What’s for supper? Vol. 113: Just pretty much all the food. All of it.

First a prayer request: My father is in the hospital, waiting for heart surgery. He’ll have a triple bypass, or possibly a quadruple bypass, on Tuesday. We’re very glad this surgery is available, and have high hopes he’ll start feeling better than he has in a long time once he’s recovered; but of course the recovery is long and hard, especially since he is 75 and has other medical issues. He lives alone, close to where my mother’s nursing home, but an hour or more away from all his children, so the logistics are a little daunting.
Thank you!

And now the food! We ate so much ridiculously good food this past week:

SATURDAY

Gosh, this seems like so long ago. Saturday we went ice skating and came home to have hot chocolate, popcorn, and grilled ham and cheese. Corrie was very very enthusiastic about skating and won all the races.

I did a lot of skating with Benny, until the moment came when I leaned too hard on the skating frame and it collapsed. Le sigh.

***

SUNDAY
New Year’s Eve. We pretty much ate all the food that is available to the known universe. 

Some friends sent a huge, spectacular hamper packed with luxurious treats, so we hauled out all the various tea sets you accumulate when you have eight daughters, and had a sort of rolling English tea party. Tragically, I forgot to take pictures of my own, but you must take my word for it that it was fancy beyond all reason:

If you don’t have extraordinarily generous friends who send you luxury hampers, I recommend getting some right away.

While everyone continued feasting and being fancy, my husband casually strolled into the kitchen to prepare, you know, a little sauteed scallops topped with shredded duck and Hollandaise sauce.This photo miserably fails to capture how rich and sumptuous this dish is.

If you don’t have a husband who likes to casually stroll into the kitchen and make your dreams come true, I recommend getting one right away.

This dish is not an obvious combination of flavors, but it makes so much sense once you’re shoveling it into your mouth.I thought duck would be more or less like dark turkey meat, but it’s really almost closer to lamb. So good. A wonderful meal for a special treat. (Aldi has both duck and scallops on sale every so often!)

And now the sushi! Yes, we had a sushi party on the same day as our English tea and our duckstravaganza. It made sense at the time.

First, I bought good rice and several packages of nori, soy sauce, rice vinegar, wasabi, pickled ginger, a little jar of roe, tuna steaks that were frozen at sea, some seared and seasoned tuna, canned salmon for the sissies, fake crab legs, toasted sesame seeds, avocados, mangos, carrots, cucumbers, and chop sticks, which we forgot to use.

I bought a sack of Nishiki rice, which is just gorgeous, like mother of pearl. It is expensive, but definitely worth it for a treat. I used the sushi rice recipe in this post (after skimming, with growing horror, through numerous other recipes that discussed whether it was more auspicious to rinse the rice 54 or 128 times before cooking), except I didn’t use quite that much salt. I cooked six cups of raw rice in the Instant Pot, which makes good sticky rice.

While the rice was cooking, I peeled the carrots into strips and pickled them, and we stirred some hot sauce into some mayo, and sliced the tuna as thin as I could, and the kids helped prep the avocados, mangoes, and cucumbers. It was all so lovely.

Now that I have ramekins, I use them all the time. Ramekins!

When the rice was done, I carefully sprinkled the vinegar mixture over it (I sextupled the recipe, but didn’t need that much) and then Benny’s moment of glory came: She used her special gold lace fan to vigorously fan the rice while I carefully turned it:

I guess you fan it to evaporate the vinegar, so the rice takes on the flavor without getting mushy. It worked!

We couldn’t find the rolling mat, so we opted for sushi cones, where you break a panel of nori in half, set the rice and fillings on one side, and roll it up diagonally. It took a while to get the hang of it, and they were not dainty, but on the other hand, NOM NOM NOM NOM NOM.

We kept the rice covered while everyone took turns building their sushi cones.  A few variations:

It was fantastic. Just about everyone found some combination to their liking. Some of the kids skipped the nori altogether, and made deconstructed sushi; some of them just used rice and vegetables; some of them (okay, me) just parked themselves in front of the tray and systematically worked through eleven different combinations.

