Friday, October 21, 2016

Ah Yes, I Remember Now

Why don't I make enchiladas--cheesy, saucy, delicious enchiladas--more often? Because it takes forever, results in the whole house smelling like fried food, and makes a damn mess of me and the kitchen. At least, the way my mother did it, which is of course how I do it.

And what way is that, you ask? Well, it involves the following:

One pan in which to cook the filling. In this case, it was shredded duck and black beans (plus onion, garlic, and some of the enchilada sauce), though my mother made them with ground beef.

One pan with hot grease. In my case lard*, though my mother used vegetable oil to quickly fry the tortillas so they don't get soggy.

One pan with enchilada sauce in which to dredge the fried tortillas. My mother always used Old El Paso and so I do, too. I could make my own, I know, but I don't because we are obviously talking about Tradition with a capital "T" here. (Except for the duck and the lard, I suppose. So maybe not so much with the Tradition.)

A plate of grated cheese to sprinkle on top of the filling before rolling the enchiladas up.

And the baking pan with a layer of enchilada sauce.

It's a complicated dance. There are tortillas frying in hot oil, tortillas being dredged in sauce, tortillas being filled and rolled up, and the cook and everything in the kitchen inevitably ends up covered in enchilada sauce.

Then again, when it's all done and cleaned up . . .

Worth it. Though I would recommend getting your mother to make them for you if she doesn't live 2,500 miles away.

* Because the MiL just rendered some and sent some to me via A. the Courier. Thanks, MiL!

Thursday, October 20, 2016

After Due Consideration

On days like today, when it rains for hours and we spend a lot of time inside and the noise levels increase in proportion to the inches of rain that fall . . . then I have to make a decision. The question is this: Are the weather conditions outside more miserable than the children's conditions inside?

If it's just raining and not too cold, then no. So I put on my jacket with the hood up and go sit outside in the rain while the three musketeers run around getting soaking wet and whacking each other with sticks. It's damp, and it's cold, but it's better than inside. Because it's at least a little quieter and no one is physically climbing on my body.

Later in the winter, when the weather conditions involve below-zero temperatures, feet of snow, and serious wind chill, I may well decide it's preferable to stay inside and listen to the shrieking acrimony. But for now? Get your jackets, kids. We're blowing this popstand.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Where Sleeping Dogs Lie

Ever since we moved to this house, I've been saying we need to get a dog bed. Of course, I want Mia and her old bones to have a comfortable place to rest in the house--where I suspect she will be spending the majority of her time when the really cold weather finally descends--but mostly I just want her out of the damn way.

The way our living room is laid out, there's a perfect race track all around the perimeter. The children of course take full advantage of this, and they spend a lot of time literally running in circles, sometimes to the soundtrack of Billy Idol*, sometimes pretending to be animals, sometimes just running around like morons because, well, because they're children.

And where does Mia choose to rest her enormous old bones? Yup, right smack in the middle of their track.

She's so big, she would literally span the entire width of the space between the end table and a chair. I can't count how many times the kids have fallen over her. Lucky for them, she never bites, even when startled, but it was obviously not an ideal situation for anyone.

So I finally remembered to ask A. to get her a bed. He did. We put it in a nice little out-of-the-way alcove of the living room. And of course . . .

Not who I was trying to get out of the way, actually, though it would be nice.

The children hopped right on and wrestled on it for awhile, but Mia? She tentatively walked around on it for a second when I called her over to it, but then gave me a canine, "NOPE," and settled back down in her usual inconvenient spot.

I moved it to a different spot next to the recliner, thinking maybe she wanted to feel still part of the action without actually being in the action.


I moved it under the window next to the table we eat at, thinking the proximity to food might be enticing. 


I sat on it with her. I sat in a chair next to it and petted her while she stood on it uneasily. I patted it to remind her occasionally that she had her very own bed.

Nope, nope, nope. For four days.

And then, today when the kids were doing their NASCAR impression and she was tripped over for the fortieth time, she finally gave in.

Good dog, Mia.

