Balls*. I'm waiting for my manservant the dishwasher to finish cleaning the jars so I can bottle my jam and go to bed because I am tired. Look at this lovely big pot of jam:
It's very red and sweet-tart and I love it. I daresn't claim that it is as good as All8's, but it's close enough that it doesn't make me sad, and isn't that what home cooking is all about? Not making people sad? Except when what you've cooked elicits pangs of nostalgia, like I plan to have about squash pie someday in the hopefully far distant future when my grandma passes on. But maybe we'll have fixed the death problem before then, and I won't ever have to feel sad eating Hubbard squash or saying "fark." That would be great.
FINALLY. The dishwasher is done. Laters.
*Speaking of my grandma, "balls" is her favorite curse. We're not sure what it means. I think it's an abbreviation of "balls of fire." She's a cute and most rocking grandma.
Friday, July 31, 2009
Balls*. I'm waiting for my manservant the dishwasher to finish cleaning the jars so I can bottle my jam and go to bed because I am tired. Look at this lovely big pot of jam:
People. You don't even understand how great this new pan is. It is fifteen and one-quarter inches across. I have a 13 1/4 quart enameled cast iron pot that I call my baby cooker because it's a morbidly descriptive term for the pan's capacity. And I hereby christen my new pan the baby fryer. Have I mentioned that The Gashlycrumb Tinies is a favorite book of mine? Well, it's not, so I'm okay to keep being a parent, DCFS people. Nobody macabre in this house!
The house tour went well and Joan brought me a thank you/penance loaf of very exciting-looking bread that I'm eager to try. I am a sucker for bread with seeds in it. But it has to be moist, right? Why is so much bread all dry and crumbly and glum-glum?
On my way home from buying my pan and this glorious knife for my in-laws:
I stopped and bought thirty pounds of pitted pie cherries. Because I am not yanking chains of anyone with yankable chains, that sour cherry jam will give you religion. And I want to be really, really religious. Coincidentally, the aforementioned baby cooker is also the right size to do a hella batch of jam.
Now I'm going to go scream at my children about the Grass Cloth semi-gloss interior latex they were kind enough to spill all over the family room carpet and couch. I like that they let it dribble out of the can for a good few hours before they came to me to confess just now. I'd better grab the frying pan.
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
Oh, man. One of the ladies who grew up in my house just called me and wants to bring her sister who is visiting over to see the house. I cannot begin to describe how not ready to wear our house is. Lawn, gardens, upstairs, downstairs. They'll be here at three tomorrow.
I can't believe I have to work on my birthday!
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
Boys who read this have been duly warned that they're going to feel uncomfortable/bored.
I mentioned a while ago that Victoria's Secret employs cottonheaded ninnymugginses who do a terrible job at fitting one for a bra, correct? One of the admins at John's work used to be a lingerie consultant at Nordstrom, the exact kind of lady you want fitting you. A little older, confident, and knows the product backwards and front, like Uncle Rico would want. So he asked her for me where would be a good spot to go to fix my problemas grandes--which I bet was not at all an awkward conversation--and she said the Nordstrom in Fashion Place Mall was the shiznit. So when Troy offered to babysit today (I told you she was sweet and nice, even though I tease her--see how I bite the hand that tends my kids?) I motated on down to the big city and the abysmal den of cognitive dissonance that is the mall.
I used the bathroom while I was there, and here's what I loved about it, do not be alarmed:
And here's the entrance to
Here is the beautifully crafted washbasin area.
And the floor-to-ceiling mirror in which you can behold your visage.
And! A baby storage seat while you take care of business! So cool.
Then I went to Nordstrom, got a PROPER fitting by a PROPERLY TRAINED person, and it's true, I was wearing too big of a band and too small of a cup, just like Oprah or Stacey London or whoever says everyone does. And now I am happy and there is not slipping or sliding or bunching or chafing. Ta-da! So if you're in need of some shapewear, you know what to do. My girl's name was Brandy, and she knows from bras.
Also John came to help pick out a new mattress for our bed, since ours is SUCKY and WANTS US TO HAVE HUNCHBACKS, and while we were there we saw an eleven-year old girl dressed like a Bratz doll with her mom who was dressed like an aged Bratz doll. And pretty much every youth I saw was a different variety of Trying Too Hard. Bleh. If it weren'f for the all-you-can-smell coffee odor I'd never go to the mall ever ever.
And I bought some cheetah-print leggings to go under my brown skirt and John will shake his head in dismay and say tsk tsk and make rude eighties- and Madonna-related remarks. But I had to tell him to stop wearing pleated Silvertabs when we got married, so I am the fashion mayor of our house in perpetuity.