We’re doing this every New Year’s Eve from now on. What ingredients would you add?

***

MONDAY
Birthday! Baby New Year turned twelve and requested calzones. 

To make twelve calzones, I used three balls pizza dough divided into fourths, then made the cheese filling (this was more than enough):

32 oz ricotta
3-4 cups shredded mozzarella
3/4 cup parmesan
1 Tbs garlic powder
2 tsp oregano

1 tsp salt

I stretched the dough portions into the size of small plates, then added a ball of cheese mixture, plus whatever fillings were requested. I folded the dough over and pinched the ends tightly shut, then pressed the calzone to spread out the filling evenly.

We greased two baking trays with shortening and sprinkled them with corn meal, laid the calzones on (with a few inches in between, as they puff up), and brushed the with egg yolk beaten with a little water.

I baked them at 450 for — okay, I don’t remember how long. Maybe 15 minutes?

 

Then we served them with ramekins (ramekins!) of hot marinara sauce for dipping.

We made this one-bowl chocolate cake recipe. I didn’t taste it, as chocolate is a huge migraine trigger, but it looked pretty good. Decorations courtesy of the 90% off shelf after Halloween. I’m a saver.

We made chocolate frosting with a recipe on the side of the cocoa powder can. I think it was just shortening (we had run out of butter!), chocolate, and powdered sugar.

My son took a few pictures of his sister blowing out her candles, and then Google helpfully and spontaneously merged them into this horrifying glimpse into the spirit realm of birthdays:

I don’t want to know what that creature wished for.

***

TUESDAY
Chicken enchiladas and beans and rice

One of the college girls offered to make chicken enchiladas before she flies away again. They were so good. She used boneless chicken thighs with Pioneer Woman’s recipe,   and made thirty nice enchilada longbois, some red and some green.

I made some quickie beans and rice. Cooked up a few cups of rice and added a can of black beans and a can of chili kidney beans, drained, a can of Ro-Tel tomatoes, some jarred jalapenos, and a bunch of cumin, chili powder, and salt.

***

WEDNESDAY
Pork ramen

We just had this, but I like it. I browned up some boneless pork ribs in olive oil, then sliced them thin, and then I cooked up some frozen stir fry veggies in the pork pan. I made a dozen or so soft-boiled eggs in the Instant Pot. The trick is to do a quick release after cooking, then dunk them in ice water, and then shells slide right off, almost in one piece. Not necessarily easier than using the stove, but a good trick if the stove is in use or if you really want unblemished whites.

 

I served a big pot of cheap ramen and let people choose pork, veggies, and eggs, plus sesame seeds, hot sauce, soy sauce, and chopped scallions.

Do you make fancy ramen? What do you add? I like this meal, but would like some more variety in the add-ins.

***

THURSDAY
French toast?

I am not sure. We had a pretty good storm going, and school was cancelled, but we got the news in the morning that my dad was going to need heart surgery, and was going to meet with the surgeons on this day.

So Damien and I rolled slowly north through the storm to the hospital while the kids managed at home. We had a good visit (the only thing my father requested was The Odyssey, Fagles translation) and I like the surgeon.

We thought we’d have to spend the night, but the snow slowed down toward evening, so we pushed ahead to get home, stopping only for Five Guys, because where else would you go on your way home from a visit to the cardiology wing?

I know this isn’t the popular opinion, but while their fries were quite good, I thought the burgers were just okay. The meat was kind of mealy, and the buns were just too greasy to be enjoyable. Huge portions, though. You can see that I am not complaining.

Then we trundled the rest of the way home through the last of the storm, and Damien installed me on the couch with a lot of red wine and The Big Lebowski. 

***

FRIDAY
I think we are having beef stew.

We’ll say an extra decade of the rosary because it’s Friday, but I have this big hunk of beef going unheeded in the fridge, and it has been quite a week.

