Sunday, December 31, 2023

Snapshots: A Christmas Church

I forgot to include this first photo in the last post about food. So let's just drop it right here, shall we?

All the things I froze or canned that were used in our Christmas Eve chili. 

I learned something from my eldest son this week. He had put a can of seltzer in the freezer to chill quickly and left it in there a little too long. It was too slushy to drink normally, but apparently, you can use a can opener to cut the top off of cans like this and it makes a very clean cut on the can.

The lid, on the other hand, is crazy sharp, so use caution if you try this.

I am still befuddled as to why only one part of that is sharp, but it is.

And last, my favorite thing from last week.

Our neighbor about half a mile away lives right next door to the old stone church in our mostly abandoned village. Every Christmas season, he sets up three spotlights on the side of the church. Due to the darkness that surrounds the church, this has the effect of making the church glow for literally miles.

I can see it out my kitchen window, and I love it. I had never gotten a photo of it, though, so I took the kids with me on a night walk to the church so I could take a picture of it.


A closer look.

I didn't realize until after we had started walking that there was a full moon that night, so we didn't even need the flashlights we had brought.

That's the moon obscured by clouds in the sky, and on the ground are the spotlights. Kinda looks like the ground is on fire, though.

There you have it! My life, snapshotted.

Friday, December 29, 2023

Friday Food: Christmas and Birthday

First, thank you so much for all the good wishes and congratulations on my birthday. It's fun to hear from all of you.

And now, food.


Short version: Leftover elk goulash, rice

Long version: Last time I made goulash, I froze a container of it for some later day. This was the day. I didn't have the kitchen motivation to peel and mash potatoes, so I made some rice instead.

We did not have a vegetable. Except the sauerkraut in the goulash, so I guess that counts, right? Right.


Short version: Hot tuna dip, crackers, crudites 

Long version: We had Mass at 4 p.m. for our Sunday obligation. That meant we would be getting home after 5 p.m. and everyone would be ready to eat right away. Which meant I needed to have something very fast for dinner.

As soon as we got home, I cut up some carrots and radishes and put those out with the leftover ranch dip from a school party. This kept everyone busy while I made dinner. And also got some vegetables into them.

I had a ton of crackers left from the crackers and cheese I had brought for the elementary Christmas party, so I thought maybe I'd make tuna salad and serve it with the crackers.

But then I got fancy and made a hot tuna dip, instead. I'd never made anything like that before, so I looked up a recipe and kind of followed this one.

Really, though, you could just dump the entire dairy section in with a can of tuna, and that's pretty much the dip. A whole block of cream cheese, butter, sour cream, mayonnaise (I used the rest of the ranch dip, which has both in it), grated cheddar . . .

I'm not sure it would be possible to get more fat into one dish.

It tasted good, although a bit overwhelmingly creamy. I didn't add the finely chopped vegetables, since I had put some out already, but I think that would have helped.


Short version: Frito pie, molasses cookies and eggnog

Long version: We had our Christmas service this night at 7 p.m., so I really had all day to make a fancy dinner, but I, um, didn't.

Instead I made chili the day before, bought a bag of Fritos, and served Frito pie for dinner. 

This was mine. It does look sort of Christmas-y with the green lettuce and red tomatoes, so I'm gonna call it seasonally appropriate.

Okay, so it's not a traditional Christmas Eve meal, but I do not regret it at all. Both because Frito pie is delicious, but also because I had a very relaxing day reading and taking a walk and cleaning my house and NOT spending hours in the kitchen.

There have been a lot of hours in the kitchen lately. I appreciated the break.

I did make eggnog this day, using this recipe. (I always have to thin it out with milk after it's chilled.) We had it when we got home from church, with some of Grandma Bishop's molasses cookies. An excellent combination.


Short version: Christmas ham, scalloped potatoes, green salad with maple vinaigrette, mushrooms, chocolate roulade

Long version: Let's see . . . the ham had pineapple juice, mustard, and maple syrup on it. 

