Saturday, June 22, 2019

Old-school Screen Time

T minus 33 hours until we leave for our roadtrip. (Give or take thirty minutes.) I have, of course, been prepping food for over a week now, because I once again intend to cross the country without needing to stop at a restaurant.

I started gathering children's clothing today, as well, and I got the van all cleaned out in anticipation of stuffing it full of crap once again.

Ah, but what crap will I stuff in it to entertain the children during the 28 hours we will be driving?

That, I'm afraid, was not so carefully considered this time around.

I did buy some new books for Cubby, because he is lucky enough to be able to read in a moving car without getting sick. Charlie is not so lucky.

I found some activity books and sticker books we already had on hand that may work for a short amount of time to keep Jack and Charlie distracted.

I found some board books for Poppy, and I'll throw in some random toys.

But my ace in the hole, my extra-special secret weapon is a twenty-year-old Game Boy.

The boys don't know I have this. I actually don't know why I do still have it. It was given to me by my parents when I went away to college twenty years ago--I think--and in the intervening years it has apparently moved with me to the many places I've lived since. I do not know why, because I definitely have a tendency to chuck anything that I consider extraneous. An electronic game that I haven't played in 15 years definitely qualifies, and yet, there it is in my closet.

When I realized I was facing a roundtrip distance of approximately 2,500 miles with four bored children, I pulled out the ancient Game Boy, put in new batteries, and flipped the power switch.

To my astonishment, it turned on.

The only game I have for it is Tetris, and it's a small, old, black-and-white video game system that would look hopelessly primitive to children accustomed to modern gaming systems.

Luckily, those are not my children. The only video games they have ever played have been on the computer at school. They're not picky. I confidently expect incredulity at their great good fortune when I get desperate and pull out the screen on our drive.

I don't expect it will keep any of them but Cubby entertained for very long, but even an hour would be helpful. We'll see, I guess.

And if that fails, there's always the rhyming game.

Any other suggestions for non-electronic car games? I could use all the help I can get.

Friday, June 21, 2019

Friday Food: Nothin' But Beef


Short version: Bunless hamburgers, bread and butter, coleslaw

Long version: A. cooked the hamburgers on the grill, which is always the best way to cook meat.

I made the coleslaw from one of our own cabbages. We had eight seedlings that I planted out on St. Patrick's Day, and all eight of them need to be harvested before we leave for a month. The first one I made into coleslaw. I'll be giving several away, and the rest will just have to wait in the refrigerator until we get back and I can make sauerkraut or something.


Short version: Cube steak in barbecue sauce, leftover rice, leftover coleslaw

Long version: I had thought I might make stir-fry with the cube steak, but then I, um, didn't. Instead I cut the cube steak into chunks and dumped some leftover mustard vinaigrette on it to marinate. Then I browned it, added some diced onion, some barbecue sauce and the last of a bottle of ketchup shaken with water. Simple, but tasty. Especially with the leftover coleslaw.


Short version: A Father's Day Feast of T-bone steak, oven fries, roasted garlic, asparagus

Long version: A. told me that for Father's Day, he wanted to work on the roof of the new house. So that's what he did.

This roof is much less dangerous than the terrifying roof at Blackrock, so Cubby could help. 

I find it amusing that the special part of this meal wasn't the steak--which we have at least once a week--but the rest of it. A. loves french fries, which this time were just oven fries with beef tallow and olive oil.

I roasted three heads of A.'s garlic that had gotten damaged with the shovel while he was digging them up. Two of them were eaten at that one meal. A. loves roasted garlic even more than french fries.

I do not generally buy asparagus at a store, because I am only too aware of how inferior it is to "real" asparagus from a garden. But the tiny store near us had some that didn't look too terrible, and it is one of A.'s favorite vegetables, so I bought it. I just steamed it and put butter and salt on it.


Short version: Bunless hamburgers, rice, frozen green beans

Long version: I was supposed to make spaghetti and meatballs with Cubby this day. He's been asking to make it for about two weeks, and I finally told him we would definitely do it on Monday. He went so far as to write it on the calendar for me so I wouldn't forget.

And then I got sick Sunday night and was definitely operating at less than 100% all day Monday.

I took out the ground beef, but I couldn't bring myself to go through the many steps involved in making meatballs. Particularly with an assistant. So I had to disappoint the budding chef and make hamburgers instead.


Short version: Spaghetti and meatballs, roasted sweet potato/bell pepper/onion/broccoli

Long version: There was a reason I had told Cubby we would make spaghetti and meatballs on Monday: Because it was relatively cool that day. It was not cool on Tuesday. But a promise is a promise, and spaghetti and meatballs there must be. The kitchen was over 80 degrees by the time I finished all the broiling, baking, and boiling necessary to make spaghetti and meatballs.

