none of the doors in my kitchen close on their own

None of the doors in my kitchen close on their own… except the refrigerator door, which always closes on its own, just seconds before I get there with whatever ‘over-full’ thing I happen to be carrying.  Like Jello. Boiling hot, slippery, liquid Jello, splashing up out of its shallow glass container and cascading to the linoleum below as I bump it into the suddenly sealed-shut fridge door.

It’s moments like these that remind me *why* the kitchen is my favorite room in the house- it has linoleum floors! No matter what I spill, I can always wipe it up and begin again more carefully, this time holding the door open with one foot while balancing on the other and slipping the pan into the bottom shelf where it will stay until all is solid and well.

I just made Jello from scratch for the first time using four packages of unflavored gelatin (obtained at the local grocery store, in the ‘Jello Aisle’) and four cups of white cranberry/peach juice (also found at the store, only in the “Juice Aisle”….)

That’s it. Two ingredients. It is idiotically simple, even though it took me forever to find the directions in the little box (I guess even idiotically simply just isn’t simple enough- woe is me). Come to find out the directions were inscribed on the individual packets of gelatin (duh)… I shall remember that for next time should this grand Jello experiment result in something even remotely Jello-like and we need to repeat the process.

One cup of cold juice gets poured over four packets of powdered gelatin. Three cups of  cold juice are heated over the stove until they are boiling. While the juice is working itself up to a boil, the gelatin is relaxing and swelling in the cold liquid- turning into a fascinating sort of gelatinous glob. Once the juice has boiled, the cold gelatin is stirred in until it is fully dissolved, then poured into a waiting 9×13 pan and sent to sit in the fridge until it is solid and ‘jiggly’. That is, of course, unless you spill it all trying to slip it in before the door violently and arbitrarily slams shut before you… In that case, I would suggest making something less tricky, like Pancakes Barbara.

(Convenient Literary Time Lapse Complete With Comfortable Bluegrass Music and Some Tea)

Here we are at the end of the day. The dishes are almost done, the laundry is almost folded and my child is almost asleep. I hear him in his little room at the end of the hall, murmuring his goodnight song to the stuffed woodland creatures dangling from the mobile over his crib. I’m exhausted and could really go for something cool and fruity.

Has the jello jelled? Yes it has. Hello there, my lovely, how charming you look, all glistening and gelatinous!

Ladies and Gentlemen – we have Jello, and not just any jello, but a perfect Homemade jello with no added sugars, colors, flavors or chemicals – just pure jiggly goodness. And while we are on the subject of jello’s goodness, let me say a few words about the health benefits of gelatin, the reason why jello is so adorably jello-like. Gelatin; it’s good for your aching knees, your brittle hair, your stubby nails, your lack-luster skin, your sluggish digestion and last but not least, your over-worked immune system.  Some studies suggest that the main constituents in gelatin may improve sleep quality and help regulate ones weight. I like those suggestions! It’s exceedingly low in fat and high in protein.  Sounds like much more than just a delicious snack! In accordance with our new year’s resolutions to eat more life-nourishing foods, I’m going to make jello… a lot… and eat it with abandon. The juice aisle is filled with flavors to be tried and I’m thinking chunks of fruit would be brilliant if stirred in before chilling. Oh boy, there is fun to be had here! Enjoy…

strawberry rhubarb massacre

Hello, my name is Andrea and I habitually burn baked goods.

This is my story.

Once upon a time last week I baked a pie – a strawberry rhubarb pie.  I carefully chopped up my fruit and dumped it in a mixing bowl. I measured in the required amounts of lemon juice, instant tapioca, spices and vanilla. My boldest venture was to substitute the white sugar with half the amount of pure maple syrup, making this dessert something truly Vermont-like and wonderful.

I stirred my pie filling thoroughly and let my shiny **new** oven preheat. My favorite pie plate with the deep dish and charming crimped edges was lined with pastry dough and then filled with the pretty mess. All was ready. My timer stood at attention on top of the stove and the red preheat light clicked off.  I quickly sprinkled some sugar over the delicately slit top crust and then slid the beauty in to bake.

Fifteen minutes later when the first timer buzzed its warning, I dutifully came to the kitchen and turned the heat down before resetting the time. Forty-five minutes after that, I returned to the fragrance of glorious pie scenting the entire front half of the apartment. Crimson juices oozed from the crimped edges and bubbled up between the top crust slits. It was obviously ready to be taken out, but the crust looked slightly pale to me – it was *almost* perfect, but not quite. I envisioned a pie on the glossy front cover of a cooking magazine, golden and crisp and my pie just wasn’t there yet.

There I stumbled and there I fell, gentle reader. When will I learn that sometimes ‘almost perfect’ is as close as I should dare get to a magazine cover? Fools rush in, or so they say, and so I did.

