Sunday, May 9, 2021

Snapshots: DIY Shearing

Happy Mother's Day! Cubby made me an origami tulip.


Not for Mother's Day; just because he remembered I liked them.

The very nice but somewhat old shearer --he had to have been at least in his mid-70s, probably closer to 80--who came to shear our sheep last year has stopped returning phone calls. I have to think it's related to his age, and I can't blame him, but A. still had some seriously woolly sheep that really, really needed to be sheared.

So he bought electric shears and readied himself for the woolly battle.

He sheared a couple of sheep with non-electric hand shears when he got his first sheep many years ago, and he had a very frustrating experience with electric shears last year that completely failed because the machine failed. Maybe because these are a Merino breed, which has incredibly dense wool. Or maybe because the shears were garbage. In any case, he was apprehensive about trying again.

However, the sheep weren't getting any less woolly on their own, so he fired up his new shears on Friday and, with Cubby and Charlie's assistance, sheared some sheep.


First, the smaller helpers herded the sheep into the old hog pen in the pasture.


These sheep had no idea what was coming.


Here we go. Merinos, unlike most other breeds, have wool down over their faces, which makes for some tricky shearing around the eyes and ears.


Jasper parked himself right here, about two feet from the action, and was literally vibrating with excitement. Chill out, dog.


This first sheep took about an hour to shear, as A. figured out how to adjust his shears and shear more efficiently. The next one took about 45 minutes, and the last about 30 minutes.

He did two more on Saturday. He's bringing some sheep to auction, so he doesn't have to shear those.

In other news, Howard is back.


Hello, Howard.

We had a predator of some sort around last week that forced open the door of the rabbit casita. A. found Howard in there, torpid from eating baby rabbits. He had incriminatory white fur around his mouth. A. wasn't too upset about losing some rabbits--they do indeed breed as fast as you've heard rabbits will--so he just brought Howard over to show the children, and then let him go.

For last week's state testing treat, I made flour-less peanut butter cookies for Cubby's and Charlie's classes. I'm always pleased by how they spread out in such a symmetrically round shape.


Well, except for the egg-shaped one in the front there. There always has to be one rebel.

In addition to being flour-free, they only have five ingredients, are incredibly easy to make, and are delicious. Yay.


Poppy volunteered to be quality control. The cookies passed her rigorous examination.

And there you have it! My life, snapshotted.

Friday, May 7, 2021

Friday Food: Feliz Seis de Mayo

Friday 

Short version: Chicken, macaroni salad, roasted vegetables, raw vegetables with ranch dip

Long version: My parents arrived for a weekend visit this day, and because we were at the dentist in the afternoon and didn't get home until about 6 p.m., my mother asked if she could bring dinner with her. So she brought three rotisserie chickens, some deli macaroni salad, some pre-roasted vegetables, and a LOT of raw vegetables.

Saturday

Short version: Rabbit tacos with homemade corn tortillas, guacamole

Long version: (If you saw this before I realized this part somehow got deleted, sorry! I would hate to deprive anyone of any of my many, many words, so here it is.)

I was outside hanging laundry when I saw one of the white meat rabbits hopping down the road.

Uh . . . 

I let our livestock manager know, and he and Poppy spent a fruitless but very entertaining ten minutes trying to herd the rabbit back over to the casita.

Rabbits can't be herded. We know this now.

Instead of going where it was supposed to, it bolted into the cow pasture where A. couldn't get at it. Since he couldn't catch it, he shot it. (No cows were there; don't worry.) And then he put Poppy through the fence so she could go retrieve it.

When he went over to investigate the scene of the escape, he found another rabbit out, so he shot that one, too. He'd been meaning to butcher some, anyway. This little episode just precipitated matters.

So we had rabbit tacos for dinner. And this is why menu planning doesn't work with my life.

My parents brought me avocados, and A. bought some when we were in the city for the dentist, so we had plenty of avocados for guacamole. Yay.

Sunday

Short version: Steaks, pasta with pesto, radishes, green salad with vinaigrette, pots de creme

Long version: First Communion day!

 


Pretty much all the posed photos my dad took are weird like this . . .


But I did get one good candid photo of The Man of the Hour.

Calvin's request for his celebratory First Communion meal were pasta with pesto and pots de creme. I still have some of last summer's pesto in the freezer, so that was an easy one. 

He didn't request the steak and salad. Those were my additions.

Monday

Short version: Rabbit casserole, avocado, pinto beans, raw snap peas

Long version: I very virtuously prepped the casserole--leftover rabbit taco meat mixed with more salsa, sour cream, and garlic powder, then layered with corn tortillas and shredded cheese--at 6 a.m. so I could just put it in the oven when I got home from work.

And then none of the children liked it.

Well, Cubby did, I think, but the others were not enthused. I don't know why. It tasted pretty good to me. Oh well. Better luck next time.

