What I did over Winter Break

My children might try to tell you that I spent their winter break hiding away in a pumpkin shell.

And maybe I did and maybe I didn’t.

And maybe the impossible sheen of my bouncy tail makes the whole issue a moot point anyway.

Ahh, such fluffy finesse.  It is not achieved through the wonders of coconut oil or conditioning.

Nope, it is the rejuvenating act of sticking my head inside a gourd and dimming the light switch of reality that does it for me.

It’s putting down the cell phone.

And leaving the laundry for another day.

It’s staring aimlessly out the window at the more industrious beings as they scurry to and fro striking impressive yoga poses using nothing more than a rotten pumpkin that’s been begging to be composted for months.

Oh yes, and it’s abdicating responsibility for feeding one’s family.  This is done best under the guise of  “helping the children gain independence in the kitchen.”

So while I curled up pumpkin-side and our rodents illustrated their dexterity, my children got busy.

They poured.  They mixed,

and they made short work of my boastful popover display with their gorgeous oven-baked pancakes.

Whereas my popovers are finicky and unpredictable, this oven pancake shows up every time, delicious in all its fluffy splendor.

Here’s the recipe.   Though I believe the true secret lies in the sitting back and sipping coffee while the children make breakfast (Warning:  when one abdicates power in the kitchen, one’s children might locate the food coloring.  Which is how one might find herself dining, ala Sam I Am, on a plate of green pancakes.)

And though you may find gangrenous pancakes unappealing, you will eat them.

You will eat them in a boat.  And you will eat them with a goat.

And you will eat them in the rain.  And you will eat them on a train.

And There I’d Keep Him Very Well

The “there” of which I speak is this inconceivably large pumpkin shell.  Care to guess whom I would like to stuff inside?

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You might be thinking Dave, particularly if you have read the lyrical ode to my over- ambitious pumpkin-seed loving husband.  Perhaps putting him in a pumpkin shell is the consummate solution to a spouse mad out of his gourd.   I do like the way you think,  but it was actually this little guy I had in mind–

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This pint-sized delicious nephew of mine is coming to visit, and I know if given the chance I could keep him very well inside a giant pumpkin shell. But his mama is relatively new at all this baby stuff;  I bet when they arrive later this week she’ll insist on napping him somewhere clean and non-vegetative, like a pack+play.  New parents can be so unimaginative.

No sweat.  I already found a new occupant for the remains of the pumpkin shell abode.  You remember this guy?  We’ve renamed him ‘El Gordito’ after his recent pumpkin binge.

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He is thrilled with his edible bed.  Especially after I generously moved it out of the snow.  He was none too happy with the blizzard last week that left his stomping grounds looking like this —

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Before I moved his meal, El Gordito performed an interpretative cold paw dance on the snow that expressed his deepest desire (warm feet.) I should have caught it on film, but I have my reputation to consider. I don’t want people thinking that I’m spending too much time alone.  Alone, with squirrels, I mean.

Some would have me focus on the more human yet also cute inhabitants of this household.

Fine. For the record, cute humans that also reside here–

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Pictured: Sister Hermione, Sister Black Cat, and Mama Cowgirl.  Not pictured: Papa, sigh, Cowboy.  You’ll have to take my word for it.  Crazy-pumpkin-seed boy makes a mighty fine cowboy.  Yes-sir-ree-bob, he does.

Any-hoo, back to El Gordito.  I think I heard that you can actually bake things right inside a pumpkin shell.  Boy oh boy this year’s Thanksgiving dinner is practically preparing itself.

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Mmmm, Pumpkin roasted squirrel. Gotcha, Gordito! (That’s where I slam the whole squirrel-gourd combo into a big casserole and pop ‘er into the old oven.)

No, not really.  Here’s what I did do with the giant pumpkin shell.  In my quest for the title of  Auntie-of-the-Year, I pureed that 287 pound beauty.  I roasted. I diced.  I pureed and I pureed and I pureed.

