Christmas Tree, Dead Animal Skins, and Two Rustic Benches

Remember how I said I needed to find a way to block the Christmas tree off from the marauding, now-toddling (albeit extremely unsteady) baby? I did. And I'm so pleased with the result, you get to hear allll about it. Yay!

First thing was putting the tree up. Now, normal people have a tree stand. We don't. There is one at Blackrock, but that's the MiL's. There was one at our house in northern New York, but that was our landlady's.

I saw tree stands at the hardware store about six weeks ago and I said to A., "I should get one now. If I don't get one now, it will all of a sudden be time to put up the Christmas tree and I won't have it and will be 150 miles away from a tree stand."

I didn't buy it. And my prediction was correct.

However! Our small pinyon pine is only about three feet tall, so it's not some huge, heavy fir that requires a lot of infrastructure to stay upright. A. was sure he could find a way to anchor it securely enough. He did.

He found an old metal bucket left behind by Dale the Bachelor, put the tree in it, and filled around the tree with stones. With the addition of water, the bucket was sufficiently heavy to hold the tree upright.

Under this we wanted something to catch the inevitable drips of water when I re-fill the bucket, so we put a rubber pan of the sort used for livestock care. And under that, because I knew the tree needed to be elevated to get it up above its barricade (more on that in a second), A. put his small handmade bench.

He made this bench years ago at Blackrock out of slabs of hand-planed wood and no hardware, just drilled out holes for the whittled legs to fit in. It's very rustic, quite attractive, and actually extremely useful.

I liked the way all of this looked so much that I didn't bother with our tree skirt. I never liked it, anyway.*


The barricade I decided to use is the Taos bench. This is actually a sort of couch--in fact, it used to be the dog couch at Blackrock--given to us by the MiL when we moved. She'd had it for many years, acquiring it from friends when she lived in New Mexico in the 1960s. The story she told me is that it originally came from a juvenile detention facility, presumably in Taos. I have no idea how old this thing actually is, but it is also handmade and hand-carved with no hardware used in its construction, just wooden pegs. Much like A.'s bench, although slightly more refined.

All I had to do was angle it across the corner the tree was in and boom: No babies allowed.

When I started stringing the lights (my favorite task, as you may recall), Cubby and Poppy were the only ones in the house. I had found a box of A.'s furs when I was getting out the tree decorations, so I gave that to Cubby to entertain the baby with.

I haven't had a child yet who isn't enthralled with dead animal skins.

I did wait until she was down for a nap before starting with the ornaments, because letting the three boys help me was bad enough without adding a baby into the mix. There aren't enough furs in the world to distract her from that craziness.

Anyway. The tree was eventually all lit and decorated and I also added some further decoration to the Taos bench in the form of some sheep skins.

And a highly decorative three-year-old.

Those sheepskins, incidentally, are from these guys. Because I am vindictive, I may have said out loud as I was arranging the sheepskins on the Taos bench, "You guys ate my garden, but the joke's on you, rams."


The real test of the barricade, of course, came when Poppy woke up from her nap. As predicted, she crawled straight over to the bench and tried to find a way to the tree.

"Wait. I can't get to the temptingly shiny plant with all the toys hung on it?"


That's right, Poppy, I did. I'm pretty proud of it, too.

* Why is it so hard to find a tree skirt that isn't ugly, garish, or cheap-looking? I've not yet succeeded in this quest, anyway.