Tuesday

Short version: Ham, boiled potatoes, roasted peppers/onions/carrots, cucumbers with salt and vinegar

Long version: Last time A. went to the store, I mentioned he might want to see if there was any non-beef meat that looked good. He came home with a giant spiral-sliced ham. And that's what I cooked.

Wednesday

Short version: Cinco de Mayo appetizer, fried ham/potatoes/cheese, green salad with vinaigrette, frozen peas

Long version: This was a workday, so I wasn't really in the mood to make a big Cinco de Mayo feast. I did have three avocados and half a bag of tortilla chips left from when my parents were here, though, so I made some guacamole and we had a festive appetizer before our very not-Mexican dinner.

It may not be Mexican, but few things are better than ham and potatoes fried in butter with grated cheddar cheese melted on top. That's what the kids had.

A. had some of the ham with cheese on it, plus the salad and peas.

I had a salad with peas and ham in it.

No one had a margarita. Bummer.

Thursday

Short version: Seis de Mayo food

Long version: I took ground beef out of the freezer, planning to make hamburgers and roasted potatoes. But then Cubby and Calvin were on a school field trip and I wasn't sure when they would be home, so I decided to make something that would re-heat easily whenever they did make it home. 

So, taco meat. Should've had this the day before.

Calvin had that with corn tortillas and cheese when they made it home around 8 p.m. Cubby had leftover potatoes and ham. And then we all went to bed, because that's WAY too late for dinner.

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


Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Tuesday Tips: Extremely Simple Ranch Dressing

Almost every week in my exhaustive reporting of our every dinner, I list ranch dressing. More than one person* has asked me about this. Do I buy it? What do I buy? Or do I make it? And if so, how?

So I figured I should just answer all these burning questions here and now: I make it. And this is how.

1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup sour cream (for a thicker dip), plain yogurt, or buttermilk (for a thinner dressing)
1.5 teaspoons dried dill weed
1-1.5 teaspoons garlic powder (depending on how fond of garlic you are--I use 1.5 because I am Very Fond)
a few grinds of black pepper

Put it all in a jar or bowl, mix with a fork or whisk until smooth, and that's it.

You can also use some onion powder in place of some of the garlic powder, but for some reason, I only ever have garlic powder.

There! The Internet is a better place because there is one more recipe for ranch dressing on it, I'm sure. 


And as a bonus, the Internet now has a very bad photo of said dressing on a very unexciting salad.

Have a nice Tuesday.

* Hi, Linda!

Sunday, May 2, 2021

Snapshots: Food, Laundry, Kids

I didn't take very many photos this week, thanks to being at work so much. 

Speaking of being at work . . .

A. did some laundry during the week while I was working, but I never did get it all put away, which is why I had this situation to address on Friday morning.

 


I actually don't mind doing laundry (usually) and I find it very satisfying to get it all put away, so the laundry pile-up was bugging me.

We had a week of very strong winds, which is definitely not the kids' favorite weather, but Cubby found the lemonade in those particular lemons by fashioning a sailing wagon that actually sailed down the road.


Created by Cubby using Calvin's wagon, and named the St. Poppy.

I was informed that he used a leg of mutton sail, which of course meant nothing to me. I have no idea how Cubby even knew what that was, but whatever sail it was, it worked. They sailed about a quarter mile in it, with Captain Cubby at the helm.

Everyone else got a turn, too, but they mostly fell over in the ditch or crashed into the fence. Rough seas, I guess.

Switching gears . . .

My parents arrived Friday just for the weekend so they could be here for Calvin's First Communion. We were at the dentist* Friday afternoon and didn't get home until almost 6 p.m., so my mom brought us dinner. This included a rather impressive variety of vegetables for crudites.


Amazingly, every bit of this got eaten.

And there you have it! My life, snapshotted.

* Thanks to pandemic disruptions and my own poor planning, it had been almost two years since the boys had been, and Poppy had never been. So all four had appointments, and none of them had any cavities. I was very relieved, as I had no desire to drive another 180 miles for fillings.

Friday, April 30, 2021

Friday Food: Full-time and Not Loving It

Another full work week. I don't know when the other teacher's aide is going to be able to work again, but I guess the school year is over in three weeks anyway, so the end is in sight in one way or another.

Friday 

Short version: Quickie stir-fry, rice, oatmeal chocolate chip cookies

Long version: I spent a lot of time this day doing a lot of things other than cooking--mostly laundry and garden things--and we ate early so A. could take Cubby and Calvin camping/turkey hunting. So I went with the path of least resistance. Two bags of stir-fry vegetables, a quart jar of canned bull meat, soy sauce, vinegar, ginger powder, garlic powder, peanut butter, done.

After the hunting party left, the remaining two children helped me make cookies. They each had two cookies for their dinner. There has to be some compensation to not going camping.

Pause for a random photo!


