Friday, October 27, 2023

Friday Food: Tomatoes!


Short version: Leftovers, bread and butter, frozen peas

Long version: We had a whole elk steak that I had cooked that didn't get eaten, plus a couple of servings of A.'s sheep stew. I added the rest of the leftover rice to the stew, along with some sauerkraut and some frozen peas, and that is what A. and one child ate. The other children had the steak and the bread and butter and peas.

I had steak with sauerkraut and peas. I really do love sauerkraut.


Short version: Lamb, fried potatoes, tomato salad

Long version: I had taken out two of the very small packages of leg of lamb still in the freezer from when we sent a ewe to the actual processor. They had been marinating in a mustard vinaigrette all day, and I just chunked them up and fried them in bacon grease, adding garlic powder and more salt.

The potatoes I microwaved until they were mostly cooked, then chopped and fried in olive oil.

And the tomato salad was from ALL MY OWN TOMATOES, YAY.

I kind of slumped into the kitchen at dinnertime, sad that my only options for vegetables were frozen peas or carrot sticks, when I saw this bowl I had forgotten about.

Happy days are here again.

I've been picking the tomatoes on the slightly underripe side, so the chickens and other birds don't peck at them, so these had actually been picked a couple of days before. I had a chunk of red onion in the refrigerator, so I finely diced some of that, added it to my diced tomatoes, used some more of the mustard vinaigrette on it (I keep this on my counter, so it's handy), plus more salt and pepper, and ta da! Tomato salad where there had been only a sad vegetable void.

Was that too dramatic? Perhaps. I get like that with tomatoes.


Short version: Elk meatloaf, bread and butter, pureed squash, sauteed random vegetables, cookies

Long version: My dramatics were unnecessary (they usually are), because I had also forgotten about the big bowl of cooked squash in the refrigerator, the small calabacita that got partially frosted, and the last of the mushrooms in the refrigerator.

The squash was one I had bought at Walmart several weeks ago that I just baked until it was soft, then pureed, mostly to have for making pumpkin pies. For this meal, I added butter and maple to the pureed squash.

I combined the calabacita and mushrooms together with the rest of the red onion and a few Roma tomatoes and just sauteed that all together.

Dinner in progress.

I made a recipe in my old Better Homes and Gardens cookbook for "Peanut Butter Rounds" that promised to be "great for snacks!" Indeed it is, because it's pretty much just my standard peanut butter/oat/almond/chocolate chip cookies that I make for school snacks most weeks. Except I actually measured things (and reduced the sugar, of course), so it took slightly longer. And I didn't cream any butter with sugar, instead melting the butter and then carrying on from there. 

I do this with almost every cookie recipe, and it almost always works. I really hate hauling out my hand mixer and creaming butter.


Short version: Fried pork chunks, rice, frozen green peas

Long version: I had a bag of pork chunks from I think the last time I had a sirloin roast that I had put in the freezer. I thawed those while I was at work, and then fried them when I got home in the fat that rendered off of the Asian pork ribs we had awhile ago. Fat like that keeps a really long time in the refrigerator, and it had a very good flavor to it. 

I added some more garlic powder and salt to the pork, but most of the flavor came from the fat. Very good it was, too.


Short version: Lamb chops, garlic bread, tomato salad

Long version: These were the last chops from the sheep we brought to the processor. There was just enough for everyone.

Garlic bread because I was making bread anyway. And tomato salad because FINALLY with the ripe tomatoes and basil.


Short version: Meatloaf and rice skillet, apple slices

Long version: I made skillet food with the leftover meatloaf chopped up and leftover rice fried in bacon fat, with some onion powder and shredded cheddar cheese stirred in there, too. Pretty good.

I didn't have a vegetable, so I cut up some of the apples we had gotten from excess commodities the day before. They were surprisingly tart and crisp apples.


Short version: Crispy bean tacos at home, restaurant leftovers on the road

Long version: I took the post-surgical son to the city in the afternoon to get his soft cast off, stitches out, and a "walking" boot (that he can't actually walk on) put on. We went to lunch at a chain barbecue restaurant (The Rib Crib) before his appointment, where he got a giant plate of ribs and french fries, and I got a very generous portion of chopped brisket. There was quite a bit of everything left over, which of course we got in a box to bring home. Most of it never made it home, as we were driving at dinnertime and the hungry boy in the car consumed the majority of it on the drive.

