Cucumber Crap & Chicken Pies

Dear Grace,

Lucy! What a little mischief-maker! But she is just so cute, how can you even get mad at her?

I am sure I mention this frequently, but Abe and I are trying to get healthier. I think we would be doing better if I found any joy whatsoever from cooking healthy food. One week we ate nothing but chicken and rice. I wanted to die. Then I baked some cookies and all was right with the world. Then I gained back the five pounds I had lost. I am in a constant battle with the same five pounds. Go me!

The other day, Abe brought home some exotic healthy juices that sneak vegetables into the concoction. This particular brand was “It Tastes Raaw” and Abe selected the pineapple cucumber variety. I was doing things around the house when Abe called me to the living room to try this amazing juice. It smelled like cucumbers and dirty socks and tasted worse. It certainly did taste raaaaaaaaaaaaaawwwwwrrrrrr. We immediately threw both bottles away.

That weekend, Netflix acquired two new seasons of my favorite show: The Great British Bake Off. Abe and I spent our weekend watching delightfully polite British people bake amazing breads and pastries. Naturally I was inspired, and decided (at Abe’s request) to try a chicken pie recipe and make puff pastry from scratch. Despite my poor photography and amateur baking skills, they turned out AMAZING. I was just tickled with myself. The pastry had this amazing flakiness and it was just so darn delicious. All that butter just made a world of difference between these and an American chicken pot pie. Hearing the sound of the pastry flaking was even more enjoyable than eating them. I used this Mini Creamy and Cheesy Chicken Pie recipe from The Flavor Blender, and I also used her puff pastry recipe. 

 

 

 

 

 

The recipe took some time to make (mainly because of the pastry), and I wish I had a larger dough cutter (mine is about 2″ in diameter), but they were amazing nevertheless. I will probably make them again, but will most likely keep them as a special occasion food.

It all boils down to this: Healthy food is terrible and butter makes everything better.

Love Always,

Millie

The Brother Who Can’t

Dear Grace,

Your past several posts have just made me cry. I am going to miss your shaggy dog, and I wish I was there so we could bake cookies to make ourselves feel better. Because that is how we handle emotions around here.

In the absence of me and cookies, maybe this brief anecdote will make you feel slightly better.

A couple of weeks ago, Jake and Cara asked to come stay at Dutchman House for a night as they passed through on their way to wherever they were actually trying to get to. Abe and I were so excited for them to come, even if for a night.

I am not sure if I have ever mentioned how difficult Dutchman House is to locate. One can go one of two ways: First route: through a nonsensical maze that twists and turns about the subdivision to the very last street that borders the desert. It takes five full minutes to get from our house to the main road. And yes, I have timed it. Second route: through the desert on the world’s least maintained dirt road that Google claims is the fastest way to find our house. Although the dirt road is faster (distance-wise), it is much less comfortable as one must dodge abandoned furniture and giant dips and ditches in the “road”.

As Abe and I sat calmly awaiting their arrival (i.e. scurrying about the house trying to clean), I got a call from Jake. Good news: They were mere minutes away. Bad news: They were stuck in a giant mud puddle mere minutes away on the abandoned dirt road. Abe and I had recently sold Abe’s clunker Jeep, so we only had our Chevy Cruz to attempt to get their car out of the mud. I put on my muddy times outfit: knee-length leggings and mid-calf cowboy boots which is quite the ensemble. Surprisingly, our Chevy was not at all helpful in getting the car out of the mud, so we all waited together in the desert chill for a tow-truck while three-year-old Chloe serenaded us with songs from Moana. It was quite the evening, and I think we will be making fun of Jake forever in his persistence that he could in fact drive through the puddle.

Turns out “can’t” runs in the family.

Love Always,

Millie

My Funny Valentine

Dear Grace,

I am just so distraught to hear about your dog. When I lived with you during those summers, she and I used to cuddle on the couch and watch movies. And when I ate Pop-Tarts I always fed her the unfrosted edges. I remember when you and Gordon first got her and she had that one floppy ear. She is the loveliest dog.

