Wednesday, September 30, 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 listen to a media personality who advocates violence against another human being?

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Fall

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 here today which normally is sort of a good thing in my book as I am a knitter and this makes sweaters really practical. Of course, this doesn't work at all when the sweaters are all still packed away in a box in the garage and you and your spouse are shivering pathetically while trying to work. A normal person would, of course, turn the heat on. I baked zucchini bread. It takes all kinds.

Thanks to "G," and her wonderful suggestion to line the breadpans with tin foil (I used parchment paper but same idea) since no amount of oils smeared on the things was keeping the zucchini bread from sticking, the zucchini bread actually came out reasonably well, although both loaves are slightly concave. Still, at least it can actually be served as actual bread slices instead of a big plate of mangled crumbs, so I'm actually pretty thrilled. And the house warmed up rather nicely, so it all worked out well. It's rather exciting to have maybe gotten a handle on zucchini bread--there are about 20 bags of shredded zucchini stashed away in the freezer and I'm not sure 20 chocolate cakes in the near future would be all that good for us......

Sunday, September 27, 2009

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 September is really only weird if you're wearing a Santa hat as well. There are limits.

* Nine jalapeno plants might really have been a bit of overkill.

* Even canning books can have typos.

* It is possible to melt the knobs on a gas stove, though I'm not exactly sure how I did it.

* While I am trying to be a good homeowner and keep the front of our house looking good, after getting shredded a few times trying to pull the morning glory out of the prickly shrubs, I have decided the flowers make them look nicer anyway.

* I'll be much more sorry to see the zucchini die now that we've discovered zucchini chocolate cake.

* Some days I can see the advantage to having more traditional cats who would simply ignore my existence. Most nights I certainly can.

* There is nothing too foolish or too hateful for someone somewhere to believe it, especially if it's passed around as an email.

* Having a producing garden made the no-processed-foods experiment a whole lot easier, which I will be fully appreciating in about a month when we're back to the bizarre green food creations of the beginning of the year.

* It's really hard to admit that 28 pints of salsa (not counting the carrot & chipotle varieties) might really be enough when we ran out of salsa so early this year. Granted, I only made 6-7 pints last year, but the sheer horror still haunts me.

* We're the only people I know who don't call it "fall." Here it's "canning season."

* It was a lot easier to not think about chocolate before the Halloween candy came out in the stores. I will be trying very hard not to mug Trick-or-Treaters.

* Having three months left to go is a whole lot easier than 12.

Friday, September 25, 2009

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 to use up little potato bits leftover from making French fries. The bits were originally sold as cattle feed, but there's a higher profit margin in people feed

* Ore-Ida conducted a Tater Tot Survey in 1994 and announced that the average human mouth can hold seven Tater Tots. Millions of Americans slept better knowing this.

* Jell-O was used to paint the "Horse of Many Colors" in the Wizard of Oz.

* Clamato launched an ad campaign in 1997 claiming that the drink was "99.9 percent clam free" in order to boost slumping sales. Why wouldn't you just change the name instead?


Actual factual information from Better Than Homemade by Carolyn Wyman.
Editorializing is strictly my own, unless you don't find it humorous. Then it's up for adoption.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

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 places. Then they are reconstituted in hot water for about 15 minutes, then pureed in a food processor or blender with the hot water. Then all the roasted vegetables are peeled & chopped, and added to some vinegar and everything is "cooked until thick." I don't know if I "cooked until thick" enough, as I ended up with probably enough left over to fill a 9th jar, but I just put it in the refrigerator. Using only half the number of peppers, I was concerned about the flavor, but it has a REALLY strong smoky flavor and certainly some heat, so I'm going to guess we might not have actually liked the full number of peppers. It will change a bit as it mellows I would guess, but I think it's going to be used more of a sauce than a salsa. I'm thinking that it would go really well with a nice earthy, mellow cheese of some sort?

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

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, though I realize neither of us would be an expert. So far our house has not been toilet-papered, so that's good.

