Friday, December 6, 2019

"take out the trash"

Anybody recognize what show that phrase comes from? No? Okay, I’ll tell you.

I got it from an episode of West Wing in which “take out the trash” refers to the practice of releasing all the bad news in one giant Friday news dump. Since papers have limited space set aside for White House news, releasing a whole bunch of unsavory information at the end of the week means that the papers have less space to dedicate to each bad thing, therefore minimizing the damage of each news item.

My take on “take out the trash” however, has nothing to do with damage control and everything to do with: I just have a lot of odds and ends that, on their own, don’t really amount to a full post and I need a place to put them and I like the sound of “take out the trash” because that’s what it feels like I’m doing — cleaning up my idea list and putting it out there. Thus, this “take out the trash” post. 

Whew, that was complicated.

Homemade Cornflakes
It’s not as bad as homemade sprinkles, but it’s close. Bear with me.

The recipe (from this fun book) is simple: stir together boiling water with cornmeal, salt, and a little sugar to make a runny slurry that you then bake at low heat until it dries up like a cracked desert.

My first batch was too thick, and my homeground cornmeal too coarse, making the cornflakes taste like crunchy sand.

HOWEVER, my tasters made positive (and uncoerced) comments about the level of sweetness and the corn flavor. And the cornflakes are tasty, especially when combined with granola, which is how I eat them.

So, I’m planning to try this again, but this time with store-bought (and hopefully more finely ground) cornmeal that I spread more thinly. And maybe I’ll add almond slivers, a few toasted rolled oats, and some honey (Honey Bunches O Oats!) to fancy things up. Stay posted!

Cringey Cooking

Oh, the mess! I almost had to cover my eyes, it’s that bad.

Hanging Lamps
I’m on a quest for two hanging lamps to go above the new kitchen island. The current lamp is not big enough to illuminate the island’s surface; plus, I’m tired of the yellowish hue it gives.

But walking through Home Depot and Lowe’s, I’m appalled at the impracticability and outright dangerousness of many of the options, most of which showcased exposed bulbs. Exposed bulbs! I want my lights to help me see, not sizzle my retinas everytime I glance at them.

I thought my requirements were simple and reasonable — no exposed lightbulbs, a simple, serviceable shade (silver metal preferred), inexpensive — but, it turns out, "Practical" is not in fashion right now.

My mother and father have two lovely lamps hanging over their kitchen sink.

zoom in

They got them from Lowe’s for something ridiculously cheap, like 15 dollars each, but I can’t find them anywhere. Help?

How To Make A Peanut Butter Sandwich 
If you haven’t seen this video yet, you’re in for a treat.

The relationship dynamics crack me up. I see my children in the youtube children, and I totally identify with the dad’s humor.

Movies and Shows 
Chernobyl: my husband and I are watching this with our two older kids. Is a horrible story, tastefully told. So far, we’ve watched three of the five episodes. It’s hard to find a time to watch when the two younger kids are occupied, and we have to watch it early in the evening, like at 6 p.m., because it takes a couple hours to unwind before sleeping. After the first episode, we decompressed with youtube videos of racoons eating cotton candy. Highly recommend (both Chernobyl and the racoons).

Schitt’s Creek: I watch this show with my younger daughter. The further we go, the better it gets. Now we’re on Season Four and I’m dreading reaching the end.

Queer Eye: the three younger kids and I have been watching this every now and then. It’s kind and fun (if a bit contrived), perfect for a nice little pick-me-up of positivity, Yaaaaassssss, queen!

Modern Love: I flat-out binged this show, which is so different from the blare and glare of many current shows (I get so tired of being battered over the head with stimulation), each episode a different story, respectfully, simply, gently told. It wasn’t a revelation, but it was a pleasure to watch. Three cheers for authentic, multidimensional characters.

Bohemian Rhapsody: This was our most recent family night movie. My husband and I had watched it months before and thought the kids might like it. They did.