“Let’s stick this bad boy under the broiler for a minute or two – that oughtta brown ’em up!!”

Oh, the pain of stupidity. Temporary insanity set in and it seemed like a good idea, I switched the control over to Broiler with a clever smile and put the timer on for another five minutes.

Five minutes doesn’t seem like a long time, does it? A five minute shower is hardly worth taking, the snooze button on my alarm that doles out extra sleep in five minute increments is a joke and I wouldn’t dream of only giving myself five minutes to EAT pie – but let me tell you, five minutes under the broiler of a brand new oven is something to be reckoned with. In fact, the poor pie didn’t even last the entire five minutes. I came running to the kitchen when I smelled smoke and the blessed timer still had a good minute on it.

Broilers kill, ladies and gents. Should have left well enough alone and not messed with something that was good and nearly perfect. My pie needed to be taken to some sort of pastry burn unit but unfortunately, they don’t exist – yet. We’ll see what happens if I keep on baking, they may open one and name it after me and I will leave something to it in my will.

My pie – oh, my pie. It was blackened and acrid smelling. The lovely juice that once oozed from its crust resembled a tarry black river of cooled lava. The sugar that so delightfully decorated the top had bubbled up into angry, swollen worts of Burnt. It was awful.

Thank God for the men in my life, who scraped away the charcoal top layer and enjoyed the goop that remained, saying that it gave the pie a “brûléed-type flavor”. They were actually quite impressed and honestly, so was I -that is by far the most damage I have ever done to a baked good, I have taken my dessert destruction to a whole new level.

Next time I will be content with almost perfect, unless, of course, I get a better idea.

Sandy’s Special 10

According to the National Weather Service, we are in the path of  Hurricane Sandy (whom we affectionately call “Frankenstorm”).

If you are reading this, and it is Tuesday, I may be clinging to a bent-over tree in the backyard surrounded by flood waters.

Here are Ten Other Things I Might Be Doing During The Hurricane

1) Eating the remains of our ‘hurricane stash’ of Kashi cereal (just because it’s an emergency doesn’t mean we need to eat crappy stuff – I stocked up last week)

2) Rafting down Otter Creek on my Volvo accompanied by my handsome hubby and a banjo

3) Using the hurricane force winds to parasail my way West

4) Seeking higher ground

5) Cooking bear meat over a fire I made in the street wearing skins and dreadlocks because I’ve gone a day without a hot shower

6) Digging a community latrine in the backyard (because there’s no water)

7) Finally using that gorgeous hurricane lamp Mr. Brown gave us for a wedding present

8) Lighting All The Candles and eating the emergency chocolate reserves

9) Playing air guitar on our silent electric guitar

10) Knitting

The Working Ten

We all have a lot of jobs that we must do in life, from teething to raising kids to putting away the dishes after dinner – there is always something to be done, some sort of work. It’s a good thing, it keep life moving in the right direction.

Here are Ten Jobs – all of which I have done at some point in my life.

1) Don’t let this pig through

2) Clean up that vomit

3) Milk these cows

4) Bring them fries

5) Sort these bolts – all of them

6) Lance her abscess

7) Pick the dead flowers off these 7,000 geraniums

8) Carry this knife

9) Walk to the end, turn and walk back. Smile.

10) Don’t overfill those donuts

Maybe you’ve been working on the railroad all the livelong day and want to talk about it… go ahead, it’s your turn to share some of the jobs you’ve had to do in life…

homeschool heartache

“OUCH!”

My husband says,

“My face hurts – I feel like I just got slapped with Home-school.”

He loves to tease me about my history as a geeky home-schooler and it gets worse when I talk about knitting sweaters for fictional literary characters, or admit that I had a wicked crush on Jimmy Stewart as a teen and not Brad Pitt, or argue that the Civil War had precious little to do with slavery. His life with me has been one very long slap of home-school. What can I say – I’m his first home-school experience, I want him to get his money’s worth.

I have little home-school moments when I feel like no one understands me and I revert to a Jane Eyre-esque state of stoic hysteria.

 

“Do you think that because I was home-schooled I have no heart? No sense of fashion? A slanted education? No interest in the world around me? No understanding of popular culture? No dreams, no needs, no desires?”

 

 

Then sometimes, it’s more like this:

 

I am a Home-schooler. Hath not a home-schooler eyes? Hath not a home-schooler hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions; fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases,
heal’d by the same means, warm’d and cool’d by the same winter
and summer, as a public schooler is? If you prick us, do we not bleed? If
you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die?

 

I’m talking sackcloth and ashes home-school heartbreak.

Then I get over it and move on to the next sweater, the next fond memory of my dead-man crushes, the next argument about states’ rights and how I think pot should be legalized.