This is my brother in Tucson, who completely unconsciously assumed the pose of Rodin's "The Thinker." But with clothes. Good thing, given the wide variety of thorny things in the Sonoran Desert.

Saturday

Short version: Bunless cheeseburgers, baked beans, leftover rice, cucumbers with salt and vinegar, oatmeal chocolate chip cookies

Long version: I canned more pinto beans this day, and had some beans that I had quick-soaked and needed to cook. So I cooked them (allll the way with nothing but salt and water, because I can learn), then dumped them in a casserole dish with a few slices of crumbled bacon, ketchup, mustard, vinegar, and maple syrup. Three out of four children gave them the thumbs up. The fourth child doesn't really like baked beans, so I didn't worry about him.

Our priest has decided to have the last Mass of the month at our church on Saturday afternoon, which means once a month we don't have to wake up early to get to an 8 a.m. Mass. It also means I let the kids have the rest of the cookies on Saturday, since that was technically our church day ,and church days are for homemade desserts.

Sunday

Short version: Pot roast and beef ribs with green garlic puree, garlic bread, roasted peppers and onions, pureed calabaza, raw tomatoes, marshmallows with or without peanut butter

Long version: In the morning I put a chuck roast and two beef ribs in my enameled dutch oven with some diced onion from the freezer, tomatoes, and bay leaves, and cooked that until it was done.

At dinnertime, I pulled the meat off the bone and mixed it with some green garlic puree I made with, well, green garlic.

Green garlic is just like green onions, but, obviously, it's garlic, not onions. We have volunteer garlic eeeeeverywhere, and A. told me anything outside his main garlic plantation is fair game for early harvesting. So I dug up all of the garlic around my lettuce box and used that for this meal.


Green garlic before cleaning.

I put the cleaned garlic, greens and all, in the food processor with enough olive oil to make it smooth and processed it into a puree. The resulting puree was a startlingly bright green.


It looked kind of like if Slimer got liquefied.

It was very tasty with the meat, despite its unsettling appearance.

I mostly gave the kids a marshmallow each because I needed something to bribe Calvin and Jack so I could cut their nails without too much drama. A. introduced the children to the concept of marshmallows with peanut butter, which I had never heard of before. Jack and Poppy prefer the marshmallows with the peanut butter, the other two prefer their marshmallows plain.

Monday

Short version: Scrambled eggs, leftover rice, pinto beans, frozen peas

Long version: Some scrambled eggs with cheese and salsa (fiesta eggs!), some plain. A good, quick after-work dinner.

Tuesday

Short version: Ground beef tacos, pinto beans, leftover cucumber slices, pureed squash, chocolate chip cookie bars

Long version: The fastest taco meat I could make was browned ground beef, some of the Slimer green garlic puree, the last few tomatoes in the can in the refrigerator mashed up, salsa, chili powder, cumin, and vinegar.

The pinto beans were even faster. Pressure-canning pinto beans so they're ready to eat is one of the best new things I've started doing.

And why did we have a dessert on a random Tuesday night? Because I offered to bring in a treat for the elementary kids who are doing their state testing. They're all kind of nervous about it. Nothing like a homemade baked treat to calm the nerves.

Last week, Cubby's class had the science portion, and I made them blueberry muffins.

This week, it's both Cubby's and Calvin's classes for language and math on Wednesday and Thursday. Thus, chocolate chip cookie bars. Waaaay faster than actual cookies. It took all of ten minutes to get these in the oven.

Anyway. When I cut them up, I had 18 bars so the 9 students testing could have one after each session of their test Wednesday, and then exactly 4 left over. And how many children do I have? Right. And every single child was extremely surprised and thrilled when I called them in to the kitchen before bed and presented them with such an unexpected treat.

It's fun to be indulgent sometimes.

Wednesday

Short version: Steaks, pasta, green salad with ranch dressing, pureed calabaza

Long version: When I give the instructions for our cow at the butcher, I always ask for the steaks to be cut one inch thick. That's pretty thin, but the benefit of that is that they cook quickly. So steak is a fast food. Of the most delicious sort.

We have discovered that our children prefer their steak pretty rare. So I endeavor to keep the steaks about medium-rare to medium. I'm accustomed to cooking meat more well done, but I do my best.

The pasta for the kids had butter, cream cheese, and some of the Slimer garlic. I also put some of the Slimer garlic on the steaks for the adults. Handy stuff.

I did not measure when I made the ranch dressing because I was just trying to get dinner on the table as quickly as possible, but I promise I remember your request for a recipe, Linda. Maybe next time.

Thursday

Short version: Leftovers, scrambled eggs

Long version: Cubby and Jack had leftover stir-fry and rice.

Calvin and Poppy had scrambled eggs in corn tortillas with cheese. And still-frozen peas on the side.

A. and I had scrambled eggs with bacon and cream cheese, and pureed calabaza.

This all cleared out the refrigerator in a very satisfactory way.

