Once Upon a Time in an Enchanted Suburb

Once upon a time in an enchanted suburb there lived a family.

There was a king.  A queen.  A couple of princesses.  It was quite an ordinary family. They were content; not much happened in their little kingdom.

Then one day funny things did start to happen.

Funny, unexpected things that were not really the ha-ha kind of funny but more of the surreal funny of old-fashioned fairy tales.

The king, a rugged, tough guy sort of king, ignored a nagging pain in his side.  And wound up spending his magical summer in the hospital.

The brave queen soldiered on.

And then the princesses began acting funny.  They slept-walked into dangerous unknowns, narrowly escaping swirling attic fans and plunges.  They threw up.  They fainted.  Their fair coach failed to complete the trip home.

And yet despite grave doubts, the magical summer did end.  Happily-ever-after returned to enchanted suburbia.  And the brave queen soldiered on.

And then one day in the palace kitchen . . .

Princess number 2 skipped happily along, successfully navigating the stairs and turning the corner into the kitchen, for she wanted to know what was being prepared for dinner.  The Queen was there, chopping veggies; she was unaware of the terror lurking just feet from her precious princess.

The princess threw her hands up and started to scream.  And when I say she started to scream I mean SCREAM SCREAM SCREAM as in the horror industry was on the phone immediately trying to sign up such splendid vocal chords.

Her pointed finger shaking, she screamed on.  And when the queen followed the wiggling digit she saw, not 2 feet from the warm kitchen with the chopped vegetables and the screaming princess, a bear.


A BIG BEAR.

A BIG BLACK BEAR staring my shrieking princess in the eye.

A big black bear standing on the welcome mat inches outside our patio doors as if he had just taken the burgers from the grill and was merely waiting for the princess to lend him a hand in opening the door.

And then he loped away, pausing once for a slow backward glance.  He sauntered into our garden where he found our berries covered in snow, and with a cat-like grace leapt 6 feet to the top of the fence, strolled a bit up top, and disappeared into the afternoon sun.

And the brave queen?  She’s kind of at a loss here.

I’ll Have Thanksgiving When I Want to Have Thanksgiving

The thing about holidays is that there are billions of things that can make one cranky.  Jacked-up airline prices and crowded airports; insanity at the market and children who insist on dallying with strep throat.  Not to mention the pressure, the crowds, and all those random crazy hungry people who insist they are related to you.

You can’t do much about the crazies other than learn to love ’em.  But the rest of it can be avoided if you do what I do: schedule Thanksgiving for whenever the heck it works for you.  Trust me, if you roast it, they will come.  For us, Thanksgiving was this past weekend.

I cooked this sumptuous meal–

Pictured: smattering of little people who would consume the turkey.

Not pictured: the actual turkey.

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Thing is,  I can’t figure out how those fancy-shmancy bloggies do it. I don’t know how they manage to bring home the bacon, fry it up with grease splattering everywhere and photograph it at the same time.  I get the camera into the kitchen, but when I’m up to my elbows in turkey butt with onion-induced tears streaming down my face I always forget to reach for it.

It’s probably a good thing.  Should I happen to remember one day I have no doubt that said camera would land itself right up in there with the onions and the apples and that would be no good. No good at all.

Posterity will have to wait.

Trust me when I tell you that the turkey was golden and gorgeous.  I started out with a deep muscle rub-down, a nice buttery-sage-cider massage which relaxed him enough to climb into that oven and do his job.

Mmmm, check out this golden roasted turkey–

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If by golden roasted turkey I mean a haggard bunch of related turkeys posed on the front stairs.  Which I do.

This year for faux-Thanksgiving I took an atypical laissez-faire approach towards dessert.  Not eating it, of course, but making it.  I handed that duty off to my sister, who made a yummy pumpkin cheesecake, and my brother, who under pressure and duress from the wise woman-folk in his life agreed to make the cool, free-form apple pie we found in our new Pioneer Woman cookbook.

Baby brother delivered. Check out his results.  Err, I mean, Look! It’s Grandma and Grandpa with some of the kiddies at the park.

