Wide Open Spaces

My next-door neighbors just finished installing a fence. Instead of no fence at all, now their whole back yard is fenced in. It’s a nice fence, and I know they needed to do it (they got a dog). But before they put it up, I had a view out of my kitchen window that looked a teensy bit rural, if I squinted. It stretched over the empty land that is our double lot, through all the neighbors’ yards (no fences at all) to the next cross street. One of the neighbors further down has a white garage in the back with six-paned windows, and some years they would plant sunflowers against it. And the neighbors next to me have a pretty purple-leaved maple tree that was part of the view too. Now I can only see the top half of it. Whatevs, things change, I’ll get used to it. But the whole thing got me thinking about moving somewhere where we would have more land and our vista would be a bit more under our control.

To that end, I threw a few hours away looking on realtor.com at properties in the rural southern counties of our state. Found some interesting properties, and on Sunday we took a drive past one just for fun.

This property was about an hour away. It was a fun drive; the weather was great. It certainly does get rural quick once you go a few exits down Route 55. We passed lots of farms, lots of horses, lots of views stretching way away across flat land. We drove through Bridgeton, N.J., and I was hoping that maybe Bridgeton had somehow become a part of the whole downtown renaissance thing that is happening so many places. But not so much. Still looking pretty depressed in old Bridgeton. A bit beyond the town, we came to the property. It was definitely pretty, and peaceful. But the house was a little small (built in 1881, I think), and like so many from that time, a little too close to the road. Also, it was occupied, so we felt weird and continued on. We ended up at the Cohanzick Zoo in Bridgeton, and my kids are happy whenever they get to see animals, so all was good.


All in all, it was a much needed little road trip; it got me out of my rut for a bit. I just needed to see something different. I haven’t looked at any more properties since, but I still think it would be neat if there was some way we could have a farm and just live on it in the summer. I’m not willing to uproot the kids from their school and their friends, but for summer….? Chickens and baby goats? How fun would that be. Also if this farm could be pretty close to the beach, that would be good too.

Meanwhile, back here on Earth…

Last week I had some kitchen adventures. I made chicken noodle soup with the chicken stock I made a few weeks ago. I thought it was great, tasty and fresh. Especially the next day, for lunch, after the flavors had time to come together. The kids tolerated it. My younger son seemed to like it. (Muhahaha! It had some invisible pureed cauliflower in it.)

I also made eggless chocolate chip cookies, because I had no eggs. Apparently there are certain substitutes for eggs in baking. It seemed to work; everybody liked them.


At the beginning of this week, my daughter asked, as we were coming home from school, “Mom, did you make anything? Like cookies?” I promised her I would by the end of this week.

I can’t recall exactly what we had for dinner last week, but I think we did pretty good with eating in. We did order pizza on Friday because we had friends over. Saturday, I dragged some of the kids to a garden center to see if I could find any raised bed kits, but no luck. (I ended up ordering a circular, reusable bed — I think it’s made of fabric? — from Amazon.) I then dragged them to Acme for some groceries — mainly looking for something to cook that night. I ended up buying country-style pork ribs, and then a whole bunch of stuff that they bugged me to get.


So this was just a conventional old grocery order. Earlier in the day, though, I picked up my Hillacres Pride order of eggs, short ribs and cheese. I was lightly scolded for not knowing that the minimum order is $25 — they let me slide this time. They won’t have another delivery til the end of the month. Winter Harvest Philadelphia is not getting back to me re: my lack of login info, so that’s a bummer. In general, I’m all discombobulated with regard to grocery shopping. It used to be Mondays, boom, the end. Somewhere along the line I got out of the Monday habit, and then started introducing Whole Foods and these farms. I feel like I’ve made lots of small trips lately and I’m still always running out of something. Must get organized!

Back to Saturday: I didn’t have enough time to make the ribs. We had mashed potatoes and those chicken strips instead, and some leftovers, I think. I cooked the ribs in the Crock Pot on Sunday while we were gallivanting around, but we didn’t end up eating them til Monday (went out to eat Sunday). Here’s the recipe. I thought they were delicious. My husband said he wasn’t “super thrilled” by them. But honestly, I don’t think super thrilled is my goal. If I can buy ribs locally and cook them in the Crock Pot and maybe eventually make my own BBQ sauce… that’s a good meal for us. And my younger son ate some! That boy is on a roll.

So Monday was ribs, leftover mashed potatoes, and corn. Tuesday I spent what felt like all day on the computer doing the refinance for this house (finally!). So the kids had their choice of canned goodness from the cupboard, and my husband and I had sandwiches from Primo Hoagies. Wednesday was spaghetti and meatballs (gravy from the freezer).

Tonight is going to be a shocker for everyone. I’ve got pinto beans on the stove right now (after soaking them yesterday) and am going to attempt to make refried beans. And I’m making pork carnitas with the last of the pulled pork from the freezer. When I was at Whole Foods on Monday, I made sure to get some chili pepper and similar spices. Yeah, pretty sure no one will eat it but me. But worth a try. You know 2016 is the Year of the Pulse, right? “Pulse” meaning beans and their relatives. I need to get better acquainted with beans. They are such a useful item.

One more food note. I was very tempted today to run out and get something “fun” for lunch. I didn’t feel like we had much here. But I forced myself to get creative and ended up digging out some flatbread that’s been languishing in the freezer forever. Sautéed some garlic and portabella mushrooms in olive oil. (Thank God mushrooms are local to Pennsylvania. Can’t give them up.) Topped the flatbread with some leftover Italian cheese from the freezer, and some cut up mozzarella balls that we got with our sandwiches the other night. Also some spinach I bought this week. So delicious!

It feels good to mess around in the kitchen after being on the computer so much (for the refi, looking at vacation houses, PTA, emails). The beginning of this week felt front-loaded with responsibilities, kid activities and doctor’s visits. Hope to do some baking tomorrow. Also would like to start some seeds.

P.S. The beans were a disaster. Not edible. And the pork was just okay. Quesadillas to the rescue…


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