Showing posts from September, 2009

Things I've Been Wondering Lately

* Was butternut squash named after Julia Child?

* Does everyone look like a mugger in a hoodie, or just everyone I've seen lately?

* What on earth made the first person look at a 40-pound hubbard squash and say, "You know, I bet I could eat that?"

* Are there any grocery carts without one crazy wheel?

* Is there a club somewhere devoted to typing up urban legends to send around the internet, and do they get prizes for coming up with the craziest ones?

* If cats view their humans as staff, can I be fired?

* Do we like the self-checkout machines in stores because we are unsocial or because most of us had a toy cash register when we were children?

* Have humans caused the craziness of the weather this year, or has Mother Nature always been a little loopy?

* Why do people who don't cook watch the Food Network?

* Has there ever been a woman anywhere who went to her closet, looked inside, and said "Yep, I have enough shoes?"

* How can any decent human being list…


So, in spite of the fact that it was hovering around 90 over the last week, temperatures tonight & tomorrow night are predicted to be hovering right around freezing, so the garden's days are numbered. We'll be covering everything, but I'm not sure the peppers will survive even with a covering, soThat would be a lot of peppers. Sorting them into hot & not hotit's still a lot of peppers. The bells & bananas are fairly easy to deal with, so I placed the nice big ones in the refrigerator, and chopped up the rest to dehydrate--which filled the dehydrator completely. I have dried some of the Anaheim peppers, but as I'm not exactly sure we'll use them, I didn't want to dry more only to find out that we hate them so tomorrow we will be attempting some jalapeno roasting. And serving Mexican-ish food for the next 4 weeks.

Since I am refusing to turn on the heat until we're positive there won't be more hot weather, it was pretty chilly around …

Things I've Learned This Month

* If your spouse has had to live with his comments around the house becoming fodder for your blog, when he gets on Facebook he might choose to even things out a bit.

* White spots on squash leaves probably aren't hard-water deposits, even if the spots inside the house are.

* Some days it's best to ignore the existence of the garden, especially when one has canned 11 pints of salsa the day before.

* One of the fastest ways to crack my spouse up seems to be to tell him that I think if I stop wasting so much time everyday, I could probably get one more book read every month. I believe he's still chuckling over that one.

* Nothing makes me more excited about canning than to get my arse kicked by a sweater.

* Even though everyone has to be 39 for an entire year, no one seems to believe anyone could be that age.

* Trying to catch a vole with an inverted trash can is a good way to smash him if he runs in the wrong direction when you pounce.

* Listening to Christmas music in Sep…

A Few More Fun Food (Mostly) Facts

The food research part of our experiment has slipped a bit during the recent canning marathon, but today the garden and I blissfully ignored each other's existence, so:

* Not content with bizarre cheese substances, the manufacturers of Party Cheese aerosol cheese have also produced aerosol cream cheese, aerosol sour cream, and aerosol chocolate sauce. Not to neglect our four-legged friends, they also introduced a liver & peanut butter flavored aerosol product for dogs. You know, because dogs need something they can eat even faster.

* There are actually Hostess Teamsters (who are presumably NOT responsible for Jimmy Hoffa's disappearance unless he has been living at a fat farm for the last 30 years) and they went on strike in 2000. During the Great Twinkie Shortage, desperate consumers paid up to $5,000 for boxes of Twinkies. For the bargain price of $4000, I would cheerfully have baked them stale cakes filled with strange white goo.

* Tater Tots were invented as a way…

Roasted Tomato-Chipotle Salsa

Now if you ran across a recipe with that title, could you pass it up?

Well we know I couldn't. The recipe called for dried cascabel and dried chipotle peppers--and BTW, the cascabels are REALLY hard to locate here--but as usual, I didn't pay quite enough attention. The recipe called for 12 of each.As you will notice, what I have is 6 of each. Now the recipe said it would fill 8 half-pint jars, or produce 8 cups. 12 peppers in 8 cups is a LOT of pepper and these babies are not exactly subtle, so I decided to go ahead anyway. (Sometimes I like to have an automatic excuse handy in case things don't turn out so well.)

