Friday, January 6, 2023

Friday Food: Home Food Is the Best Food


Short version: Catfish, sausage, cheese and crackers, raw tomatoes and carrots, ice cream smorgasbord

Long version: A. took Cubby and Jack fishing in the morning. Cubby caught a stingray (which A. threw back, just because he was so rattled to be handling a stingray, and then he regretted it), and some catfish. Although the crew of the boat we were on the day before threw the catfish back, A. has eaten freshwater catfish and wanted to see if the saltwater catfish were any different. 

Charter boat fishing, during which we caught several catfish, none of which the crew wanted to keep.

They weren't. Except for the fact that it was harder to get the fillets off of them because of their big, hard heads.

The catfish were pretty small, so the fillets were only enough for everyone to have a taste. That's why I also made some spicy pork sausage.

Poppy had been asking if we could go get ice cream, but none of the ice cream stands were open. I mean, it felt warm to us, but it is winter, and ice cream is pretty seasonal.

So we got some Blue Bell (a Texas brand) ice cream at the grocery store. No one in our family ever agrees on anything, so we got four pints of different kinds, instead of a half gallon of one kind. Thus, the children all got to sample chocolate/vanilla, butter pecan, cookies and cream, and mint chocolate chip.

And then, since we couldn't really bring the ice cream with us on our trip home (more's the pity), they got to have seconds to finish it off.

Now that's a good day.


Short version: An elegant New Year's Eve at Chubby's restaurant

Long version: That was actually the name of the place where we ate in Brady, Texas. We stopped there for the night on our way home, and Chubby's was the closest place to our motel. It wasn't bad. Nothing exciting. We got chicken, hamburgers, and a salad for me, and it was acceptable, if not exceptional.


Short version: A happy new year feast from the freezer

Long version: If you've been reading here for any length of time, you'll perhaps remember that I always make pork, black-eyed peas, greens, and rice for our New Year's Day meal to ensure our health, wealth, and happiness in the new year. (And harmony, which is what my children have assigned to the rice.)

It's a tradition I inherited from my mother, who grew up in New Orleans. I've done it every single year for at least twenty years. It's important to me that we have this, so I made sure we would still be able to have our traditional meal even though we didn't get home until 4 p.m. on New Year's Day.

I made the black-eyed peas before we left and put them in the freezer. The greens were some beet greens from the garden I had frozen in the summer. The pork was the extra from the pork shoulder I made the day before we left, also frozen.

So all I had to do was microwave the black-eyed peas and beet greens, thaw the pork in a covered pan with some water and then fry it, and make some rice.

This is always a tasty meal, but it is particularly delicious after two days of road food.


Short version: Bunless cheeseburgers, potato soup, leftover rice, green salad with ranch dressing

Long version: We have had what seems like a continuous round of sore throats, snotty noses, and general ickiness for like two weeks. I thought everyone was mostly recovered, but one child woke up with a sore throat this morning.


I made the potato soup with my last five small potatoes and some of the dehydrated potato flakes to further thicken it. Also bacon, onion, milk, rooster stock, sour cream, and cream. It came out very well, but how could it not, with all that dairy in it?

Those who are not enamored of soup had the rice.


Short version: Sausage-y meatloaf, garlic bread, frozen peas

Long version: There was about 3/4 pound of ground beef left from the night before, which I combined with about an equal amount of Sysco breakfast sausage to make meatloaf. The sausage adds a lot of flavor, as well as some needed fat.

I also made peanut butter cookies this day to fill the cookie jar again, at Calvin's request. I used this recipe for the first time, and not only does it make a superior peanut butter cookie, the recipe as written made 72 somewhat small cookies. Which exactly filled the cookie jar. How pleasing.

Minus a few that had to be sampled by my juvenile quality control before they made it to the cookie jar, of course.


Short version: Carnitas tacos, rice pudding

Long version: We had to be at church until about 5:30 p.m., after being gone most of the afternoon, so I needed to make something ahead of time that would be quick to get on the table when we got home. I also had half a gallon of milk that wasn't great for drinking anymore, but was fine for rice pudding.