My kids are always angling for Marvel crap, and I’m always stepping in with my type of movie, which makes for much wailing and gnashing of teeth, but then they shut up, watch, and then marvel (ha! like how I did that?) over how good it was.

Other examples of my marvelousness: Real Women Have Curves, Pad Man, On the Basis of Sex, The Biggest Little Farm, The Informant.

Reusable Ziplock Bags
For quite some time, I’ve been needing to get more quart-sized ziplock bags, but I kept stalling — hello climate crisis — making do with glass jars and my stash of assorted plastic containers. Still, every now and then I found myself itching for just a good, old-fashioned quart-sized zip-lock. They’re so easy.

And then I read about reusable ziplock bags. At first I snorted. People are selling bags, advertizing them as something you can reuse? Why, I’ve been reusing my plastic bags for years! But then I dug a little deeper and realized that these bags are made out of durable material and meant to last years. After much research (they’re expensive), I bought four — two quart and two gallon — just to experiment.

Supposedly, these bags can withstand boiling, microwaving, and freezing, and they can hold liquid, though I’ve only used mine for cookies and fruit and such.

At first they were a little tricky to open...

But then we got the hang of it.

Last week we had sliced apples for our charcuterie and someone put all the leftovers in one of the reusable bags. It sat in our fridge for days, and on day six — SIX! — I finally opened the bag, fully expecting to toss the apples, but guess what! They were as fresh and crisp as they were six days before. They hadn’t even browned!

My older son doesn’t like the bags' texture — he says the silicone make it feel like his skin is coming off the bone when he sticks his hand in the bag — but I don’t mind it at all. In fact, I like the sturdy feel.

Climate Crisis Poll
When our family was visiting over Thanksgiving, I was stunned to learn that their churches are completely silent on the matter of the climate crisis. Since our church talks about it a lot — currently there is a joint adult and youth quarter-long Sunday school class dedicated to the subject — I assumed that all churches do the same, silly me.

the quote that hangs above my father's desk

So now I'm curious: what is your church (or local community) saying or doing about the climate crisis?

This same time, years previous: when the dress-up ballgown finally fitswelcoming the strangerthe quotidian (12.7.15)in my kitchen: 6:44 p.m.cinnamon raisin breadholding.

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Clymer and Kurtz

Last year for my mom’s 70th birthday, my brother and his wife gave her a coupon for a free house concert to be cashed in upon her request. Eleven months later — two weeks ago — she finally did: she and Dad decided they’d host a dinner party for a few other couples to be followed by the concert and dessert. 

The week leading up to the event, I kept getting whiffs of the plans. There was menu making and a flurry of furniture rearranging. My brother and his wife went over to Mom and Dad’s to set up in the space. A lighting system was cobbled together. Mom baked a grape pie. When I stopped by one afternoon for Something Or Other, I offered (unsolicited) how-to advice on the complicated meal-to-concert transition period.

The closer we got to the event, the more I found myself wishing I could be there — not for the dinner party (that’d be rude), but couldn’t I sneak in for the concert? We’d attended their duo premiere a couple weeks before and I was craving another live performance.

At that premiere, they’d dazzled. Ever since their band dispersed last summer and the two of them struck out on their own, they’d been pouring everything into their music: rigorous daily rehearsals, meetings with their mentor, recording sessions, and the million other details that go into the making of performance art.

Warming up for the premiere
(photo credit: my older son)

And it paid off; their music jumped to a whole new level. That evening, we listened as one song after another, like a whole string of beautifully packaged gifts, washed over us. With their catchy melodies, and tight harmonies, Maria’s clear, soaring voice and Christopher’s intricate guitar playing, and their original lyrics with themes of justice, growth and change, longing, and celebration, it was an evocative feast for the senses. I teared up; I laughed out loud; I applauded until my hands stung.

Here, take a look:

Anyway! The day of the dinner party, after listening to their new CD on repeat (I’m especially loving on “Crossing the Bar”), I finally broke down and emailed my mom: Would you be mad if I snuck in for the music concert tonight?