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

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

An Architectural Affront

That's what I thought about that house that I posted on Sunday and asked your opinions on.

I'm not given to really strong statements like that. Generally speaking, I'm pretty chill about doing what works for you. But that house? That house actually upset me.

Here's why.

It is a house that is aggressively out of place in its natural environment. It's a dark concrete house in a desert. There is no desert culture on Earth that has ever lived in a dark dwelling. And why is that? Because the house will absorb the excessive sunlight and be unlivable.

Unless, of course, a person plans to spend all of his or her time at home in air conditioning. Which I must assume the dweller of this house will, seeing as there are no windows to open on the front of the house. Those dark squares are actually garage doors.


There are a (very) few windows, but they're all around back. And it doesn't look as if they are able to be opened, anyway.


Do you see something else that's missing here on the front of the house?

There is no obvious door on the street side of the house. Plus there's an industrial-looking gate to block vehicle access from the street. All of which means that this is a house where visitors are not only not welcomed, but actively repelled.

So the builder of this house chose to build a house that thumbs its nose (so to speak) not only at the natural environment around it, but at the community in which it is located. And by so doing, has rejected the collective inherited knowledge and cooperation that has allowed humans to survive in all sorts of environments for centuries.

Am I reading too much into a house? Probably. Most likely whoever designed and commissioned this house didn't think about these things at all. (Which is its own problem, honestly.)

So now you know why I had such a strong reaction to this house. At least I know what I would never build myself given unlimited funds and the opportunity.

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

T.T.: Consider the Crepe

Like many families, we have a tradition of various pancakes or waffles topped with butter and maple syrup on Sundays. It's the after-church second breakfast/treat for our children. 

Over the years, we've done sourdough waffles, buckwheat pancakes or waffles, regular (all-purpose flour) waffles or pancakes, and a type of johnnycake with cornmeal made in pancake form that my children call Fudge Bunnies (long story).

But right now, the winner is crepes a la Daddy, and I consider this to be a really good option.  Here's why.

Standard all-purpose flour pancakes or waffles are really not very good nutritionally. Making those and then covering them in syrup is more or less like eating dessert in the morning. Not that I am opposed to that for children occassionally, but on a more regular basis, I prefer to give my kids something a bit more nutrient-dense as their maple syrup vehicle.

Buckwheat flour is a pretty good option, as it has a higher protein content than wheat flour and doesn't result in quite as much of a sugar spike and crash. We used buckwheat flour regularly when we lived in New York--where buckwheat flour is still grown and available locally--but ordering it here is much more expensive.

Crepes are something A. used to make sometimes, because he prefers them to regular pancakes himself. A crepe, if you didn't know, is a very, very thin type of pancake. The traditional French recipes--I think, although of course I'm not French--include more eggs and milk than flour, and no sugar. This is the type of crepe A. makes. The ratio of protein-heavy ingredients to flour makes for a much more filling breakfast, without so much of a carbohydrate hit. 

As a bonus, the crepes don't soak in the syrup like regular pancakes do, so you use a lot less of the syrup.

Maple syrup is obviously not French and is not a traditional topping for crepes, which are supposed to be rolled up around something like jam or sweetened fruits. However, my kids are accustomed to maple syrup and the crepes are our substitute for the more traditional pancakes, so I just serve them like pancakes.

So are you ready to make some crepes? Good! Here's the recipe straight from the horse's mouth. The horse in this case being A.

That didn't sound right.

Anyway. Here's what he does.

Crepes a la Daddy

Ingredients

8 eggs

2.5 cups milk, plus more if needed

2 cups flour

1/8 teaspoon salt

butter for the cooking

Method

Whisk all the ingredients together in a large bowl until well combined. The batter should be very thin, about the consistency of heavy cream. If it's not that thin, add more milk until it is. 

If possible, let the batter rest for awhile in the refrigerator, even overnight, but you can cook them immediately. 

Put a small piece of butter in a very large skillet--A. uses our 14-inch cast-iron skillet--and heat over medium-high heat until the butter is starting to brown a bit. The skillet should be non-stick. Either an actual non-stick skillet, or a very well-seasoned cast-iron skillet. 

Using a 1/4 cup measuring cup, pour batter into the hot pan and tilt the pan around to spread the batter out very thinly. Cook until the bottom of the crepe has brown spots all over, then flip with a spatula. Be careful when you flip--these are delicate and can tear pretty easily. 

A. tells me that when he makes the crepes with store-bought eggs, they are much more tender and harder to roll up without tearing. The eggs from our chickens make a crepe that holds together better, I guess.

Cook until brown on the other side, then transfer to a plate and keep in a warm oven as you cook the rest of the crepes.

There are hundreds of filling options for crepes. When I ate them, I preferred sour cream and jam. My children, of course, prefer butter and maple syrup. 

Because these have no sugar, they could also be used with savory fillings, though I've never tried that.