* I still love Billy, I do, but the daily (sometimes multiple times daily) repeat of this one CD is starting to wear on me. There are only so many times a person can listen to "Mony, Mony" with the background vocals of two screaming children before the nerves get a little stretched.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

The Person I've Become

Last night as A. was cleaning and skinning a duck outside on the picnic table, the following words came out of my mouth:

"Jack, don't run off with the hatchet."

"Cubby, don't bring that duck foot inside."

"Jack, leave the neck alone. It's bloody."

"Charlie, Daddy's butchering the duck. Do you want one of the wings or a foot to play with?"

To that last one, A. shook his head in amusement and said, "Listen to yourself."

Indeed. Funny how we become 36-year-old people our 16-year-old selves wouldn't recognize, isn't it?

Thursday, October 13, 2016


For bravery in the field of combat--otherwise known as taking small children on walks every day, no matter the weather, and despite the fact that I almost always have to carry the toddler home again--I receive the highest honor that can be bestowed upon me by my children:

Weedy flowers to stick behind my ear.

And in my coat buttonholes.

Buttonhole bouquets are way better than medals.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

The Measure of a Morning

There are harvested winter squash curing on the picnic table . . .

Laundry on the clothesline . . .

Sourdough dough working in a bowl . . .

Jelly canned and cooling on the counter . . .

Vegetable soup simmering on the stove . . .

And two children who have been fed and more or less entertained all morning*.

Of course, all too soon the laundry will be dirty again, the bread, squash, jelly, and soup will all be eaten, and the children will require more feeding and entertaining.

But for now? For now I feel victorious.

* The third child was fed and sent to school so someone else could entertain him. Hooray for school.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Country Mice

Ever since moving to our new house in the far north of New York, we've been meaning to go to Canada. We live literally less than a mile from the border, and less than two hours from Montreal.

Montreal. Have you been to Montreal? If you have not, I am sorry. It's the closest you can get to a European city in North America. 

No, really. Cubby's former teacher grew up in France, and she brings her two children to Montreal every summer because it's the best approximation of Paris she can afford.

It is one of the most impressive cities in the world. We now live less than two hours from it, and yet had never been.  Time to remedy that.

So we went.

We timed our trip so we could go to Mass at one of the many impressive churches in the city. Specifically, the Notre-Dame Basilica of Montreal:

And here it is, as viewed by Cubby through A.'s camera (after Mass, thankyouverymuch, because we will not allow our son to be the asshole taking photos during the service).

The basilica is very beautiful. This is the view from our pew:

A little more of an artistic (by which I mean out of focus) view. Also courtesy of Cubby.

Not that I saw much of the inside of the basilica. I spent most of the Mass outside on the plaza with Jack and Charlie, chasing pigeons and trying to keep the two of them from leaping in the fountain.

But Cubby did get a nice photo of about half of the facade! And a couple taking a selfie. So scenic.

After Mass, we walked around the old part of Montreal for awhile.

No doubt annoying many fellow pedestrians by taking up the entire sidewalk.

I think we were the only people in the entire city with a child under two who did not have a stroller. But that's cool, because A. and I are old hands at hauling a child around using only our shoulders and arms.

We got home about 5 p.m. I immediately made a very fast dinner for the crew (tuna-rice skillet meal! 30-minute meals win again!) and then remembered, hey, it's supposed to get to 30 degrees tonight. I confirmed this with an online weather forecast, and then questioned out loud to A. if I should pick the bell peppers in the garden. Yes, he said.

Okay, what he actually said was, "Yeah. Thirty degrees can really mess those peppers up, bro," but he was trying to be funny and I really hate the term "bro," so we'll just pretend he really only said "Yes."

So I went outside and picked all the bell peppers that were starting to turn red. Plus any tomatoes still on the plant. And the beet greens.

This may seem like more trouble than it's worth, but I've been gardening long enough to know that about January, I will be mad at myself if I don't harvest fresh greens when I can.

I guess the moral of this story is that you can bring the country mice to the city, but country mice they will remain. And I have a lot of nice beet greens now that would probably cost a lot if I were to try to buy them in Montreal.