QUITE A WEEK. Here is a picture of my dad from this summer, talking (possibly about the Declaration of Independence) with my brother Joe:

My father’s name is Phil, if you’d care to mention him in your prayers! Thank you.

What’s for supper? Vol, 77: Fish tacos are real, man.

In which we have an awful lot of cake for the home stretch of Lent.

SATURDAY
Grilled ham and pepper jack cheese sandwiches, roast asparagus with butter and lemon

I’m trying to wean the family off expecting some kind of potato-based side dish with every meal. That’s one Saturday under our belts. No one has died of chip deficiency, yet.

***

SUNDAY
Just pretty much all the food in the world

Sunday, we had two confirmations

and a birthday

The confirmandi requested red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting and tiramisu, respectively, and the birthday girl asked for ice cream sodas for her special dessert.
I like this picture because you can see everyone spring into action when I put the food out:


Damien made the tiramisu with this excellent recipe the night before, and added chocolate shavings right before serving. This time, I bought him ladyfingers fresh from the bakery, and guess what? They sop up a lot more rum than stale, pre-packaged ladyfingers. The party got pretty hot for a while there.

The red velvet cake was from a box. Actually, because I don’t know my colors yet, it turned out to be one box of red velvet cake and one box of yellow cake; so I swirled them together and attempted to pass it off as a flame pattern for the descent of the Holy Spirit or something.

I used this basic recipe for cream cheese frosting.

So we had cake and fruit salad and fruit punch and cookies and cheese and crackers at the reception after the confirmation, then went home and had pizzas, veggies and hummus, cake with strawberries and cream cheese frosting and tiramisu for lunch, and then for dinner, cheeseburgers and chips, and ice cream sodas for dessert.

***

MONDAY
Fish tacos, corn chips

For reasons I don’t fully understand, several of the children felt unwell on Monday and stayed home from school. Something about their stomachs not feeling great.

They recovered in time for dinner.

I’ve heard a lot of grousing about how there is no such thing as fish tacos, or fish tacos aren’t a thing. But (a) they are delicious and (b) here is a picture, so I guess we’ll keep eating them.

Just regular old cheapo fish sticks, with nice, crunchy shredded cabbage, sliced avocados, salsa, cilantro, sour cream, and a personal lime on a tortilla. Best imaginary meal ever.

***

TUESDAY
Gochujang bulgoki, white rice, nori

Normally, I prep this dish the night before, so it can marinate overnight. But I forgot, and made it in the morning, and it was still great by evening. I also grated the carrots, since I didn’t feel like cutting matchsticks, and that was great, too. I sliced a hunk of pork thin and mixed it up with the carrots and a couple of sliced onions, along with a triple recipe of this sauce:

5 Tbs gochujang
2 Tbs honey
2 tsp sugar
2 Tbs soy sauce
5 cloves minced garlic

So then you let it marinate as long as you can, and then fry it up in a little oil while the rice is cooking.
It’s a wonderful meal, very warming and peppy. You can, no, you must use the nori (or Romaine lettuce) to scoop up little bundles of meat and rice for gobbling purposes.

(This is an old picture. We ate zero string beans.)

That reminds me, time to order some more gochujang. It’s very handy to have around. Try it with tuna instead of mayo. Ha cha cha!

***

WEDNESDAY
Quesadillas, raw veggies

I think this was the day we suddenly remembered we hadn’t brought in a school treat for the aforementioned birthday kid. Her teacher requests treats of fruit or veggies, and that’s fine, that’s fine, it’s not communist or anything. We subverted it by making these alarming little disembodied apple grins with peanut butter and mini marshmallows.

They were well-received.

***

THURSDAY
Pepperoncini beef sandwiches, potato puffs, salad, German chocolate cake

Another birthday! My oldest requested this wonderfully easy meal:  Throw a chuck roast in a slow cooker with a jar of pepperoncini with the tops cut off and the juice, and off you go.

