What’s for supper? Vol. 316: All Fall

We made it through Halloween and the Spooky Triduum! Plenty of cozy fall foods this week, although no applesauce as of yet. Here’s what we did have: 

SATURDAY
Vermonter sandwiches

By popular request. Your choice of ciabatta rolls or sourdough bread, roast chicken breast, bacon, thick slices of sharp cheddar, slices of tart Granny Smith apples, and honey mustard dressing.

Just an excellent sandwich. Nestle plate in among fabric paint and other craft materials because you are still frantically finishing up Halloween costumes. 

SUNDAY
Spaghetti and ragù; garlic bread; blueberry and pumpkin walnut ice cream 

Damien made this, following the Deadspin recipe. It turns out a little different each time. This time was a little spicy, and wonderfully — look, nobody likes it when I describe a meat sauce as “fluffy,” but the English language is just not helping me out. Here, have a picture:

If you’re thinking of pasta with a standard sluggish tomato sauce with some ground meat thrown in, think that no more. This is entirely different, and absolutely scrumptious. 

The kids miraculously scooped out the pumpkins on Friday while we were out of town, sorted out the pulp and seeds, and cleaned up. I know! So over the weekend, they carved their pumpkins, and all I had to do was roast the seeds.

I spread them in shallow pans, drizzled them with oil and sprinkled them with kosher salt, then cooked them in a 250 oven, stirring them occasionally, and switching the pans once so they’d cook evenly, until they are crunchy but not burnt.

I never know how long this takes because I always, always forget they are in the oven and almost burn them. Maybe forty minutes? I have no idea. 

I had a slightly better handle on dessert. Blueberries were on sale, so I bought a few pints, planning to make ice cream, with lemon pound cake from a mix. But then I felt bad that I hadn’t made any kind of Halloween-themed meal or dessert, so I decided it was important to make pumpkin ice cream.  (In the past, for Halloween I have made SPOOKY MEATLOAF

and once I made those mummy hot dogs

and you know, that was not a good use of my time. As usual, I’m the only one putting pressure on myself to come up with this stuff. Anyway, the ice cream turned out to be a great idea. I thought the two flavors would be terrible together (Watch: This Food Blogger Thinks Dessert Will Be Terrible But Makes It Anyway For Some Reason!), but they were actually great.

The blueberry was sweet and a tiny bit tart, and the pumpkin had all the comfy, custardy flavors of pumpkin pie, and somehow together they worked in the same way that peanut butter and jelly work together. They didn’t taste like peanut butter and jelly, you understand; it was just the same kind of combination. Fruity + earthy, or something. 

I did also make the lemon pound cake mix, but overbaked it, and I was worried the lemon would not go well with the other flavors (I had bought it just thinking lemon + blueberry), and this time I was right. Should have just skipped the cake. Oh well!

Imma have to come back later and write out the ice cream directions. I used Ben and Jerry’s recipes for both, except that I doubled the amount of blueberries for one, and added walnuts to the other, and increased the spices a bit. They both use the basic sweet cream base and do not require cooking. I will say that double blueberry was too much, and the berries clumped together in a way that wasn’t completely pleasant, because the tiny seeds get a little gritty one you get a certain volume of blueberry (they were macerated but not cooked). Next time I’ll just follow the recipe! But the walnuts were an excellent addition to the pumpkin ice cream, and I stand by that. I may make this again for Thanksgiving, or possibly this butternut squash ice cream with candied curry pecans.

MONDAY
Chicken nuggets; candy

Halloween! Dinner is only there to keep child protective services away. The kids had parties at school and ate all kinds of nonsense, then we zipped home and hurried to get costumes on for trick or treating. 

Benny and Corrie were Sarah and Duck

and I assisted them as Scarf Lady 

Lucy, Sophia, and Irene were Doc Ock, Howl from Howl’s Moving Castle, and a robot 

You can’t really tell, but the robot has three special features: It lights up in several colors, it has a little secret compartment for storing things, and it is wearing a fanny pack full of diabetic supplies for its sister, so as not to mess up her Doc Ock costume.

The other kids dispersed to various parties and promised me they would send pictures, but they did not!

TUESDAY
Bagel, sausage, egg, cheese sandwiches; caramel apples

On Tuesday I had an easy meal planned (bagels with sausages, egg, and cheese)

because everyone was exhausted and of course we had to get to Mass for All Saints Day, but I also suddenly couldn’t stand how there were apples all over the place, so I made caramel apples. We usually get the easy-peasy kind where you just stretch a sheet of caramel over the apple and warm it up to meld it on, but the boxes can be a little misleading, so I had two kits of the kind you need a candy thermometer.

Which reminds me of the last time we attempted this, which was one of my favorite Irene moments, when she was about seven. 

Irene, stirring caramel: “We don’t want it to get too hot. Not hard ball. Or hard crack. Or . . . [peering at thermometer] fish donut.”

WELL, THAT’S WHAT IT SAYS. The adult world can be very confusing, and you just have to go with it, even if it sounds a little fish donut.

So I made about 20 apples. 

They turned out lovely, but I surely did not have room for 20 sticky apples to cool and harden in the fridge, so I just left them out all afternoon. Usually our kitchen is about as cool as a refrigerator anyway, but we’re having a little warm snap, and by evening, the caramel had ooooozed its way downward until what I had was a panful of apples, each with its own caramel penumbra, sitting in a pool of caramel. Oh well! At least I got rid of the apples. Some weeks, cooking is like a game whose goal is to get rid of all the food. 

WEDNESDAY
Chicken and salad; soul cakes

This was an okay idea that didn’t quite come off. I had the vague idea to serve a Greek-inspired salad with chicken. While I was out, Damien roasted some chicken breasts with plenty of lemon pepper seasoning, and I sliced up the meat and served it with a big green salad, black olives, feta cheese, pomegranate seeds, chopped walnuts, and cucumbers and tomatoes.

I think the tomatoes were the mistake.  You really can’t have tomatoes on pomegranates in the same plate. They threw the whole thing off. Also I forgot to buy any kind of dressing, so we were forced to dig through the fridge and take our chances. Damien found some creamy Italian dressing, and I was trying to tell him that we also had some kind of vinaigrette, but I couldn’t think of the word, so I called it “greasy Italian.” Which goes to show that describing things accurately is not all it’s cracked up to be.

I also just this minute remembered that I bought pita chips to go with this salad, and totally forgot about them. 

Regarding the pomegranates, I briefly considered looking up some clever TikTok idea for how to get the seeds off the rind in no time flat, but these things never, ever work for me. It’s always a video of some sun-kissed woman with shining, blue-black hair and a peasant blouse, standing in her garden going, “Oh, you cut up your pineapple with a knife, you DUMBASS? Try it like this!” and she grins at the camera and sticks a toothpick in the bottom, and all the pineapple just falls out into a basin in perfect little edible chunks and she eats one with very white teeth. Or else there is some perky dude with weirdly inflated biceps bopping around a spotless kitchen showing us how, when he wants 400 cloves of peeled garlic, all he does is make a little slit in the side and then tap it with a spoon, and the garlic absolutely cannot wait to scurry off and arrange itself into useful rows, all perfectly peeled and not a bit wasted. So I watch this stuff and it looks quite easy, so I imitate them exactly, and somehow slice the tips off my three favorite fingers, and then I have to explain to the ER nurse that I was trying to be like someone on TikTok.

So I decided to just cut the pomegranate into quarters and then just sort of scrabble at it until the seeds came out. And I got a bowlful that way. 

And then I took a picture, so there. 

OH, I also made soul cakes on Wednesday. I guess soul cakes are the original treats that people would give to beggars who would come to their house, and offer to pray for the souls of the dead in exchange for a cookie? I don’t know. I still had a shit ton of apples left, so I was getting ready to make applesauce when I suddenly remembered that the kids had asked about soul cakes, so that’s what I made. 

Jump to Recipe

It’s a very quick recipe, and I do like the taste. They have a faint cidery flavor from the cider vinegar, and they’re soft and a little spicy, very nice. I cut out two kinds and told the kids they represented souls before and after being prayed for. 

Raisins in purgatory, and then you upgrade to half a dried apricot when you go to heaven. That’s some high octane theology for you. 

THURSDAY
Mexican beef bowls and beans

Everyone was pretty excited about this meal. I actually started marinating the meat the night before. 

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I had already cut up the meat before marinating it, so I just fried it up in a giant pan along with the marinade. 

Earlier in the day, I made a big bowl of guacamole

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and a pot of black beans. The beans were completely yummy,

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but I wish I had cooked them with the lid off for a little longer (they were in the Instant Pot on “slow cook” most of the day) to simmer off more of the liquid. 

But all in all, a very tasty meal.  I made a big pot of rice, put out salsa, chopped scallions, sour cream, lime wedges, and corn chips, shredded some cheese, and heated up some corn. Everyone found something they liked to eat.

Mmm, I think I will have leftover beans for lunch. 

FRIDAY
Quesadillas

Lots of leftover fixins from Thursday’s meal, so I’m just going to make plain cheese quesadillas and people can dress it up as they like. I also bought some plantain chips, which I will no doubt forget to serve. 

Happy Friday! If you want some apples, come over. I have a lot. 

