Accidents in the Kitchen

While making chicken noodle soup this evening, a sudden memory flooded back to me of  my first year of marriage. About 10 minutes later,I burned my pinky pulling a pan of cornbread out of the oven. All of this detail to lead into my story.

When I got married, I had never done any cooking. Baking, yes. Cooking, no. I don’t even remember what I was trying to make for dinner, but I  needed cooked chicken. The only problem was that I had no idea how to cook it. I figured I could just boil it so I got out my new copper bottom Revere Ware pot, filled it with water, plopped in a couple of chicken thighs, and turned on the gas.

It had been a pretty tiring day at school, so I decided to take a little rest on the couch while the chicken boiled. As luck would have it I took a full on nap. I’m sure it was the smoke that woke me up. The apartment was filled with CHOKING smoke. I had no idea smoke could be so painful to breath. I tried to hold my breath and ran to the kitchen. The smoke burned my eyes. In my blinded state I desperately grabbed for the pot. I managed to turn the burner off, but in my haste I flailed around and knocked over the crock pot full of water that had been soaking from dinner the night before.

I ran out of the apartment and over to my crazy neighbor. She really was nutty – saw ghosts and stuff. Her son came over and braved the smoke to help me open windows. Our place smelled awful! My husband was met with an open front door and leftover smoke when he came home later that evening from a test.

I just asked him what he remembered from that fateful day. He said he had mixed feelings. On one hand he thought it was kind of cute. You know – newlywed wife tries to cook and all that. On the other hand…OH MY GOSH!!

When the smoke cleared enough, we went into the kitchen to determine the damage. The water had completely boiled out of the pot and cooked dry until there were just a couple of charred bones FUSED to the bottom. I kid you not. We turned the pot over and the copper had completely burned/melted off. I didn’t even know that was possible. The carpeted floor had soaked up all the filthy, crock pot water. “sigh”

The carpet was later cleaned. The apartment eventually aired out. And I received a new pot for my first Christmas gift.

P.S. After 25 years of marriage, I’m on my third Revere Ware pot.

Peanut Butter Granola Bars

 I have a real problem buying granola bars from the store. It might be that the packaging misleads me into thinking I’m going to have more than a two-bite snack. I feel like I’m being ripped off. So after a bit of searching, I found a recipe I really like. The original recipe is here. I omitted the brown sugar in my version because it made the bars feel grainy and too sweet. This recipe has more steps than some I’ve tried, but I think it’s totally worth it. You get a more crunchy, flavorful result.

Peanut Butter Granola Bars

4 T. salted butter

1/4 cup honey

3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats

1/2 cup slivered almonds

1/2 cup roughly chopped pecans

1/4 cup hulled green pumpkin seeds

1/4 cup unsalted sunflower seeds

1/2 cup light corn syrup

1/2 cup peanut butter, creamy or crunchy

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Lightly grease 9 x 13 baking dish. (The original recipe calls for a 9 x 9 pan. They turn out pretty thick that way, though.)

In a small saucepan, melt butter with honey over low heat, stirring.

In a large bowl stir together oats, almonds, pecans, pumpkin seeds, and sunflower seeds. Pour butter mixture over oat mixture and stir until combined well.

On a large baking sheet, spread granola evenly in a thin layer. Bake, stirring every 5 minutes to keep from sticking or burning, until golden brown and crisp, about 20 minutes. (Do not overcook; the granola will crisp more when cooled.)

Remove granola from oven and cool in the pan. When the granola is completely cooled, place in a large bowl.

Combine the corn syrup and peanut butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir constantly until the mixture is at a boil. Remove from heat and pour the mixture over the granola, stirring to coat well. Cool slightly and press into the prepared baking dish and let cool completely and harden. Cut into 15 bars. (Even though you can cut into the bars when cooled, I find they stay together best when cut the next day.)

Notes:  This is the kind of recipe that you can add or delete ingredients easily. The photos I took don’t include pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds because my kids don’t like them.

Other options include 1 cup raisins or 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon or mini chocolate chips. Let your imagination run wild.

Enjoy!

Projects, Puttering, and Puns

This weekend I kept trying to find the the enthusiasm to paint a hutch I bought a few weeks ago. I think my fibromyalgia was acting up because I was just too tired. I remembered a great post about puttering from Just Make The Coffee and devoted my weekend wholeheartedly to the endeavor.  (You can check out the blog here.)

I tried out a new recipe that I planned on blogging about, but it turned out to be inedible. It sat on the counter for half a day before my son had the courage to ask if he could throw it out.

Later, there was a pizza lunch with my daughter and her friend, a trip to the thrift store, then home to do laundry. No schedule. No pressure.