At 11 a.m., I suddenly remembered to pull the meat out of the freezer. So this situation, along with the risotto situation, is where the Instant Pot really shines: In less than two hours, a rock-hard roast was cooked all the way through. It actually finished cooking too soon, so I kept it on “keep warm” for several hours, and ended up overcooking it. Oops. Still yummy.

We sliced it up and served it on rolls with pepper jack cheese and horseradish sauce.

I’m counting on your Friday meat deprivation to make this horrible cell phone picture look good.

Birthday girl also had her heart set on a German chocolate cake. Know why it’s called that? Because the guy who invented it was named “German.” Now you know something! This cake is a tremendous pain in the neck, but so good. We went with this recipe from food.com. The cake was good, but I had to fight the urge to just sort of swim around in that coconut pecan frosting.

Here’s the birthday girl getting some help with her birthday candles:

Sigh, oldest and youngest, 19 and 2. SIGH SIGH SIGH. I’m fine. We’re all fine.

***

FRIDAY
French toast casserole, mangoes

This is where I get back at the kids for leaving the bread bags open all week, so the bread gets all stale and crushed. It’s not really very good revenge, because it’s delicious.

***
OKAY, we have our seder on Holy Saturday, so all next week is when the schmaltz hits the road. Stay tuned. . .  if you dare. 

What’s for Supper, Vol. 69: Instant Pot! Superbowl recipes! and stomach bug.

If I had to sum up this week in single word, it would be: I tried.

SATURDAY
Grilled chicken and salad

chicken-and-salad

Mr. Husband made this while I did something or other, probably drawing kittens on the backs of Corrie’s hands, or maybe just drinking. Under my evil influence, he cracked open another box or two of stolen poor person’s bacon and sprinkled that over the salad. It tastes a little bit better each time, if you were wondering.

I would like you to notice that, in an attempt to dress up this terrible, terrible food photo, I spread some paper bags under it. Then I moved them around a little to hide the bar codes, and then I decided I would just eat my food.

SUNDAY
Pork roast; oven roasted potatoes; cole slaw

I stabbed the pork all over, decided I was too lazy to mess around with garlic cloves, and rolled the meat around in Goya Mojo Criollo Marinade and let it wallow all day. We cooked it at 375 for a couple of hours and sliced it up.  Look how juicy! The flavor went right through to the middle, yum yum.

pork-potatoes-cole-slaw

The potatoes are mixed up with oil and some standard seasonings and slid into the oven for forty minutes or so.

Lena made cole slaw, which was a tiny bit of an odd pairing with the pork and potatoes, but it’s such a good, snappy cole slaw recipe, there will always be a spot on my plate for it.

MONDAY
Chicken burgers, chips, salad

Probably someone somewhere could think of something to say about this meal, but not me, not now.

Oh, wait! It is good with horseradish sauce. There.

TUESDAY
Fish tacos; tortilla chips

Irene careened into the kitchen on roller skates and started flailing around, knocking all the fish to the floor. But it was all right, because, she explained, it was already battered.

irene-fish

This February vacation, she’ll be bussing tables in the Catskills. Please tip generously, and let us know if you hear anything.

Fish, shredded cabbage, avocados, salsa, sour cream, and lime juice on flour tortillas. Can’t believe I went my whole life without knowing fish tacos were a thing.

fish-taco

I had cilantro, too but it mysteriously rotted away into pulp.
UPDATE: Corrie turned the refrigerator to 2, the stinker.

WEDNESDAY
Pizzas

Olive and pepperoni. One briefly and mysteriously burst into flame when all I did was drop it onto the heating coil, sheesh.

pizza-flambe

Oh, check it out: Benny is so good at making pizzas, she is now taking on apprentices.

pizza-apprentice

I know this is a blurry picture, but that expression of overwhelmed-by-cuteness, plus pride, just killed me. Good thing we had Corrie! Benny was born to be a big sister.

