Monday, November 23, 2009

Give Thanks

I'm starting to mold. It has been raining for so long I've quite forgotten what a sunny day looks like. Oh, we had a bit of sun break yesterday and I ran outside with the kids for a quick walk. Within minutes after we returned home, the rain began again. At least the wind has calmed - three bad storms in one week is all one really needs. At least the power only went out once for 1-1/2 hours. I consider us fortunate. Today it went out for just a few minutes for no good reason. Just for fun, I suppose.

Oh, Happy Thanksgiving, by the way. I dislike this holiday but I've written about that several times so I won't go into the details again. However, I truly wish everyone who reads this a very happy time where ever they celebrate this holiday of thanks. I try to be thankful each day, anyway.

My daughter has been wanting all our Pilgrim story books read to her. We decorated the piano with a cornucopia and she wants to make a paper bag turkey like her brother did years back. But she doesn't want to go to Grandma's for dinner, she wants our feast at home. So do I. But this is one of those times when you can't do what you want, you do what is expected of you. Can anyone relate?

Praise the Lord for family, for keeping us safe and providing for us. I am thankful for God, for our country and those who came before us who worked so hard to eventually create what we call America. What we have is special, important and worth hanging on to. May God bless our country and give those in power guidance and wisdom. They need it.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Worth Your Salt

My oldest son, Chad, decided he wanted to see how much salt was in sea water. What is cool about this is that Chad has never been too interested in science - he's a history/music guy. So, of course, I took him down to the beach and let him brave the wind and rain to gather two gallons of sea water. One thing I love about Oregon beaches is how desolate they are on days like that. It was just Chad down by the water with nothing but the shipwrecked Peter Iredale (the iron remains of a ship that ran aground about 100 years ago) for company. Of course, as soon as he left the car, my Prius decided to flash an unfamiliar warning light at me. While he was enjoying the surf, I was frantically thumbing through my owner's manual, trying to decipher this strange symbol lit up on my dashboard. The bad thing about Oregon beaches on days like this is that they are desolate - just me and my Prius and possibly in need of a tow home. Todd was at home asleep (he had to work later) and the younger two were home but they would be of little use. I did have my cell phone but, fortunately, I figured out what that dang light meant. I had put my cell phone on the car charger for the first time and this light was to politely tell me that my phone was fully charged. AS IF I NEEDED TO BE TOLD! The symbol was of a key with an exclamation point through it. I ask you, does that mean "cell phone fully charged" to you? And the owner's manual showed the symbol but conveniently forgot to say what it meant. I discovered on my own by unplugging the cell phone charger, thinking that it might have something to do with the light. It's a good thing I have a few wits about me.

Anyway ... We got home with the water but waited until the following day to start boiling. We were thinking it would take all day. We have been discussing Lewis & Clark for the last month or so, since we just went through some of the places that they traveled. And the Salt Works where the Corps of Discovery made their salt during their winter stay here on the coast is down south of us in Seaside, about 17 miles away. We have visited this place in Seaside and during the summer, there is a Salt Work reenactment down on the beach where the actors immerse themselves in the roles of the Corps. If you ask them about anything modern, they don't understand but they'll tell you all about the Lewis & Clark expedition and the making of salt from sea water. So, now, Chad wanted to make his own salt. It actually didn't take that long. We got it boiling pretty good and after about 45 minutes, salt started boiling over onto the stove top. I think it took about an hour for the water to boil away. Chad ended up with nearly a cup of salt. It was pretty amazing to me. He spread the salt out on a cookie sheet to let it dry out thoroughly. We are not going to consume this salt as it has a lot of impurities in it but the boys will be using it for further science experiments. I think they want to figure out some kind of fuel source involving salt, something like that. So I think the experiment was a success. Chad enjoyed the process and we all learned something. Fortunately, we don't need this salt to season rotting elk meat, as I believe that was the reason Lewis & Clark needed their men to make salt. The next time you use your salt shaker, be thankful you don't have to work too hard for it. I know I am.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Kitchen Blunders, The Sequel

I'll have to admit that making mistakes, wherever you make them, has the potential to teach you something. It should, anyway. And I suppose that I have learned a few things as I've blundered along in the kitchen for 20+ years.

I have learned that omitting the seasoning in the homemade pizza sauce and then sprinkling dried oregano, garlic and basil on top (before the cheese) is a sacrilege. It doesn't work. You may as well scrape the pizza sauce off into a bowl and then mix in the seasonings. Trust me on this (Todd agrees, whole-heartedly).

A recipe printed on a box or package seldom goes well. Forget it. Betty Crocker is best for most things. The first meal I cooked for Todd was on the back of a pepperoni package and involved some kind of pasta. We both still shudder when this is spoken of. I am surprised he proposed to me, after this nightmare.

I completely forgot about the yearly pumpkin pie episodes! I know of at least two times I have forgotten to put eggs in the custard. One year (or two, maybe), I actually removed them from the oven, poured the too-thin batter back into a bowl, mixed in the eggs, poured the batter back into the pie tins and rushed them back into the oven. They survived. Then there was the time I went a bit heavy on the cloves - whew! Way too spicy. Another time, I put the pies in and Todd wanted to go driving, to look at the Christmas lights (we make our pumpkin pies for Christmas dinner). I thought it would be o.k. as long as we were back in half an hour. As we were driving, I started getting anxious about the pies and we finally returned home. The timer had plenty of time left on it but the pies were way too brown. Um, oh, yeah ... I was suppose to turn down the oven temp after 15 minutes. We foiled the pies and they turned out o.k. - once again. I don't think I've actually ever ruined my pies but I really don't want to push my luck. Someday, I may not fare so well.

I will say one thing in my defense - my pies usually do taste good. They often don't look very pretty but I do know how to crimp and, armed with Todd's paternal grandmother's recipe, my crust nearly always tastes good. I say this now but I just found out that I am expected to make the pies for Thanksgiving dinner at my mother-in-law's. My sister-in-law usually makes them but things have changed this year. I need to pray.

Let's see - when I was single, used to broil steak whenever I had to cook for someone, as most of my friends couldn't afford steak so it was a treat (I worked full-time while my friends all went to college). I nearly always caught the steak on fire. That was before the days of required smoke alarms in apartments. Good thing.

I know I've caught at least a few things on fire in our married life but I can't remember right now. Scary isn't it? Oh, and then there are the times that are completely out of my control. When we first moved to Oregon, we lived in a little old house built in 1949, with an oven to match. I swear it had a place to put wood in to heat with, it was so huge. Anyway, that old oven gave out on me right in the middle of baking Christmas cookies, either the first or second Christmas we lived here. I finished baking the cookies in our toaster oven. Fortunately, we were just about to head home to see family and Todd's grandmother had an oven she didn't need anymore. What a blessing that was. Another time, I was experimenting with baking scones (I sometimes crave scones) but I don't think I had made them before. Anyway, the oven element decided to fail, right in the middle of baking my scones. Bummer. I can't remember if it burned the scones or if we finished baking them after we went and got another element. I guess I subconsciously try to forget these things, small wonder why.

There are many more stories but I'm sure you've had enough (I know I have). Tonight, I watched my husband skillfully make perfect steak and sauteed mushrooms. Watching him cook is like watching a ballet. He is so confident. He makes it look so effortless. I used to be jealous of his kitchen ability but I am over that. Now I just appreciate it and thank God that I have Todd to rescue me in the kitchen.