I didn't use a recipe for the scalloped potatoes. All I did was use the mandolin part of my cheese grater to slice the potatoes very thin--by far the worst part--and layer them with lots of salt and pepper and a little garlic powder over each layer, then pour in cream and milk on each layer, building it up until I got the top of the Pyrex dish.

And then I baked it with a pan underneath, because this will most certainly make a disgusting mess in the oven if not contained.

I added a bit of maple syrup to the vinaigrette, too, which was tasty.

Mushrooms are not traditional with this meal, except apparently in our house. Many years ago, a toddler son quite politely declined some mushrooms offered by the MiL by explaining that he only ate mushrooms on Christmas. I suspect he said that because Christmas was so far off in his toddler mind as to be an infinity away, and therefore he would never have to eat mushrooms.

Joke's on him, because now we have mushrooms every Christmas, and everyone has to have at least one piece. This is only a trial for two of my children, as the other two actually like mushrooms.

This year, I went out to see if there was any parsley still hanging on in the garden and found, despite many nights well below freezing, that there was. I harvested some of that amazingly hardy herb for the mushrooms.

So I have now used something from the garden in every holiday meal this year. This is very pleasing to me.

The Christmas buffet.

I did not take a photo of the chocolate roulade, because it cracked and tore in places when I rolled it, oozed cream all over, and was generally not at all photogenic this year. It was still delicious, though.


Short version: Toasted burritos, carrot sticks

Long version: I used the leftover chili and cheese to make burritos, then fried them in butter. I guess this is not a real chimichanga, because it's not deep fried. So we'll call them toasted.


Short version: Birthday sausage, roasted potatoes, salad with vinaigrette, brownies with ice cream

Long version: This is what I chose for my birthday dinner. I made it, too. That way I'm assured of getting exactly what I want.

What I wanted.

There were three kinds of sausage: a green chile and cheese sausage one child had requested at the grocery store, boudin, and plain smoked sausage. I ate the plain one, because I do not like spicy things.

My eldest son made the brownies. I had bought the fancy Dreyer's chocolate and peanut butter ice cream, thinking A. and one boy would be gone hunting, so a smaller container of ice cream would be enough. But then they were here, so A. got the gallon tub o' chocolate, and everyone got to have both. Also leftover salted caramel sauce, if they wanted it.


Short version: Elk steak, garlic bread, green salad with vinaigrette, leftover brownies

Long version: I've been baking bread non-stop this month--between co-workers and neighbors, I've gifted 24 loaves of bread--but we haven't had a lot to keep for ourselves. So I haven't been making garlic bread lately. Gifting season is over, though, so now all the bread I make is for us. And I made garlic bread.

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

Wednesday, December 27, 2023


Happy birthday to me! 

Today I turn 44 years old. I'm celebrating by running a 5K with my kids.

To appreciate how odd this is for me to do, you'd have to know me in real life. Although I did all the sports and running and things when I was younger, I do not do them now.

Or rather, I didn't do them until recently. 

This year I lost almost 30 pounds* and started running again using this Couch to 5K program, and now . . . well, now I'm going to run a 5K.

Scene from one of my early-morning runs.

I did the last "training" run on my schedule on Christmas Eve. I figured that since all of that schedule was to train for a 5K, I might as well run one. And it seemed fitting to do that on my birthday.

My children wanted to know WHY I wanted to do such a thing on my birthday, the one day in the year that I can do whatever I want (ha). And what I told them is that I'm doing it to show that I still can. Or rather, can again.

I am not, of course, going to be running in an official 5K. The nearest one of those would be over a hundred miles away. Instead I drove my usual running route in our village using the trip odometer on one of our vehicles to figure out how many times I would have to run it to get to 3.1 miles. 

I have to run it five times. So that is what I'm going to do today, with three of my children accompanying me.

It's certainly not going to be the fastest 5K ever completed**, but I will complete it, and that's good enough for me.