Let's close this out with some crepe beauty shots that I captured while the master was at work.


Pour . . .


Tilt . . .


Perfect.

Sunday, April 25, 2021

Snapshots: Tomatoes!

We'll start right off with the big excitement: There are tomatoes in the ground. Outside.

Specifically, there are 25 tomato plants outside under milk cartons.


It's a bit shocking how quickly I can accumulate 25 milk cartons.

The milk cartons are essential, because we are definitely not past our last freeze date. Just ask the poor asparagus.
 

Bowed and defeated.

When I went out last week and saw the asparagus hanging like that, I have to admit I stood there staring at them for more than a minute, puzzling over what could have happened to them. After a couple of minutes, I had the very delayed lightbulb realization: "Oh yeah. It was 25 degrees last night. They froze."

Bummer. I'm sure the roots are okay. At least, I hope they are.
 
Switching topics . . . we're going to be in Tucson in June for my brother-in-law's memorial service. Since all six of us are going, we have to take the dogs with us. These are not dogs that will be okay in a kennel. They will not be okay if we are not here. So they have to come with us. 

I thought two adults, four children, and two feral dogs might be a bit much at my parents' house, where my brother and his family will be, as well as my sister and niece. It seemed wise for us to find our own lodgings. 

So to Airbnb I went, for the first time in my life. I found a very cool house to rent--a ranch house on 15 acres, no less--but completing the transaction required me to take a photo for the host to view. To make sure I'm a real person, I guess.

So then I had to have A. take my picture, which does not ever happen. So it's a photo of me definitely in my natural state. Although I did remove my dirty fleece and take my hair out of its very messy bun.

It doesn't matter what I look like, though, because I have the world's cutest accessory on my hip.

Who could resist renting a house to that face? (I refer to Poppy's face, of course, not mine.)

Speaking of Tucson, on one of our daily walks around my parents' neighborhood when I was there a couple of weeks ago, we saw this house being built. I had an immediate and visceral reaction to it, but I won't tell you what it was, because I'm interested to hear what your immediate reaction to it might be.


First thing you think when you see this: GO.

And there you have it! My life, snapshotted.

Saturday, April 24, 2021

A Special Saturday Snapshots

I have so many photos this week, I decided to post some of them today. These are all from an adventure we went on when A.'s dad and his wife were staying with us last weekend.

There is a ghost town about 40 minutes from our house that has a maintained church and only a couple of long-abandoned houses left. It's technically located on a private ranch, but we have permission to go there.

So we did.

The town was there long before the ranch. It's one of the old Spanish settlements. I'm not sure exactly how long a town as been there, but certainly at least 150 years. It's in a pretty spectacular setting.



Not too crowded.


There were lots of interesting rocks in this particular spot.


The church, as I mentioned, is maintained by a group organized by Jack's teacher. Her aunt and uncle were the last people to live here. They left in the 1970s.


I always marvel at the devoutness of a people who lived a subsistence lifestyle, but managed decorations like this in their tiny churches. There are many, many examples of this around here.


There are some old cars left around. I can't imagine how rough a ride it must have been on the dirt track into this place in the 1950s.

There is also a stream nearby--which of course is why there was a settlement here--and we played there for awhile.


Poppy went across the rocks many times with the help of A.


The boys, meanwhile, built a dam with their grandfather, to make a pool for the cows that wander around here.

The trees in the stream had big tangles of grass and branches wrapped around them, evidence of flooding at some point. In one of these tangles, Cubby spied an antler wrapped around a tree.

This, of course, must be rescued. Eventually, it was freed from the mud and grass.


It was a big one: five points.


And then Cubby hauled it back to the van. Luckily, it was fairly dry, and therefore not too heavy.

We had a picnic snack while Cubby and Calvin* climbed up to the cliff, with Jasper as their watchdog.

And then we all piled in Adventure Van and headed home.


Adventure Van in its natural habitat.

And there you have it! My life, snapshotted.

* The middle son has finally learned of his blog name, and objected to it. So he will be Calvin from now on. Appropriate, given his affinity with the highly intelligent yet mischievous boy in Calvin and Hobbes.

Friday, April 23, 2021

Friday Food: Workin' Hard for the Money

Actually I was working so much this week not really for the money, but for the other teacher's aide, who had knee surgery last week. So I worked Monday through Thursday. That's why there are a lot of leftovers and ground-beef-based meals coming up.

Friday 

Short version: Carnitas tacos, chocolate-dipped peanut butter balls

Long version: I re-discovered one of the big pork roasts given to me by the school cook at Thanksgiving that had gotten into the bottom of meat freezer. Those are much leaner than a pork butt or something, which is what I would typically make carnitas with, but I made it work by frying the shredded pork in a LOT of rendered tallow. Because the roast doesn't make enough fat for frying.

Not as good as pork butt carnitas, but there were homemade tortillas to compensate.