Soul cakes

Servings 18 flat cakes the size of large biscuits

Ingredients

  • 1 cup butter, chilled
  • 3-3/4 cup sifted flour
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ginger
  • 1 tsp allspice (can sub cloves)
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp cider vinegar (can sub white vinegar)
  • 4-6 Tbsp milk
  • powdered sugar to sprinkle on top

optional:

  • raisins, currants, nuts, candied citrus peels, etc.

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350

  2. Put the flour in a large bowl. Grate the chilled butter on a vegetable grater and incorporate it lightly into the flour.

  3. Stir in the sugar and spices until evenly distributed.

  4. In a smaller bowl, beat together the eggs, vinegar and milk. Stir this into the flour mixture until it forms a stiff dough.

  5. Knead for several minutes until smooth and roll out to 1/4 thick.

  6. Grease a baking pan. Cut the dough into rounds (or other shapes if you like) and lay them on the pan, leaving a bit of room in between (they puff up a bit, but not a lot). If you're adding raisins or other toppings, poke them into the top of the cakes, in a cross shape if you like. Prick cakes with fork.

  7. Bake for 20-25 minutes until very lightly browned on top.

  8. Sprinkle with powdered sugar while they are warm

 

Beef marinade for fajita bowls

enough for 6-7 lbs of beef

Ingredients

  • 1 cup lime juice
  • 1/3 cup Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 head garlic, crushed
  • 2 Tbsp cumin
  • 2 Tbsp chili powder
  • 1 Tbsp paprika
  • 2 tsp hot pepper flakes
  • 1 Tbsp salt
  • 2 tsp pepper
  • 1 bunch cilantro, chopped

Instructions

  1. Mix all ingredients together.

  2. Pour over beef, sliced or unsliced, and marinate several hours. If the meat is sliced, pan fry. If not, cook in a 350 oven, uncovered, for about 40 minutes. I cook the meat in all the marinade and then use the excess as gravy.

 

Instant Pot black beans

Ingredients

  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 6-8 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 16-oz cans black beans with liquid
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp cumin
  • 1-1/2 tsp salt
  • pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Put olive oil pot of Instant Pot. Press "saute" button. Add diced onion and minced garlic. Saute, stirring, for a few minutes until onion is soft. Press "cancel."

  2. Add beans with liquid. Add cumin, salt, and cilantro. Stir to combine. Close the lid, close the vent, and press "slow cook."

White Lady From NH's Guacamole

Ingredients

  • 4 avocados
  • 1 medium tomato, diced
  • 1 medium jalapeno, minced
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, chopped roughly
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 2 limes juiced
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/2 red onion, diced

Instructions

  1. Peel avocados. Mash two and dice two. 

  2. Mix together with rest of ingredients and add seasonings.

  3. Cover tightly, as it becomes discolored quickly. 

What’s for supper? Vol. 313: The eptimistic kitchen

You did it! You made it to Friday! In lieu of a treat, here is a little food post.

SATURDAY
Grilled ham and cheese, chips

I think people may be well and truly burnt out on grilled ham and cheese, even with the good sourdough bread. We had a good run. I’ll try again in May or so. Or next time I cannot think of literally any other kind of food that people eat for dinner. 

SUNDAY
Aldi pizza 

We were supposed to go apple picking on Saturday, but people were too busy, and then Sunday, but then someone threw up, so, no. 

We did go ahead and make the long-promised giant garbage bag spider. As the name implies, this is made with garbage bags, plus packing tape zip ties. The legs are stuffed with giant weeds, and the body is stuffed with a slightly deflated pool floatie. It looks . . . fine. 

It’s just not what I was hoping. I think if I make a second big round part and make that be the head, and put a lot more eyes on it, and maybe fangs. And maybe give the skeletons some swords, or maybe a fly swatter. I don’t know. It’s just a little lackluster. But I did get it done, and being able to cross “giant garbage bag spider” off your list is not nothing. 

MONDAY
Beef barley soup, pumpkin empanadas 

Nobody was throwing up, so we thought maybe possibly we’d go apple picking on Monday, because nobody had school, except a few people did, and then also oops, I had therapy, but we could still go after that, but then it rained. It was also only about 50 degrees and windy, and driving an hour and half in the afternoon to pick wet apples in the cold wind and then driving home in the dark honestly just did not sound like a lot of fun, even by our standards, even if we stopped to plant crocus bulbs on my parents’ grave, which, yes, was part of my fun-fun plan. So we didn’t do any of that, and instead I stayed home and made soup and empanadas, and that was actually quite nice. 

First beef barley soup of the season. Pretty popular meal in a family that is fairly soup skeptical. It’s just so full of tasty things, and it’s so cozy and colorful. Plenty of carrots and onions and garlic, beef and mushrooms, tomatoes and barley, and the broth is made with red wine. Super easy and if give it plenty of time to cook, the beef gets wonderfully tender. 

This recipe has instructions for stovetop and Instant Pot. 
Jump to Recipe

I got some empanada dough discs at the supermarket, after the NYT comments section clued me in that Goya frozen dough was just as good as homemade, and it’s like $2 for a package of ten.  The Goya dough discs are very easy to work with. They go from totally frozen to workable within about twenty minutes, and they stretch well and don’t tear easily. You can bake or fry them.

For the filling, I sorta followed this recipe, which is just canned pumpkin, vanilla, brown sugar, and pumpkin spice. (I think I used cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice.) I decreased the amount of sugar by about 25% and it was still a bit sweeter than I thought was necessary. You just cook it in a pot for a few minutes, then spoon a heaping spoonful onto the discs, seal them up with a fork, brush them with egg wash, and bake them on parchment paper.

I was a little concerned that the empanadas wouldn’t hold together, because the filling was the consistency of thick homemade applesauce. I briefly considered adding egg or flour, but it didn’t seem like a good day for winging anything, and in the end they didn’t leak. I do think something more solid would have been a bit more appealing, though. Here’s the inside:

This isn’t a flaw of the recipe, it just wasn’t exactly what I wanted (even though it was exactly what I made, duh). They certainly were easy to put together, and they came out of the oven glossy and cheery. This particular dough is flavored with annatto, which gives it a very mild peppery taste and a pleasant ruddy color. 

Corrie has been having homemade empanadas for breakfast and packing them in her lunch all week, which I am telling myself offsets the fact that it took me three days to notice her lunchbox is moldy.

Someone said something about pineapple empanadas, and this intrigues me! And I did, in fact, buy another several packs of empanada discs to keep in the freezer for next time. Maybe pineapple empanadas next time we have chili verde, or tacos al pastor. Maybe apple empanadas next time we go apple picking. Which we’re going to do if it kills us. 

TUESDAY
Ham, peas, mashed potatoes

We are contractually obligated to have this exact meal at least three times a year. I know it’s because they like to make little sculptures with it, and I don’t care, because it’s a damn tasty meal. Ham, peas, and mashed potatoes. 

Also, last time I made mashed potatoes, they came gross, because  I left the skins on and then slightly undercooked and undermashed them, so this was my chance to redeem myself. 

I also redeemed myself by having leftover soup for lunch.

This is a very specific kind of redemption, redemption soup. Limited in its way, but also very tasty, and full of carrots. All I ever have, / redemption soup.

WEDNESDAY
Pork gyros

Yes. Yes. Gyro time. In the morning, I cut up a big, cheap pork shoulder into thin strips and marinated it. I made the marinade with honey, wine vinegar, olive oil, fresh garlic, red onions, fresh rosemary and oregano (the very last from the garden), and then some dried oregano, too, just to be on the safe side. This is a pleasantly mild, somewhat sweet, herby-tasting marinade, and it makes the meat nicely tender. 

Jump to Recipe

At dinner time, I just spread it in a shallow pan and roasted it with the marinade, stirring it up a bit halfway through to keep it from burning

while cooking some french fries in a second pan. I sliced up some more red onions, then cut up some tomatoes and cucumbers, and made a big dish of garlicky lemony yogurt sauce, and gathered up plenty of big pieces of fresh wild mint.

AND THEN WE FEASTED.

I skipped the french fries in mine and just went for plenty of yogurt and hot sauce. A perfectly satisfying meal, the tender juicy meat and hot sauce and the cool, garlicky yogurt all playing so nicely with the crunchy fresh vegetables. Just couldn’t be better.  The fresh mint leaves really put it over the top. 

THURSDAY
Meatball subs, veg and dig

I often make the meatballs in the oven, but this time I felt like frying them, which really does make them better. I just browned them in a pan in batches

with the help of a supervisor

and then let them finish cooking in the oven, went to pick up the kids, and then moved the meatballs to a pot of red sauce to continue heating up until supper. 

Nothing extraordinary, but good for a rainy fall day. 

FRIDAY
Shrimp lo mein

For some reason, the price of frozen shrimp has remained the same while everything else has expanded to … the opposite of shrimp-like, in price size.

That reminds me, Corrie is very interested in opposites lately. She wanted to know the opposite of optimistic, and when I told her, she informed me that Sonny is optimistic, but the cat is pessimistic. Which is true.

Then the next day, she forgot the word “pessimistic” and referred to something as “eptimistic,” and was embarrassed; so we decided that eptimistic was a perfectly good word that must mean the opposite of being inept. Like if you know how to cook, you’re pretty eptimistic in the kitchen. Let’s make this happen, everybody. Let’s eptimistically whip up a quick little lo mein sauce, and make a surprisingly simple, tasty dinner

Jump to Recipe

with a couple pounds of store brand fettuccine and maybe some chopped up zucchini and yellow bell pepper. Won’t that be pretty? I’m feeling fairly optimistic about it. 