* Because I myself am nosy and always want to know how people do this . . . I used the MyFitnessPal food tracker and kept my calories to 1200 a day for four months. Not very interesting or fun, but it works.

** Update: It took me 43 minutes. Very far from a fast time, but I didn't walk once! I just ran slow enough that I was just faster than a walking pace. Ha.

Tuesday, December 26, 2023

A Tuesday Christmas Recap

It's a Not-Sunday-Snapshots! Featuring photos taken with my new cell phone. My Christmas request from A. this year was a new cell phone to replace my several-years-old one with a cracked screen that wouldn't hold a charge anymore. I also asked him to do all the set-up for it.

He did, so now I have a much better camera to take my very not-professional photos.

Like these!

How it started . . .

And the aftermath.

Actually, that messy living room is not as bad as it could have been, since I was diligent about gathering trash in one bag and reusable bags in another as presents were opened. I really dislike the carpet of wrapping materials all over the floor. It makes it hard to walk around, and inevitably someone loses a gift under the mess.


Speaking of gifts! This is the knife one boy made for his brother.

I believe he modeled it on a style of knife used by the Bedouin. Welcome to Christmas with multiple boys.

Our family is definitely a bunch of readers, and we have added a new reader to the club.

She got a reading light for her bed so she can read for a few minutes at bedtime, just like her brothers, and she is thrilled about this. Bookworms 'r' Us.

It was always traditional in A.'s family to have whole nuts in Christmas stockings, which I do with our children, as well. After the stockings are investigated, I gather all the nuts into a communal bowl for eating.

This year, I used a new bowl my dad made to corral the nuts, and I made it the centerpiece of our Christmas dinner table.

With the same arrangement of weeds that was on the table at Thanksgiving, made Christmas-y by some random gold leaves that were, I think, in a bunch of flowers my sister brought me last year, and the cardinal wreath ornament chosen by one of my sons years ago at a farmstand store that sold Christmas things seasonally.

There was, of course, the much-anticipated Christmas feast. I'll save the photo from that for the Friday Food recap, but I will just mention here, as particularly appropriate for the day that used to be all about growing food on this site, that I used parsley from the garden in the meal. Parsley from outside. That's a seriously hardy herb.

We finished up the day watching A Christmas Story, and that was a wrap (ha) on Christmas Day 2023.

Sunday, December 24, 2023



And now to bed, to dream of the joyous day to come.

Snapshots: 'Twas the Week Before Christmas

Birthday cupcakes for a class treat.

All the treats I was given by my co-workers at school. I was most excited by the tamales.

The cheese tray I brought to the elementary Christmas party. Labeled, because I know kids.

Morning walk as the sun rises.

Same walk, pretty light.

That's Bill, galloping around in the early-morning light.

And last, a Ford Festiva spotted in the wild. A.'s dad drove one of these for many years, and I knew A. would appreciate seeing there are still some kicking around.

There you have it! My pre-Christmas life, snapshotted.

Friday, December 22, 2023

Friday Food: Birthdays and Burritos


Short version: Leg of lamb with yogurt sauce, roasted potatoes, green salad with ranch dressing, crustless pumpkin pie with whipped cream

Long version: This was A.'s birthday, and he requested lamb for his birthday dinner. I used a boned leg roast from the ram we slaughtered a bit ago, marinated it in olive oil, vinegar, garlic, and salt, and then just roasted it in the oven. The yogurt sauce is just drained yogurt, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and garlic. It's delicious with lamb, and also on the roasted potatoes.

The roasted potatoes are cut up potatoes covered in fat--this time the lard from the pork roast I had made recently--and salt, and then, well, roasted at high heat. Way better than they have any right to be.

After making our pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving, I had enough pumpkin cooked down with sugar and spices for another pie. I had frozen that, so making this crustless pumpkin pie was as simple as thawing the pumpkin, adding all the dairy to it, and baking it on Thursday to have it ready for the Friday birthday dinner.