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Hang on a second.  With someone else bellying up to the old oven, I was freed up to snap some real live food pictures–

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Viewing this lovely picture one might think that the most enjoyable part about forcing a brother to bake a pie would be eating it.  But that wasn’t so.

The best part of this pie was the post-game debriefing provided by his supportive family. We lovingly went through every step of his process to point out where he went wrong and what he could have done better.  It was very kind of us, and although he bravely declined my offer of a pad and pencil for note taking,  I know my brother was thankful for the feedback.

At least on the inside.  And because my heart is just that big, I will give him another chance to redeem himself.  Aren’t big sisters the best?

And now, with our holiday feasting behind us, let me be the first to wish you a Happy Thanksgiving.  I know, I know it’s early. But that’s the way I roll. Oftentimes I find myself ahead of the curve.

Setting the pace.

Dancing on the cutting edge.

But it’s all to your advantage dear reader.  I may completely rearrange the calendar to meet my needs, but that does not mean I’m selfish.  Just for you, you poor souls for whom the pressures of Thanksgiving still loom large on the horizon, I offer you this–an already planned, tried and true Thanksgiving menu–

My Thanksgiving Menu: The Recipes

Bon Appetit!

Little House in the ‘burbs

With half-pint and quarter-pint off to school it was time Ole Ma got that kettle on the fire. That food’s not going to put itself up, you know. How this family expects to make it through an unforgiving winter without a hefty supply of tomatoes in the freezer is beyond me. You know that Slow Joe can’t make it over a snowy pass and Nellie won’t give much milk with the ground covered in snow…

Can’t have the family facing starvation, but wait, wasn’t Ole Ma supposed to work on her novel this morning? And what about those updates to the blog, and never mind a certain five year old who’s expecting a birthday party to be planned. Oh well, there’s always tomorrow. Meanwhile, I’ve got 40 pounds of mean tomatoes roaring my name.

Last Sunday was the harvest festival at Monroe farm (yeah, I know that was a week ago, but you see, I’ve been dealing with these tomatoes…) This is the place that supplies our luscious veggies every week, and where we went to pick strawberries earlier in the summer. Something happens when you’re in a field with a green light to pick until your heart grows content (or until your back gives out.) What happens? I’ll tell you, this–

You go a little nuts. Picking with thoughts of packing pickled peppers, even if you have little idea what that means and even less of a clue of how to accomplish such a feat. Needless to say, we went a tad overboard.

Particularly in respect to the peppers.

Now, I’m not sure how many jalepenos and poblanos your family plows through in a year, but a rational estimate for our foursome is somewhere between none and one. Not that we let a silly thing like that stand in our way.

So, we had a ton of peppers to deal with, and by ‘we’ I mean, Pa, who was happy to settle down in front of the Giants game with a peck of said peppers. His plan? To slice and dice in preparation for making some of the killer salsa (recipe coming as soon as I get it out of Dave) we’ve been downing lately. All was well and good, what with the Giants winning and all….

Until, WHAM, the peppers went wild, attacking Dave’s sensibilities and filling the living room air with a pungent, powerful spice. It took two days for his eyes to stop tearing, at which point he loaded said poblanos in the car and hauled them down to the office.

Which is all well and good, except for the couple of distractions that remain to keep me from completing (ok, beginning) my great American novel. First, there’s the little matter of pinata-prep for Acadia’s party tomorrow–

And second, this overflowing box of jalepenos. Not as potent as the poblanos, but still, I’d be pretty unpopular around here if I slid a couple of these bad boys into a grilled cheese or two.

Ah-hah! I’ve got it. It’s perfect, don’t you see? I can avoid stuffing the butterfly with plastic bobbles and high fructose corn syrup AND be rid of these pesky peppers once and for all. Imagine the smiling faces of the children as they are rained down upon by these multi-colored treats.  Fiesta Time!

Happy Birthday to Acadia

I’m working on a boatload of humorous articles, useful tips and wonderful recipes following our harvest day at the farm last weekend, really I am. But how can I be expected to formulate sentences when I am swimming (drowning?) in the inconceivable fact that, as of 2:54 last night, my baby turned five. FIVE!

Here’s an indulgent look at five years (well, four. We didn’t get the digital camera going until her second year) in the life of Acadia…Happy Birthday, baby.