So. Since I had the rice pudding in for a few hours anyway, I stuck in a pork shoulder to cook, too. Then when I got home, all I had to do was fry pieces of it in its own rendered lard with some taco-ish spices (chile powder, cumin, garlic powder) and serve it in corn tortillas with cheese.


Short version: Pizza, green salad with ranch dressing

Long version: This was Jack's raincheck birthday dinner, when I couldn't make it for his actual birthday as requested because of the nasty flour. I waited until now, because he two loose teeth that lined up so that he really couldn't chew very well, much less bite pizza. One of the teeth came out a couple of days ago, though, so he was okay with pizza again.

I had some of the breakfast sausage left, which I browned and put on one pizza. The other was just cheese.

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

Thursday, January 5, 2023

Snapshots: Roll on Highway--Part 4

We were only at our rental house for two full days before we had to start the drive home*, so we left Saturday morning. We didn't try to get going really early, both because we knew we would be stopping somewhere along the way for the night, and because A. wanted to see the wooden boat museum in Port Aransas.

We weren't sure anyone would be there on New Year's Eve, but when we pulled in, there were two of the retired guys that volunteer there and they were more than happy to show us around.

Calling it a museum is a bit of a stretch. What it really is is an old boatworks that became a "museum" when the old guy who ran it died. They kept all his old tools and things that were in his shops--I guess that's the museum part--but they actually still build wooden boats there. It's even still called Farley Boat Works. So I would say it's more a way to carry on the knowledge of the craft than just a look at the old tradition. Which is much cooler, in my opinion.

A. and the boys were fascinated. There were several old boats for them to look at.

One of the display boats inside the shop.

A historic Gulf scow, used to ferry cargo from the big ships in the Gulf to the shore before they dug out the deeper bay route.

Poppy was not so enthused. She was mad that we weren't at the beach again, so I spent most of the time we were there dealing with her. That included letting her take some pictures for me.

All of which included her finger.

After A. had his fill of inspecting boats, we got on the road. We had considered stopping at one of the beaches that were on our way to the land bridge we took to get off the island, but there was such heavy fog, we didn't.

Very unhappy beach girl in that van, for sure.

We did stop again in San Antonio this day, as A. was determined to see one of the missions. There are several open to the public. The biggest ones were PACKED, though, because of the holiday crowds, so we went to San Francisco de Espada, which is one of the smaller ones.

Lots of impressive stone work.

A. was very pleased. A day with both wooden boats and giant complexes of stone buildings is his kind of day.

Also a really impressive old mesquite tree that was perfect for climbing.

Something my monkey children lost no time in doing.

I do not have a photo of the actual church, because there were so many people going in and out, and I didn't want to take a picture with some random person in it. That'd be weird.

We didn't stay too long, as we had many miles to cover, so back on the road we went. And drove and drove. And drove.

We stopped for the night in Brady, Texas. I don't have any photos of Brady, because it was entirely unremarkable. Very nice motel, though.

The next day was another full day in the car. The only photo I took this day was when we got off the main road somewhere around Brownfield, Texas, to make sandwiches and let the children and dogs run in the wheat fields.

Which are millions of acres of red sand. Literally sand. If we had tried to pull off on the side of the road, we would have gotten stuck. Perfect for running, though.

And then we drove some more. At the end, due to endless bickering and a slightly hysterical child who was SO DONE with the car, I had to get all the way in the back seat of the van to entertain the troops for the last few hours. 

We did finally make it home, on New Year's Day, 2023. And there was much rejoicing. 

The end.

* Yes, we were traveling longer than we were actually at the sea. We should have stayed another day, but it felt like a long enough trip as it was. Next time.

Wednesday, January 4, 2023

Snapshots: Roll on Highway---Part 3

On our second full day in Port Aransas, we decided that some of the children needed some decompression time in the morning. And to be honest, so did I. 

So while I stayed at our rental house with Calvin and Poppy, A. took Cubby and Jack to a place they could walk to from our rental house to fish.