In other news, Abe and I are celebrating Valentine’s Day in our own weird, non-celebratory way. All day my students (who came to class laden with flowers and heart-shaped chocolates) were asking what Abe and I had planned for the holiday. I felt increasingly guilty when my answer was continually “Errrr . . . nothing?” My students were all shocked and dashed as they see Mr. Adams and myself as some sort of ideal-romantic-love beacon. So in order to assuage my own guilt at not planning some sentimental gift or date, I quickly made a card for my Valentine-hating husband. 

When Abe came to get me from work, he was waiting for me with a bouquet of pink roses and hydrangea. My favorite! We might not be the best at Valentine’s Day, but for us I think we did pretty good. Now we are watching Friends and eating sandwiches in the living room like we’re college roommates. It’s the best.

Although I am wishing I had some chocolates right about now . . .

Love Always,

Millie

 

P.S. If you need some card inspiration, I made a version of this one for Abe last year. Naturally, it was a big hit.   Image result for i love your butt let me touch it forever

Negligence At Its Finest

Dear Grace,

How in the world do you do all that you do? It feels like I am constantly rushing to get things done; rushing through planning and grading, rushing to school, rushing to scouts, to church, to dance practice, etc. Due to aforementioned rushing, I have decided to compile a list of everything I have been neglecting lately just so you know my letters to you have not been the only things on the back-burner.

  1. The Food
    • I have never been the sort of person who could consciously or subconsciously skip meals. In fact, most of my thought processes seem to revolve around what I am planning to eat next. But if I am being completely, totally, unabashedly honest, I haven’t made Abe a home-cooked meal for a week. Mumsie would be shocked and dashed. I just can’t seem to pull myself together at the end of my long days to cook anything, so Abe will sweetly give in and order pizza or fetch breakfast burritos or let me heat up frozen corn dogs. My skin and wasitline are certainly paying for it.
  2. The Dishes
    • Despite the fact that we have not been eating real food lately, there is still a mountain of dishes to be done. How does that even happen?
  3. The Laundry
    • I might get the laundry into the washer and eventually into the dryer, but it has been sitting in mountainous piles in baskets waiting to be folded. When it comes down to it, I probably will just rewash everything because it is all a sad, wrinkled heap by now.
  4. The Exercise
    • Besides teaching my dance classes, I cannot think of the last time I purposefully exercised.
  5. The Hair & Makeup
    • Five out of five hairdos this week have been messy buns. Emphasis on messy. Abe’s teenage cousin has taken to calling my hair The Tumbleweave due to its sad resemblance in both color and texture to our beloved desert plant. I also ran out of face makeup about a month ago and have not made the time to go out and buy more. Given the fact that our diet of grease has been doing a number on my skin, I don’t look much better than the acne-infested students I teach.
  6. The Cleaning
    • Where does one even find the time to clean the bathrooms anyway?
  7. The Patience
    • I think Vanessa may have picked up her habit of eye-rolling from me because it feels like I have been doing this a lot. Or maybe I picked it up from her? I find myself rolling my eyes at my students, the teenage girl drama of my dance team, my scouts, even sometimes at Abe (Heaven forbid!). Most recently I found myself losing patience at a Cub Scout pack meeting. One of the leaders decided we needed to do a group cheer of sorts at the beginning of each meeting. The eight-year-olds started off with a steady beat befitting their age and abilities, the nine-year-olds added a beat slightly more complex, and then the ten-year-olds added theirs. I was actually slightly impressed and for a brief moment thought it was a good thing for the boys until the leader who started it all cried out, “And now I’ll add a cha-cha of my own!” She started flapping her arms about wildly, slapping her body in an inconceivable pattern, and stomping carelessly about the gym not caring for the steady beat set by the young boys. It was clearly an attempt at an impromptu Stomp performance, but we all sat there awkwardly patting our legs while she flailed about, literally to the beat of her own drum. I was so bewildered I couldn’t even roll my eyes, and I certainly neglected masking my impatience that night.