And we are going to go apple picking this weekend if it kills us. And it will! 

Beef barley soup (Instant Pot or stovetop)

Makes about a gallon of lovely soup

Ingredients

  • olive oil
  • 1 medium onion or red onion, diced
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 3-4 medium carrots, peeled and diced
  • 2-3 lbs beef, cubed
  • 16 oz mushrooms, trimmed and sliced
  • 6 cups beef bouillon
  • 1 cup merlot or other red wine
  • 29 oz canned diced tomatoes (fire roasted is nice) with juice
  • 1 cup uncooked barley
  • salt and pepper

Instructions

  1. Heat the oil in a heavy pot. If using Instant Pot, choose "saute." Add the minced garlic, diced onion, and diced carrot. Cook, stirring frequently, until the onions and carrots are softened. 


  2. Add the cubes of beef and cook until slightly browned.

  3. Add the canned tomatoes with their juice, the beef broth, and the merlot, plus 3 cups of water. Stir and add the mushrooms and barley. 

  4. If cooking on stovetop, cover loosely and let simmer for several hours. If using Instant Pot, close top, close valve, and set to high pressure for 30 minutes. 

  5. Before serving, add pepper to taste. Salt if necessary. 

 

5 from 1 vote
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honey garlic marinade for gyros

Marinate thin strips of pork for several hours, then grill or broil. This is a mild, somewhat sweet marinade that makes the meat quite tender.

Ingredients

  • 4-5 lbs pork shoulder or butt, sliced into thin strips
  • 6-8 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 red onion, diced
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • small bunch fresh rosemary, chopped
  • small bunch fresh oregano, chopped
5 from 1 vote
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Meatballs for a crowd

Make about 100 golf ball-sized meatballs. 

Ingredients

  • 5 lbs ground meat (I like to use mostly beef with some ground chicken or turkey or pork)
  • 6 eggs, beaten
  • 2 cups panko bread crumbs
  • 8 oz grated parmesan cheese (about 2 cups)
  • salt, pepper, garlic powder, oregano, basil, etc.

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400.

  2. Mix all ingredients together with your hands until it's fully blended.

  3. Form meatballs and put them in a single layer on a pan with drainage. Cook, uncovered, for 30 minutes or more until they're cooked all the way through.

  4. Add meatballs to sauce and keep warm until you're ready to serve. 

 

basic lo mein

Ingredients

for the sauce

  • 1 cup soy sauce
  • 5 tsp sesame oil
  • 5 tsp sugar

for the rest

  • 32 oz uncooked noodles
  • sesame oil for cooking
  • add-ins (vegetables sliced thin or chopped small, shrimp, chicken, etc.)
  • 2/3 cup rice vinegar (or mirin, which will make it sweeter)

Instructions

  1. Mix together the sauce ingredients and set aside.

  2. Boil the noodles until slightly underdone. Drain and set aside.

  3. Heat up a pan, add some sesame oil for cooking, and quickly cook your vegetables or whatever add-ins you have chosen.

  4. Add the mirin to the pan and deglaze it.

  5. Add the cooked noodles in, and stir to combine. Add the sauce and stir to combine.

What were you for Halloween?

Finally October, and that means no one can stop me from talking about Halloween costumes!

This year, my wish is finally coming true: Benny is going to be Sarah from Sarah & Duck for Halloween, and Corrie is going to be Duck. Rarely have costumes been matched so well to personalities. I had to sweeten the deal by promising to be Yarn Lady, and I don’t really see that that’s especially apt, but the kids think it’s pretty funny. 

Halloween costumes have certainly changed from my youth. When I was growing up, most of the class turned up in those brittle, blurry plastic masks with tiny nostril holes and eyes and a slitty mouth, and you would clothe yourself in a slithery plastic smock with a picture of yourself on the chest, and that was magical enough.

In my family, though, some combination of being poor and weird compelled us to make our own costumes. My mother absolutely hated this kind of project. She would suffer torments for us, die for us, but making Halloween costumes was a bridge too far; so we were mostly left to our own devices, with mixed results.

First grade: My older sister was an angel, and I was a devil. One of my teenage sisters sewed these costumes, which were pretty spectacular. I remember yards and yards of gold wiggly ric-rac, and my big sister spreading the white fabric for the angel costume out on the floor and saying in mock gruff tones, “Put yer neck right here” so she could measure it. I remember when it was my turn to lie on the devil-red fabric on the floor, and hearing and feeling the scissors slowly biting through the cloth, closer and closer to my head. The thrill! 

I totally should have won the class costume contest for my devil suit, but instead, Amy who was dressed like a nurse won, just because they thought she was cute. Inexcusable. But when we went trick-or-treating, somebody thought I was so cute, she gave me an entire full-sized bag of potato chips! Imagine walking home in the dark on your stubby little devil legs hauling an enormous bag of chips, all for yourself, based solely on your cuteness. Vindicated! That triumph has never been equalled to this day.

Second grade: We were ladybugs, my sister and I both. My mother got a library book possibly this one, by Frieda Gates

that told you how to make easy costumes out of “oak tag,” which is what my mother called what is now called “poster board.”  (My mother also called ground beef “chopmeat” and jeans “dungarees,” I assumed for the sole purpose of humiliating me in front of my friends.) Many of the costumes were two pieces of poster board connected with string to hang over your shoulders, like a sandwich board sign. The lady bug costume was red poster board with big black dots, and there must have been some kind of headpiece, or maybe just a black hat. Everyone was pleased and relieved that we could wear our winter jackets under the costumes without doing violence to the aesthetic, which was always a point of contention.  We could even integrate those fluorescent orange reflective dot stickers the fire station used to give out, to discourage cars from running little children down. 

Correction! The book we had was this one: Easy Costumes You Don’t Have to Sew by Goldie Chernoff

Here’s my sister as a tombstone, using the “two pieces of oaktag” method.

This style of costume also forces you to walk in a sedate, ladylike manner, or else it flaps something awful. 

This may have been the year my sister and I wandered out so late and so long, deciding to try for one more house and one more house, that we looked up and realized we were far, far past any neighborhood we recognized, next to some kind of strange tire junk yard with a broken down fence, and it was well and truly black sky dark out, not just dusk, and our hands were freezing cold and our bags were heavy and our legs were stiff and exhausted. Whether or not we made it back home, I don’t remember. 

Third grade: A tree. This was certainly my own idea, and it was not a good one. It took a very long time to trace all those separate maple leaves out of construction paper, draw the little veins on, and cut them out, but the really hard part was holding my arms up the whole time. Yes, I designed this costumes so that it only looked like a tree if I held my arms up in the air, treelike. If I ever rested my arms, I just looked like a wad of construction paper. Oaktag, if you will. I believe this is the year my sister was a gravestone, or possibly an ear of corn (which also flapped a lot).

I HAVE A PHOTO.

Still smiling;  hadn’t yet realized about the arms. 

Fourth grade: I don’t remember. I do recall I spent a lot of time drawing and painting pictures of people raking leaves, the leaves rendered with bits of sponge dipped in paint and dabbed delicately on the paper; and I spent an awful lot of time drawing skeletons. This lasted throughout the whole year and into the next. Just never got tired of drawing skeletons, and they are still often on my mind. I did enter a Halloween window painting contest; maybe that was fourth grade. Skeletons were a major part of it, as well as some bats. The purple paint from the clouds dripped down over the bats, and me and my friend Lori decided to pretend we had done it on purpose, because the bats were so spooky, even their blood was purple! And we won second place, but the Eagle Times reported that we had won third, and my mother didn’t let me call in a correction, which is total chopmeat. 

Wow, I just suddenly remembered that I had a Halloween party at my house instead of trick-or treating one year! That must have been fourth grade. My father, who was the librarian at the local state college, borrowed a skeleton from the science class, and we set that up in the doorway to greet people. We had an old, rather shabby victorian house, which helped to sell the whole vibe. We did the classic “dead man’s remains” party game, turning off the lights and passing around various foods, solemnly explaining which body parts they were. Peeled grapes for eyeballs, oiled spaghetti for brains, perhaps some Jell-o for some other organ. My father must have organized this. He used to be a children’s librarian, and he loved doing group activities with songs and games. He used to do this thing where you drew little bits of a map as you told a story, and when the story was done, it turned out you had been drawing a duck the whole time. For the Halloween party, I’m guessing he employed his 

Fifth grade: I was Sleeping Beauty. By this time, we had acquired some kind of princess dress made with maroon velveteen and brocade from a yard sale or something. It had ballooning, floral patterned sleeves with long ribbons at the shoulders, you could lace up your arms in a criss-cross pattern, very romantic. So I wore that and made a spinning wheel out of cardboard. I seem to remember a gold crown made out of . . . something uncrownlike, that hurt my scalp a lot. It couldn’t have been barbed wire, but that’s how I remember it. I do remember a freckled girl named Pam being picked up by her mom, staring at my dress with great envy, and savagely remarking, “Must be nice to have someone make homemade costumes for you!” and her mom looking sad. This essay, like all essays, seems to be about moms.