They were really good, though, as always. And a bonus to having Cubby help me make them* was after we had been through all the steps, he said, "Meatballs are complicated." Yeah, they kind of are, even with my simplified method. And that, son, is why I don't make them more often. Maybe now he'll stop bugging me to make them so much.

One day he will learn that most people use jarred sauce for pasta and possibly even frozen meatballs, but I can hope that his taste buds will be so accustomed to homemade food that it will be worth it to him to make the effort. Given the fact that he told me nobody's meatballs are as good as mine (as well he should--mothers expect nothing less) and that the prepared meatballs they used to serve at his old school cafeteria in New York looked gross, I think he's well on his way.


Short version: Vaguely goulash-type soup, leftover spaghetti and meatballs, frozen vegetables

Long version: When I went freezer diving in the morning, I surfaced with a package of mystery beef. It was one of the things given to us by Ray, and it was the only thing not labeled. It looked pretty freezer burned, so I figured I'd better use it up.

It looked like some kind of bony roast, so I chunked it (still solidly frozen) into my enameled Dutch oven with some tomato juice, garlic powder, bay leaf, salt, and pepper and cooked it until the meat could be pulled off.

I still don't know where on the cow it came from--somewhere near the shoulder, maybe?--but it was a high ratio of bone to meat, so I only got about a cup of meat off it. I had some sour cream and a few potatoes I wanted to finish up before our trip, so I decided to make something like goulash with it.

To do that, I sauteed chopped onions in a skillet until soft, then added paprika to that, dumped all that in with the meat, added chopped carrots and potatoes, and simmered that until the vegetables were soft. I also put in some peas so I wouldn't have to serve a separate vegetable and finished it off with the sour cream. It was surprisingly good.

The children ate leftover spaghetti and meatballs and the frozen vegetables. Peas and green beans. Still frozen. They like them that way, and anyway, it was hot.

Perfect for basking, says Poppy Lizard.


Short version: Beef stir-fry, rice

Long version: Apparently, stir-fry is now Jack's favorite food. He asked me wistfully a few days ago if I could make it again, because he loves it so much. What he really loves is the peanut butter in the sauce. That child would eat peanut butter three times a day if he could.

Actually, it occurs to me that yesterday he did eat peanut butter in some form for all three meals. Proof that sometimes dreams do come true.


I had a bunch of already-cooked vegetables to use up, and I figured the stir-fry would be a good way to do that, so I made it. Everyone was happy. Except Charlie. He doesn't really like stir-fry. Oh well. Five out of six is good enough.

We're leaving for Blackrock Monday and anticipate getting there Thursday, so it's possible I might manage my regularly scheduled Friday Food next week. But it's also possible I won't, and either way, I think the internet will go on.

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

* We did not use the recipe in his cookbook, because it was for turkey pesto meatballs. I have neither ground turkey nor pesto and will never purchase those items. I bought ground turkey once, and it was so disgusting I vowed never to do so again. As for pesto, that we only have when there is basil in the garden. Store pesto is not worth eating, in my opinion.

Monday, June 17, 2019

Dry Run

As I mentioned a few days ago, we are leaving for Blackrock soon. A week from today, as a matter of fact. We will be driving again, as the cost of six plane tickets is a bit staggering. With memories of our cross-country trip last summer still unfortunately clear in my mind, I suggested to A. that this time we should plan on camping instead of staying in motels.

This seems insane, I know. A. probably thought I had gone insane when I mentioned it, because my dislike of camping is deep-seated and well-known.


We found it to be less than relaxing to stay in motel rooms with our feral children after they had been sitting in a car all day. We would get into our room and spend twenty minutes shouting at boys to stop screeching and jumping on beds before giving up on the idea of relaxing and bringing them outside to run around wherever we were.

I came to the conclusion that I would rather just be at a campsite where they could run around us and scream outdoors.

This is all good in theory*, but we have one big question mark in this equation: Poppy.

She has never been camping. The plan is for her to sleep in the smaller tent with me--leaving poor A. with the crazy boys in the big tent--but I have no idea how well this will work. Not only is she only accustomed to sleeping in her crib, she is not at all used to sleeping with other people. Even me.

Cubby set up their small tent in the enclosed porch the other day, so I've been encouraging Poppy to go into it and explore. She hasn't been too enthused, and certainly doesn't appear inclined to lie down and rest in it, but all I can do is cross my fingers and hope for the best.

Wish us luck.

 * I am not so delusional as to believe that camping with them will be relaxing either, but at least we won't be paying seventy dollars for the privilege of listening to them scream and run around in an enclosed space.

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Garlic for Father's Day

El Rey de Ajo* dug up his garlic yesterday.

Not even the voracious gophers could eat all of this.

We'll be having roasted garlic with the traditional Father's Day steaks tonight. And every night for forever, possibly.

* This is Spanish for "The Garlic King." I'm gonna get this airbrushed on a custom license plate for A.'s vehicle one day.