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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.