Sixth grade: A flower? I think I made a mask out of a paper plate with painted paper plate petals, and then made a center out of hot pink synthetic fur. This would have been about 1986, so it was pretty easy to get your hands on some synthetic hot pink fur. This was right about the age you were supposed to stop caring about dressing up for Halloween, so you had to start veering into ironic or upsetting or sexy if you wanted to wear a costume. I may have been an idiot in sixth grade, but even I could tell I wasn’t sexy, no matter how many jelly bracelets I managed to cram on my arms; and in my house, my mother scathingly referred to Madonna as “Madoona,” because she didn’t deserve to have the same name as the Blessed Mother; so there wasn’t any way I was going to get away with that kind of costume anyway) so I guess I went with upsetting. I remember sort of looming at people, and refusing to speak, and feeling that I must be an alien flower from some other galaxy. (Really I was just a regular flower.)

And then I don’t think I dressed up again until college, when we were supposed to wear costumes based on the things we were reading in Humanities. 

One year I was, sorry, Aristotle’s Incontinent Man, and that was when I found out how expensive adult diapers are (too expensive for a joke costume, it turns out). I guess I wore dark clothes with a sheet wrapped around my loins, and then I wore makeup to make my eyebrows look indecisive. When it was my turn to present my costume, I asked Maria for a cigarette, and then as soon as I lit it, I change my mind and stamped it out, which made Maria pretty mad. Ha ha, get it, because he’s incontinent. Boy, I miss smoking. 

And that is all I remember. If someone out there went to college with me and has photos of me in blackface or something, please have mercy and keep it to yourself! I’ve changed! I’m Yarn Lady now. 

 

Wrestling w skeleton thoughts

The other day, I was feeling a little low. One of my children suggested I go out and buy myself a nice new skeleton. She was right; it would have cheered me up.

I love skeletons. Lots of people do, and why not? They grin so cheerfully, and they’re so accommodating: You can bend them and tote them around them and make them do whatever you want. This year I set up a skeleton climbing a ladder up the side of the house, and one lounging in a chair by the mailbox, waving to traffic. It’s amazing what you can make them do with zip ties.

The novelist Joyce Carol Oates made herself look a little silly on Twitter a few weeks ago, responding to a photo of a house similarly decorated for Halloween.  She tweeted, “(you can always recognize a place in which no one is feeling much or any grief for a lost loved one & death, dying, & everyone you love decomposing to bones is just a joke).”

Several people hooted in response, “No one tell her about Mexico!” Other readers with a longer memory pointed out that Oates had in fact written a story based on the death of an actual specific human being, and when the friends of the dead man complained at her callous co-opting of his personal life, she was dismissive.  And a few folks felt a moment of pity, pity for the poor old bat. Someone named “JustLuisa” said kindly, “My 5 am hot take is that people should be nice to Joyce Carol Oates about the skeleton thing. She’s a freakin’ octogenarian; why are we making fun of the old lady wrestling w skeleton thoughts.”

Why indeed. This year, when I hauled my plastic skeletons out of the attic, I had a bad time for a few minutes. They really weren’t funny, for a few minutes. What are you smiling about! Effing skeletons, what’s so funny? How many times had I pictured my own father and my own mother with their hollow eyes down in the ground, on their way to being just bones, of all things. You think you know these things, but it turns out you weren’t quite there yet. You believe in the resurrection of the body, but still. There is that time, under the ground. It’s a bad time. 

“Nobody tell her about Mexico,” some people said. I have heard about some cultures, in Mexico and elsewhere, that not only celebrate and remember the dead, and skelly it up with sugar cookies and masks and paper banners, but they actually go and dig them up. They wait three years, or seven years, and they dig the corpses up, clean them off, dress them, and have a little party.

I wonder what that does to the living, knowing this day is coming. You wouldn’t be able to just walk away in a straight line, after somebody dies. You couldn’t just progress neatly through the stages of grief, getting further and further away from their death as the date wanes into the past. You couldn’t just say goodbye and have that be the end of it.

That’s a joke, of course. You can’t do that anyway, with or without the corpse party. Even if you go full-on American, and pump your loved one full of preservatives, seal them up in airtight caskets that look like tiny little posh hotel rooms, and expect them to stay there forever, there are no straight lines away from death. There’s a lot of staggering and slumping and backtracking involved, believe me. Look at poor Joyce, 83 years old and still struggling with skeletons, and it’s not because she hasn’t had a chance to think about it.

Every so often, I have the urge to write about my dead parents. I always wonder if I’m doing it too often, and I always wonder if what I’m doing is remembering them, or exploiting them. Is it for them, or for me? I pray for them, of course, but the writing is for me, assuredly. But for what purpose? Why am I dragging them out of the attic again? You look at the calendar, you see it’s the season for memento mori again, so you dig the old folks up, brush them off, and get 800 words out of it. 

Not that my parents would mind. It doesn’t do them any harm. But I do try not to tote them around too much, or pose them in any ways that would be too foreign to who they were, as I knew them. Which is only as my parents, which is by no means all of who they were. And bones is not who they are now.

But still. I try not to make the zip ties too tight if I can help it, when I set them up for another pose. I can’t seem to help wrestling with skeletons every so often, but I try to be gentle. And I’m sure I’ll be back again, because there is not a straight line away from death. 

 

Halloween roundup! Samhain, witch burning, pumpkin carving, werewolf movies, and SPOOKY MISC.

I’ve made my annual pilgrimage to Walmart to get more hot glue sticks while wearing embarrassing pajamas, so I guess I’m just about ready for Halloween. Last night I made progress on an Athena costume (helmet, spear, and aegis) for Corrie, and Clara saved the day by sewing a pirate skirt for Benny. I did my part by buying bootlaces that don’t perpetually untie themselves, and honestly, that may have saved Halloween, too. 

I’ve been saving up a few interesting bits of reading to share, more or less Halloween related:

Is Halloween ackshully pagan?

Samhain photo by Robin Canfield on Unsplash 

Short answer: No. Long answer: No, it’s Catholic, always has been, you absolute shoehorning no-history-knowing nits. So says Tim O’Neill of History for Atheists, and he has the goods. The idea that religious people stole Samhain or some other pre-christian tradition from pagans is popular but completely without historical merit. A longish and fascinating read from a guy who can’t be accused of having a religious agenda.

Sorta related: Who burned the witches? This is an older article by Salon co-founder Laura Miller published in 2005, challenging the idea that, when we say “witch burning,” we mean some concerted effort by the big bad church to quash rebellious wise women who knew too much about how to gather healing herbs and whatnot.

Photo by Evgeniy Kletsov on Unsplash 

Nobody really comes out looking especially awesome in the witch trial era, but it really seems to have been mostly a case of people being like people be, which is horrible enough in itself:

The mass of detail can be numbing, but what it reveals is important: not a sweeping, coordinated effort to exert control by a major historical player, but something more like what Hannah Arendt called the “banality of evil.” Witch hunts were a collaboration between lower-level authorities and commonfolk succumbing to garden-variety pettiness, vindictiveness, superstition and hysteria. Seen that way, it’s a pattern that recurs over and over again in various forms throughout human history, whether or not an evil international church or a ruthless patriarchy is involved, in places as different as Seattle and Rwanda.

This is, in fact, more or less how it was taught to us in public school when I was growing up. I appreciate the attempt to bring some balance to the conversation, which, if anything, has gotten dumber since this article came out. And I wish people would be willing to consider this less conspiratorial, more mundane explanation more often for . . . everything. When we can explain everything bad with a conspiracy, that’s thrilling and satisfying, and lets us imagine that there are clear cut bad guys who aren’t us; but it’s far more likely that people everywhere are petty and vengeful and prone to letting their bad impulses get out of control. Nobody wants to hear it, because it means it’s something we’re all susceptible to. 
 
What else? Pumpkins! Just a few more days until we get our dining room table back. 
 
 
If I put the pumpkins outside now, they’ll be freezing cold when we bring them in to scoop them out. And I also haven’t super duper found spots for all the frost-damaged plants I brought in, yet. So this is how we live. At least the cookie is happy. Somewhere in there is a spool of wire I bought to make the snakes for Athena’s aegis, but I can’t find it, so I got more in my pajamas.
 
I finally got my anxious paws on those pumpkins yesterday, after searching no fewer than seven stores and coming up empty and getting more and more nervous about having to carve, like, cauliflowers for Halloween this year. I told the Home Depot lady that probably Covid made people sad, which made them want to decorate more, which made them buy extra pumpkins, and she said that sounded exactly right, but even I could tell it was stupid. In real life, I blame the Masons, or possibly the Jews. Anyway, now we have ten lovely fat pumpkins to carve. I got a Dremel for Christmas last year, and I’ve barely used it, so I think I will make something splendid this year.  Check out #11. Okay, realistically speaking, I will make a sloppy attempt at it, and my family will be really supportive and nice about it. I can live with this. 
 
 
And finally, a Halloween family watching suggestion, not a new one but a solid choice: Over the Garden Wall
 

I’m still amazed it got broadcast, because it’s so weird and beautiful and thoughtful. It’s an animated miniseries of 12 short episodes, and every one is gorgeous, creepy, funny, and strangely moving, with crazy, memorable music.

Two half-brothers find themselves lost in the woods on Halloween, and as they try to make their way home, they become entangled in some terrifying otherworldly business. It’s loosely inspired by The Divine Comedy, but I wouldn’t push that too far. 