A.'s dad and his wife were staying with us this weekend, which is why we had a dessert on a day that was not Sunday. These peanut butter balls are a reliable hit.

I mean, unless your guests are allergic to peanut butter. That would not be good.

Incidentally, I use this recipe, but I definitely don't need the whole amount of chocolate chips. I made a recipe and a half this time, but used the original quantity of chocolate chips, and it was just enough with a little scraping of melted chocolate left over. Maybe because I melt the chips and dip the balls into a small canning jar rather than a shallower bowl? Dunno. But just a little tip for you there to save you some leftover melted chocolate if you make these.

Saturday

Short version: Spaghetti and meatballs, roasted peppers and onions, green salad with ranch dressing

Long version: Our guests brought me the peppers. Roasted peppers and onions and meatballs are some of my very favorite additions to a salad. Yum.

Sunday

Short version: Steaks, boiled potatoes, pureed calabaza, frozen peas, peach and blueberry non-crisp with maple whipped cream

Long version: Steaks definitely in the plural. I cooked ten steaks, and we ate all but one. They were pretty small steaks, but still. That's a lot of steak.

The potatoes were also brought by our guests. They were a waxier variety than the Russets we normally buy--something like Yukon Golds--and made very good boiled potatoes. They were pretty small, so I just halved them, boiled them until tender, drained, and added butter, salt, and pepper.

The calabaza was a couple of bags from the freezer that I pureed in the food processor while I had it out making breadcrumbs and so on. I find the calabaza a bit stringy--something like spaghetti squash, the texture of which I don't really care for--so I really prefer to puree the cooked squash. 

My planned crisp for dessert ended up definitely not crispy when the frozen peaches and blueberries released so many juices that they submerged the oat topping. Still tasted really good with the whipped cream, though.

I made most of this meal ahead, as we took a trip in the afternoon to a remote ghost town about thirty miles away. More photos coming Sunday, but here's a sneak peak.


The church has been maintained by a committee headed by Jack's teacher, who grew up here.

Monday

Short version: Pizza garlic bread, leftover pork, leftover squash, carrot sticks

Long version: Is it pizza? Is it garlic bread? Who knows. I had made garlic bread on Saturday, but I let it rise too long on the last rise, so it kind of deflated when I slashed it and the end result was a bit more dense than the usual garlic bread. So I decided to keep it for a kind of pizza later in the week. I also saved some of the pasta sauce for pizza sauce.

So! When I got home from work, I sliced the garlic bread horizontally, covered both pieces with sauce, then some asadero cheese from the freezer and baked it. Was it as good as real pizza? No. But it was certainly good enough, and the children were thrilled to be having pizza on a school day.

A. and I ate the leftover pork, fried in coconut oil, and the squash.

Tuesday

Short version: Sausage-y meatloaf, leftover boiled potatoes, curried cauliflower, sauteed green beans

Long version: I made the meatloaf mixture at the same time I was making the meatballs on Saturday. I used some of the ground beef, but it was mostly breakfast sausage that had been in the refrigerator. It was good, but not as good as the cauliflower.

Our guests brought me the cauliflower. I steamed the head whole, then took it out of the pot and sauteed some of the diced onion in coconut oil, then a bit of sweet curry powder. At that point, I put the now-cut-up cauliflower back in the pot, added salt and heavy cream, and mixed it all around until the cauliflower was coated in the sauce.

So good. I combined the saucy cauliflower, green beans, and meat all together and was very happy with my dinner.

Wednesday

Short version: Sorta-barbecue pulled pork, as sandwiches and not, green salad with ranch dressing

Long version: I didn't have any barbecue sauce, so I just put ketchup, mustard, vinegar, some tomato juice I drained off the tomatoes used for the meatball sauce, garlic powder, and maple syrup on the chopped leftover pork roast and simmered it all until the liquid was mostly gone and the pork was mostly soft.

The kids had that as sandwiches. A. had it with some cheese melted on it. They all had the salad.

I had salad with the last two leftover meatballs and half an avocado, brought, as I'm sure you guessed, by our guests. Everyone knows the going rate at the Going Country B&B: Fresh produce.

Thursday

Short version: Leftovers, cucumbers

Long version: Three children had scrambled eggs in tortillas with cheese, one had leftover sausage-y meatloaf and potatoes.

A. had the last of the pork, plus some scrambled eggs.

I had a salad.

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

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

T.T.: Save the Butter Wrappers!

Not that they're in danger of going extinct or anything, but they sure are useful.

Like many people, I used to buy non-stick spray. Handy stuff for baking, you know. My main use for it was greasing my bread pans when I baked bread. But I found the spray kind of annoying for two reasons.

One is that it's in a can that gets thrown out when the spray is gone. 

The other is that I could never remember to buy more when I ran out, because it was an infrequent purchase. So I found myself often not having it anyway, and then just greasing pans with butter. 