Ok, that last gem was more of a Hippie thing than a Home-school thing.

Just sayin’.

 

psssssst…

I wanted to tell you about something. Come closer… because I’m actually whispering.

I have come up with a meal planning idea that just might work. Just might.

Thanks to the many dozens of people I have stalked and creepily asked about their meal planning methodology, I do believe that I’ve found something that will suit our needs PERFECTLY.

Ok, you can move away now, I’m done whispering.

Here it is in black and white (because I can’t figure out how to change the color of the fonts on this silly program).

Each week I will pick 7 meals using ingredients I have or will purchase:

1 Breakfast (because I think breakfast needs a chance to be the ‘most popular’ meal)

1 Casserole/Soup ( two things I would love to make more of)

1 “Ethnic” (Curry, yum…)

1 Salad/Vegetarian ( we like to have a ‘lighter’ meal now and again)

1 Easy/Quick/Simple (for the days we spend away and get home minutes before dinner time)

1 Never Before Tried (can you say ‘cabbage rolls’)

1 Other  (sort of self-explanatory – – and if it isn’t, hang in there, I’ll explain in a bit)

So – once the meals are picked, I can arrange them through the week as needed. The nights I work we can have the casserole or easy dish, a night we have more time I could fix something new and exciting. If I have certain ingredients that need to be used sooner, that meal will come at the beginning of the week. The “Other” meal can be used for leftovers or if we eat out or just decided to have a ‘movie and a snack night’, which happens sometimes. This way, there’s always something different going on at meal time and at least once a week we’ll try something totally new. I’m inordinately excited about it.

Ta-stinking-da.

Alright, I just needed to share that.

Bye now.

20120822-184742.jpg

the menu board. in its former life it was a cheap picture frame at Wal*Mart… we made it into something Awesome with a little chalk board paint – boy howdy, I love that stuff!!

This is the way we scrub the tub

Seems like my natural cleaning idea got some cogs turning, so I thought I would write a little and share my first homemade cleaning product adventure.

Aren’t you excited?

Better get some popcorn, I’ll wait.

So – I thought that we’d just slowly transition as we ran out of cleaning products, and then anything still left clinging to the side of the cupboard at the turn of the year will be ousted and replaced.

What was the first cleaning buddy to finish the race? Scouring Powder, because I love it so and use it on everything. Everything. AND – I am a die-hard brand nazi on this one, Comet is the *only* way to go. I’ve tried the all-natural stuff, Bar Keeper’s Friend, and several other brands and never found one I was as satisfied with as Comet. Unfortunately, it’s not that good for you. Not good at all. I can’t deny that it does a kick-butt job cleaning, though. The only problem I’ve ever had is that it seems to NEVER wash off. I don’t care how many times I rinse, there remains a light, bleachy, powdery film – yum – don’t you just want that left all over your baking pans and tub?

I didn’t think so. Well, neither do I. The Comet ran out this morning and I turned to the first homemade replacement in my recipe file (I’ve been collecting homemade cleaning product recipes – like a geek).

Baking Soda; it’s the other white scouring powder. You can buy it for a ridiculously little amount of money and it’s not going to kill you, always a bonus when considering something you clean with.

I filled a quart jar with baking soda that I bought at the co-op (for about a dollar) and then added a few drops of various essential oils; peppermint, basil and lavender. Then I shook the daylights out of it to mix the oils into the powder. Already the stuff smelled a whole lot better then Comet (although, who isn’t secretly attracted to the scent of bleach??)

Viola – we’re ready to scrub-a-dub-dub!

To be super cool, and nifty-like, I cut the top off of an empty salt container and used that for the lid of the jar, screwing the band around it so it stayed on. It now has a handy pouring spout. Thank you, Pinterest, for making me look so clever.

Time to clean the bathroom. I usually use Comet to scrub the sink, inside of the toilet bowl and shower stall/tub. Today I just shook my scenty baking powder all over and then doused it with some white vinegar (in a squirt bottle, the same vinegar I use for my hair). It makes a satisfying volcano of cleaning power and all I can think is that it’s like those cleaning bubble guys you see on T.V. – on steroids. I then proceeded to clean as I usually do, scrubbing and singing and rinsing and everything came out spotless – with no creepy, bleachy residue. The tub squeaked with cleanliness and the sink faucet shone. It didn’t take me any longer to clean this way, in fact I think I had to rinse everything a whole lot less which made it quicker.

Sorry, Comet – you done been shown up, big time.

…the dynamic cleaning duo…

My cleaning basket and its residents. Comet has given its spot to baking soda. The remaining items are; Windex, Murphy’s Floor cleaner, and Simple Green all purpose cleaner.