Each episode is about 11 minutes, so you can watch the entire series in about two hours. We split it into two nights. Here’s the first episode, which is pretty representative:

It’s rated PG, but some of the characters and situations are extremely creepy, so while we did let our six-year-old watch it, she has a very high tolerance for scary stuff, and some kids under the age of eight or nine could find it too scary. (Here’s a specific list of creepy stuff.) There is a lot of very silly and hilarious stuff that fixes you right up when you get creeped out. No gore, graphic violence, or sex. There is a persistent melancholy tone, but all the relationships in the show get worked out very satisfactorily, and familial love is the true theme of the miniseries, and all is restored in the end. 

This show also contains one of the most realistic depictions of a goofy little boy we’ve ever seen. We’ve come to burgle your turts! Lots of quotes and songs have become part of our family culture.

Here’s a beast costume

a Wirt costume

and a Wirt and Greg cake:

The whole thing is crowded with allusions and suggestions and portents, and you can either pursue them or just enjoy them. It originally ran on Cartoon Network in 2014. It doesn’t appear to be streaming for free anywhere right now. We bought it to stream on Amazon.

We haven’t settled on a scary movie to watch on Halloween night. We’ve seen Young Frankenstein too recently. We’ve seen Army of Darkness a million times. I may push for renting Silver Bullet (1985), which is the only good werewolf movie ever made. FIGHT ME. Here’s where you can watch it (nowhere for free right now, that I can see.)
 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n1dClCykQys
 
And I guess that’s it. We have never managed to do anything for All Saint’s Day, but if you do, here’s my list of costumes that will do double duty, and work for saints and their spookier counterparts as well. I should update it to add Matt Swaim’s suggestion:
 

And if you’re really ahead of the game, here is my All Soul’s Day cheat sheet: A recipe for eggs in purgatory, a recipe for soul cakes, and a quick prayer for the dead. Donezo. 

Ask a couple who’ve been married 24 years today

Who has four thumbs, has been married for almost a quarter of a century, and absolutely adores haunted houses?

I have no idea. Definitely not me and my husband. We have the thumb part covered, and it will be our 24th anniversary in a few weeks, but we’re ambivalent at best about haunted houses.

You may wonder then, why we’re currently packing our bags to spend a long anniversary weekend at something called “Screeemfest,” which takes place inside an amusement park, which we also don’t especially care for, and which features no fewer than five on-premises haunted houses. Yes, that’s Screeemfest with three “e’s,” just like in Eastern equine encephalitis. Eee!

The thinking, see, is that our expectations will be so incredibly low, there’s nowhere to go but up. We do like each other, and we definitely like getting away from our kids, I mean the workaday responsibilities of everyday life, I mean our kids; so, I don’t know, this is what we’re doing. Chances are good we’ll have a good time one way or another, and after 24 years, we’re just leaning into the fact that we got married in late October, that’s all.

This strikes me as a much safer strategy than what we’ve done for our anniversary in the past, which was to try and sneak away for a super ultra romantic absolutely perfect dream getaway — a perilous endeavor which included getting lost on the highway, and then the fireplace not lighting properly, being embarrassed because I didn’t know how to pronounce the name of the fancy cheese I wanted to order, being too tired for champagne, etc. etc. The heck with all of that. A romantic weekend is where you find it. Happy anniversary, BOO! Eee!

As a little present to myself, I asked my social media friends for help writing this post. I solicited questions for a couple who’ve been married more or less happily for almost a quarter of a century. Here’s what we came up with:

What’s the preferred term: “The marital act” or “The Obligations”?

Like so many things in a strong marriage, it’s mainly about making other people feel uncomfortable. But what long-married couples don’t want you to know is that their secret word for “sex” is actually inaudible. They’re probably saying it right now, and you don’t even know it. Boo!

Did you ever switch sides of the bed?

Several people asked some form of this apparently burning question, and one person volunteered the information that she once did switch sides, and her husband got up in the middle of the night in his sleep and peed in the closet. Just if you were wondering whether there are less romantic things than going to a haunted house for your anniversary. In our case, it doesn’t matter which side of the bed I’m on, because I never sleep. I used to be up with the baby all the time. Now I don’t have a baby, and all I do is put on my pajamas and spend all night getting up and getting some ibuprofen, all night long. It’s called aging gracefully, look it up.

What’s the stupidest, funniest thing you’ve seriously argued about in those 24 years?

Read the rest of my latest for The Catholic Weekly

Image: Pxfuel 

 

Kids and scary stuff: where to draw the line?

This is the time of year when my kids start begging to visit those pop-up Halloween shops that appear in vacant store fronts. We let them go, but we use caution, because the aisle with silly wigs and spooky skeletons is right next to the aisle with ouija boards and pentagram necklaces. One minute you’re having fun, and the next minute you’re literally summoning spirits.

Like so much of parenting, dealing with issues like magic, occultism, and plain old spookiness is a balancing act; and like most balancing acts, there’s danger on both sides. 

My more conservative friends think I’m dangerously lenient. They believe that hanging fabric bats and telling ghost stories by the light of a jack-o’-lantern glorifies evil, and if we’re going to be that careless with our children’s souls, we might as well just sign over to Satan when they’re born.

My more progressive friends friends think my caution around magic and the occult is laughable. They reason that if a ouija board is made by the same company that makes Monopoly and Hungry, Hungry Hippos, how perilous could it possibly be? It’s just a game.

So here is what we tell our kids: There is nothing inherently dangerous about spookiness, at Halloween or any time. It’s psychologically healthy to explore our natural human fascination with death. When we tell ghost stories or watch scary movies, we turn our normal fear of darkness and the unknown into something manageable, even enjoyable. As Catholics, we don’t need to run and hide our faces from any encounter with death and darkness, because Jesus conquers death. 

But there is a line. Lighting a jack-o’-lantern isn’t going to summon demons, but that doesn’t mean demons don’t exist.

The Church forbids superstition and divination, and that includes trying to summon spirits of the dead, trying to tell the future, or any other practice that reveals, in the words of the catechism,”a desire for power over time, history, and, in the last analysis, other human beings … They contradict the honor, respect, and loving fear that we owe to God alone.”

The Church also forbids “[a]ll practices of magic or sorcery, by which one attempts to tame occult powers, so as to place them at one’s service and have a supernatural power over others,” even if it’s to help other people.  It’s not that God is afraid of losing his power to us; it’s that he knows how  how easily we can be hurt in spiritual warfare. 

So, if so much spiritual danger is truly out there, shouldn’t we lock our kids down completely to keep them safe? Avoid even the whiff of anything otherworldly, on the off-chance that it’s something harmful?

There are two dangers with this approach. One is that our children will become stunted and fearful, and won’t enjoy the wholesome riches of the imagination that God has given us for our enjoyment. 

The other is that our children will eventually see that no one ever got possessed by eating candy corn. From there, they may easily and logically go on to doubt other things we have taught them — things like the malice of Satan or the goodness of God. Teach kids that everything is dangerous, and they grow up to believe all caution is foolish, and all limits on their behavior is an offense against their right to be happy. And that’s the short path to misery.

So here’s a good rule: It’s not objectively wrong to pursue an emotional thrill, a shiver, a scare. It is objectively dangerous and sinful to engage in an activity that goes beyond a feeling, and is meant to actually make something happen in real life.

The caveat to this rule is that some things are designed to make something happen whether the participants believes in them or not. So if I have a seance with friends just as a goofy joke? I might actually be put in touch with something dangerous. If I rest my hand on a ouija board planchette, and I believe with all my heart that it’s just a stupid game? I’ve still opened a spiritual door, and something demonic could come through. Even if I don’t believe in it, and I’m just doing it for fun, if the thing itself is designed as an invitation for spiritual forces to come into my life, it should be shunned. The forces of evil are real, and they are not fussy. 

The other caveat is that some kids are susceptible to a slippery slope. Most kids can play Dungeons and Dragons, read stories about magic, watch scary or gory movies, or dress up as witches and monsters for Halloween, and their interest remains safely in the realm of fun and thrills. They know the difference between games and stories and fantasies, and reality. But some kids’ interest in the magic and the macabre goes from a fascination, to an obsession, to an entrapment with something objectively dangerous. This depends on the child in question, and should be managed on a case-by-case basis, with the advice of a sensible priest.  

And if your child is already involved in unsavory things, don’t despair. Ask a priest for help, and pray. Spiritual warfare is real, but it can be won, if we keep going to Jesus. 

***

This column was originally published in Parable magazine in 2020. Reprinted with permission.

Image by Petr Krotochvil (public domain)

What’s for supper, Vol. 230: In which I mise all over the place

Ho hum, what a dull week. At least we have food to talk about. Here’s what we had this week:

SATURDAY
Cheeseburgers and candy

Halloween! We had some kind of complicated plan with multiple cars and pick ups and drop offs before trick or treating, so Damien bought a sack of Wendy’s burgers and distributed them to anyone who would slow down long enough to eat one, and/or could bend their arms enough to reach their mouths with their costumes on. 

We had a really good costume year. Clara taught herself how to sew and made a dress and a cloak, and went as an autumn warrior elf or something. 

Elijah spent about 900 hours cutting, shaping, sanding, gluing, and painting bits of foam, and came out with this incredible Mandalorian costume

Lucy and Sophia had store-bought costumes and wigs, Tsuyu and Ochako, which they bought with money they earned by working, and Lucy made her boots out of foam

Irene was Grunkle Stan (I made the fez and she made the 8 ball cane)

Benny was a fairy princess dragon

and Corrie was Jim from Troll Hunters

And that was that! Only about half as many people as usual were giving out treats, but they made up for numbers with enthusiasm, ingenious candy delivery devices, and of course candy. 