The baking is where it all went sideways. 

It wasn't even close to done after 25 minutes, so I left it in there. And then we were doing Zoom school because of the snowstorm, and the one boy's basketball game got moved up two hours so I was getting him out of the house to meet the bus . . . and I forgot about the pumpkin in the oven.

It ended up baking for I think just over an hour. It seemed very . . . firm when I took it out of the oven. Overbaking custard--all the eggs and cream and all makes this basically a custard--is disastrous because it separates and gets all weepy and wet. Not appealing. I crossed my fingers that the squash in this would make it sturdier and better able to handle (way) overbaking, and stuck in the refrigerator until Friday.

And lo, it was fine. Tasty, even. 

Nice to know that pumpkin pie filling isn't ruined if you forget about it for a few minutes in the oven. Or an hour. Ahem.


Short version: Thrifty lamb stew at home, spanish tortilla and cocoa on the road

Long version: This stew is the sort of thing that makes me feel very clever.

I had quite a bit of the leg of lamb left, but leftover lamb is definitely not as appealing on its own. A. was feeling poorly, so I decided a stew was in the order, using the leftover lamb.

I also used the liquid from cooking the pork roast, some of the last tomatoes from the box in the kitchen, cooked in the microwave and pureed, the last of the garden parsley that's been in a jar in the refrigerator for, um, two months, AND the last of the yogurt sauce with some cornstarch in it to thicken the liquid. Many things were used up. This makes me happy. And it was very tasty.

Thrify stew.

I was driving a couple hundred miles to a basketball game, so I left the stew for the ones at home. I brought with me some of the spanish tortilla I had also made earlier in the day. I mostly made this because I had some bacon that really needed to be cooked. It also used up the two egg whites left after making the pumpkin pie filling, and the very last of the garden tomatoes.

So long, tomatoes.

The basketball player and I ate this in the car on the way home. A reasonably portable food, and way better than anything at the concession stand.


Short version: Pork ribs, elk steak, fresh bread and butter, broccoli, crispy rice treats

Long version: I had one rack of baby back ribs in the freezer that I cooked this day, although it wasn't quite enough for everyone given how many ribs my boys will eat. So I had some leftover elk steak, and I supplemented A.'s two ribs with some steak, too.

And then everyone ate two pieces of the bread I had just baked, which rounded out the meat.

I left some of the broccoli raw for the children and gave them ranch dressing for it.

And the crispy rice treats were a bit I took from the big batch I made for our new nine-year-old's birthday treat. Well, one of his treats. Since his birthday was on Monday, he had both school and his First Communion class. He asked me to make chocolate cupcakes (Grandma Bishop's, of course) with peanut butter frosting for his school classmates, but he also wanted to bring something for his First Communion class. 

There are only five students in this class, but then there are parents and a bunch of younger siblings that stay for it, so I needed enough for about 15 people. And I was not going to be baking and frosting more than a dozen more cupcakes. Crispy rice treats are way easier. They also have the advantage of being dairy-free, gluten -ree, and nut-free. And delicious, of course.


Short version: Birthday sandwiches, barbecue potato chips, ice cream sundaes

Long version: Our new nine-year-old requested this meal. He loves sandwiches more than anything, and I first thought it would be fun to get one of those giant sandwiches for him at Subway. Then I found that the Subway nearest us--60 miles--doesn't make the really big sandwiches. And the cost of getting a foot-long sub for every family member would be . . . a lot.

So instead I got three long loaves of french bread, three kinds of deli meat, three kinds of cheese (pre-sliced, because it was a party), lettuce and tomatoes, added mayonnaise and mustard, and let everyone go to town.

That's a big sandwich.

We actually only ended up using one and a half of the loaves this night. One half had been used for bread pudding for the requested birthday dessert. That left one whole loaf, plus more of all the meat and cheese, for another meal.

I made salted caramel sauce the day before, then chocolate shell (melted chocolate chips+coconut oil) and whipped cream this night, and set out chocolate and vanilla ice cream and sprinkles and everyone got to make a sundae.