While I was roasting a big sheet of Roma tomatoes, garlic, onion, and green bell peppers, the recipe said to heat the dried peppers on a skillet until they were soft & pliable, which worked really well with the chipotle peppers, but these guyswere a bit of a problem. I can guarantee they were heated, but not necessarily soft & pliable in too many pl…

A Few Updates

* The rodent-hunting scores stand thus:
Toni: 2
Andy: 1
Theo: 1
Calisto: no mice, but one grasshopper

To be fair, the two voles I have killed were both killed by sheer accident, so I think I'm going to rule out "Zookeeper" as a potential career.

* Today is our THIRD wedding anniversary, and I'm hoping to celebrate by NOT chasing voles or canning.

* I finally grew a spine and sent an email to the person we had to dis-invite from Soup Night. I thought Lori made a good point in the comments--if it were me, wouldn't I want to know why I was no longer invited? Ideally, I would have tried to do it face-to-face, but with this particular person, I have never been able to get a single sentence in during any "conversations," so it was email or nothing. I tried to be as polite as possible, and mentioned that both Andy and I have read & reread How to Win Friends and Influence People, and that it really helped us with social skills,…

Grocery Shopping CAN Be Amusing!

I was amused to find this at the grocery store today:"100% Whole Grain" popcorn!

Am I missing something, or can popcorn ever be anything EXCEPT 100% whole grain?

Meanwhile, Here At Mouse Central....

So, how many rodents were we up to when I left off yesterday? Technically, I think these things are all voles, but when there's a furry uninvited creature streaking through the living room, I don't really care about my accuracy level. Yesterday ended with one vole alive, well, and living under the cupboards, and 3 small voles all known to be dead. (And we were actually HAPPY to find out that Maine Coon cats were good mousers. HAPPY! Can you believe it? I guess it's just like everything else in life--nothing is simple enough to be just good or bad)

This morning, it was cold, so I thought a relaxing dip in the hot tub would be a great start to the morning--a bit of calm before starting on today's canning adventures. THEN I came inside to discover Theo had a vole in the hall closet. Since the cats have lost more than a few creatures, Andy and I decided to "help." And between the three of us........we managed to lose the vole.

Theo and I are still patro…

I Have Now Killed a Mouse

Not the mouse from this morning--he's still alive and well and living under my cupboards. Nope, a DIFFERENT mouse.

Every time Andy is gone I go through this. I don't know if the cats think that I they need to feed me while Andy is gone--which would be odd as they've never seen HIM present me with a mouse. I think that would be grounds for divorce, frankly. Or since I am the Most Favorite Human, maybe they're trying to bribe me not to let him back in as when he's gone they can both sleep with me. I think I might honestly feel better if they showered him with vermin as well when I'm gone, but they don't. They wait until I'm back and I get animals then too. And take turns sleeping on me.

Whatever their motivation may be, I walked into the downstairs bathroom and found a dead baby mouse.

Or I thought he was dead. He looked dead. I got the broom & dustpan, and thought as long as we were already IN the bathroom....I dropped him in the toilet bowl…

Not So Much

So, our theory was that if we had cats we wouldn't have mice. Boy, did we miss the boat on that one.

I came down the stairs to find Calisto snoozing peacefully on the sofa....and a mouse running freely through my living room. Only one of us was bothered by this scenario, and it wasn't a quadruped. So, I let Theo in, and while he chased it around the room several times, he really doesn't seem to have quite the killer instinct I was hoping for. I got a broom--because vermin loose in the house DOES bring out my killer instinct--and I thought we had him cornered in the kitchen, or could at least get him to the open back door. Nope. It is highly likely that there are some holes on the underside of your built-in kitchen cabinets that are big enough for a desperate mouse to get through because I can now say with certainty that there are in ours. So, I have one cat still napping, one cat trying desperately to figure out how the mouse vanished, and a mouse roaming free somew…

Fall Is Coming!!!