Monday, July 27, 2009
John likes to tell stories of how destitute his family was while he was growing up. Mom and Dad working their fingers to the bone just to put food on the table, Cream O'Wheat for breakfast every day, hamburger the only source of protein, one glass of root beer for a treat on Sunday night, one bowl of boxed cereal for a treat on your birthday, rags for clothing, huddled together for warmth under a tarp, the kids making Nikes for fifteen hours before going to their other job thinning onions . . . that sort of thing.
But I looked around his parents' house. Oreos in the cupboard, pizza and multiple flavors of Blue Bunny ice cream in the freezer, steak in the fridge*. What was he talking about? John assured me that it hadn't been like that when HE was living there, and it was Daniel and Matthew who were reaping the benefits of all the years of scrimping and saving. I told him confidently that MY parents would never sell out like that--they're far too mean, I said. He said just wait.
So here we are, all these years later. My youngest sister Troy is the only one living at home full-time still, and do you know that she got a Columbia coat last winter? And it wasn't even for a Christmas present! There are popsicles and ice cream in the freezer, many of them not even from Grocery Outlet (my dad has a grocery problem--once he bought me a gallon jar of Spanish olives, and although I didn't like them a gallon's worth, I thought it was very sweet). Troy has a cell phone and isn't even sixteen, and Aleece tells me that the other night when my mom made Pasta Primavera for dinner, she made a special separate bowl for Troy with no vegetables in it! Sheer madness, I say! When the rest of us were young, it was all, "Eat your vegetables or you'll have to go to the bathroom in a bag! Eat that hamburger gravy even if it does make you barf!" So now I have to eat crow, and John smugly says he told me so.
The thing is, if I had been given the privileges that Troy has, I would have been an insufferable snot. I would have been bratty and rebellious and sass-mouthed. But Troy is about the nicest girl you could ever hope to meet. She's funny and sweet and obedient and cheerful and thrifty and clean and brave and reverent and here we are into the Scout Law, so you know it's serious. So I guess it's all for the best, but I sure wish I hadn't had to wear that shiny brown hand-me-down boy's snowsuit.
*Full disclosure: the steaks were and still are petite sirloins. So they haven't completely sold out. Maybe I should stop buying ribeyes . . .
I'm not saying Typhoid Mary was a good person or anything, but maybe she felt bullied and trapped by her situation and didn't know how to make ends meet if she didn't work as a cook, and it's not like she got benefits or paid sick leave. And she didn't realize she was making people sick, is all I'm saying.
No, I'm not trying to sublimate my guilt, why do you ask?
Sunday, July 26, 2009
I bet Cool Ranch ice cream would make the worst breath ever.
I say this because I'm hoping there's something that can beat the garlic/honey/cayenne pepper paste I'm currently sucking on. It's both not as bad and far worse than you think.
I was supposed to sustitute in the Nursery at church this morning, but the doctor told me that God understands if you're sick and I'm not supposed to do anything today, which is a real load off. No parenting for me! I choose not to define a shower as "anything," since I still have some camping residue.
Remember when I made zucchini parm last week? It was realrealgood. Here's what you do: open the mandoline you bought for yourself for your husband to give you for your birthday next week. You can use a knife or food processor, but if you're working with the cudgel-sized zukes so common in July you're going to wish you had a mandoline.
Slice the zucchini into uniform slices (I told you you would want a mandoline) and saute them--in batches, if necessary to avoid crowding--until they soften. Spread a few ladlefuls of pasta sauce on the bottom of your baking pan. Then dip the moist (eww) slices into panko crumbs and cover the bottom of the pan, overlapping the slices. When you finish the layer of breaded zucchini slices, cover them with a layer of fresh mozzarella slices. See:
Then spoon some more pasta sauce over it and do another layer of breaded zucchini slices.
One more layer of mozzarella, then pasta sauce, then a buttload of parmesan on top.
Cover with foil and bake at 350* for about half an hour, just to heat it through, then brown it with the cover off for fifteen minutes and it will look like this.
Everyone in your family will adore it except your ingrate son who hates everything you cook. That's not true--he likes a few things I cook. He's very fond of my biscuits. But this is the child who will stop eating ice cream if he feels full. I told you, he's a CRAZY PERSON.
He did deign to eat the dragon tongue beans after we promised that they tasted just like normal green beans.
They don't keep their color after cooking--they bleach to a muddy yellow color--but who cares? They're gorgeous anyway, and so easy to see on the plants! They are my new BFF.