THURSDAY
Roast chicken thighs and potatoes; sweet peppers and hummus; chocolate rice pudding

This is the closest thing I came to trying a new recipe this week, and I didn’t come close enough to actually make it.

A dear lady sent me AN EIGHT-QUART INSTANT POT!!!!! It gleams and it is enormous and beautiful. Even Mighty Joe Young is impressed.

corrie-instant-pot-back

I’ve been hearing all about the life-changing magic of pressure cooking, so I was super excited and made plans for this pressure cooker butter chicken recipe. But then I recalled that we had spent the week frolicking with a stomach bug, and tomato sauce and garam masala did not seem like the best choice, not after a week full of things like battered fish and pork in citrus sauce. Not that I ended up making something light and bland instead of butter chicken, but at least there was no tomato sauce.

(I put the chicken thighs in a shallow pan with a bunch of sliced potatoes, olive oil, salt, pepper, oregano, garlic powder, and rosemary, and cooked them at 375 for about thirty-five minutes, then turned on the broiler to brown them up a bit. Very easy and surprisingly tasty.)

I also discovered that I’ve been stockpiling peppers and hummus, so I sliced them all up and made a pretty rainbow pepper plate, thinking my kids would be delighted. I keep forgetting that they are not all four years old.

Anyway, they ate some vegetables.

colored-peppers

The van was in the shop all day, so I had some more time at home and was casting around for something to make in my brand new bella machina. With the ingredients I had on hand, and ignoring ideas like “but that doesn’t go with this meal in the slightest,” I settled on creamy rice pudding.

chicken-potato-peper-rice-pudding

I skipped the raisins because my family are a bunch of inauthentic swine and don’t care for raisins in things, and added some cocoa paste to the milk to give it a mild chocolate flavor. Very nice! Just like rice pudding should be, creamy and fragrant. We ate it warm and claimed it was for Candlemas, whatever that is.

The Instant Pot is FUN. Okay, releasing the steam valve is FUN. I showed the kids lots of pictures of pot lids embedded in the ceiling and pot bases embedded in the countertop, and now they are all properly terrified of it and will let me play with it all by myself.

FRIDAY
I got some heart-shaped pasta, thinking it would please Benny.
I . . . think it did?

benny-pasta-face

Not sure.

***

Okay, so I have TWO questions for you, with some likely overlap.

1.There is that Sportsball thing coming up on Sunday. Hit me up with your favorite Sportsball party recipe, please. I tend to shy away from things like devilled eggs compressed into football shapes, or ham sandwiches trimmed into rectangles and dyed green to look like a football field. My one and only surefire Sportsball recipe is Jalapeno Popper Dip, which is completely disgusting, and has enough calories to light up the Eiffel tower, and you will suddenly notice that you accidentally ate all of it without chewing.

Oh, probably that bacon ranch crack bread stuff we made would go over well, too. This is the kind of food I’m looking for: Food that makes you feel equal parts shame and defiance the whole time you’re gobbling it down, and then it’s so salty that you require beer.

Second question: Whooooo has spectacular Instant Pot recipes for me — things for which the IP is just a godsend? I have been browsing through all the sites, and I joined a group, but you are the ones I trust. Main dishes, side dishes, veggies, soups, desserts, I want to know!

And finally, thanks again to the dear lady who sent me the Instant Pot! I would like you to know that, as I was reading through the manual, Corrie took a look under the lid, stuck her face right into the shiny inner pot, and then shouted with delight, “It ME!”

corrie-instant-pot-reflection

I don’t know how I’m ever going to top that dish, but I will try.