Which is how I decided it was really stupid to be buying a product for one purpose that produced trash when I already had something in the house that would work just as well. 

I'm not sure when the logical next step occurred, but eventually, I started saving all my butter wrappers for pan-greasing jobs. 

Because I leave my butter out on the counter right in the wrapper*, it usually has little bits of butter still on it when the stick is technically "gone." So I just fold the wrapper over (to contain the greasy butter part) and stick it in the butter compartment of my refrigerator door until the next time I need to grease a pan. 

When I need one, I take the wrapper out to warm up a bit--this takes about thirty seconds if I warm it in my hands--so it will spread properly, hold the buttered side down, and grease my pan without getting my hands all buttery.

Is it as fast and clean as using the spray? No. But it's less wasteful and the butter tastes better than the spray.

It also resulted in the amusing incident when my parents were visiting and looking for butter for their toast, only to encounter several empty wrappers in my refrigerator instead of sticks of butter. "Is this a joke?" asked my dad.

I explained. They understood.

I should note that this won't really work if you habitually keep your butter in the refrigerator, because cold butter comes cleanly off the wrapper and there won't be much left on there. You can still save a wrapper for greasing, though, and just use it with softened butter to keep your hand from getting greasy.

I don't have any photos of spent butter wrappers, because do you really want to see that? No. But perhaps you do want to see this photo of a GIANT old refrigerator sitting in an abandoned building in a very remote ghost town about half an hour from us. This place definitely never had electricity, so I must assume this refrigerator was propane-powered.


I can see why no one bothered carting this behemoth away.

Have a nice day.

* You may have figured out by now that I operate my kitchen at a strictly practical level. No fancy and aesthetically pleasing butter keepers grace my counters, I'm afraid.


Sunday, April 18, 2021

Snapshots: The Toy Explosion

These are actually old photos that I took to illustrate my children's astonishing ability to spread their toys all over the house. Literally all over. The day I took these photos was a snow day some time ago when they were home playing all day. I think the only room that didn't have toys on the floor was maaaaybe their bathroom. And I can't swear to that, because there often are bath toys that have fallen on the floor in there.

Anyway. This is why I make them pick up every single night. Because otherwise, I wouldn't be able to walk without stepping on TinkerToys.

Behold, the toy creep.


Starting in the actual Toy Room, we have a . . . fort? Jail? Dunno. Something involving those Star Wars ships, though.


Moving out into the living room, where the TinkerToys have taken over.


Coming into the kitchen, where this malevolently smiley truck waits to be tripped over.


A rather extensive installation right in front of the woodstove.


And into the hallway, where some animals stand guard. Maybe they're readying themselves for an attack from that creepy truck?

There were more in Cubby's room, in my room, and who knows where else, but I think this illustrates the state of the house.

And there you have it! My life, snapshotted.

Saturday, April 17, 2021

Help Me Make Amends, Please

I forgot about the MiL's birthday on Thursday. Well, that's not true. I actually remembered in all the days leading up to it, and throughout the day on Thursday, but then I was actually working that day and meant to call when we were done with dinner, and then things got nuts, as they often do after dinner, and . . .

Well, these are all just excuses. The fact is, I forgot to call her or otherwise acknowledge her birthday.

So here, publicly, I will apologize to her, wish her very belated but nonetheless sincere birthday happiness, and also ask you to join me in the comments. Maybe if a bunch of people online that she has never met also wish her happy birthday two days late, it will make up for the fact that her actual family didn't.

Sorry, MiL. But happy birthday two days late!  

Friday, April 16, 2021

Friday Food: Man Food and Mom Food

This was a weird week, because I was in Arizona for part of it. So of course, the home crew ate different foods. I'm not entirely sure what they ate what night, but I do know that I had left a bunch of cooked rice, mashed potatoes, and peas in the refrigerator, along with a few packages of raw ground beef and steak. With these, A. made dinner. He generally combines meat, starch, and vegetable all together in one skillet, and everything is labeled as "man food." So that's what they ate, in various combinations, until Monday.

Here's what I ate, though, courtesy of my mother.

Friday 

Short version: Chicken parmesan, roasted asparagus

Long version: This was pounded chicken breasts browned then baked in marinara with provolone on top. Very tasty.

My family went for a walk every morning in Arizona. And every morning, we all wore the dorkiest hats imaginable.


My sister, who took this photo, sent it to me with the label "Goobers." I can't disagree.

Saturday

Short version: Grilled steak, roasted vegetables, green salad, chocolate roulade and pudding

Long version: It's really nice leaving home but getting to eat as if I were still at home. This is exactly the kind of meal I would make at home. I did, in fact, make the desserts. This was my sole contribution to all of the food served for three days.


As you can see, I didn't bother serving the roulade* beautifully. No one refused to eat it because I didn't sprinkle it artfully with sprigs of mint and fresh raspberries. (That's my dad in the background, by the way.)