(standard disclaimer: measurements are approximate)
1 huge zucchini or multiple smaller ones
olive oil for sauteing
1 quart of pasta sauce, purchased or homemade (Bertolli's Olive Oil and Garlic is delicious and you will get no judgment from me--the ingredient list is short and real, and sometimes you need the pasta sauce rightnow)
roughly 1-1 1/2 pounds of mozzarella (I bought--yes, bought! shut up, it was a hard week--the two-pack of fresh mozzarella from Costco that is very reasonably priced, but I bet you could shred normal mozzarella and do just fine)
2-3 C parmesan
Dump the pasta sauce into a pan to warm. Stir in about1/2 C of shredded parmesan.
Slice your zucchini, then saute the slices until they are soft. Dredge them in panko crumbs, pressing down to help the crumbs adhere (I axed the deep-frying, and the eggwash isn't really necessary). Spread a thin layer of pasta sauce on the bottom of a 9 x 13 pan. Layer on the zucchini slices, overlapping them. Cover the zucchini layer with a layer of mozzarella cheese. If you're using fresh mozzarella, use a wire cheese cutter to cut thin slices. Spread on a layer of pasta sauce, then repeat with zucchini, cheese, and another layer of pasta sauce. Then top the whole thing with a whole ton of shredded parmesan--I'm sure I used at least a cup or two.
Cover with foil and bake at 350* for thirty minutes, then remove the foil and bake for another fifteen minutes. Scrumptious. I was really a pig about this dish and ate most of the leftovers myself.
Saturday, July 25, 2009
You will be interested to discover, as was I, that I have strep throat now. My working theory is that my immune system was shot from the bout of gomboo, and during this period I bad-touched a shopping cart or something. But I knew what I had when last night (while I was camping at a family reunion, natch) I realized that I would rather die than swallow. So, sorry extended Herd family, for going all Strep Throat Mary on you. I am medicating with amoxycillin and miso soup, which is a godsend at a time like this. Oh, bless you, fermented soybeans. I love you as much as I do the toilet bowl for being cool on the side.
I dated a boy in high school who always said "repelling" instead of "rappelling" when he was referring to the sport. But I was a bratty know-it-all and corrected him mercilessly until he stopped. I wonder if it stuck. He was a terribly nice guy with a great family, and he told me that once he was chasing his twin brother Rob up the stairs (they were fighting), and Rob kicked backwards and kicked Rich's ear almost completely off his head, and he had to get a crap-ton of stitches to reattach it. I was always skeptical, but now that I have sons of my own I no longer doubt his veracity.
Now if you'll excuse me, I'ma go gargle with magic mouthwash and take up to four ibuprofen.
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
I have just finished Les Miserables, so I am crying now.
I wondered at the outset of this project of reading the unabridged version whether I would feel like it was unnecessary. It's so long, and there is so much that doesn't concern Jean Valjean, surely much of it is dead wood, right? But I've found that aside from M. Gillenormand's randy transports of fancy, it's all necessary. It's not only the story of Jean Valjean, after all. As Hugo says, the book is the march from evil to good, from injustice to justice; for that to be accomplished, the other stories have to be told, however ancillary they may appear.
It's a difficult book to digest, but short story is: the justice system is messed up, liberty is a right of all men, sewers are gross, Marius is a douchebag, Jean Valjean is a saint, and I sort of have a celebrity-old-man-who-doesn't-actually-exist crush on him. It could work, you guys, he's totally nice. And strong!
I'm still seething about Marius. I almost wish he were real, so I could shiv him in the kidneys. Or remind him every day that he pettily took the one ray of light from the life of a man who is infinitely his superior, and that his coldness drove Jean Valjean to his death. Then I'd give him a nice paper cut and pour lemon juice in it. While kicking him in the crotch.
In the future, I think it would be helpful to read the whole book in one go, instead of in small spaces of time while I'm in the bathroom or getting ready to fall asleep.
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
I've been harvesting actual food from our garden, it's crazy town! Here are my rat king carrots that were caught in a most compromising position:
Teenagers. Sheesh. They remind me that I'm thankful for how loose the garden soil is this year. And I have successfully forced myself into tolerating beets. I find that enough butter to obscure the taste of the beets is helpful.
The cauliflower is starting to look a little worse for wear, but it all comes on at once! I can't eat seven heads of cauliflower in a week!
Especially when I have combined swine flu/hantavirus. Here's how you know if you have swine flu: do you have a barking cough, or an oinking cough? That joke courtesy of John's uncle Jan. My hair was pretty crazy last week, too, with all the baths I was taking and lack of upkeep. John was very impressed and took a picture. I'm so flushed I look like Ted Kennedy.