What’s for supper? Vol. 60: A good week, and thorough

Hooray for Friday! It only took eleven years getting here. Here’s what we had this week:

SATURDAY
Deli sandwiches for 9 kids at home; a variety of foods for parents and Corrie on the road

On Saturday, we were at the excellent Bridgeport Catholic Women’s Conference, being well-fed spiritually and foodily. Note to other conference organizers: they offered a nice, long breakfast, and then snacks and drinks were available until lunch, and then snacks were available until dinner. That is how you have a women’s conference.

corrie-roll

We weren’t able to stay to hear the third speaker, and Corrie was so buggy that I only heard part of the second speaker, Damon Owens. I went to chat with him afterwards, and said how disappointed I was not to hear the final third of his speech. He said, “Oh, it was like the first two thirds, except louder.” Heh. (Great speaker, by the way. Don’t miss an opportunity to hear him.)

On the way home, we stopped at a restaurant which always intrigued me, because it’s called “The Marina On the Water.” It’s a good name. And thorough! Do they also serve bread rolls, and will the waiter see you to a chair seat in the sitting area?

It turns out that the waitresses were friendly, the water view was spectacular, the food was mediocre, and it cost and arm and a leg and another arm. And Corrie spent most of the time on the foyer and bathroom floor, screaming “NOT NOT NOT, MAMA!” and pouring water into her lap. Here she is in happier times (right after and right before screaming):

corrie-and-mama-restaurant

I think my face conveys something of how much we enjoyed that meal. Anyway, we both ordered grilled swordfish sandwiches with pesto mayo and sweet peppers. I had coleslaw. The overwhelming sensation conveyed by every aspect of our food was: Do not forget that you are in Vermont.

Let’s just say our taste buds not only refused to tingle, they all yawned elaborately and muttered something about turning in early.


SUNDAY
Pan-seared salmon burgers with pesto mayo; sweet potato fries; cole slaw

Yep, I decided to redeem the previous day’s meal, and I succeeded. I bought a dozen of those individually-wrapped, frozen salmon steaks from Aldi (they are wild-caught) and pan-fried them according to this method from The Kitchn. They were swell. Ooh, that crisp seared skin.

salmon-cooking

I mixed tons of bottled pesto into some mayonnaise, and served it on toasted rolls with spinach.

salmon-burgers

My daughter made the coleslaw, nice and tart. Her recipe:

1 cup Mayo
1 cup White vinegar
Half cup Lemon juice
Half cup Sugar
1 head cabbage
A few carrots
4-5 Radishes

Mix wet ingredients.  Add wet to shredded cabbage.  Add sugar and stir.  Grate carrots and radishes and stir in.

Very satisfying meal.


MONDAY
Hamburgers, chips, salad

I have no memory of Monday. On Mondays, my world is restricted to whatever I can see through a clean spot in the grimy windshield of the van.


TUESDAY
Sausage, pasta, and onions with meat sauce and parmesan

As usual, I made enough to feed a battalion of marines. As usual, they ate enough to make an almost-visible dent. I don’t even know why I made this dish.


WEDNESDAY
Grilled Cuban sandwiches

This has been on my list forever. I’ve never had a Cuban sandwich, so I guess we can call this a New England version. First I roasted a pork using this simple, tasty method from Cook The Story (which I will use again. It turned out moist and flavorful, and would have been great as a stand-alone dish.

I used thick sourdough bread, and assembled the sandwiches in this order:
Buttered sourdough bread
Mustard
Swiss cheese
Sliced ham
Roast pork
Pickled peppers
More Ham
More Swiss Cheese
Mustard
Buttered Sourdough bread

I grilled them on both sides, then pressed them hard with cans and grilled them again.

cuban-sandwich

I like how the recipe suggests using a kitchen press, or a brick. I think they are trying to sound tough. “Yeahhh, just grab one’a dem bricks you got lyin’ around yer kitchen, ya know? Or brass knuckles, yeah, dat would do da trick, too.”


THURSDAY
Chicken nuggets, carrots and cukes, hardboiled eggs

I put this one the table and then went to go close my eyes for a minute for three hours. Then I got up, had a mug of wine, and went back to sleep for another eight hours. Don’t hate me. I’m so far behind on sleep, I’d have to spend 23 hours a day sleeping and live to be 125 years old before I got caught up.