The three of us at home took the dogs to the marsh across the street to run around and play; went to the grocery store and selected four different pints of Blue Bell ice cream to try; and even managed to work the big TV in the living room to watch "Dinosaur Train."

Cubby, meanwhile, caught a stingray.

He was using the whiting from the charter boat and hoping to catch something big. The stingray wasn't a really big one, but it was certainly bigger than a catfish, and a lot harder to reel in. So much surface area to drag in the water, I guess.

Anyway, Cubby pulled it up, and A. said all he could think was, "That's the fish that killed Steve Irwin!"

He was so unnerved by handling a stingray that it didn't occur to him to keep it, which is a shame, because rays are good to eat, and when's the next time we'll have that opportunity? He told me he felt like he had a rattlesnake on the line, and all he could think to do was get it off the line and back into the water without getting hurt.

He did, and it swam away. And now A. says he will regret not keeping it for the rest of his life. Guess he'll just have to catch another one sometime.

We do not have the traditional picture of the proud fisherman holding up his catch, for obvious reasons, but A. did get this one as the stingray was being pulled up.

Those eyes on the top of its head are glaring at A., I can tell.

After the excitement of the stingray, the fishermen came home and we prepared for our trip to the beach. The sun had finally come out, after mostly overcast skies thus far, so we figured this was our best shot for ocean playing.

This was also a fishing trip, of course, as were all excursions while we were there. The younger two children wore their swimsuits, although I was not confident the water would really be warm enough for swimming. The older two said they were just going to fish and didn't want their swimsuits.

(Do you think they didn't really get in the water? All you parents out there know how this is going to end.)

We went to the beach right next to one of the jetties and once again split up. A. took the older two boys to the jetty to fish, while I set up camp on the beach with the younger two children.

Those two children were delirious with excitement and raced directly to the water.


The water was indeed cold, but not frigid. The sun warmed the air enough that the children could play along the edges of the water, where they didn't get completely soaked and thus were warm enough. This was perfect, because I didn't have to worry about them going in too deep. I just sat there on the sand and watched them run in and out of the water.

I did roll up my jeans and get my feet wet, but that was about the extent of my interest in water play.

Even A. waded in.

About as far as I did.

Those children were absolutely thrilled with the waves chasing them and the sand to play in.

Queen of the world.

We were there for about three hours, during which time I just sat there on the beach, drinking seltzer and singing in my head, as I usually am, a slightly adapted song.

I got my toes in the water, toes in the sand
Not a worry in the world, a cold seltzer in my hand.
Life is good today. Life is good today.

Because I am a rookie beach-goer--and because getting our crew out of the house is always intensely chaotic--I completely forgot to bring towels. Whoops.

Luckily, there was enough junk in our van that I could find some substitutes. Poppy's little pink blanket made a good place to sit in the sand.

Seltzer and barbecue kettle chips on the beach can't be beat.

There were a couple of sweatshirts too that worked for wrapping the chilled swimmers when they emerged from the water for snacks.

The fishermen of the family, meanwhile, caught a few catfish that A. decided to keep. He wanted to see if they taste any different than freshwater catfish.

After they were done fishing, they joined us on the beach for a half hour or so. And did those boys who insisted they didn't need their swim trunks stay out of the water?

I'm sure you all saw this coming, didn't you?

They rolled up their jeans and stayed on the edge for approximately five minutes before abandoning all restraint and running right in up to their waists to battle the waves. 

Thoroughly soaked in their Wrangler jeans and shirts. Naturally.

At this point, the sun was starting to set, so we gathered up our soaking and shivering brood and headed back to the rental house for hot showers and dinner.

A. prepared the catfish as part of our dinner. They taste just like freshwater catfish, in case you were wondering. Then we had an ice cream smorgasbord, in which all of the children got to have a scoop of every one of the four flavors of Blue Bell ice cream we had chosen. And then! They got to have seconds!

Joy abounded.

And that was our second (and final) full day at the sea. Tune in tomorrow for Part 4, in which we have one last adventure in Port Aransas and then journey home.