* I have NO intention of becoming a political blogger, nor do I wish to suggest that people are not free to disagree with our president or with anything I have said. I support our president but do not actually agree with the health care bill as written, so I have written to my elected officials with my suggestions because I do not believe in complaining without trying to change things. I even suggested that we have to accept that there will have to be some element of personal responsibility added to our health care system. As you probably know by now, I am a BIG proponent of personal responsibility. I also believe there are CAPITALISTIC reasons to reform our healthcare system--companies are going to move more & more operations overseas if they can't afford health insurance for their employees, and small businesses can't compete for the best employees because they can't afford the insurance that larger companies can provide--so there are MANY issues to address in this debate. However, I feel the biggest issue right now is that we have to take a stand against our growing tendency to shout slogans instead of thinking. "It's socialism and socialism is bad" is neither a logical argument nor anything but a statement of OPINION. Opinion is a VERY different thing than a FACT. There are sides to EVERY issue and I will continue to take a stand for the right for all sides to be heard. I wish more people would.

* My progress on my 100 books goal came to a screeching halt recently with The Mysteries of Udolpho. It is one of the first "Gothic" romances and probably the biggest one, and it's a type of literature I'm not familiar with--except by the spoofs we now do of such things. I wanted to know the actual source, so I am slogging through this book, but I'm really struggling with it. I just don't think I'm the sort of person for a book where someone is sighing or has a tears springing to his or her eyes on every other page. It makes me wonder whether it's just me or if maybe it's hard to be that sentimental in the modern world?

* My late-season allergies are back, so I'm breaking out in a rash and sneezing everytime I work on the garden. I understand that sneezing is my body's way of getting rid of a foreign substance, but what the heck do hives do for me?

* People might think I'm a bit of a nut when I can a bunch of tomatoes, but they regard me as a domestic goddess when I can roasted tomato-chipotle salsa.

* We have a jar and a half of dried tomatoes, a full jar of dried bell peppers, and 2/3 of a jar of dried Anaheim peppers. Let's face it, I'm having a terrific time playing Laura Ingalls Wilder.

* As of tomorrow, it will be one year since I lost my job. Having less money matters only slightly. Having more fun and more time for our friends and each other matters much, much more.

* Theo doesn't like the new dust-free litter and has chosen to use the garden instead. I'm okay with that, but I try not to think about it when I harvest potatoes.

* The Farmer's Almanac said strawberries are really heavy feeders and that one should move them every few years. I've planted peas inbetween them and keep adding compost to the bed to see if I can improve the soil that way.

* I'm trying to keep really good records of my gardening now, because it turns out that just rotating "crops" isn't enough. Peppers and tomatoes are related, so they can't be planted where the other one grew the year before and the same with onions and garlic. Everything except peas and beans seems to be "heavy feeders" so I either need to find another legume we want to grow or open a vegetable stand to deal with next year's pea and bean harvest.

* Remember how excited I was about the multi-colored carrots? They didn't really grow. I got a few small scraggly white carrots, but they mostly just developed tops with a tiny yellow carrot underneath. The plain carrots I planted were fabulous, though if I'd known I was going to make carrot-bourbon jam I would have planted another row or two.

* Remember when I said that we assume we needed two tomatillo plants so they could cross-pollenate? It doesn't say that on the tag or on any gardening websites I've located yet, but a few people have said so on their blog, and since we have had flowers all summer without tomatillos, we assumed this must be the case. And NOW we have two tomatillos--or at least the paper husks of two. So.....? I think we'll still plant two next year on that assumption, but I guess it is still just an assumption.

I think that brings everything up to speed here at Chateau Sutton-Goar. We will be going to the mall later this week to buy each other our customary anniversary perfume/cologne. We decided before we got married to buy each other new cologne or perfume on each anniversary (and for our wedding), and it's been quite a fun experiment--and we smell really, really good, which probably helps in a marriage.

:)

Monday, September 21, 2009

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 patrolling downstairs, although I am going to the grocery store soon, and it will be the happiest trip I have ever made because while the grocery store may have not be an overly fun place to be, it will be the first time in the last 72 hours that I can be absolutely certain that no one is going to present me with a rodent!!!!!


Sunday, September 20, 2009

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. AND HE STARTED SWIMMING!

I am a softy of the highest order. I have not set a trap outside the hole where the first mouse of the day disappeared because I just can't bear the thought of killing anything, but how do you fish a struggling mouse out of a toilet bowl?

I closed my eyes and flushed the toilet. I know he must have been pretty badly injured, I know it might have been the kindest thing to do after all.....but I still feel bad. Now if it had been one of the moles that are terrorizing the garden.....

I think I'm going to lock the cats inside until Andy gets home. Three mice in three days is perhaps my limit.

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 somewhere underneath my cabinets.

And I really would have sworn that spraying the squash leaves for powdery mildew was going to be the real low point of my weekend........