I made the pudding (the same one I always make after making the roulade) because I didn't want to leave my mother with seven egg yolks sitting in her refrigerator. I figured it would get eaten eventually by someone. I mean, does pudding ever get wasted? Certainly not. About half of it was eaten this very night as a second dessert, so I don't think any of it will be thrown out.

Sunday

Short version: Southwest Airlines snack mix, spiced almonds, Kit Kat

Long version: My plane landed in Albuquerque at 4 p.m. and I got right in the car to start driving home. It's a long drive and I wanted to get home before dark. So I didn't stop anywhere except a gas station, which is where I got the Kit Kat. I brought the almonds with me. And I went to bed shortly after getting home, so that was the entirety of my dinner.

I considered stopping at the grocery store in a city I passed on my way home, but I really wanted to get home before dark. So I didn't stop. Given the state of my refrigerator, that was a poor choice.


At least I have frequent opportunities to easily wipe it down.


And here's the door, just for fun.

Monday

Short version: Rinsed chicken barbecue sandwiches, leftover lamb, green salad with ranch dressing

Long version: I had to work this day, and knew I would be in no mood to cook anything requiring much effort. So I took out a bag of frozen pulled chicken in barbecue sauce Miss Amelia gave us awhile ago. The chicken tasted okay, but there was way too much sauce on it. So I dumped out three quarters of the chicken into a sieve and washed off most of the sauce before putting the rinsed chicken in a saucepan with the remainder of the sauced chicken to heat up. The kids enjoyed it on bread. 

I had some of the chicken in my salad with some leftover peas.

A. had the very last of the Easter lamb. Yes, it was a week old. It was still fine. I had eaten some in my lunch at work, so I knew it was okay.

Tuesday

Short version: Chicken legs, mashed potatoes, sauteed green beans with onions, tiny carrots, brownie cookies

Long version: Big, cheap chicken legs with my Special Spice Blend--salt, pepper, garlic powder, paprika--browned, then baked in the oven until done.

The tiny carrots were the ones I dug up a couple of months ago and forgot about in the refrigerator. The ones I missed digging up are the ones that re-sprouted and are growing again. I don't know if they'll make an edible carrot that way, but I guess we'll find out.

While I was gone, Cubby took it upon himself to ensure that there was dessert every night. One of the things he made was brownies, except he followed the recipe I hurriedly wrote out from this one, which, since I already know how to make it, is pretty terse. And doesn't specify the pan size. 

It's supposed to be made in an 8x8 pan. He used a 13x9 Pyrex, which resulted in extremely thin and crispy brownies. They're good, actually, like the cookie part of an Oreo, and there has certainly been no lack of willing volunteers to consume them.


This girl included, here modeling the rad shades I got her in Arizona.

Wednesday

Short version: Shepherd's pie

Long version: I took out the frozen shepherd's pie filling from the giant batch I made last week and topped it with the rest of the mashed potatoes on Tuesday. So when I got home from work, all I had to do was bake it.

As Jack noted, it was a smaller shepherd's pie than the 13x9 Pyrex that I usually make, but it was just enough for everyone.

Thursday

Short version: Breakfast sausage patties, bread and butter, frozen green peas

Long version: A good way to close out a long week.

Incidentally, I hope everyone noted that we ate pretty well even when it looked in the refrigerator photos like we had "no food." Behold, the power of chest freezers, stocked pantries, and planning ahead. If I have no other purpose on this Earth, I feel like my life serves as a good example that "running to the store" is definitely not necessary.

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

* I discovered the recipe is online, not just in my cookbook. You can find it right here if you want to try making it.


Tuesday, April 13, 2021

T. T. : Cultivate Your Crazy

I have returned from my not-too-distant travels to the neighboring state.


And here I am at my parents' house, wearing my grandfather's fire helmet. Because why not.

The first thing I did upon my return to our rural outpost was enjoy my family's obvious happiness at my being home. The next thing I did was go to bed. The next thing I did was go to work. But then the next thing I did was go outside to visit my baby plants.

I realize this might not be high on the list of priorities for most people after an absence, but I have a history of doing it.

It's so fun to see how much they've grown since I left, and there are always some surprises.

Surprises like . . .



A very cheery row of daffodils.


Sprouting broccoli is finally sprouting. (This is a fall-planted variety that is supposed to overwinter and then grow little florets in the spring.)


Asparagus!


Potatoes!


And some carrots I apparently missed digging up that are starting to re-grow.

Okay, so I mostly just wanted to share photos of my precious plants without waiting until Sunday, but also, there is a tip in here somewhere. And that tip is this: Find what makes you happy and do it*, even if it seems weird to other people. 

For me, that's visiting my plants and gazing at them like an adoring parent for minutes at a time. What is it for you?

* Within reason, that is. If it's destructive to you, or harmful to other people, obviously don't do it.