SUNDAY
Pulled chicken sandwiches, coleslaw, french fries

Wanted to try something easy but different. This didn’t knock anyone’s socks off, but it was fine. I served it with red onions and little dill pickles.

I used this recipe that calls for grated onion, olive oil, Worcestershire sauce, brown sugar, and bottled BBQ sauce, and it came out tasting exactly like I had just used bottled BBQ sauce. Next time I’ll either skip the extra ingredients and just do that, or else I’ll find a recipe that delivers more for the effort. It’s nice to have something else to do with chicken, anyway. 

MONDAY
Beef barley soup, pumpkin muffins (and soul cakes)

A snowy, blustery day, great for soup and muffins. Beef barley soup is popular with more than half the family, which is pretty good. My version has onions, carrots, mushrooms, tender beef, tomatoes, barley, and a rich beef broth with red wine, and plenty of pepper. 

Jump to Recipe

I made it in the Instant Pot, but this recipe easily adapts for stovetop. 

Poor Benny made her first batch of pumpkin muffins all by herself last week, and just as she was ready to pop them in the oven, the pan tipped over and it all flopped out on the floor. So she was especially glad to see these. 

Jump to Recipe

I think my baking soda may be a bit feeble, or maybe I just didn’t fill the tins high enough; but they turned out well enough, if not lofty and huge. 

I made a double recipe, which gave me enough for 24 muffins and a large loaf. For the loaf, I added dried cranberries and sunflower seeds. 

I had to leave the house while it was still baking, so it stayed in the oven a little too long and got too dry; but it was still pleasant and hearty. I’ll use this combination again, or maybe walnuts instead of sunflower seeds.

And it being All Souls Day, Clara made these lovely soul cakes, as I mentioned

Good smell day at the Fisher house. 

TUESDAY
Asian meatballs and rice

Election day. I wanted something I could prep ahead of time and serve without a lot of fuss, because Damien and I were both out after dinner covering election results. So I went with Asian meatballs, which is a foolproof recipe. 

Jump to Recipe

OR SO I THOUGHT.

My fellow Americans, these meatballs were horrendous.  I don’t know what happened. I was in such a rush and ended up eyeballing the spices, and, well, I guess I know what happened. They were so horribly salty and harsh and awful! Oh well. It’s a good recipe if you follow it. 

That’s hot sauce, not ketchup. And no, putting hot sauce on your painfully salty meatballs doesn’t make them better. After I took this picture, I tried adding duck sauce, which also, you’ll never guess, didn’t help. I don’t even know what is wrong with me. 

WEDNESDAY
Chicken burgers, chips, quinoa and kale

I made a big speech about how I bought a bag of steamable quinoa and kale because I happen to like it, and they are welcome to have some if they want, but no one has to eat it, and they can just eat their fake Pringles, and they just aren’t allowed to give me a hard time about my quinoa and kale. 

They did give me a hard time, though, the little creeps.

I happen to like quinoa and kale!  Leave me alone with my mountain of quinoa and kale! Love is love. In this house we believe you should leave your mother alone. 

THURSDAY
Banh mi

A long-promised meal. This really is the queen of all sandwiches. 

Jump to Recipe

I guess this was the only meal that really turned out this week. I didn’t want to mention it before, but the mushrooms in the beef barley soup were a little past their prime, and I tried to pretend it was fine, but the soup was really not that great. And to be honest, I should have cooked this banh mi pork right in the pan, rather than on a rack, because it was a little dry. 

But I did toast-and-not-burn the baguettes, and I pickled ever so many carrots,

Jump to Recipe

and there were cucumbers, plenty of cilantro, pickled jalapeños, and sriracha mayo, and it’s a dem fine sandwich. A dem fine sandwich. Worth the effort. 

It’s killing me that today is meatless Friday. We may even have some leftover rice, and I could be having a leftover banh mi bowl right now. I was talking it over with Lena and we agreed, we need more bowls of things in our life. Vote for me; I’ll get you a bowl of something. 

FRIDAY
Eggs migas with refried beans

I don’t even have to look; I can feel that we have 346 bags of tortillas in the house. The eggs are probably all frozen, but what the hell. We even have some refried beans, and that has made all the difference.

I guess I haven’t written up a migas recipe yet. Don’t tell anyone I said that, but it’s basically matzoh brei for Mexicans. You slice some tortillas thin and fry them until crisp, then add in some beaten eggs and scramble it together. You can add in other stuff while it cooks, but I like to cook it simply and then serve the extras as toppings and sides. 

And there it is. I’m projecting a win for everyone at dinnertime today.

Here’s the recipe cards for the week. Enjoy!

Coleslaw

Ingredients

  • 1 head cabbage, shredded
  • 2 carrots, grated
  • 5 radishes, grated or sliced thin (optional)

Dressing

  • 1 cup mayo
  • 1 cup cider or white vinegar
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Mix together shredded vegetables. 
    Mix dressing ingredients together and stir into cabbage mix. 

Soul cakes

Servings 18 flat cakes the size of large biscuits

Ingredients

  • 1 cup butter, chilled
  • 3-3/4 cup sifted flour
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ginger
  • 1 tsp allspice (can sub cloves)
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp cider vinegar (can sub white vinegar)
  • 4-6 Tbsp milk
  • powdered sugar to sprinkle on top

optional:

  • raisins, currants, nuts, candied citrus peels, etc.

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350

  2. Put the flour in a large bowl. Grate the chilled butter on a vegetable grater and incorporate it lightly into the flour.

  3. Stir in the sugar and spices until evenly distributed.

  4. In a smaller bowl, beat together the eggs, vinegar and milk. Stir this into the flour mixture until it forms a stiff dough.

  5. Knead for several minutes until smooth and roll out to 1/4 thick.

  6. Grease a baking pan. Cut the dough into rounds (or other shapes if you like) and lay them on the pan, leaving a bit of room in between (they puff up a bit, but not a lot). If you're adding raisins or other toppings, poke them into the top of the cakes, in a cross shape if you like. Prick cakes with fork.

  7. Bake for 20-25 minutes until very lightly browned on top.

  8. Sprinkle with powdered sugar while they are warm

Beef barley soup (Instant Pot or stovetop)

Makes about a gallon of lovely soup

Ingredients

  • olive oil
  • 1 medium onion or red onion, diced
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 3-4 medium carrots, peeled and diced
  • 2-3 lbs beef, cubed
  • 16 oz mushrooms, trimmed and sliced
  • 6 cups beef bouillon
  • 1 cup merlot or other red wine
  • 29 oz canned diced tomatoes (fire roasted is nice) with juice
  • 1 cup uncooked barley
  • salt and pepper

Instructions

  1. Heat the oil in a heavy pot. If using Instant Pot, choose "saute." Add the minced garlic, diced onion, and diced carrot. Cook, stirring frequently, until the onions and carrots are softened. 


  2. Add the cubes of beef and cook until slightly browned.

  3. Add the canned tomatoes with their juice, the beef broth, and the merlot, plus 3 cups of water. Stir and add the mushrooms and barley. 

  4. If cooking on stovetop, cover loosely and let simmer for several hours. If using Instant Pot, close top, close valve, and set to high pressure for 30 minutes. 

  5. Before serving, add pepper to taste. Salt if necessary. 

 

Pumpkin quick bread or muffins

Makes 2 loaves or 18+ muffins

Ingredients

  • 15 oz canned pumpkin puree
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup veg or canola oil
  • 1.5 cups sugar
  • 3.5 cups flour
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1.5 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger
  • oats, wheat germ, turbinado sugar, chopped dates, almonds, raisins, etc. optional

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350. Butter two loaf pans or butter or line 18 muffin tins.

  2. In a large bowl, mix together dry ingredients.

  3. In a separate bowl, mix together wet ingredients. Stir wet mixture into dry mixture and mix just to blend. 

  4. Optional: add toppings or stir-ins of your choice. 

  5. Spoon batter into pans or tins. Bake about 25 minutes for muffins, about 40 minutes for loaves. 

 

Vaguely Asian meatballs with dipping sauce

Very simple meatballs with a vaguely Korean flavor. These are mild enough that kids will eat them happily, but if you want to kick up the Korean taste, you can serve them with dipping sauces and pickled vegetables. Serve with rice.

Servings 30 large meatballs

Ingredients

  • 2.5 lbs ground beef
  • 1 sleeve Ritz crackers, crushed finely
  • 1/3 cup soy sauce
  • 1/2 head garlic, minced
  • 1 bunch scallions, chopped (save out a bit for a garnish)
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 Tbsp ground white pepper

For dipping sauce:

  • mirin or rice vinegar
  • soy sauce

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 425.

  2. Mix together the meat and all the meatball ingredients with your hands until they are well combined. Form large balls and lay them on a baking pan with a rim.

  3. Bake for about 15 minutes.

  4. Serve over rice with dipping sauce and a sprinkle of scallions.

 

Pork banh mi

Ingredients

  • 5-6 lbs Pork loin
  • 1 cup fish sauce
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 minced onion
  • 1/2 head garlic, minced or crushed
  • 1.5 tsp pepper

Veggies and dressing

  • carrots
  • cucumbers
  • vinegar
  • sugar
  • cilantro
  • mayonnaise
  • Sriracha sauce

Instructions

  1. Slice the raw pork as thinly as you can. 

  2. Mix together the fish sauce ingredients and add the meat slices. Seal in a ziplock bag to marinate, as it is horrendously stinky. Marinate several hours or overnight. 