One thing led to another and that evening my husband and I showed up with carrot cake, a still-warm apple pie, ice cream, and a half dozen other guests that I’d invited last minute, because if someone was going to go to all that trouble to make music, the more people to hear it the better!

And it was lovely.

The Party Crasher

This same time, years previous: my sweet beast, the quotidian (12.4.17), the quotidian (12.5.16), oatmeal sandwich bread, sushi!!!, baked ziti, red lentil coconut curry, wild, beef bourguignon.

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Thanksgiving 2019

Once again, the New York and Tennessee cousins made the long and arduous trek to our place for Thanksgiving.

Photo credit: Izzy

This year, we borrowed a camper from our neighbors so the growing teens would have a little more space to sleep, and the adult guests slept over at my parents’ place, since Mom and Dad were out of town for the weekend.

Translation: we had plenty of space to spread out (the first night, there were three empty beds in the house!) and, best of all, I got to sleep in my own bed.

Along with the usual napping, making art, reading, and visiting, there were a few other hits. My son did his wax fireball and the kids set off a bunch of firecrackers (all the while screaming their fool heads off) that my older daughter picked up when she was in Chincoteague. A handful of us went on a windy Thanksgiving day turkey trot, and the next day most of drove into town to play Ultimate — I’d warned the regulars we were bringing a small village. My older daughter dyed her hair (again). They vacuum sealed each other in trash bags. The kids went to Costco to stock up on candy and to Funky’s to go rollerskating.

Friday morning my husband decided we ought to take advantage of all the extra helping hands and quick turn the two bushels of apples that were taking up space in the basement into sauce.

It was a smart move: it only took about twenty minutes to core and chop the apples for cooking, and then another couple hours of simmering and saucing and we were all done.

And now we don’t have that chore hanging over our heads, yay!

This gathering was the first big event that I’ve hosted in my new kitchen. It was dreamy. The fridge is HUGE and, like the inverse of a chilly Mary Poppin’s bag, even when it appeared packed to the gills, I’d somehow manage to squeeze in yet another 9x12 pan. 

Every now and then, just for the heck of it, I’d throw wide my fridge doors and bellow to no one in particular, I LOVE MY FRIDGE.

And as for the island: I am in love. Every time I run my hands over the butcher block top, my heart goes pitter pat. It was in constant, heavy usage. We ate at it, worked at it, and talked around it, often simultaneously.

There were the granola breakfasts...

And the turkey feast....

Cloving the ham.

Kate's Heathen Green Bean Casserole (her words, not mine).


If Oven Planning were a class, I'd get a big, fat F.

The lunch line: the meal was late and blood sugars were crashing all over the place.

My plate.

And the Friday night Charcuterie Event (that I wasn't in charge of which made it all the more delicious!)...

On Saturday morning, we had a waffle bar.

My husband had wired the island with my three waffle irons in mind (using different circuits so they don’t short out) and that morning we put them to the test.

On one end, I cooked waffles, and on the other end were the bowls of whipped cream and strawberries, assorted condiments, and a platter of bacon, and there was still room to spare.

Also, my husband’s bottle opener splurge got a serious workout.

(Only now we need a little receptacle to catch the falling bottle caps.)

And then everyone left and we scrubbed down the house and then split to our individual corners for some much needed quiet time.

This kid had an entire camper in which to decompress.

This same time, years previous: Friday fun, by a thread, writing: behind the scenes, in the sweet kitchen, the quotidian (12.1.14), nanny-sitting, Thanksgiving of 2013, the quotidian (12.3.12), Friday variety.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

2019 garden stats and notes

It was a fairly low-key and humdrum gardening year. As is our custom, we exerted minimal energy and scraped by with just the necessities. Good-enough gardening, I call it.