We managed to get some sour cherry jam made amidst the deluge of sickness--poor John was my crummy little toady the whole week and had to do all manner of busywork, like tearing up carpet and picking a bucket of pie cherries. Note: pie cherries are not a lot of bang for your buck. Not like those sweet cherries I bought from the Barkers at twenty-five pounds for five dollars.
Then last night John and I were up until one o'clock assembling one of the pieces of furniture we got from Ikea during their phasing-out-this-line sale.
I need some closed storage for the office, and this will do nicely.
And our swamp cooler is up, so we're going to be eating Zucchini Parmigiana tonight. I'm stoked.
Sunday, July 19, 2009
Man, they are not screwing around with that superglue stuff. I just glued myself to an ice cream scoop.
Thursday, July 16, 2009
Ah, me. That was a good joke I stole from John. I still have what my mom thinks may be hantavirus. Now I have an inhaler and some cough syrup with codeine so that guy who roams around our town breaking into people's houses and stealing their prescription narcotics will have a new option. But the joke's on him, because I'm going to feed any leftovers to the chickens and watch them all stumble around and proposition each other.
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
Holy CRAP, people. That was no fun. I spent a good part of yesterday in a fog that I can only assume was similar to a drug-induced stupor. That may be related to the 103* fever I had. My whole body felt bruised, including my bones and organs. Bed rest isn't fun like they said it would be, because even with the magic of Hulu and the many lovely shows it contains, eventually your sitting bones wear out. I thought I was going to have to go to the hospital for a broken coccyx, just like Napoleon Dynamite's grandma.
But thanks to John and my dad and my family generally taking extra special care of me I seem to have turned the corner. Thus ends the tedious discussion of my health. My English teacher Mr. Wight would not allow use of the word "boring" in his classroom, only "tedious."
Now! On to more exciting topics! I never told you guys about when I made kombucha. It's weird, wild stuff. I'm glad I was introduced to kefir first, because its character and process prepared me for the receipt in the mail (from the lovely Tipsy Baker, thank you) of what looks a whole lot like a sheet of human placenta.
This picture is taken after a few days of fermentation, when the new kombucha child has already started forming on the surface of the tea. After nine or ten days I took it out and separated the mother from the child and plopped them with some of the kombucha into a quart jar, thusly:
to hang out in the fridge until I was ready to do another batch (stupid me--if I'd just made another batch right then, maybe I would have had some left over and John wouldn't have had to drive to the Good Earth yesterday to buy some corporate sellout kombucha, because I wanted something fizzy, but pop gives me the hiccups and makes me nauseated--I tried the ginger and it is next on my list of make-at-home flavors).
I strained the kombucha into a pitcher, and was glad to see that it was properly fizzy--like sparkling apple juice.
Then I poured it into some pint jars to refrigerate, and derived humor from how much it looks like . . . cider, we'll say. In the words of Ned Flanders, "If it's clear and yella, you've got juice there, fella! If it's tangy and brown, you're in cider town!"
I guess it's more of a juice/cider hybrid, because it's quite clear, apart from the little flecks of kombucha mother that seem to spontaneously generate, even after it's bottled. It also gets fizzier after bottling. It tastes fizzy like pop, but doesn't make you thirsty, like pop does. It really is a lot like a less-sweet sparkling apple cider. My deprived children love it.
Recently we went up and ate dinner in the canyon with some neighbors, and I had a million-dollar s'more-making idea. We'd tried using folded sheets of foil, but it was not user-friendly. So I picked up a couple of disposable foil loaf pans, we faced them toward the fire, and proceeded making our s'mores. You put the graham cracker with the chocolate on it to melt while you toast your marshmallow--no more hunks of cold chocolate.
We made all sorts of great flavors, with peanut butter and bananas, dried berries, pecans, chocolate grahams . . . I think I consumed my weight in s'mores alone that night. A thundering success. I haven't patented the loaf pan melting oven technology, so any entrepreneur in the audience is welcome to ditch your Tahitian Noni enterprise and start making prototypes for the Portable S'more Oven multi-level marketing scam . . . uh, scheme, I probably meant.
Monday, July 13, 2009
So, the H1N1-A or whatever that I've got is making food sound grody, which makes me sad. I want to eat some eggs. Theoretically, at least.
John is flustered about the brouhaha that's happening with the Jazz. I think it's cute when he's all masculine like that.
Happy Day Before Bastille Day, everyone! I celebrated by reading Les Miserables in the tub for a half hour. I have about a quarter of the book left, and so far I only have pending hatred of Marius. I seem to remember him being all judgy about Jean Valjean from when I read the abridged version, and I will punch his fictional lights out if that is the case.