  3. Grill the meat over coals or on a pan under a hot broiler. 

  4. Toast a sliced baguette or other crusty bread. 

 

quick-pickled carrots and/or cucumbers for banh mi, bibimbap, ramen, tacos, etc.

An easy way to add tons of bright flavor and crunch to a meal. We pickle carrots and cucumbers most often, but you can also use radishes, red onions, daikon, or any firm vegetable. 

Ingredients

  • 6-7 medium carrots, peeled
  • 1 lb mini cucumbers (or 1 lg cucumber)

For the brine (make double if pickling both carrots and cukes)

  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup rice vinegar (other vinegars will also work; you'll just get a slightly different flavor)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 Tbsp kosher salt

Instructions

  1. Mix brine ingredients together until salt and sugar are dissolved. 

  2. Slice or julienne the vegetables. The thinner they are, the more flavor they pick up, but the more quickly they will go soft, so decide how soon you are going to eat them and cut accordingly!

    Add them to the brine so they are submerged.

  3. Cover and let sit for a few hours or overnight or longer. Refrigerate if you're going to leave them overnight or longer.

What’s for supper? Vol. 229: Make-ahead meals and Halloween costumes!

Well, it’s snowing.

Our house sports Halloween decorations covered with snow every year, but usually that’s because it’s December and we’re lazy, and not because the sky has lost its damn mind.

But guess what? I knew last night that it was going to snow, so I took the boots and hats and mittens out before bedtime. Who has two thumbs and isn’t going to get a gentle reminder from the teachers that New England weather is unpredictable and children should be dressed appropriately for cold weather? 

 This asshole!

Also I finally broke down and visited the special respiratory clinic where everyone is dressed like an astronaut and I’m there in jeans and a cloth mask, and I have bronchitis again, or I guess still, and frankly just about everything I care about most in life is getting extremely wobbly. But at least we have food. And I’m doing another round of Prednisone, so we’ll see what gets cleaned around here, grr.

Here’s what we ate this week:

SATURDAY
Chicken quesadillas, guacamole

Our freezer situation is mostly terrible, and is full of frozen nightmares, frozen regrets, frozen negligence, and peas. BUT, it also had a bag of shredded chili lime chicken in it. So I nuked that and Damien made a bunch of quesadillas with it.

I also made a big batch of guacamole, and Damien mentioned how much he appreciates that I’m not one of those mayonnaise guacamole women. He’s right, I’m not.

Jump to Recipe

SUNDAY
Anniversary!

The kids made French toast casserole and orange juice, and Damien and I went out for the whole day for our 23rd anniversary, and had a lovely day. We had some errands up north, then went to a shooting range, and ended up with some Chinese dinner boxes, which we ate outside in the cold, for duty and humanity

Here’s a tip for all you young ladies: After 23 years of marriage, it never hurts to remind your husband you can handle a Glock. 

MONDAY
One-pan kielbasa, red potato, and cabbage dinner

A nice easy meal. You can do all the prep work ahead of time and throw it in the oven half an hour before dinner for a tasty meal, with dressing, even!

Jump to Recipe

Discs of kielbasa, discs or wedges of red potato, and rounds of cabbage roasted together, with a balsamic honey mustard dressing.

No one complained that I forgot the parsley. 

This is such a weirdly photogenic meal.

Isn’t it neat? I love it. 

TUESDAY
Grilled ham and cheese, Jerusalem salad

I prepped this ahead of time, too. I’ve been an absolute dinner machine this week. Here’s a “cooking for a crowd” tip: If I don’t have room in the fridge for a giant pan of prepped food, I lay a second pan over the top and distribute ice packs over it. Brilliant, or just bacteriogenic? Why not both?

I like sourdough best for grilled cheese, with a little skim of mayo on the outside of the bread, and fried in butter. I fry it just to toast up the outside, then I slide the sandwiches into a warm oven to make sure the cheese is melted. Then I serve up the whole panful of sandwiches all at once, rather than dishing them out as I make them. 

Jerusalem salad is tomatoes, cucumbers, red onion, lemon juice and olive oil, and salt and pepper, and then parsley and/or mint. I discovered I only had yellow onions, and it made a much bigger difference than I expected. It just wasn’t that good, and hardly anyone ate it, and then I planned to have it for lunch all week, but the refrigerator froze it. Oh well.

Jump to Recipe

It’s really more of a refreshing warm-weather dish anyway, I guess. I was just tired of serving chips. 

WEDNESDAY
One-pan honey balsamic chicken thighs with roast vegetables

You’ll never guess: I prepped this ahead of time. I had a couple of pounds of brussels sprouts, a pound of baby-cut carrots, and a weird stubby little butternut squash. It would have been good with some red potato wedges, too, but as me old grandmither used to say, ye canna always hae the red potatoes. 

Just kidding. Me old grandmither used to say “Gay kaken ofn yahm,” as I recall.

So you make a little sauce and mix it up with the vegetables, spread them in a pan, nestle the chicken thighs in there, and season the whole thing, and roast it. That’s it.

Jump to Recipe

I also had some random broccoli, which I added in the last 12 minutes or so, so it wouldn’t get overcooked. The vegetables soak up the sauce and get slightly caramelized on the bottom, and it’s very cozy and good. 

The trick to peeling and cubing raw butternut squash is you cut off the ends and microwave it for three or four minutes. Then it’s much, much easier to peel and cut. And when you pull it out of the microwave, some of the juice has oozed out over in little glistening beads, and it’s just nice. 

I swear I have made this dinner a dozen times, and everyone thought it was fine or whatever. This time, everyone acted like it was a brilliant innovation the likes of which they’d never seen before, and they gobbled it up! I was astonished, and so pleased. 

THURSDAY
Hamburgers, chips, carrots and dip

Verily I made the hamburgers patties ahead of time. I normally skip chips, but I was discouraged at how fat I am, so I had chips, and cheese on my burger. You understand.

I’ve been plugging away at Halloween costumes all week, which is part of the reason I’ve been doing so many make-ahead meals: So we can eat early and have the evening free for some hot glue action. Some of the kids have been entirely making or buying their own costumes, and only need to be driven to Michael’s 46 times; but I did make a Grunkle Stan fez for Irene

some armor and a sword for Jim from Troll Hunters for Corrie (still needs some neatening up and finishing touches)

and a dragon fairy princess costume for Benny, and they all turned out well, especially the dragon. This is the only one I have a photo of yet, and she’s not wearing her rubber hands and you can’t see her tail, but it’s pretty rad.

It’s built off a baseball cap, so she can take it on and off fairly easily, and it doesn’t block her vision as much as a whole head mask would. 

The secret I discovered this year is EVA CRAFT FOAM. You can bend it, you can cut it, you can glue it with super glue or hot glue, you can etch it, you can crush it, you can score and fold it, you can make designs with hot glue and then spray paint over them. You can even sew it, if you glue some fabric on to reinforce it. You can hot glue or super glue just about anything to it. It’s light and flexible but rigid, and it comes in several different thicknesses. Just exactly what I’ve needed all these years. You can buy it by the roll or by the sheet, white or colored. 

I have also discovered you can make serviceable gems with hot glue, hardened, trimmed if necessary, and painted with nail polish. You can see some on Corrie’s sword:

I still have to trim off the excess glue, but she loves it. 

Also, the kids are having their school parties today, but since everything has to be store bought and pre-packaged this year, I excused my creative ass from getting involved.

FRIDAY
Shrimp lo mein

Last week’s veggie lo mein was such a success, we’re having it again, but with shrampies. Gonna leave the sauce exactly as is, because it was good!

Here’s what it continues to do outside right now:

It’s like even the clouds are trying to skip ahead to the end of 2020. 

Oh speaking of thinking ahead, Elisa from Door Number 9 jut came out with a most excellent new product: An all-in-one Advent  traditions box. It includes:

– 4 12-inch Advent Candle tapers
– Scriptural Advent Calendar
– Magnetic Jesse Tree *OR sticker Jesse Tree plus magnetic Nativity Scene
– 4 organza pouches filled with 3 chocolate coins each
– An activity putting “straw” into a “manger” for Baby Jesus (all these items included)
– Full color instruction cards for each item explaining the tradition’s origin and/or how to use the items 

And it all packs up in a reusable box for next year. I love products designed by moms. $59.99 with free shipping

Okay, here are the recipe cards:

 

White Lady From NH's Guacamole

Ingredients

  • 4 avocados
  • 1 medium tomato, diced
  • 1 medium jalapeno, minced
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, chopped roughly
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 2 limes juiced
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/2 red onion, diced

Instructions

  1. Peel avocados. Mash two and dice two. 

  2. Mix together with rest of ingredients and add seasonings.

  3. Cover tightly, as it becomes discolored quickly. 

One pan honey garlic chicken thighs with fall veg

Adapted from Damn Delicious 

Ingredients

  • 18 chicken thighs
  • 2 lbs broccoli in spears
  • 4-5 lbs potatoes in wedges, skin on if you like
  • 1 butternut squash, peeled and cubed

sauce:

  • 1/3+ cup honey
  • 1/3+ tbsp brown sugar
  • 3 tbsp dijon or yellow mustard
  • 9 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp oregano
  • 2 tsp dried basil
  • salt and pepper
  • 6 tbsp olive oil
  • olive oil for drizzing

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400. Prepare the sauce. 