FRIDAY
Quesadillas, tortilla chips and salsa, mangoes

That’s the plan, anyway.

Tell me about your lackluster restaurant meals, especially ones you redeemed at home!

A short history of awful pets

You know what’s no fun? Being a scapedog. This noble creature

boomer head shake

has simple needs. He just wants a crate with a blankie and lots of wet coffee filters and styrofoam meat trays hidden under it. He wants people to tell him what to do, and he wants to smell their wonderful, wonderful feet. He wants to go outside and then come inside and then to outside and then come in and then maybe go outside for a bit. He wants to eat snow. And he wants to protect the HELL out of the baby, which is sweet.

However, pretty much all I do is yell at him, and the more I yell at him, the more devoted he becomes, trying to win my favor.

Boomer only pawn in game of life.

Boomer only pawn in game of life.

This is why we got a boy dog. I’m not saying that all men are like this, but I will say that this is why we got a boy dog.

I know he’s a good boy. So I’m trying to make myself feel better about him by reminiscing about all the other pets we’ve had, and how much more awful they were than this supremely irritating dog. For instance . . .

The cat who was our prisoner. I’ve written about this wretched animal before.

black cat

Never in my life have I been hated so passionately as I was hated by that cat. This is the animal who would sit on the couch, wait for me to walk in, make eye contact, pee profoundly, and then casually get up and walk out, making sure to brush past my ankles in a devastatingly ironic pantomime of feline affection, just to show us that she could if she wanted to. This is the cat who, in the time it took for me to get my shoes on to go to the vet, chewed her way out of the cat carrier and disappeared. This is the cat who actually burrowed into the wall and didn’t come out for several days, presumably plotting some horrible vengeance on the family who so barbarically gave her food and shelter.

One night, I had a moment of clarity and simply opened the front door. Propelled by a white hot loathing, she sped off into the darkness whence she came, and we never saw each other again.

The frog that died of ennui after costing us millions of dollars. If you factor in the emotional cost. My son found this frog in the sandbox, and we made some kind of bogus deal that I never thought he’d be able to fulfill — keeping his room clean or some pie-in-the-sky like that. So of course he did it, and he earned a frog.

frog

Happier times

We quickly learned that, despite spending his days doing exactly nothing, a frog is a needy creature. He needs a tank that has water and gravel, sand and moss. Okay. But he also needs live crickets to eat, and, even though he is a yard frog, he can’t eat yard crickets. Nope, they have to be crickets that cost money. And those crickets have to be gut loaded with special stinky calcium powder or something, and you have to time the feeding so that the crickets’ bellies will still be full before the frog eats them.

Les_remords_de_la_patrie

not how I imagined my life

At one point in my research, I came across the phrase “economical cricket husbandry” and sobbed aloud.

Now, the crickets get dehydrated pretty easily; but they will also drown themselves if you give them water, such as the water you might find in a frog tank. So you have to buy a separate container just for the crickets, and in it, you must put special hydrating gel, which the crickets absorb through their horrible abdomens. Whatever you’re imagining, it’s more upsetting than that. Oh, and do not leave a bag of crickets on your dashboard when it’s hot out, or you will have to make a second trip to PetSmart. And all the PetSmart people will know what you have done.

Also, froggie needs sunlight, but not direct sunlight, because that will burn him, but not indirect sunlight, because then he won’t get the correct gamma rays or something, and he will develop some kind of crippling bone disease.

GodzillaBlockparty

oh, the frogmanity

Froggie must have a special light fixture to prevent him from becoming Noodle Bone Frogzilla. But don’t worry, you have a PetSmart discount card! So the special bulb will cost a mere $38.

My question is, how the hell do frogs survive in sandboxes?

Anyway, our frog did not survive. He simply was miserable and made us miserable for many, many months, and then one morning, he looked even more dead that usual, and that was the end of that.