Strawberries: 51½ quarts sliced with sugar and frozen; 16 quarts whole, frozen; 20 pints of assorted recipes of freezer jam; 4 quarts crushed, with lemon and sugar
Sour cherries, frozen: 4 quarts; 5½ pints
Rhubarb, frozen: about 2 gallons
Basil: 16 half pints assorted pesto recipes, frozen
Zucchini: 13½ pints of relish, canned; 3 9x9 pans sausage and zucchini parm, frozen; 8 one-cup bags grated, frozen
Blueberries, frozen: 22 pints
Green beans, Roma, frozen: 25 (very large) quarts
Tomatoes: 86 quarts and 5½ pints, chopped and canned; 32½ pints roasted tomato and garlic pizza sauce, canned; 60 pints and 5 half pints roasted tomato sauce, canned
Cucumbers: 24 quarts and 3½ pints sweet pickles, canned
Nectarines: 2 quarts sugared, frozen; 2 gallons of chunks, frozen; 7 pints dried, frozen
Peaches: 9 quarts canned; 2 quarts frozen; lots of peach leather
Corn, frozen: 23 quarts
Red raspberries, frozen: roughly 16 quarts
Grapes: 16 quarts of puree, frozen; 22 quarts juice
Peppers: 3 pints cooked and frozen; several quarts fresh chopped and frozen
Apples: 36 quarts applesauce, canned

*Much to my children’s consternation, I decided to forgo salsa since we still had some leftover from previous years. However, we are quickly running out, oops. Next year, make bunches.
*I wasn’t going to make applesauce, either — again, we had some leftover, and my family doesn’t eat tons of it anymore — but now we’re nearly out and I’m reconsidering. It is awfully nice to have applesauce on hand, and I’ve yet to find a good store sauce… (Update: we made applesauce over Thanksgiving weekend!)
*What a bumper crop of strawberries! We filled an entire small chest freezer, which makes me feel crazy rich. Here’s a good dessert: thawed lightly-sugared strawberries over vanilla ice cream (Costco’s is best) with fat, crunchy pretzels from Pennsylvania.
*Also from the garden for fresh eating: asparagus, Swiss chard, beets, jalapenos, lettuce, cherry tomatoes, radishes.
*Gazpacho was a new, fantastic discovery.
*I almost didn’t bother picking the red raspberries. We hadn’t taken care of the bushes and they looked pretty scraggly. But then I decided I should pick at least a few and, like so — picking every other day — look how many I got!
*Zucchini parm freezes and reheats beautifully. Too bad most of the progeny aren’t fans.
*We really could use more blueberries.
*We are cruising through the canned nectarines (leftover from previous years) — my younger daughter loves them in green smoothies — so next year I need to can a bunch more.
*We had so many grapes! A month after I stopped picking (and after a couple light frosts), there were still bunches of (super sweet) grapes on the vine.
*I didn’t make any pesto torte and I miss it.

This same time, years previous: the day before, the quotidian (11.25.13), Thanksgiving 2012, Thanksgiving of 2011, apple rum cake, Thanksgiving of 2010, chocolate pots de creme.

Monday, November 25, 2019

the quotidian (11.25.19)

Quotidian: daily, usual or customary; 
everyday; ordinary; commonplace

What in the world is wrong with people?

The organized baker.

Homemade frosted cornflakes: a first (and maybe last) draft. 

Habaneros, cleaned and frozen: a wonderful addition to chili. Also, cocoa powder.

And then all the fire alarms went off. Repeatedly. 

It was pretty bad.

Loyalty: I will wait while you pee. 

TMJ: the pain is real. (She's seeing a chiropractor this week.)

It's so strange, the things that soothe us: her beloved childhood spit rag.

Plank your sister.

The neighbors got a husky and we stole/borrowed it.

Horizontal for a week.


This same time, years previous: the quotidian (11.26.18), curried Jamaican butternut soup, in my kitchen: 7:35 a.m., candid crazy, how to use up Thanksgiving leftovers in 10 easy steps, a big day at church, a Thanksgiving walk, right now, cranberry pie with cornmeal streusel topping.