A. made cheese and bean crispy tacos for the children at home by filling and frying corn tortillas.

One child didn't eat, though, because he came home from school with a stomachache and a fever. Boo. It's been a heck of a fall for sickness so far.

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

Thursday, October 26, 2023

We Have a Floor!

Or perhaps more accurately, we have carpet on the floor.

I am speaking, of course, of the floor in my bedroom. This is one of the rooms in which a window broke all the way through during our Severe Weather Event in July. It is also the only room with a blown-out window that had carpeting in it.

That carpet got completely saturated and I had to pull up the soaked part of it. This left an area of particle-board sub-floor at the entrance to my room that was . . . displeasing. To say the least.


The carpet itself was no great loss, as it was a very ugly brown carpet from at least the 1980s. But having part ugly old carpet and part sub-floor was worse.

It still took us until now to get it covered over, though. I am not good about making decisions for things like this, so I spent more time than I should have figuring out what to put in there. 

Laying down actual carpet is pretty tricky, and we have no experience with it. The nearest place that does it is 100 miles away. So I decided instead to try out the carpet squares that are peel and stick.

Many of these are very institutional looking, of the sort you would see in a school or doctor's office. That was not what I wanted. I wanted something that looked like an actual carpet, with some pile to it. 

Most of the options for more carpet-like material for home use were in shades of gray, which was also not what I wanted. I am not into gray, and its ubiquity in interior design things lately is irritating to me. But I finally found some that looked like carpet, were a shade of light brown, and weren't too expensive. 

I had A. do the measuring of the room and the figuring of how many boxes we would need, because I am hilariously bad at such things and would certainly have messed that up in a big way.

I ordered them from Walmart and went through that situation so common nowadays of frequent e-mail updates on the status of my order, culminating in an e-mail two weeks later telling me the order was canceled entirely. I got a full refund, but still. Annoying.

So then I got to do it all again, but this time with Amazon, who actually delivered what I ordered. (I got these, in case you were wondering.) 

And then the boxes of carpet squares sat in our living room for . . . a long time.

It's like an extra table! I guess.

They had to be in the living room because they couldn't get dirty/wet/hot or otherwise messed up, and there was nowhere else big enough to put that many boxes.

So they sat there.

In our defense, I REALLY did not want to try to do this project with all four kids at home. The interruptions and general chaos would have been too much. 

Just feeding them all with all of this surrounding the dining room table would have been a mess.

That meant a Tuesday or a Thursday when they were all at school, but A. and I were both home and didn't have anything else to do.

This confluence of events has not happened much in the past month or so, what with sick children home from school, surgery for one, me substituting at school, A. getting hay, etc.

But finally, FINALLY, I declared Tuesday to be The Day of the Carpeting.

And so we did it.

Well, A. did the carpet part. I did all the cleaning--there was a lot of that--shifting of things, finding of tools, fetching and carrying, and general assistance.

A. did all the demo of the remaining carpet, removal of padding, pulling up wood strips with tacks around the edges of the room, and taking out staples. Lots of pulling and prying that required hand strength that I do not have.

He also did the actual laying of the squares. The reason he did this was because the laying down of these squares, while simple in theory, actually required quite a bit of figuring and cutting to get them to fit snugly up against each other so you couldn't see the seams, and also to fit around closet doors and corners. 

Another thing I would be hilariously bad at. Visualizing shapes has never been my forte. Just ask my geometry teacher in high school.


The instructions for installation on the back of the box were actually sort of complex, recommending snapping chalk lines and moving out from the center of the room in a specific pattern and all that. A. did not do any of that. He started at the door and worked his way through the room from there.

Because we weren't working with all one big piece of carpet (and because we didn't follow the installation instructions), we didn't have to move the biggest furniture out of the room. We did one part of the room, then shifted the bed over onto that. Then we continued until we got to where the dressers are, shifted those onto the squares already in place, finished up, and moved it all back.

Here's a side-by-side in-progress of the new carpet and the old. Ugly brown on the right is the old one.

From the time I started moving furniture out of the room to the time I got it all back in, vacuumed, and everything cleaned up was almost exactly 7.5 hours.

It was very tiring, but I am SO HAPPY to have a real floor in my bedroom again.