Today we're dismantling our giant bed and moving it to the new bedroom, and hopefully we'll be able to get the sour cherries picked. TOO MUCH TO DO AND I FEEL YUCKY.
Remember this little guy?
Well, if you were wondering, the diatomaceous earth was all the way useless. I don't know how to get it up and under the head, which is where all the worms like to hang out. This is why people don't grow their own cauliflower--cleaning it is a good fifteen-minute chore. But once it's cleaned, it's buttery and delicious. I think I'll grow it again, because even though the sight of inchworms is rather unappetizing, it lends one's garden an air of respectability that tomatoes and zucchini can't match.
Speaking of which, I have some beautiful striped zucchini growing now, and we ate them for the first time last night. Thus begins that fantastic time of year in which people have to lock their car doors at church so they don't end up with a back seat full of zucchini.
Traci has been enjoying our garden as much as we have, since she gets the tops from all our carrots and beets and the leaves from the cauliflower. It makes up a little for the long lonely days with no one to bleat to.
In other news, I am wicked sick with something super unpleasant. Much of last night was spent writhing and groaning in a most indelicate fashion. Just in time for family reunion season, yay!
Sunday, July 12, 2009
I just saw a daddy longlegs dragging away the carcass of an earwig.
Thursday, July 9, 2009
Tonight I acted for the first time in my official capacity as a member of the Board of Adjustments. It was a heady tonic, and very exciting, except for the part where two of the Board members ditched and we had to reschedule.
I can't divulge any of the particulars, but when we do convene, it promises to be a barn burner with much taking of offense and souring of relationships. Woo!
Wednesday, July 8, 2009
Here's something for you to do: the next time you're out weeding the garden, try accidentally kneeling on some ants, and then have them bite you.
Also, you'll be glad to know that the thing on the carpet downstairs was not a giant turd, it was a giant hairball. Skiver has been working on that one for about six months, I swear. Stupid ineffective hairball medicine.
Tuesday, July 7, 2009
It's still irresponsible to drink cream, right? Too bad. The cream I bought from Johnny's Dairy is so thick that it wouldn't pour at first--it was more like Greek yogurt. Today I'm putting up the drapes in Pinga's new room, and I celebrated by making cream biscuits, which are very similar to baking powder biscuits, but faster and probably less accepting of whole wheat flour.
They are tender and flaky, and great with cultured butter.
And here's the finished floor, with topping and all. What a relief.
Monday, July 6, 2009
The garden is performing quite well, considering the neglect it's been subjected to for the last week. We're basically done with the beets, aside from the few I'm going to use to make kvass, which sounds like a terrifying drink. I think I'll put the rutabagas in the beet rows--I was supposed to plant them on July 3rd, but I was a little busy rocking the floor so hard. I like rutabagas in our boiled dinner--carrots usually get too soft, but parsnips and rutabagas are great along with the potatoes. John speaks of a dish he ate while in England, called "Swede and Potato Mash," which is rutabagas mashed with potatoes. It sounds intriguing.
There are even some little fruits on the tomatoes, which has me giddy. I love tomato season, and I'm especially looking forward to my Ananas Noires. And my Brandywines, because I'd like to know if they're really worth all the hype. I tried growing them once before, but remember the neglectful garden parent part?
As a member of Generation Now, I might try digging a hill of potatoes in a few weeks. The rest I'll leave until fall, so I can have some big hummers for storage.
And here is the most exciting part:
Eeee! Isn't it so pretty? I took the picture before I dusted it with DE to keep the worms out. I'm getting less sqeamish about tiny worms in salads and cherries, but those big old inchworms are still a rather tall order for me.
And here's what it looks like over in Cucurbit Hill. I don't know why some of them are so teensy still, since they all get equal water and sun. It makes me concerned that I won't have a crop before it freezes, and I don't even know what I won't have a crop of! I hear that people sometimes label their plants, but I'm a rugged individualist.
Friday, July 3, 2009
Today we'll sand the floor, and before we return the sander we're going to tear up the carpet in the current bedroom/future office to make sure the floor is actually finished and doesn't need attention like the whiny baby we just unearthed.
I am so thankful that John stayed home from work yesterday to help, because I hit a really low point emotionally at about five in the afternoon, and I would have dissolved into hot, snotty tears of impotence if he hadn't been there to pull me out of my funk. I need to remember that when removing tarpaper, boiling water is your best friend.
Thursday, July 2, 2009
In movies and television the women who are doing hard manual labor always manage to look sexily disheveled, but for some reason I usually end up looking like Ma Gogan. Plus in this photo I seem to have crazy lady hair like that nasty Gosselin woman who is taking up all the news these days. Truly, I am of most women most miserable.