Yeah, yeah, it’s just a cold

This picture has absolutely nothing to do with what I’m about to write. It’s simply a ploy to lure you in to the bout of whining in which I am about to engage. My apologies, but…

…do not tell the children, these adorable trusting veggie-munching children, that I’ve been bad. Really bad. I’m talking impure thoughts. I mean really not natural. Not organic at all. As in the idea of picking up another massive delivery of fresh veggies and bountiful fruit that insists on being sliced and sautéed and chopped and canned has got me a bit bent. Seriously? I’ve already got a fridge full of enormous cabbage heads and pathetic parsnips and so help me I swear if I see another bag of string beans I’ll tie those lanky things together and wrap them noose-like around this killer sore throat of mine.

Don’t mind me, I’m just a little peeved because I’ve got a cold. Not just any cold. I’ve got this miserable, long-lasting, super-power bug that I caught back during the French Revolution. Or sometime long ago in an era far away where mere mortals were ruled by microscopic thugs bent on snot production. It’s not pretty.

So you’ll forgive me if I am too busy wiping my nose to get out to the garden these days. I did make it to Target though, to apply for a special security check to access the locked-down stash of Sudafed at the pharmacy aka Ft. Knox. And since we were there already, I told Acadia that after I got my fix we could head over to pick out her birthday piñata and corresponding loot.

Now, being a greener Biener of course I have a brilliant brown-bag, tofu-toting, eco-solution to the quandary that is a piñata. Unfortunately that earth-friendly answer is lying unconscious beneath the layers of cold-medicine-induced fog in my brain. At least I loaded all those plastic bobbles and individually wrapped nuggets of high fructose corn syrup into my canvas bag at check out.

Aarrrggh, I’m spiraling downward faster than Alice in the rabbit hole. I’ve given up hope that I’ll ever breathe through this useless appendage squatting between my eyes and my mouth again. The only hope, the only thing hanging out there that might possibly turn things around and get me back to hugging some trees is the harvest festival at the farm this weekend. Surely a day of crisp blue skies, fresh apple cider and hay rides can knock that eco-sense back into me.

If not, woe is me, this Biener’s a goner. I’m going to have to start blogging at Nyquil and Nachos dot com.

And away we went…

I feel awful. Just as you were getting used to a regular dose of dry wit and a side of brilliant recipes, poof, the green Bieners just up and disappeared. My sincere apologies. Thing is, I’m pretty new to life in the blog-o-sphere and while I did remember to pack 18 pairs of panties and 35 bathing suits, I somehow set out for our annual east-coast extravaganza without my passwords. Come now, surely I could have gained access from my remote vacation locale? Perhaps this quaint state of New York has even heard of cell phones and emails and techno gizmos? Well, good point. Why didn’t I think of that?

I feel guilty for neglecting the site. And I feel guilty for guzzling high fructose corn syrup 35,000 feet up in the sky and recklessly burning fossil fuels in our selfish quest to visit family, friends and foaming oceans. And yes, I felt a twinge for each plastic bottle of imported agua and individually wrapped snack-food that wrestled itself down our throats along the way. Despite wild swerving off the greener path, we still received this amazing reward–

That’s best friends, loving family and pure joy, all wrapped up beneath the third rainbow of our trip! We weren’t all bad. We patrolled the beaches, pulling beach glass and abandoned sea shells from the shore. We harvested fresh fish and clams with our own sea-wrinkled hands.

Best of all, we each got a turn setting sail in this incredible nut-shell pram hand-crafted for the kids by their talented Grandpa Mikey.

That’s me, ensuring its sea-worthiness before launching the little ones.

And now, despite efforts to the contrary, it’s time. Time to get back. Back to Colorado, back to school, back to the much neglected garden. I should be out there right now, freeing up the tomatoes from the weeds and unwinding the ambitious cucumber vines, but it’s raining and it’s fifty degrees and so the poor veggies will have to make it on their own yet one more day.

Rain or not, we are busy. Check out the CSA bounty we picked up yesterday. Yummy corn, melons galore, and enough jalapeños and tomatillos to have me googling salsa recipes. Eggplant parm, anyone?