A vast improvement.

So! The final verdict on the carpet squares? Recommend.

A. did all the work with them, and he kept saying what a great product they are. Not easy, exactly, but certainly easier than a big piece of carpet that requires laying padding and tacking down and all that. It was very do-able for someone handy like him. Even I probably could have managed it, albeit not as quickly, neatly, or efficiently.

I was sure they would smell terrible to start with, but there was no chemical odor at all right out of the box, which was a nice surprise. Nothing shifted when I vacuumed them after installation, either. I was a bit concerned that the corners or something would pull up, but no.

Two cons I will mention, however. 

A. did an excellent job setting these against each other to make it look as much as possible like a single piece of carpeting. But, if you're looking very closely, you can see a couple of seams in the room where the squares abut. This doesn't bother me in the slightest, especially because 80% of the floor is covered in furniture. But if you're a perfectionist and you're using them in a more open room, it might bother you.

Also, my children, who spend a lot of time flopping on the floor of my room, complained that there isn't enough padding now. There is actually no padding except the bit on the back of the squares themselves, because the squares are laid directly on the hard floor. I guess I can tell the difference when I walk on our old carpeting in the hall and so on, but since I'm just walking on it, not lying down on it like my kids do, I don't care about the small difference in padding.

I have no idea how these will hold up in the coming years, but for now, I have a nice carpet in my room. And that makes me very, very happy.

Tuesday, October 24, 2023

Growing Food: The Swan Song (and a Story)

Our forecast is calling for three nights of hard freeze this weekend, in the mid-20s. That means that Friday will be the day I do all the final harvesting in the garden. These last couple of weeks have been key in letting the tomatoes at least start getting ripe, so that I can bring them in green and they can finish ripening in the house. 

They're not as good this way as they would be if they had ripened on the plants, but this year, I'm definitely taking what I can get.

I will be very interested to see if this watermelon is any good.

And now, unrelated to my garden, I just have to share with you a very funny story.

One of the things I do in my job at the school is tutoring high school English students that are in our online program. I do this by meeting with them on Zoom. One of my students had told me he would be working with his neighbor this week, gathering cattle for shipping. He thought he might be done in time for his meeting, though, so I wasn't too surprised to see him join at his scheduled time.

I was kind of surprised when I admitted him to the meeting and saw bright blue sky behind him. I was even more surprised by the exchange that followed.

"Hi, Kai. I can see you're still working."

"Yes, ma'am."* 

Upon my noticing that he also seemed to be moving . . .

"Wait. Kai, are you on your horse right now?"

"Yes, ma'am." At this he turns his phone so I can see his horse's head. 

"Oh. What's his name?"


"Like the fashion designer?"

"Yes, ma'am." 

So many unexpected things happened in that two minutes.

Needless to say, we did not do his lesson. The whole time he was talking to me, his head was swiveling around, quite clearly keeping track of the cattle he was moving while he was on his phone. 

It was incredibly funny, and was definitely the highlight of my day. A real "only here" kind of moment.

* This kid ALWAYS says "ma'am," as do many of the kids here. It's drilled into them from birth.

Sunday, October 22, 2023

Snapshots: Thanks, Sis!

My sister is much better about taking photographs than I am. She takes more on her yearly weekend visit than I take in a month. And here they are! Well, some of them.

Sunning on the creepy turtle thing at the playground.

Jasper close-up. 

And there's Odin, gamely panting along on a bike ride.

Last Saturday, there was an annular eclipse that was almost complete right here. The most complete eclipse happened to be right before we needed to be at school so Poppy could cheer at another volleyball game. We didn't get any eclipse glasses, but we do happen to live somewhere where welding helmets are common. 

We actually have two welding helmets of our own, so I left those here with A. and the two boys who didn't come to the volleyball game so they could see the eclipse through them. The other two children, my sister, and I went to the school, where I borrowed some welding helmets from the school shop (perk of working there and having a key to every door).

I particularly appreciate Poppy with her little cheerleader uniform and a Darth Vader head.

Here's a photo I actually took my ownself. But featuring the remaining good flowers from the large bunch my sister brought me, along with the cute little jack-o'-lantern candles she brought for the kids.

A little touch of Halloween whimsy to brighten our school morning breakfasts.

There you have it! My life, snapshotted (courtesy of my sister.)