Saturday, September 19, 2009

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
30 POUNDS. Which I think makes ours a bit of a runt. There's another one which might be a bit bigger,but I don't think it's ready yet. (For reference, I wear a size 8 women's shoe) The skin on the first one got a bit knobbly, but I'm just guessing. I tried googling on when to harvest them, but no one else seems to know either. One person suggested "harvest them while you can still pick them up," and I can see her point.

Yesterday I canned 6 more quarts of pickles yesterday,and while it feels like I have made enough to supply 4 large hamburger chains, we (meaning mostly ME) have already gone through 1 quart and 3 or 4 pints. As you may have guessed, I am a pickle fiend. I would guess it's how normal people feel about chocolate. These might be the last of the pickles, though, or very close to the last. The garden is getting pretty droopy. I gave it some Miracle Grow yesterday, but one very cool night already killed off some of the bigger leaves on one of the squash, and the cucumbers have taken a pretty big beating with me rummaging around in them regularly and the cats hunting the moles in them. Pouncing is NOT good for plants.

And my roasting experiments?

The pumpkin seeds, which I had never done before and was just sort of making up from a collection of tipsturned out beautifully--and in fact, I am rather embarrassed to have to admit that they're already almost gone. Apparently if one has been denied salty snacks for most of 9 months, one should reintroduce them slowly. Pumpkin seeds are thankfully supposed to be quite good for you, so we've gotten a really big dose of HEALTH lately.

And the tomatoes WHICH I HAVE DONE BEFORE?????Not so much. I have two recipes for this--one which I really like and one that doesn't work as well--and guess which one I picked??? At least this one had you roast garlic at the same time, so I have two cloves of roasted garlic stashed away in the freezer. And what remained of the tomatoes. This time I will be making NOTES on the recipe that doesn't work.

AND I have learned to not complain about how boring canning can be--Theo livened up yesterday's session with a gift of a live mouse. There are no pictures of this--and I don't think I'd share them if they were--but if you want a visual, picture a steaming stove, a cat, a frightened mouse, an even more frightened human batting at the mouse with a broom to keep it out of the pantry (and mostly just smacking the cupboards) and a cat running for cover because its human has lost her freaking mind.

That would just about sum it up.

Friday, September 18, 2009

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.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

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 (which always makes me think of Alice in Wonderland, especially now that we've had to descend down the little rabbit hole of the crawl space to fix the broken pipe this past spring) leads to a rather large--but admittedly awkward to reach--storage area. Until the canning endeavors, it was a great place to keep our luggage. Admittedly, it unnerves people a bit to see us emerge from the bathroom with jars of food or bottles of wine, but I rather enjoy that part....:)

Today I am NOT canning. Instead, I am roasting pumpkin seeds (which I haven't tried before) and roasting tomatoes (which I have). Last night I boiled the seeds in saltwater to remove any remaining pumpkin pulpor whatever it was that came off of them, let them dry overnight, and now I'll sprinkle them with a little olive oil and salt and roast them in the oven this morning while it's still cool. It sounds simple enough, so I think I have better than a 50-50 chance of success for the day. Several years ago, I discovered a recipe for roasting tomatoes (which incidentally, does not work with Early Girl tomatoes as I discovered last year), which should work really well on those little renegade grape tomatoes in the cucumber bed. I also planted two Roma tomatoes just for this. If you haven't tried it, it's a wonderful way to create an intense tomato flavor to get you through the winter and its flavorless tomato sauces. I freeze them, but I'll bet one could dehydrate them as well.

I was going to make a roasted tomato salsa today, but I am trying not to can 2 days in a row. It gets tiring and I still have about 6 more weeks of this to go--scary thought. Of course, the other reason I'm not making the salsa is that it asks for dried chipotle chilies, which I forgot to get yesterday. In my defense, I had the brilliant idea of WALKING to the grocery store & library yesterday, which is about a 5 mile loop. This is the longest walk I've done since my surgery, and I was pretty tired by the time I got home. AND had learned that the library apparently uses the same electronic-control devices that Fred Meyer does, so I narrowly missed being arrested for shoplifting yesterday. Luckily, all the Fred Meyer stores I've been to in this area have pretty terrific staff people, so when I explained why I was setting off alarms on my way IN to the store and showed them my backpack, they were very nice about it all. I was still pretty embarassed when I walked out of the store & set off all the alarms AGAIN. So you can understand why I want to wait a little while before going back to the store--I'm a produce fugitive right now......

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Um.....

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!!!