According to the Old Farmer's Almanac (yeah, I know--same folks that suggested planting FOUR zucchini plants), our first frost is likely to be around October 9, which is about three weeks away.

YAY!!!! Oops, I mean DARN!

I LOVE having a the vegetable garden and the food this time of year is simply AMAZING....but I am getting just a wee bit tired of it. I don't know if last year's garden really had no problems, or if maybe I just wouldn't have noticed if it did, but this year we've had aphids, slugs, moles, and now powdery mildew on all the squash. Maybe word got around in the pest community that we were really trying hard to NOT use chemicals and additives. Theoretically, weekly baths of baking soda & water might kill the mildew, but the plants have only about 3 weeks left to live anyway.....

It has really cut down on the pumpkin production, but lest one worry about there being a winter squash shortage at Chateau Sutton-Goar, meet Audrey's first offspring

So Let Me Get This Straight......

We invade a country that neither had "weapons of mass destruction" nor was ever linked to the 9-11 attacks, and America's extremists rallied round and shouted "UnAmerican" at anyone who questioned our actions.

A president tries to fix a problem that most Americans have been complaining about for years, and NOW America's extremists are pouring out of the woodwork and setting up protests.

Is it just me, or is it incredibly disturbing that killing innocent people matters less to our extremists than revamping healthcare?

No post today--my country has made me nauseous this week.

A Little Basic Math Makes Me Feel Better

Not in general or anything--I don't want anyone thinking I actually sit around doing those dratted story problems for fun--but the carrot salsa being so far off was really bothering me. Canning is exact in some ways. You have to have enough acid to make it safe to process in a water-bath canner, and if there had been a mistake where I used way too much carrot (a low acid food) or something, then I could have made the salsa unable to keep safely. So this morning I double-checked the recipe.

I made a double-batch of salsa, which meant I had 26 cups of ingredients. According to the recipe's estimates, that should have produced 10 cups of salsa after cooking for one hour. I just don't think I know that cooking technique. Having 26 cups thicken down to 20 makes a lot more sense. I feel better. AND I have lots of salsa. Which makes me feel even better.

Where are we putting all these jars, you ask? In the Dwarf Closet!This is the downstairs bathroom, and that little door …


So the recipe SAID it would make 10 half-pint jars of salsa and I ended up with 20 half-pint jars of salsa. How is that even possible??? I double-checked EVERYTHING, and it said to "cook until thickened," or about an hour. I cooked it for a little OVER an hour and I still got double what it said.

Thank heavens we already know we like this salsa. 20 jars!!!


I have become controversial!

For the record, I don't actually care for the healthcare plan as written. Unlike my detractor suggests, not only have I looked up the information, I have actually attended seminars on the problems of the uninsured in Idaho & insurance problems in general. I heard doctors arguing that they spend 30% of staff time just trying to deal with insurance, and if there were a way to just include everyone in an insurance system--or systems if we did a private-public partnership--and stop having to constantly battle insurance companies, they could actually treat everyone without increased costs. I think that makes a legitimate argument. I also spent five years working for health charities and regularly dealt with people who had genetic or inherited diseases who could not get health insurance, couldn't get health insurance to cover their treatments, or who had to look at only large employers…

A Bit of a Dilemma

So, I have been doing soup night on & off for about 5 or 6 years. The idea is to have an open house where all our friends are welcome and they can drop by anytime during the 3-hour time frame. They can bring friends and supervised children. It has been great, and a great way to see people, but after all this time, we have hit our first snag:

We need to dis-invite someone.

She's never been a close friend, and has always had pretty poor social skills--talking at you and not with you, never letting someone get a word in edgewise, and has tended to be a bit rude--but we always thought she meant well. You know--someone who is maybe a bit tiresome but who needs friends, and it seemed harmless enough at first. Monday night, however, she crossed over into aggressively rude and people were positively fleeing to get away from her--including Andy and I.