What this all boils down to is negligence. Not purposeful negligence, but negligence nevertheless. So I repeat: How do you have time for it all? Sometimes the thought of adding one more thing to my schedule actually brings me to tears. I keep reflecting on it all and asking, “How can I possibly think about adding a baby to this mess? How can I even think about adding more classes, more involvement, more reading, more cooking, or more anything?” I have always known life as an adult would be busy, but my word, does it never end? I surely can’t go on neglecting things forever.

Love always,

Millie

P.S. Tell the kids we miss them and talk about them all the time. I hope we can come visit you at least sometime this year! We will try our best not to neglect that.

Desperation’s Garage Sale

Dear Grace,

Believe me, I understand completely with regards to feeling like you are so behind on everything that it was as though Christmas was not celebrated as you hoped it would be. This year it hardly felt like Christmas at the Dutchman House. But maybe that has something to do with the weather here in the Southwest because the high today was 75 degrees, and that’s just awfully hot for January.

I feel like I even sluggishly approached the New Year, which is thoroughly unlike me. I usually have 20 goals planned and even a yearly theme picked out, but this year I barely have an inkling of what I would like to accomplish and I am waiting for the “opportune time” to begin my resolutions. Heaven help me.

But I do know that at very least the one thing I do want to tackle this year is STUFF. Abe and I have so much stuff. We live in a house meant for five or six and shop like we’re a family of twelve. We’re both descendants of rainy day types of folks and we save all sorts of things just in case. Of course there is nothing wrong with preparedness, and we have food storage that has saved us countless times when we have found ourselves in a pinch, but things are out of hand. For example, Abe owns entire wardrobes in various sizes. Whereas I pretend like I don’t have a ton of stuff but I really just sort through things then put them in a box in the garage. Then I think to myself, “Hey, where were those one shoes?” and then I rescue them (and more) from the box in the garage. Obviously, it is a very productive process.

This weekend Abe and I found ourselves in one of those aforementioned pinches and decided it would be the perfect time for a garage sale to help us bounce back a little. It was quite the white trash affair. We only have one folding table which we piled high with unwanted kitchen items. Abe constructed “tables” out of cardboard boxes which he covered with old sheets or curtains where we piled as many knickknacks as possible. Then I ransacked our closets for every available hanger (which wasn’t close to enough). I began pulling clothes off their existing hangers and throwing them every which way so I could hang up all the clothes we were selling.

Abe had me make the signs and because we didn’t have any poster board, I wrapped extra cardboard boxes with brown paper; and because we didn’t have any sharpies I used acrylic paints to paint our signs by hand. Abe gave me specific directions to make all the arrows on the boxes going the same way. In my brain that didn’t seem to make much sense so I sought clarification as to which direction he wanted the arrows. “Doesn’t matter which way,” he said. Still confused but ever-trusting, I figured Abe knew what he was doing when it came to directions and decided to make all the arrows point left.

Sadly, this was not what Abe had meant. He did not mean that all the arrows should be drawn in all the same direction, but that each arrow on either side of the box should be facing the same direction so that the box could be turned whichever way to point garage sale goers to the proper house. Abe didn’t realize my mistake until the morning of our grand garage sale, so I quickly had change the direction of some of the arrows leading to slightly confusing looking signs. Abe learned that he needs to be more specific with one as directionally-challenged as yours truly.

We spent our Saturday camped out in our garage watching Netflix from the old TV we were wanting to sell and stealthily attempting to “outsell” one another. In the end we really did not make much money, but thankfully enough to help us in our pinch. Once the sale was over, I wanted to box everything we did not sell (quite a lot) and ship it off to Goodwill so that it could be out of our lives forever. Abe, however, believed the garage sale was great fun and that we should keep the garage in its garage sale state and keep having garage sales until we could garage sale no more. I simply want to get rid of stuff, but Abe sees it all as a giant pile of cash to be made if we can only lure in the right buyers.

I am afraid this sorting thing just isn’t sorting out.