The worst mother fish ever. I’ve kept fish off and on for decade, and I’ve learned two things: One: when you have a really nice set-up, with plants and bottom feeders and Roman ruins, and you buy a new heater and it doesn’t seem to be heating up the water? So you keep turning it up, and it’s still not heating the water? So you turn it up some more, and then some more, and it’s still not heating the water up? You might want to make sure it’s plugged in. And, you might want to make sure you turn it down again before you plug it in. Unless you intended to make bouillabaisse with a side dish of ancient Roman ruins.

Again: not recommended.

Again: not recommended.

The second thing I learned was: do not get too attached. One time we had a fish who turned out, in keeping with the general theme of the household, to be pregnant. It gave birth to approximately 93 teensy little adorable fishlings. Or, was it only about 70. Huh, looks like there’s only about 30 now. Or, wow, there can’t be more than– OH, THIS IS HORRIBLE. Quick, look up what to do when the mother fish is eating all the babies! Okay, run out and buy this expensive little mesh isolation nursery thing! Phew, now they will be safe, and shame on you, you unnatural mother! I know you’re just a fish, but–

OH, THIS IS HORRIBLE!

Yep, the mother fish was sucking her babies through the mesh and eating them anyway.

WORSE THAN THIS.

WORSE THAN THIS.

At this point, a responsible pet owner can only put a blanket over the tank and take the kids out for ice cream until they stop crying.

The three doomed parakeets. One escaped out the window when we cleaned its cage. One got a chill and keeled over suddenly. And one simply got more and more despondent until it started kind of falling apart, which is the worst thing I’ve ever seen a bird do. I wasn’t sure how to handle it, and so my husband asked grimly, “Do we have a paper bag?” His plan was to put the bird in a paper bag and run over it with the car.

horror

This is actually not a terrible idea, and I’m not sure why it makes me want to laugh hysterically; but it was about 17 years ago, and I’m still giggling. (We ended up bringing it to the humane society, who charged us $15 to gas the poor s.o.b. And they didn’t even give us the cage back!)

The tadpole of futility. We have this wonderful town pond, which has one section full of tadpoles and salamanders. The kids love seeing how many they can catch.

Eeek!

Eeek!

One day, feeling expansive after basking in the sun for a few hours, I made a tactical error, and allowed them to bring a tadpole home. We installed it in a pickle jar and it became the centerpiece on the dining room table.

OH BOY!

Mmm, appetizin’.

We named it “Bingo” and prepared to watch the miracle of life unfold before our eyes.

Mmm, appetizin'.

OH BOY!

Instead, it basically acted like a dead pickle with a mouth. It ate and ate and ate and ate, and got more and more bloated. And that’s it. One day, the kids started spazzing out, shrieking that the tadpole had pooped. It turned out to have sprouted a leg. Just one leg. And that’s it.

Was willst du von mein leben?

Was willst du von mein leben?

More weeks went by, and it never grew any more legs. It just continued to eat limp lettuce until I couldn’t stand looking at it anymore, and dumped it into the stream. Vaya con dios, pickle.

Adios.

Adios.

The phantom hamster. Our most current terrible pet. We had some gerbils, and they were pretty good, but then one died. So, because I don’t argue about these things, we got a dwarf hamster, and he was pretty good.

IN FACT SO TYOOOOOT!

IN FACT SO TYOOOOOT!

Until he got out. How he did this, I do not know. He certainly doesn’t appear strong or intelligent or even competent, but somehow he got out. This produced extreme sadness in the boy community of the household for a week or so, until — and again, I would like to note that boys are different from girls — the joyous news was spread that the hamster appears to be alive and well, only he is living inside the walls! Hooray, apparently!

So now we have what may be, according to your point of view, the perfect pet: he requires no food, at least not any intended for him; he requires no care; he requires no changes of bedding, for reasons that I care not to think about. But we know that he’s there. And he is ours.

 And that brings us up to the dog. Well, he does love the baby. Boy, does he love the baby. And I know for a fact that he would not fit inside a paper bag.

It’ll have to be enough.

 

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