Wow!

I have become controversial!

http://catanova.blogspot.com/2009/09/so-now-that-im-older.html

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 because of insurance issues. I even lobbied for health insurance changes. Having been up against insurance companies in the legislature, I can also testify to their very deep pockets and their ability to buy votes to prevent any changes to the current health care system. I have taken classes in economics and have read a lot of economic history. So I think I might be qualified to have my own opinion.

My point has been and continues to be that just screaming about socialism helps no one. It's fear-mongering. It shuts down debate and will leave us with exactly the same healthcare problems we have now. Who does that help except insurance companies?

And as anyone who has studied American history should know, we have proved that capitalism without limits doesn't work. That led to corporate towns where employees had to buy their groceries at exorbitant rates from company stores (which often resulted in owing more money than they earned), monopolies that controlled the chains of production and drove all competitors out of business, and financial collapses (like perhaps the unrestrained mortgage market?) Socialism without limits also doesn't work because there is no incentive. BUT our schools, fire departments, libraries, law enforcement agencies--all of these are essentially "socialist" ideas. I pay taxes to support schools even though I don't have children. That is socialism--so as my point originally was, if you are complaining about socialism but have sent your children through public schools, you are being a hypocrite. We already have quite a few elements of our system that are socialistic, so if it is completely unacceptable then people need to start paying tolls to drive on roads, hire private teachers to educate their children, buy all the sports equipment their children use, pay a fee if their house burns and they want someone to put it out, etc. We already have a mixed system, so whether or not the health care plan is socialism isn't really the big issue as far as I am concerned. What the bill is at least doing is starting the process, which is more than has happened in the last 8 years. So is it ignorant to just say "Socialism is evil?" I think so. Just as I think it's ignorant to say capitalism is evil. Whatever system exists has to be in moderation because someone will find a way to take advantage of it.

What we have does not work. Small employers are crippled by trying to provide health insurance to their employees and still can't compete with the insurance provided by large companies. When people lose their jobs, they either lose their health insurance OR have to pay outrageous premiums through COBRA. People with chronic diseases often have to choose jobs with large employers or the government because they cannot get the coverage they need. These things are all happening now, and will still be happening 10 years from now if all you're going to do is go around screaming "Socialism."

If you want to be against the healthc are bill, fine. I think it has a lot of flaws myself. Write to your representative with ideas on what to change. Help find a solution that IS acceptable. And accept that others can have an opinion. Shutting down the opposition's opinions is indeed not socialism--that would be totalitarianism or belligerent ignorance, and both seem pretty dangerous to me.

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 every month. It's easy. She knows when it is & where we live. I will take her off the reminders, but there's a good chance she would show up anyway, and I don't think ANYONE could take another soup night with her, but I really do not want to hurt her feelings.

So, anyone have any thoughts on how to tactfully end a friendship, or dis-invite someone?

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

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 food is revolting.

* You can find a lot of hateful people on the internet, as well as a lot of really wonderful people. Sort of depends on what you focus on.

* I am a FIRM believer in banning the discharging of firearms within city limits, but don't you think we might repeal it for just one day to take care of a few really aggressive birds?

* Yelling at a store salesclerk because a product doesn't work or you are unhappy with the service doesn't accomplish anything but it does ruin two people's days.

* If all my friends looked the same, I'd probably be missing out on a lot.

* Personal integrity is what you do when no one is looking.

* If we used to send you gifts in the past but have stopped doing so, it probably means you never said thank you. The world tends to work like that.

* I will support your right to choose to smoke or to ride a motorcycle without a helmet as long as you also choose to pay the bills if you end up in the hospital because of it.

* If so few issues are black and white, why do we only have two political parties?

* I realize we have become a very litigious society, but is it really necessary to have a warning on a bucket of kitty litter that, in the even the bucket is empty of said kitty litter AND the bucket happens to have water in it AND an unsupervised toddler is nearby that IF the toddler falls at just the right angle it could concievably drown in the bucket? Wouldn't that qualify as a "freak accident?"

* If your employees can't actually fix anything, please don't call them "repairmen."

* Being an aggressive driver really doesn't get you places that much faster, but it does make you more likely to run over people, animals, and bicyclists.

* Eliminating food additives, exercising, and eating healthy may not make a huge difference in a person's lifespan, but that's not a chance I am willing to risk my life on.