Tuesday, January 3, 2023

Snapshots: Roll on Highway--Part 2

Picking back up in Port Aransas, which A. had chosen specifically because we could get on a party boat to fish in the bay. Because we had never done this before, he chose the largest, most well-known charter company. They offered several options for fishing excursions, from three-hour bay trips to six- or twelve-hour Gulf trips. Even a three-day tuna fishing expedition in which you sleep in bunks on the boat and fish night and day.

We didn't go with that last one.

Neither A. nor I were confident in the sea-worthiness of our stomachs, so he chose the three-hour* bay trip to minimize the motion of the boat. Also, this company had large boats, which meant they were somewhat steadier.

The boat passed their inspection.

All the fishing tackle and bait was included with the boat, along with two deckhands who would pretty much do everything for you if you wanted them to.

Off we went across the bay, zipping along and bouncing on the waves . . . and into the Gulf.

Heading out to sea.

We were not expecting to go out past the jetties and into the Gulf of Mexico, but that's what we did. The crew dropped anchor just outside the bay and the fishing began. 

Fish on!

This is also when I got sick.

I didn't throw up or anything, but I was definitely unhappy. I was the only one who felt ill, thankfully, and we only stayed in that particular spot for about twenty-five minutes before moving to a different spot closer into the bay. 

I recovered myself, although I still had no interest in fishing. Fishing is not an activity I care about at any time, so while I had a pole, it was mostly to increase the family's chances of catching anything. There was, in fact, a catfish on my pole at one point, which Calvin pulled in for me, but that was all "I" caught.

While we were fishing, we were passed by one of the giant oil tankers that pass through this port regularly. It's quite an experience to be passed by a ship this size.

Also cool to see the dolphins jumping only about twenty feet in front of the prow of this behemoth.

Everyone caught something (except A., but he didn't care). All they caught, however, were catfish and whiting. We were told that the cold snap the week before drove the fish out of the bay and into the warmer, shallower waters in the surrounding canals or whatever, although I don't think this is the best time of year for fishing there in any year.

The crew took the catfish off the line, explaining that they have a toxin on their skin that really burns if the fins cut you. They threw the catfish back in. The whiting they kept for bait. I guess they use it to catch sharks and so forth.

However, A. has at least tried to eat every kind of fish he has ever caught (with mixed results--don't bother with suckers because they're mushy and gross). So he asked the crew as we were disembarking if he could have some of the whiting. He told them he was going to be fishing all the next day and would like them for bait. He did use the smaller ones for fishing bait, but the bigger ones he fried for dinner that night.

They were excellent. So now you know, in the event you're ever presented with whiting to eat.

All of the boys loved the boat and wished we had gone on the longer trip. All of the girls, however, were quite happy to be done after three hours. And everyone was more than ready for lunch.

One of the deckhands had recommended a restaurant right next to the wharf as a superior place for a fish fry, and he was definitely right. There were huge plates of fried fish, shrimp, and oysters, and it was all fried perfectly. Everyone stuffed themselves and left happy.

Poppy really wanted to go see this giant shark tunnel thing outside a local shop. So after lunch and a rest, we went.

It was constructed like a tunnel that was entered through the mouth, and it went all the way back into the tail. It really was much cooler than I was expecting it to be.

This smaller shark was right next to the door of the same shop. Jack hammed it up for his photos with Jaws.

And that was the first full day at the sea. Tune in tomorrow for Part 3, in which the children have their first physical encounter with waves.

* Did I sing "A three-hour tourrrr" in my head? But of course.

Monday, January 2, 2023

Snapshots: Roll on Highway*--Part 1

A day late, yes, but definitely not a dollar--or any photos--short. 

We didn't get home until about 4 p.m. yesterday, and man, I was WRECKED. I definitely did not have any energy for writing or posting photos. But now, after a solid night's sleep in my own bed (YAY) and my first cup of proper coffee since leaving home, I feel capable of diving in to the snapshots from our trip.

Ready? Let's go!

The drive from our house to the sea is over 12 hours, and we can't realistically do that in one day with our crew, so we didn't even try. We planned on stopping for the night somewhere, and that meant we didn't need to leave punishingly early.