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So here’s the deal baby Miles:  You can sleep wherever your newbie parents want you to sleep.  Just be sure to be hungry.  Be very very hungry.

Because, my dear boy, you have 875 pounds of pumpkin to eat.

Only November, so where’d all that food go?

Perhaps you remember our good pal, Squiggy? The famous fiend of the savage sunflower attack of ’08? That notorious backyard napper? Well, let’s just say he’s all caught up on his sleep and not wasting his time batting around flowers anymore.  He’s all business.

And I’m kind of falling in awe with the little guy. Such a busy beaver rodent. Scurrying to and fro gathering apples from the tippy top of our tree and pumpkins from doorstops around the neighborhood, all in a thorough preparation to keep his furry family fed.  I’m passing my parent-of-the-year award over to Squiggy.  Perhaps my children as well, since I totally missed the boat on shoring up my shelves for the long cold winter.

It’s November. Only mid-November, and gone are the pounds of delicious strawberry applesauce. Gone are the hundreds of jars of jam.  Of course you remember the freezer full of squash puree that my dear parents put up in my absence? Gone. Every last ziploc baggie of it, gone.  What’s left? Two jars of tomato sauce.  I’ll consider it serendipitous that the kids prefer pasta and pizza sans sauce while I try to configure a lasagna that’ll take us through Spring.

As I gaze into my bare cupboards I think of Barbara Kingsolver.  She made it seem fun and easy to keep her family fed on homegrown efforts.  I think too of Frontier House, a gem of a reality show on PBS a few years back.  The mission: survive out on the homestead.  Those who failed to put up enough food and firewood by the time the snows came got voted off.  (Disclaimer: no families were left to freeze and/or starve in the making of this show.)

This much I know is true:

  1. I worked hard.  I planted. I picked. I pureed.
  2. The food did not last. My family is doomed to starvation (let’s pretend that old nag Nellie is not well enough to make the trip to SuperTarget.)
  3. I am fiercely competitive.
  4. I will not be voted off this homestead.
  5. Squiggy sure is looking plump these days…
  6. Stuffed full as he is with fresh apples and pumpkin…
  7. I’ll just tell the kids he went away for little awhile,
  8. A vacation, a little squirrel sales trip, that’s all. Nothing to worry about kids,
  9. Now sit down and eat your dinner.

What about those pumpkins?

Oh yeah, I almost forgot. We need to talk about those post-Halloween pumpkins. They are still handy, you know, once the cute pictures have been snapped and the last of the candy has been pilfered from the children’s hiding spots.

The way I see it, once the carving knife has been retired there are a couple of options.

Option Number One: Stage your own Disney-esque critter film festival. I set the bait and then used my extensive techno-abilities to create the following neat-o retro flip-book-style film. Simply wiggle your computer back and forth to see Squiggy in full animated motion.

We first meet Squiggy as he cautiously approaches the treasure,

He gives it a little sniff-sniff,

Then dives in, ass over tea-kettle.

He perches, savoring the fruits of his labor.

Finally we see our hero; leaning in exhaustion and searching for the inner strength to carry on.

I know, I know, it’s touching and sweet. I am a woman of many talents. But for those of you who may be hesitant about challenging Mr. Disney and his world of critter creations, there is another way to go.

Option Number Two: When life rots the pumpkins, make pumpkin puree! That way, with a freezer of golden orange mush and just a modicum of self restraint you too can enjoy pumpkin treats on many a snowy day to come.

I love these muffins but I do recognize that it’s time to branch out. I hereby promise to collect, cook, taste and share recipes for other pumpkin treats. Soon.

Pumpkin is perfect for reasons beyond just keeping muffins moist without adding fat. If you’re into the health thing, or just wish you knew more about our favorite gourd, swing by Kermit’s Corner. We’ve got a list of interesting factoids about what a couple of cups of pumpkin can do for you.

Happy feasting!