Much love,

Millie

The Family Prude does Las Vegas

Dear Grace,

Our Christmas and New Year’s have ultimately been spent battling a plague of germs. Abe’s sister and her five darlings showed up on Christmas Eve each with a fever and a hacking cough. I flinched each time coughs barked out of their chests as I imagined bacteria-infested amoebae flying through the air landing on every surface possible. The moment they left on Christmas Day, Abe, his mother, and myself went about the house disinfecting every surface and tossing everything we possibly could into the washing machine. Unfortunately, our obsessive cleaning did nothing to protect Abe (the most tenacious Lysol-wielder) from succumbing to The Yuck.

However, Yuck or no Yuck, Abe and I were set on traveling to Las Vegas to be with his uncle and aunt. Uncle Don and Aunt Shawna had invited the two of us to join them and their posse in Vegas to watch a couple of Cirque du Soleil shows. I was thrilled as I had never been to Vegas and had only heard the greatest of reviews regarding Cirque du Soleil shows.

Our first night in Vegas, we watched Cirque’s “Beatles Love” show and it was simply amazing. I can’t even explain how lovely it all was. Let’s just go and see it together, okay? Abe had to physically drag me from the gift shop before I bought everything in sight.

Our second night, Abe and I were the chaperones for the two girls under 18 and we went to see “Mystere” while the rest of the family (including Abe’s grandmother) went to “Zumanity” (which I don’t recommend Googling). We heard all about Zumanity the next day over breakfast, and I don’t remember ever being so shocked. 

When Abe showed me the “trailer” for the show, I thought it was a show that was meant to be sexual but not explicit. Apparently I didn’t know Vegas. I elected to go to the other show if only to avoid having Abe’s family watch my reactions the entire show. I have a reputation in the family for being prudish above and beyond the rest. Honestly, I think the family’s descriptions of the show were merely to get a reaction out of me.

How can I help but be a prude with how we were raised by Mumsie and Pops? But really and truly I am much happier being a prude if it saves me from having to sit through an hour of nude acrobatics.

Hoping your New Year is much less full of unwarranted adult nudity,

Millie

Cookie Day

Dear Grace,

My first week of Christmas Break has been wonderful. Today a school friend and I got together to for a cookie baking day, and besides the nuisance of hauling my KitchenAid in and out of my car, it was a great day. No disasters whatsoever. It was even a rainy day so it was perfect for cookies.

I made these peanut butter cookies, which are absolutely perfect every time and stay soft for days. I expect to be baking much more in the next couple of days for treats for friends and neighbors, and Abe and I are in charge of the whole Christmas dinner for his family so I will be in my kitchen for the next three days at least.

With regards to the #LightTheWorld prompt for today, I am grateful for you. I have a lot to be grateful for in my life, but I have an exceptionally wonderful family. I feel so lucky to have a big sister like you who is my best example and my best friend. And I am so lucky you wanted to write a blog with me. I love you, Gracie!

 

Merry Christmas Week,

Millie

How to Anniversary

Dear Grace,

Yesterday was our first anniversary of being married, and I cannot believe Abe and I have only been together for one year; certainly it has been 13 at least. Upon reflection of our anniversary, I cannot decide if there is something wrong with Abe and me as a couple or if we’re just so comfortable together that we don’t have to try to do fancy things. Or maybe it’s just laziness? I’ll let you decide.

Anniversary Timeline:

  • 9:00 A.M.: Millie wakes up and reads for about an hour.
  • 10:00 A.M.: Abe is still asleep.
  • 11:00 A.M.: Abe wakes up and Millie makes French toast for breakfast.
  • 12:00 A.M.: Millie begins wrapping Abe’s anniversary gifts and Abe goes to town in search of gifts for Millie.
  • 1:00 P.M.: Millie decides to get out of pajamas in order to look nice for her husband when he returns.
  • 2:00 P.M.: Millie and Abe open their presents from each other, and despite the fact that Millie was better prepared, Abe’s presents for her are much better.
  • 3:00 P.M.: Abe decides he needs a nap.
  • 4:00 P.M.: Abe is still napping and Millie is taking advantage of his absence to watch chick flicks.
  • 5:00 P.M.: Abe is still napping and Millie has started her second chick flick.
  • 6:00 P.M.: Abe finally wakes up and the couple decides maybe they should go get some dinner or something to celebrate.
  • 7:00 P.M.: Quiet dinner at their favorite local Italian restaurant.
  • 8:00 P.M.: Shopping for Millie’s Christmas stocking at 5 different stores because she is picky.
  • 9:00 P.M.: Back home to fall asleep while watching The Santa Claus. 