I watched my daughter’s riding lesson which consisted mostly of her trying out a couple of used saddles. (I think she’s tired of bareback lessons in the rain.) I don’t know how long it took me to notice the new hitching post her horse was tied to. My husband started and finished this project on Friday apparently. I don’t think he’s heard of  puttering. Here are some pics he took.

I seriously think it's time to invest in an easier and more efficient post hole digger.
Time for the Christmas lights to come down perhaps?

My husband was describing to me how quickly and problem free everything came together. There were no smashed thumbs, thrown objects or cursing. Now for the pun: I pointed out that his project went without a hitch. I laughed hysterically at my own joke. (I always do.) Lame I know, but my hubby is a huge fan of puns.

Not to be outdone, I finished an easy project that I started in December.

I originally bought this fabric to make a nightgown. They ended up as pajama pants. They’re flannel on the inside and silky on the outside. My daughter loves them. Hurray!

All that left for Sunday was a nap. I can handle that.

Blogging Observations

I’ve been blogging for almost a month now and have made a personal observation. I’ve consistently read other blogs before, but never made any comments or followed a blog. Recently I discovered that it’s much easier to keep up with blogs if I just follow them. But here’s the rub…I feel a bit like a stalker. If I make a comment or follow a very popular and well known blog, I know I won’t stand out, but on a relatively new blog, I’m noticeable.

Is there some type of blog etiquette I should know about? Is there a line you can cross with comments where you go from being interested to sounding like….well, a stalker? Personally, I like it when readers make lots of sincere comments on my blog. It’s fun. But maybe not everyone feels that way.

All this just to say that I only make a comment or ‘like’ a blog if I really mean it. Whew…glad I got that off my chest.

A picture of my daughter's bunny. Just because.

18 Steps to a Relaxing Bath

1. Remove pile of discarded work outfits from edge of tub.

2. Assemble vacuum with attachments. Vacuum floor and tub to remove all hair that has accumulated from a couple weeks of vigorous blow drying. Clean tub with cleanser. Clear counter tops of accumulated clutter.

3. Start running warm water and light lilac scented candle.

4. Turn off all lights so you can no longer see how dirty the rest of the bathroom is.

5. Climb in tub and relax head against fluffy folded towel. Begin to let the healing balm of silence relax all of your cares.

6. Have silence broken by the sound of one lone housefly buzzing and bumping against skylight.

7. Attempt to ignore fly. Surely it will stop. It does. Relax once again into the silence and warmth.

8. Hear sounds of crazed fly resume. Tell yourself it’s mind over matter. It’s just a little fly after all. Fly takes a much needed rest. Wait to make sure fly hasn’t changed it’s mind. Relax.

9. Fly again begins its incessant and maniacal drone intent on destroying any remaining peace and sanity while bashing its tiny, hairy, body against the glass.

10. Use faucet to angrily pull yourself out of bathtub. Desperately search for object to kill fly. Remember that you never manage to kill flies.

12. Grab first available towel and walk to top of stairs. Sweetly call husband. Ask if he can come here for just a minute.

13. Meet husband’s quizzical gaze with blank stare in order to get him to continue up the stairs. Notice as husband’s gaze glances from your face to toweled body then back to face.

14. Realize that husband is getting the wrong idea. Feel slightly guilty. Proceed to lead him to romantically lit bathroom.

15. Point out lunatic fly and ask him to kill it. Admire that husband offers no complaint and merely asks for a towel.

16. Generously unwrap yourself from towel and give to husband. Clap and cheer as husband kills fly on third try and disposes of carcass.

17. Thank husband profusely as he smiles and leaves.

18. Climb back into warm and inviting tub. Realize that your knight in shining armor has killed the equivalent of a dragon for you. Chivalry is not dead.

Our Old Barn

One of the reasons we love our property is the old barn. We figure it’s about 95 years old.

The south side. This is our view when we pull into the driveway or look out our back windows.
West side. You can see part of the milking parlor on the right.
West side.
North side.
North and east side.
East side.
We think this was a milking parlor. The poor thing is on it's last leg.
The west side of the milking parlor.
And finally, the north side.

Hope you enjoyed the tour. I’ll take you inside another day.

Banana Bread

Ignore that burned looking corner. I would never burn my baked goods. I have to much respect for them.

I  was craving banana bread on Sunday. After I started, I realized I had enough overripe bananas to make another batch. My kids don’t like nuts in anything, sooooo…..I added a cup of pecans to the next batch. That means I can eat the whole batch by myself!! I didn’t though. I took a little loaf to work today, and my coworkers inhaled it. They make me feel so good about my baking.

I got this recipe from a family friend. She’s the sweetest woman I’ve ever met. She’s the kind of woman who comes into town and delivers little loaves of banana bread while she’s running errands. I finally ditched the recipe I’d always used after my kids raved about hers. Enjoy!