  2. In a large, greased sheet pan, spread the potatoes and squash. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. 

  3. Lay the chicken thighs on top of the potatoes and squash. Brush the sauce over the chicken skins. 

  4. Roast the chicken for thirty minutes or more until they are almost cooked.

  5. Add the broccoli, arranging it on top of the potatoes and in between the chicken. Return the pan to the oven and let it finish cooking another 10 -20 minutes so you don't die. The skins should be golden and the broccoli should be a little charred. 

 

One-pan kielbasa, cabbage, and red potato dinner with mustard sauce

This meal has all the fun and salt of a wiener cookout, but it's a tiny bit fancier, and you can legit eat it in the winter. 

Ingredients

  • 3-4 lbs kielbasa
  • 3-4 lbs red potatoes
  • 1-2 medium cabbages
  • (optional) parsley for garnish
  • salt and pepper and olive oil

mustard sauce (sorry, I make this different each time):

  • mustard
  • red wine if you like
  • honey
  • a little olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • fresh garlic, crushed

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400. 

    Whisk together the mustard dressing ingredients and set aside. Chop parsley (optional).

    Cut the kielbasa into thick coins and the potatoes into thick coins or small wedges. Mix them up with olive oil, salt, and pepper and spread them in a shallow pan. 

    Cut the cabbage into "steaks." Push the kielbasa and potatoes aside to make room to lay the cabbage down. Brush the cabbage with more olive oil and sprinkle with more salt and pepper. It should be a single layer of food, and not too crowded, so it will brown well. 

    Roast for 20 minutes, then turn the food as well as you can and roast for another 15 minutes.  

    Serve hot with dressing and parsley for a garnish. 

 

basic lo mein

Ingredients

for the sauce

  • 1 cup soy sauce
  • 5 tsp sesame oil
  • 5 tsp sugar

for the rest

  • 32 oz uncooked noodles
  • sesame oil for cooking
  • add-ins (vegetables sliced thin or chopped small, shrimp, chicken, etc.)
  • 2/3 cup rice vinegar (or mirin, which will make it sweeter)

Instructions

  1. Mix together the sauce ingredients and set aside.

  2. Boil the noodles until slightly underdone. Drain and set aside.

  3. Heat up a pan, add some sesame oil for cooking, and quickly cook your vegetables or whatever add-ins you have chosen.

  4. Add the mirin to the pan and deglaze it.

  5. Add the cooked noodles in, and stir to combine. Add the sauce and stir to combine.

 

 

What I’m watching, reading, and listening to: Over the Garden Wall, The Secret Sisters, and Joyce Cary

Oh, I have so much good stuff to recommend today. Here’s what I’ve been watching, reading, and listening to:

WATCHING
Over the Garden Wall (2014) 

If you’re looking for a spooky Halloween show for your whole family, this is the one. I’m still amazed it got broadcast, because it’s so weird and beautiful and thoughtful. It’s an animated miniseries of 12 short episodes (the whole thing is under two hours), and every one is gorgeous, creepy, funny, and strangely moving, with crazy, memorable music.

Two half-brothers find themselves lost in the woods on Halloween, and as they try to make their way home, they quickly become entangled in some terrifying otherworldly business. It’s loosely inspired by The Divine Comedy, but I wouldn’t push that too far. 

Here’s the first episode (11 minutes)

Some of the characters and situations are extremely creepy, so while we did let our five-year-old watch it, she has a very high tolerance for scary stuff, and many kids under the age of nine would probably find it too scary. (Here’s a specific list of creepy stuff.) There is a lot of very silly and hilarious stuff that fixes you right up when you get creeped out. No gore, graphic violence, or sex. There is a persistent melancholy tone, but all the relationships in the show get worked out very satisfactorily, and familial love is the true theme of the miniseries, and all is restored in the end. 

This show also contains one of the most realistic depictions of a goofy little boy we’ve ever seen. We’ve come to burgle your turts! Lots of quotes and songs have become part of our family culture.

Here’s a beast costume

a Wirt costume

and a Wirt and Greg cake:

The whole thing is crowded with allusions and suggestions and portents, and you can either pursue them or just enjoy them. It originally ran on Cartoon Network in 2014. It doesn’t appear to be streaming for free anywhere right now. We bought it to stream on Amazon.

***

READING
The Moonlight by Joyce Cary (1946)

It’s criminal that Joyce Cary isn’t in every list of great English language novelists. You may have seen the movie The Horse’s Mouth based on his novel of the same name, and that’s a vastly entertaining book about a dissolute old painter intoxicated by naked women and William Blake; but The Moonlight and Charley Is My Darling are deeper waters. 

Cary originally wrote The Moonlight (as in the “Moonlight Sonata” by Beethoven, and also as in . . . moonlight) because he was so incensed by Tolstoy’s novella The Kreutzer Sonata. I haven’t read Kreutzer in a long time but, although I adore Tolstoy in general, we all know he could be a little

y
i
k
e
s

about women and sex and ideal love, and I recall that Kreutzer is an extreme example of this tendency. The Moonlight deals with two generations of women living through social transformations of sexual mores, and the choices they make, the hardships they can’t escape, and what it does to their souls. That makes it sound tiresome, but it’s super dramatic, but also extraordinarily true to life, very tender and funny and sometimes shockingly, horribly familiar. 

Cary is one of those authors who understands human nature very deeply, and also loves his characters very deeply, even as they allow themselves to do stupid and monstrous things. The book would be a wonderful portrayal of the interior lives of women in any case, but the fact that the author is a man makes the book extraordinary. Love, suicide, pregnancy, art, sisterhood, beauty, sex, taxes, dead sheep: this novel has it all, and it’s so fluidly and engagingly written, and always with the element I admire most: clarity.  This is my current “pluck strangers by the sleeve and try to get them to read it” book.

I always feel like I choose the wrong excerpt and turn people off books I love, so I’ll just give you the opening page, and you see what you think.

If you’re thinking, “Oh, like Jane Austen,” you are mistaken. Maybe it’s like if someone took Jane Austen characters and gave them souls. I said what I said. 

The book is hard to find, so you’ll want to go third party seller on this one!

***


LISTENING TO

The Secret Sisters

What a find! My favorite radio station, WRSI, recently played “He’s Fine” and I had to go find out who the heck that was singing. It is two sisters from Alabama, Laura and Lydia Rogers, plying that magical sibling harmony and here to make you Feel Things. Here’s “He’s Fine,” which is currently Corrie’s favorite song:

Here’s one that really knocked my socks off: “Mississippi.” It carries such a weight of old-fashioned menace — man threatening doom on a young woman — but he gets a little backstory and interior life of his own. Men like this come from somewhere.

I can’t help it, I’m going to give you the whole lyrics. 

All my life
I ain’t never been a lucky man
Saw the back of my daddy’s hand
Lost your momma to the promised land 

In my time
I’d never had a thing that’s mine
Till they handed me a baby fine
My little girl 

There’re only two things I know
I get ugly when the whiskey flows
Wanted you to know I love you so
And I would kill before I let you go 

Taking off for Mississippi
Wearing someone else’s name
Brought you in this world and I
Can take you from it just the same 

If you leave for Mississippi
I will beat you at your game
Brought you in this world and I
Can take you from it just the same.
 
My dear one
Heard you’re whispering your plans to run
Off to marry some rich man’s son
I bet he’s never met a poor man’s gun
 
In the darkness you could not see
The drunken devil instructing me
Two bullets in a crimson sea
Now I’m certain that you’ll never be 

Taking off for Mississippi
Wearing someone else’s name
Brought you in this world and I
Can take you from it just the sameIf you leave for Mississippi
I will beat you at your game
Brought you in this world and I
Can take you from it just the same

Grief and sin
When the righteousness of you sets in
And the blood in my veins
begins to ramble on

Now I know we can
stand and judge the execution man
But we all have to make a trembling stand
before the sun

Maple tree
Can your branches carry me?
Before the war, before the wine
Before I stole what wasn’t mine
Can you bring my baby back to me?

 
Co-written by Faulkner, I guess. What a complex song, not only the lyrics but harmonically and structurally. Brilliant. This is a sequel to Iuka, which is from the young woman’s point of view, urging her lover to take the risk despite her father’s jealousy. (It doesn’t go well.)
 

I heard a clip of a concert where the sisters laughingly apologized for the fact that their lives were going so well now. They had sung a lot about betrayal and loneliness and grief, but then they got married and had babies, and now they sing happy songs, and who wants that?

I DO. Here is one that keeps going through my head: “Late Bloomer”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eeWtjx4XAJk
 

It’s so unapologetically encouraging, very motherly, and I sure need that right now. 

And here’s one that was apparently in The Hunger Games, which I haven’t seen. Wonderful song: “Tomorrow Will Be Kinder”

Even their sad songs are full of comfort and promise: (to all the girls who cry)

I just love them, that’s all. 

Okay! What are you watching, reading, and listening to that you can recommend? 

***
Images: Joyce Cary from a 1950’s Penguin book cover, via Wikipedia, fair use
Screenshot from Over the Garden Wall ep. 1 and The Secret Sisters from Rattle My Bones