First Communion class was canceled, so I had a big pan of crispy rice treats at work with me that I didn't need. So I just made a tour of the school, giving treats to everyone I encountered. In this way I got rid of all the treats and didn't have to bring any home. Yay.


Short version: More sandwiches

Long version: I went to the school staff Christmas party this night, and A. used the rest of the bread and things to make sandwiches again for the children. No complaints.


Short version: Breakfast burritos

Long version: Scrambling eggs with cheese and salsa and putting that in tortillas was about all I was capable of after work this day. It's not a bad dinner, actually. Uses a lot of eggs for this crowd, though. I used fifteen.

I also had some weird "ranch-style" beans we had gotten from commodities that I used in some of the burritos. They had a gross tomato sauce on them, which I rinsed off, and also jalapenos in them. That's why only some people ate them.


Short version: More burritos, carrot sticks with ranch dip, ice cream

Long version: I had taken out a bag of elk fajita meat to thaw and I was sort of planning on making stir-fry, but then one of the kids was sent home with the remains of a seven-layer dip. It was mostly beans with some salsa, cheese, etc., so I decided to use that with the meat to make more burritos. 

Please note I managed a vegetable this day. But then it was followed by small servings of ice cream with some of the leftover salted caramel sauce, which the children definitely did not need after all the treats at their school Christmas parties. 

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

Thursday, December 21, 2023

Christmas Prep

I am here on a Thursday because I feel the need to share with you that I finally cleaned out the toy box--and the children's room it is in--in time for the influx of gifts.

A clear floor is a wonderful thing.

I do this every year. It makes me feel more prepared for the chaos that inevitably follows Christmas.

Today is our last day of school before our long Christmas break, and then I only have a couple of days before Christmas Eve. School--and work for me--running this close to Christmas this year has me feeling very unprepared. I managed to make all the bread I give to every staff member at school, but I haven't made any for our neighbors yet. I think that's going to be a belated Christmas/Happy New Year gift.

Many of our Christmas traditions are food-related, and of course, being me, I make all that food in pretty much the most labor-intensive way possible. But this year, I'm changing things up a bit.

I've already decided that I'm not going to make tamales for Christmas Day this year, which is what I have done for the past few years. I just don't have the half-day it takes to make them at the moment. So instead, we're going to have them on Epiphany. Technically still Christmas, and it falls during our Christmas break this year, so I'll have plenty of time to make tamales.

I am going to make Grandma Bishop's molasses cookies, though. My plan is to mix up the dough tomorrow morning before taking the post-surgical child to physical therapy, and then bake some when we get home in the afternoon.

I'm going to keep the rest of the dough in the refrigerator and bake some more the next day. We have Mass at 4 p.m. for our Sunday Vigil, but I have all the day before that to get some stuff done. Mostly kitchen things. We're almost out of bread. I've been giving so much away, we've been kind of low on it all month.

Our Christmas Mass is at 7 p.m. on Christmas Eve, so my plan is to make chili and cornbread for that day, with molasses cookies and eggnog for dessert. Christmas Day we don't have to go anywhere, so that's a better day for a bigger meal. This year, it will be ham, scalloped potatoes, and salad, with our usual chocolate roulade for dessert.

It's very satisfying to me that the eggnog uses exactly the egg yolks I have left after using only whites for the roulade.

Right now I need to wrap a few more gifts, and then prepare cheese and crackers for the elementary Christmas party. 

How are your Christmas preparations going? Are you all done, or scrambling to get it all done? Or maybe somewhere in between, like me.

Tuesday, December 19, 2023

It's Cookie Season!

'Tis for sure the season to be making, gifting, receiving, and eating cookies. When I was in high school, my church youth group used to gather at my house to make like five different kinds of cookies. Then we would make up dozens of cookie plates to deliver to nursing homes and the elderly homebound of our parish.