It was perhaps the most uneventful anniversary ever celebrated by a human couple. Maybe a trip to Hawaii would do us some good even if Mumsie and Pops won’t come.

Love Always,

Millie

Teacher Memes

Dear Grace,

I’m baaaaaaaaaaaack! I counted, and you wrote a total of 18 posts while I was dealing with the madness that is the end of the semester as a high school teacher. Thank you so much for keeping things up and running.

The past month of school has been utterly exhausting, and I am so grateful to be done until January. Tomorrow I fully intend to sleep in past 4:45 A.M. (my usual waking time for the weekdays).

During this week, one of our history teachers (who is the sort of teacher who wears his kilt on the first day of school) kept us all entertained with a series of education related memes, so please enjoy until I can compose my thoughts for a better planned post.

Love Always,

Millie

Post Thanksgiving Reflection (Never Satisfied)

Dear Grace,

I think we ought to keep a tally of how many people unwittingly call you a grandmother. How is that even possible?

The aftermath of Thanksgiving has been unusually satisfying. It was our first at Dutchman House and although I missed going to Hometown to be with Mumsie and Pops and having our usual pit turkey and recklessly participating in the Hometown Turkey Trot, it was lovely having our first big holiday at home.

Jake & Cara (the brother and sister-in-law who can) came and stayed for a couple of days and at first I was anxious about Dutchman House’s lack of decorations and the fact that Cara always looks perfect, but honestly everything went great. And now I’m anxious about the fact that everything went without a hitch that maybe I was blind to the hitches . . . But honestly, we had a full turkey and a spiral ham and my homemade rolls (I’ll put the recipe below) and mashed potatoes and three pies and Cara made these green beans that were like crack and it was all amazing. Something should have gone wrong. The turkey should have been too dry or the rolls should have burned, but no, nothing went wrong. We even all went to the movies after dinner and Chloe the world’s most dramatic three-year-old only disturbed the people around us by being too excited about the monsters in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.

Why did nothing go wrong? Now I am nervous that the perfection of Thanksgiving means Christmas at Dutchman House with Abe’s family will be a disaster.

How was your Thanksgiving?

Love Always,

Millie

Crescent Rolls

  • 2 potatoes (peeled and diced)
  • 1 package active dry yeast (2 1/4 tsp.)
  • 1 1/2 c. warm water
  • 2/3 c. sugar
  • 2/3 c. shortening
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 6 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 c. butter (softened)
  1. Place potatoes in a saucepan, and cover with water. Bring to a boil, and cook until tender, about 15 minutes. Drain, cool, and mash.
  2. In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Let stand until creamy, about 10 minutes.
  3. When yeast is ready, mix in 1 cup mashed potatoes, sugar, shortening, eggs, salt, and 3 cups flour. Stir in the remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time, until dough has become stiff but still pliable. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface, and knead until smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes. Lightly oil a large bowl, place the dough in the bowl, and turn to coat with oil. Cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 8 hours, and up to 5 days.
  4. Deflate the dough, and turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Divide the dough into two equal pieces, and form into rounds. Roll out each round to a 12 inch circle. Brush generously with melted butter, and cut each circle into 16 wedges. Roll wedges up tightly, starting with the large end. Place on lightly greased baking sheets with the points underneath, and the ends bent to form a crescent shape. Cover, and let rise for 1 hour. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).
  5. Bake in preheated oven for 15 to 20 minutes, or until golden brown.