Banana Bread

1 c. sugar

1/2 c. salted butter, softened

2 eggs

3 T. sour cream or plain yogurt

1 t. vanilla

1 t. baking soda

2 c. flour

3 large ripe bananas – mashed

Stir dry ingredients together and set aside. Cream sugar and butter together. Add eggs, sour cream (or yogurt), and vanilla. Alternately mix in dry ingredients and banana.

Spray bottom of 2 loaf pans with PAM. Pour batter into pans and spread evenly.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes

Notes:

The original recipe calls for 1 t. salt. I usually have salted butter on hand so I just omit the salt. If you use unsalted butter, be sure to add the salt.

If you’ve never mashed bananas, you can use a pastry blender or my favorite, the food processor.

I divided the batter between 2 loaf pans because I don’t like how dark banana bread gets when it cooks longer in one pan. It makes to kinda flat loaves. That’s just my preference, so you could certainly bake it in one pan.

When I use little loaf pans, it makes four little loaves. Again, you could just divide the batter between two little pans.

Add 1 cup of pecans or walnuts if you don’t want to share with nut haters.

My son made the cutting board for me in shop class. I love it!!

I’m Happy Being Me

I’ve been meaning to write about making the transition from stay-at-home mom to work-outside-the-home mom. It has been one of the hardest things I’ve done, and a little scary to write about for fear someone might take it wrong. I was raised to believe that the most important job a woman could ever do is raise a family. I was also raised to value a college education. I was a very obedient child and young woman so I did both of those things.  My husband and I met at the end of my first semester of college, and since we were in love, we got married the summer after my Freshman year. I remember getting close to graduation and telling myself that I wanted a briefcase as a graduation gift. I would daydream about what style I would choose. Then one day it hit me like a ton of bricks. “You’re married. You’re going to raise kids. You will never even need a briefcase.” And honestly, I was bummed. (Why do I ever listen to that annoying voice in my head anyway.) I graduated after three years of marriage, but struggled terribly to find a purpose in my college education. Somehow I interpreted the importance of motherhood as “you should never work”.  I didn’t see the point of college.  I’m SOOO grateful now, that despite my misgivings, I got my Bachelor’s Degree.

My first child was born two months after I graduated from college. I worked a little here and there until my husband graduated, but pretty much became a stay-at-home mom after that. Then I had a second daughter. The first few years of raising children was challenging. I loved my daughters. They were so cute and fun, but there were many times that I wished deep down that I was doing something more interesting. I wished a could come home with a paycheck that said I was worth this much (insert $$ here). I had to rely so much on an inner feeling that staying home with my children was important even if no one seemed to notice or tell me I was doing a good job.

My feelings about motherhood started to change when I got a part-time job (8 hours a week) working at a health club. I met other moms who worked. Wow – they were everything I wanted to be. This is what surprised me though. They envied me because I didn’t have to work. I was doing it to get a free club membership. They wished they could stay home with their kids.  I’ve had two more children since then – a son and another daughter. I grew to be grateful for the time I had to wrap a child in a warm blanket and rock him or her until tears were dried and peace was restored. I loved puttering around the kitchen while my children emptied backpacks and ate their after school snacks.

I realize now that there is not ONE right way to be a woman and mother. I work six hours a day now as an accountant. I leave for work when my kids head off to school, and try to be home soon after school’s out. I love my job. I love using my brain in a way that I didn’t when I was home all day. I love coming home to my children and my cute little house. I love  sitting down to eat dinner together. (I love it even more when I didn’t have to make the dinner.) I love having my husband stop by my work occasionally to have lunch with me or having him send me flowers at work. I REALLY love that! Life certainly is not perfect, and I make sacrifices to work outside the home. I don’t believe in having it all. And you know what? That is totally fine with me. I have everything I need.

The jewels in my crown

The Pioneer Woman on Food Network

The Pioneer Woman was one of the first blogs I started reading when I learned what a blog was last Spring. (Yes, I’m that out of it.) Since then I’ve been hooked. What I have never done, though, is watched her new show on Food Network. Maybe it’s because I don’t watch much TV. I was just checking out her blog and remembered Season 2 has started. Perfect. I’ll just sleep in as usual then mosey on down in my jamies (which lately consists of yoga pants and my husband’s T-shirt).

Not so perfect. Since I live in Oregon, her show airs promptly at 7 am. What?! It’s Saturday for goodness sake! But wait…I have DVR. Because I’m so technologically challenged, I asked my older daughter for help. Can you believe she had the nerve to sigh loudly at me? Seriously. She acted so pained and put out. As if this kind of thing happens all the time. As if she’s already shown me one hundred times how to use the TV remote and can’t understand why I don’t remember what she said last time. Despite the inconvenience I inflicted upon her, she gave instructions on how to record my show so I can get my much needed beauty rest.

I really hope it works. Maybe I should get up at 7:00 just in case.