That was fun, but only because there were a lot of people doing it. It's not something I would do on my own, not being a naturally enthusiastic baker.

I do bake a lot, though, and that is because I have three eating machines in my home*. Cookies are my alternative to buying snacks.

Mostly I make standard cookie-jar cookies, of the sort that are sturdy, have some protein, and will hang out quite happily in the cookie jar all week (with a piece of bread to keep them from getting hard).

But when I want to make a true dessert cookie, I make Mexican Wedding Cookies. 

I had never made them before this year. They are not the easiest cookie to make, because they aren't very forgiving of winging it, which is my typical baking style. Mexican Wedding Cookies are essentially a shortbread with nuts, and shortbread is somewhat finicky.

I tried a couple of recipes, but the one I use over and over again is this one. I like it because they hold their shape well, but I do have a few (uh, ten) notes for you if you want to try them.

First, and most importantly: This recipe doesn't have any salt. BOO. All recipes need salt. I always use salted butter, but they need more salt than that. I add about 3/4 of a teaspoon, but you could start with 1/2 teaspoon and see if you think it needs more after you taste the dough.

Second: You have to use walnuts. The oil in walnuts is important to this recipe. I used almonds once, and they did not hold together.

Third: Some of the walnuts absolutely do need to be ground. Not an optional step. The ground walnuts help them hold their shape better than just pieces of walnuts. Last time I made them, I actually ground them with my immersion blender right in a bowl, which was much less of a hassle than a food processor. Although you can make the whole recipe in a food processor if you want. I did that the first time I made them, and it worked just fine.

Fourth: For the chopped walnuts, you can absolutely just crush them in your hands, so as to avoid having to use a cutting board and knife. I hate dirtying two dishes just to chop nuts. Walnuts break easily enough in your hands to skip the knife.

Fifth: Because this is essentially a shortbread, the dough is weird. It's more like biscuit dough or pie dough than cookie dough, in that it looks impossibly crumbly when you're mixing it, but will hold together if you squish a bit in your fingers.

This is while I was forming the cookies, but you can see all the crumbs at the bottom of the bowl. Never fear; it's supposed to look like that.

Sixth: This dough really does need to be chilled. I usually shove it in the freezer for fifteen minutes or so, because I'm impatient.

Seventh: When forming the cookies, if you squish the dough together quite firmly and then roll it just a couple of times in your hands (too many tries at rolling it will make it fall apart), they will mostly retain the round shape that I think is appropriate for these cookies.

Eighth: Be careful of overbaking. The recipe says the tops should be lightly browned, but you can't really see that very well. Better to carefully flip one over to see how brown it is on the bottom.

Perfect. And you can see they don't really spread, which is handy for fitting the whole recipe on one pan.

Ninth: You really have to leave them on the pan to cool for awhile, or they will just fall apart while you're rolling them in powdered sugar.

Tenth: Rolling anything in powdered sugar makes a huge mess. But I'm sure you already knew that.

Powdered sugar just waiting to explode all over the place.

Because these are a slightly more involved cookie than most, I make them for things like the silent auctions of baked goods we have at school sometimes as fundraisers. They tend to go for quite a bit of money, because they are unusual.

I think these cookies eventually went for $40 at the silent auction last week.

Okay! If you actually read all of that, I hope you'll try making these cookies. They are invariably a hit, and are definitely something different if you're looking for a unique cookie to contribute to a holiday event.

* I refer here to my rapidly growing boys. My daughter doesn't even come close to their level of consumption.

Sunday, December 17, 2023

Snapshots: Walking in a Winter Wonderland

Quite literally, as you will see.

The storm we had this week started with rain, which changed to freezing rain and sleet, and then snow overnight. The resulting landscape around my house was so beautiful, even my terrible old phone camera couldn't mess up the photos. 

Cloudy walk with the dogs.

Ice-coated grass.

Ice-coated fence, on a different morning walk with no clouds.