* I will be happy to accept a refund from those who are screaming "socialism" over the proposed healthcare bill. In general, I am a big proponent of education, but as I have been paying taxes to help educate their children in our public (government owned) schools, I realize that the hypocrisy of their position must be keeping them awake at nights, and I will cheerfully accept a full refund of my tax dollars.

* If you think one person can't make a difference, look up these names: Nelson Mandela, Candy Lightner, Mohandas Gandhi, Milton Hershey, Rosa Parks, Joan of Arc, Alexander Graham Bell, Henri Dunant, Martin Luther.

* As soon as someone tries to ban a book, I go buy it. Limiting knowledge is more dangerous than any book I have yet encountered.

* Television is about getting ratings. Sensationalism gets ratings. News is on television. Sensationalism on the news gets ratings. Therefore, might it be a good idea to view television news--no matter what channel--with a bit of skepticism?

* I am sorry to hear the postal service is continually in financial trouble, but maybe if they stopped losing so many packages (especially in the Denver sorting facility), people wouldn't be taking their business elsewhere as often.

* No matter how many times I have asked them not to do so, my credit card companies refuse to stop sending me "cash advance" checks. Fine. I have started shredding them and putting them in the compost bin, which seems more fitting anyway.

* I was going to buy a feeder until our resident hummingbird started trying to drive me out of the garden. If he's going to be that way, he can find his own darn food.

* I realize nature is a delicate balance, but if we eliminated mosquitoes altogether, don't you think we could find a way to compensate?

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 it was worth it. I had a diet coke, but had to follow it up with 3 glasses of water to cope with all the sodium.

So....by three o'clock I was back home with a cup of coffee and seriously in need of some fresh fruits and veggies. Truly, a wild woman on the edge.

We rounded out my birthday evening with a dinner party & game night with friends and a friend's marvelous margaritas.

And now I'm actually glad to be back on the normal diet......sigh.....

Friday, September 11, 2009

"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 day!!!!!!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

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 canned 17 pints of pumpkin, and had a bowl full of cubed pumpkin leftovers in the fridge. The actual processing time was an hour, but even with heating them in the oven briefly before hand, peeling, seeding, and cubing 7 pumpkins takes considerably longer. I would have sworn 10 hours, but I know that really can't be possible. It felt like it, though.

Yesterday, the garden and I were not even on speaking terms, but today:
two trays of small tomatoes in the dehydrator, and 12 pints of crushed tomatoes. So I think I'm all caught up for at least 5 days.

Whoo hoo!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Monday, September 7, 2009

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 through it. It still has some chunky little veggie bits, but it looks more like something I would call tomato "sauce."

There was a little sauce leftover, so I made pizza tonight and used it as pizza sauce, and I think it's better than the pizza sauce recipe I canned last year which is seriously unfortunate as the pizza sauce was a much easier recipe. Figures. Still, it was pretty marvelous pizza......maybe I could make it through another 15 pints in a week or so....

Have you ever had to figure out what you'll want to eat a YEAR in advance?????

Friday, September 4, 2009

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 the demand is high and the supply is low. While Americans currently seem to believe this is how our healthcare system operates, no known doctor has EVER attempted this practice, as they tend to have hangups about ethics and actually helping people. This is, however, how Congressional votes are bought and sold--most notably lately by health insurance companies.

Socialism: The new boogie-man used to frighten Americans into appropriate behavior once Communism lost its effect. A system whereby the government (representing the people themselves) owns certain things that it would make little sense for a private individual to own. Americans do not like to admit this, but this is how their road system works--except for a few capitalistic toll roads located here & there.

Fear-mongering: trying to stop things from happening by screaming "Communism" and "Socialism" without any facts to back it up

Congress: A place where grownups line up on opposite sides of they aisle and call each other names and fling mud

McCarthyism: where Americans who disagreed with each other called each other "Communists."

Obamaism: where Americans who disagree with each other call each other "Socialists."

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Yesterday

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. This holds about a third more jars than my old one, which is sort of exciting (so you can see how little I'm getting out lately). I was amused to see that Fred Meyer had a "buy two, get one free" special on their canners. Most people would consider me a little "over the top" on the canning front, but there are apparently some people who could own THREE canners. See....that puts me in a whole new light now, doesn't it?

And thank heavens for the extra room, as I did 3 pints of tomatoesand 11 pints of salsa.Did I mention that the tomatoes had finally kicked in?

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

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.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

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!!!!!

The Look

Anyone who thinks cats can't learn things hasn't lived with one. It took Theo maybe a month into his diet to figure out that I can...