I've run into clods before and it's easy to not invite them to further parties, but soup night is ALWAYS the second Monday of…

So Now That I'm Older....

Okay, I'm light years away from being a Red Hat lady, but I am at least really close to 40 now, and I have decided that it's time to be a little crotchety. Or maybe practice a bit. So, I am going to announce the following:

* My "live and let live" policy with nature stops when the moles start eating the carrots. Now I'm more into death.

* If you attend parties and people walk away from you while you're still talking, you're probably talking too much. If they run, you definitely are.

* I believe everyone is entitled to their own opinions, but if you call everyone who doesn't agree with you a "Nazi" or a "socialist," I'm going to consider you an ignoramus.

* No matter how many emails I get offering it, I am never going to need a penis enlargement. Please, World of the Internet, take me off the list.

* Your mother used to tell you "Don't talk with your mouth full" for a reason. Spraying people with half-chewed …

Thomas Wolfe Was Right

You can't go home again. Or in our version, you can't go back to processed foods again.

So, on my "free" day, after a great breakfast by Andy, I decided a mid-morning soda was in orderwhich didn't taste nearly as good as I remembered. I still like the taste of diet pepsi (unfortunately), but I think in this there's too much of an aftertaste? I actually now believe that artificial sweeteners are an acquired taste, which can be lost if one avoids them for 9 months now. Sigh.....

I cheered myself up with
a bite-sized Reese's peanut butter cup which has been in the freezer since last Christmas, and was still just as fabulous as I remember, but all that sugar left me a bit nauseous, so I decided one was enough.

I decided to go out to lunch and had a salad with blue cheese dressing (YUM!) and part of a mini pizza, which is WAY more food than I remember. It was good, but quite heavy--and left me with a stomach ache for 2 days--and I'm not sure I'd say …

"Free" Day

This weekend is my birthday, and we decided a couple months ago that our birthdays should be "exceptions" to our diet, so I am already fantasizing about drinking diet soda. I haven't decided what other "cheats" I'll be partaking of--perhaps blue cheese dressing on a salad, or maybe some real chocolate, or maybe I'll treat myself to a lunch in a restaurant and have some forbidden item containing heaven-only-knows what.

Of course, the problem is that it does actually have to be in moderation even if it is my birthday, since most processed foods actually make us sick now, and we do have people coming over that night to celebrate, and I would seriously hate to miss it over some chips that aren't good for me anyway.

A friend pointed out that my idea of a once-a-year "cheat" day (soda, chocolate, maybe lunch in a restaurant) would be a "normal" day for most people. I hadn't thought about that.

Whoo hoo! I get to be NORMAL for a d…

Just Do It

I think it might have been about a year ago--maybe a bit less, but not by much--I ordered a pressure canner. I wanted to be able to can low-acid foods like pumpkin and vegetable broth, but ever since it arrived, I've been afraid to use it. Who hasn't seen cartoons or television clips of a pressure cooker or canner exploding? The instruction book didn't really help my fears any--the safety instructions cover about 3 pages.

However, Tuesday I finally decided I was being silly (not to mention, the pumpkins were stacking up), and decided to get the thing out and do a test run. No jars or food--just water.
Ta-da! No explosions! I got it up to 15 pounds of pressure, held it steady for about 5 minutes, then turned it off to let it cool down on.

It was then 4:00 PM--at which time a sane person would have said, "Great, I'm ready for tomorrow."

What I said was, " Heck, it's still early. I can get the pumpkin done tonight."

At 11:00 PM, I had finally can…

New Lesson Learned Yesterday

5:00 PM is a really bad time to start any canning project

Today's Edition of Not-so-Little House On The Prarie....

Being Labor Day and a "day off" here in America, I really REALLY wasn't going to can anything today, but it was 50 degrees this morning when we got up, and while I steadfastly refuse to turn the heat on in September, standing near a warm stove for a few hours suddenly seemed like a pretty good idea, so.....