The sky to the west when the sun is juuust rising is my favorite. It doesn't come through well in photos, but it's layers of pink and purple.

A snowy schoolhouse reflecting the sunrise.

And a snowy windmill and apricot tree just as the sun cleared the horizon.

Last, I will leave you with a couple of photos courtesy of Poppy, who took about twenty pictures of our Christmas tree to send to my mother.

The bedazzled ball sent by my sister years ago is my children's favorite ornament.

Merry and bright, indeed.

There you have it! My (wintery) life, snapshotted.

Friday, December 15, 2023

Friday Food: With a Special Breakfast


Short version: Leftover chicken soup, cheese quesadillas, chocolate milkshakes

Long version: We had Mass at 5 p.m., although only one child was well enough to go with me. That child wanted to eat before Mass, so we had an early dinner of the chicken and rice soup I had made the day before, and cheese quesadillas made with flour tortillas.

I made the milkshakes when I got home, because the newest sick child had--of course--a sore throat.

Sore throats and coughing have been a continuous theme this fall. 


Short version: Elk goulash, mashed potatoes, green salad with vinaigrette

Long version: I've started making goulash without tomatoes, and with sauerkraut, and apparently everyone prefers it this way. Except the one child who informed me he hates goulash. 

Huh. Never knew that. Have some mashed potatoes, then.

Let's pause for a photo.

Abominable Snow Jasper.


Short version: Fried pork, rice, nuked broccoli, chocolate ice cream

Long version: This was the day we went to get our tree. We went early, right after the after-church crepes, so the snow wouldn't melt too much and turn to mud. Less chance of getting stuck on the dirt track that way. I had taken a pork shoulder roast out of the freezer before church, so I stuck that in a low oven before we left and let it cook until it was tender. Then I shredded it and fried it in the rendered lard with salt, garlic powder, and paprika.

I microwaved the broccoli so I wouldn't have to dirty another pot, and it worked pretty well. I just have to do it in one-minute increments so I check it frequently and it doesn't overcook.


Short version: Leftovers, pork quesadillas

Long version: First Communion class has switched to Mondays for the next couple of weeks, so leftovers were a good choice when I got home at 5:30 p.m. from that.

About half the family finished the goulash and potatoes. The others had quesadillas made with corn tortillas, cheese, and some of the pork shoulder. 


Short version: Ham, etc., at school

Long version: This was the night of the Christmas program, featuring all of the elementary classes doing various skits, songs, and dances. This meant my younger three children featured heavily, since I have a child in each elementary class*. After the entertainment, the FFA serves a ham dinner. Besides the ham, there were cheesy potatoes, oddly sweet green beans, dinner rolls, and cupcakes and pudding dirt cups.

The pudding dirt cups were a big hit with the kids. They were a layer of chocolate pudding, then a layer of whipped cream, then crushed oreos with rock candies and a gummy worm, all meant to look like, well, dirt. There were little spoons in the shape of shovels, too, and it was all very cute. It was meant to go with our theme of construction this year, as we're just starting the building of a new school.

I was happy to let someone else feed my family for one night, as I spent most of the day making bread, crispy rice treats, and Mexican wedding cookies to contribute to the silent auction. 

I was actually at home this morning, instead of subbing at school or taking care of sick children, which is what most of my days "off" from work this school year have been so far. This morning, however, I was able to make my special breakfast and eat it without interruption.

I actually eat two eggs with salsa every morning. What makes this special is the toast and herb tea.

Well, it's special to me, anyway.


Short version: Snow's, grilled cheese sandwiches

Long version: It was cold and foggy and raining. Soup seemed appropriate. I didn't have any made, but luckily, my sole Black Friday purchase online was a case of Snow's Condensed Clam Chowder. This is a taste of A.'s childhood, and all the kids like it, too.

I made two cans of it. With the condensed kind you add another can each of milk, so it makes quite a bit. And then I made a grilled cheese sandwich for everyone.

Was there a vegetable? Nope. No one seemed to miss it, either.