I was shooting for a 7 a.m. departure, so I told everyone we were leaving at 6:30 a.m. Sure enough, with everyone working towards leaving at 6:30, we were rolling away from the house at 7:05 a.m. 

We brought the dogs with us. Adventure Van is big enough that we can have a full-size dog crate set up in the back for Odin, to separate him from his brother so there's no growling and jockeying for space in the main part of the van.

Odin's van den.

Jasper just goes under the seats in the back, where the children sit.

Someone's gotta guard the toys.

And then, we drove. I drove across the entirety of Texas many years ago when I was helping to move my grandmother's things from Louisiana to Arizona, but I don't remember much of it. Perhaps because the way I drove then wasn't memorable. Or perhaps because I wasn't visually assaulted then by hundreds upon hundreds of wind turbines and their accompanying hideous infrastructure.

I really, really hate those giant wind turbines that have gone up in the past decade or so. They're just such an eyesore, and their constant spinning has a bad effect on me. Texas is COVERED with them. Particularly around Lubbock, apparently. I was not a fan.


The children were interested to see those oil derricks that look like giant birds continuously pecking the ground. I didn't take a photo of one, but if you google oil derrick, you'll see them.

I was less interested to note that we could actually smell the oil as we were driving through those areas. When we got off the main road for lunch, we drove by one of the derricks that had a sign warning of poisonous gas. Super.

Thankfully, the smell--and presumably the gas--wasn't bad where we actually were, which was the rodeo grounds in Post, Texas.

Why did we stop at rodeo grounds for lunch? Because we're never actually looking for food when we stop on the road. 

Ham and cheese sandwich assembly in the back of the van.

Instead, we're looking for a place both our children and our dogs can run. Parks are good, as long as there aren't too many people or other dogs. Empty rodeo grounds in small towns are perfect.

So much space to run in. So many fences to climb. Be free, small, feral things!

The good times have to end eventually, though, and all animals and people must be once again corralled in the van. 

More driving. More wind turbines. But also the beginnings of the Texas hill country, with its lovely oaks and turbine-free views.

We made it to Eden, Texas, this night and called it quits there at a really terrible motel. 

Fun fact! Eden is the geographical center of Texas.

Eden has embraced its name and there is, indeed, a garden there. It was actually quite cute, with lots of brightly painted animals made of tires and metal and so forth.

Poppy's favorite was, of course, the unicorn.

The hill country ends at San Antonio, which we had to drive through. That was possibly the low point of the second day. A. wanted to stop at one of the many historic missions there, but we got lost in the absolute chaos of the San Antonio freeway system and had a terrible time getting back on track. 

While we were enmeshed in the insanity of San Antonio, we saw a Bass Pro Shops in one of the shopping areas by the freeway and stopped to get our salt water fishing licenses. These were required for A. and me on the charter boat we were taking the next day.

This was the younger children's first experience with the wonder that is Bass Pro Shops--essentially Disneyland with a dead animal theme--and they were THRILLED.

Giant staircases!


We did manage to find our way to the mission area and stopped for lunch at the Espada Acequia. This is a stone aqueduct that was built by the Franciscan missionaries around 1740 and has been continuously running there since then. They used the water to irrigate their gardens. I don't know where it goes now, but it is a very nice little water feature in the middle of the city.

Our destination was only a few hours past San Antonio, so we pushed on until at last, we reached the sea.

I woke up the next morning and brought my coffee out onto the front porch to enjoy the fog and palm trees.

And to avoid the children sleeping on pull-out beds in the living room.

Tune in for Part 2, in which we venture into the Gulf and we see if any of us are prone to seasickness.

* Somewhere around Lubbock, the song "Roll On" by Alabama came on the radio. I hadn't heard that song in years, but the refrain was so appropriate I had it on continual loop in my head (and often out loud as I sang it) for the rest of the trip. 

Roll on highway, roll on along
Roll on, Daddy, till you get back home.
Roll on family, roll on crew
Roll on, Mama, like I asked you to do.
And roll on, 18 wheeler, roll on.