We now have 15 pints of tomato sauce. Not ordinary tomato sauce like you buy in a store. This recipe called for zucchini (yay!), carrots, bell peppers, onions, garlic, celery, and a whole bunch of spices--as well as red wine and red wine vinegar. Hello--how could I pass that up? It even called for a little bit of cinnamon, which I have always thought added a nice touch to tomato sauces. I was a bit confused though, because in my universe, a "tomato sauce" would not really have a whole bunch of chunky vegetables, and it said to "cook until thick" which wasn't really happening, so I dug out the food processor and ran some of the vegetables th…

Today's New Mantra.....

After canning 8 quarts of pickles and 12 pints of tomatoes today, I spent about an hour sitting in a chair rocking, telling myself "this will all be worth it in the winter.....this will all be worth it in the winter....this will all be worth it in the winter..."

Clearing Up A Few Things

It has come to my attention as the health care debate rages on that a few of us are operating under some misconceptions, so in the spirit of public service, I have opted to clear up a few things.

Communism: an economic theory once dreamed up that supposed that humans could actually play nicely together and share. The theory has never actually been tried in practice, as no one has ever located a group of humans who could play nicely together for extended periods of time. Americans used to use this as an epithet for things they really, really, REALLY disliked, or for anyone wishing to make changes they didn't like.

Capitalism: ruled by supply and demand. For example, if I am a doctor and you only need a checkup but there are several other doctors nearby, I may choose to charge you only a minimal amount. If I am a doctor and you are deathly ill and it is the middle of the night and I am the only one around, I may choose to ask for your house, car, and first born child in payment …


Since it's still getting above 90 during the day, I got up early yesterday to bake the zucchini bread:Didn't it turn out well? Generally, I don't bake much (at all), so this year has been a big exception for me, and I don't really have a reference point here, but I swear things didn't stick to the pan as badly when I could use nonstick cooking spray. These little babies spent half the day hanging upside down in their pans--with no result whatsoever. I ran a plastic knife around the edge & loosened them as much as I could--with no result whatsoever. Finally, I decided shaking them was a good plan:
and at least I got a result. Doesn't this just look too pretty to eat?NOT! Okay, they tasted fine, but I really miss cooking spray!

Then it was off to Fred Meyer because my old one has a hole in the enamel on the inside of the pot, which coats everything with rust now. I don't know food science very well, but I think that' s a bad thing. SoI upgraded.…

Doing A Little Research

I know there's a lot about planting and lawns we don't know and should be doing, so I went on the Old Farmer's Almanac website, and they have a garden guide to download, which for the most part I think is pretty interesting, but toward the back of the file they have a suggestion for a new gardener which suggests making 11 rows and planting by rows:

1. Zucchini (4 plants)
2. Tomatoes (5 plants)
3. Peppers (6 plants)
4. Cabbage
5. Bush beans
6. Lettuce
7. Beets
8. Carrots
9. Chard
10. Radishes
11. Marigolds (to discourage rabbits)

Now my question is, what kind of sick bastard would tell a brand new gardener to plant FOUR zucchini plants??????? We planted one. ONE. And I've been driven to make zucchini marmalade. If there were four of the things I think we'd have to just give up, give them the house, and go into the squash protection program.

Dear Zucchini,

For the love of God, stop. In July, I appreciated your abundance--and I think I showed it with a double batch of zucchini bread and THREE separate chocolate zucchini cakes. In August, I still thought you were a nice addition and included you in everything, did I not? I have made zucchini patties, zucchini soup (which is really a mistake in the summer), zucchini salsa, sauteed zucchini--I even put you on pizza. I have bags of shredded zucchini in the freezer, and currently there's ANOTHER batch of zucchini bread in the refrigerator waiting to be baked in the morning. I have zucchini in the dehydrator and just this afternoon I made zucchini-ginger marmalade.
That's it--I have no more ideas. For the love of everything that's green and vegetative, GO AWAY!!!!!