Short version: Elk steaks, spaghetti, green salad with vinaigrette

Long version: Plain spaghetti with just butter, garlic powder, and Parmesan cheese. This made a certain girl very happy.

And please note that not only was there a vegetable, there was a salad. Which had three vegetables in it (lettuce, tomatoes, and radishes). Impressive, I know.

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

* We only have three elementary classes because we have two or three grades in each class. And even with that, the largest class only has 11 students. This is why we are known as a "micro school."

Thursday, December 14, 2023


Just posting on a random Thursday to show you what's outside my front gate right now.

Snow and ice.

And to remind you of an excellent Christmas song that seems particularly appropriate this morning.

Happy* almost-Christmas Thursday!

* And happy birthday to my mother. She likes Christmas music, too. 

Tuesday, December 12, 2023

It's Tree Time!

I did not grow this, and we did not eat it, but we did get our Christmas tree on Sunday. Let's take a look, shall we?

If you've been reading here for some years, you will know that we always have a real tree, and we always cut it somewhere ourselves. Some years that has meant some, well, less than perfect trees. But it's always fun to search the tree out.

The past few years, we've been going to a friend's ranch about fifteen miles away to cut our tree. We have to park on the dirt track in the range and hike down to the little canyon where the cedars grow.

Christmas tree hiking is the best hiking.

This area has a dirt tank the kids like to play around that sometimes has water in it. It did this year.

Perfect for chunking rocks to break the ice.

This was our first year in New Mexico with snow on the ground when we did this. Very Christmas-y. 

It did make it harder to avoid stepping on small cacti, however.

I see you, little prickly pear.

Despite the snow, it was a pleasant 45 degrees with that crazy-blue New Mexico sky.

Winter ground, summer sky.

Most of the trees in this area are the bushier junipers, which aren't great for Christmas trees. I had to search for the less common cedars in among the junipers. After quite a bit of tromping around, I finally found an acceptable tree.

It was hiding under a big juniper and next to a smaller cedar, but I found it.

The snow was very helpful here, as I didn't have the saw with me. I had to backtrack to get it from A. and then follow my tracks back to the tree. I probably wouldn't have been able to find it again if not for following my tracks, not being a great woodswoman.

I brought a helper back with the saw, too.

Cowboy cutting a Christmas tree. (Alliteration alert!)

The tree was duly dragged back to the Honda, ferried home, propped up in our metal bucket with some rocks, and decorated.

Ta da!

Our native trees here do not have as many branches as a spruce or whatever. And the trunk is too small to put it in a real stand, so it always tilts a little. And the star is hard to put on top, because the point of the tree isn't really thick enough to support it. And this year, one of my strands of lights stopped working, so I didn't have quite enough.

But despite all that, we have the tree, and it will have presents under it on Christmas morning. 

Christmas magic, New Mexico-style.

Sunday, December 10, 2023

Snapshots: Holidays Past and Future

Flashback to Thanksgiving, when Poppy wanted to label another freezer bag for me.

I will miss it when she spells everything properly.

Also related to Thanksgiving, let me share with you one of the very few disposable things I buy.

Throwaway turkey roaster.

Although I am for the most part pretty militantly against anything that only gets used once, I make an exception for the turkey roasting pan. I do not want to store anything that big for one day of use a year. Also, those giant roasting pans are expensive. These disposable ones are 99 cents. I can buy one every year for twenty years and still not spend as much as I would on a pan that I would have to store the rest of the year. So I buy one every year and then just . . . throw it away.

Scandalous, I know.

Okay, now that we've covered the holiday that we've already celebrated, let's move on to the next one.

We decorated for Christmas, which includes putting out every one of the Epsom-salt-covered candle jars all the kids have made.

It's a lot.

And last, I subbed in the classroom with the phrase cube again this week. This is what was facing me when I got in there on Thursday morning.

You're not the boss of me, cube.

There you have it! My life, snapshotted.