Sunday, November 28, 2010

THIS is what I'm talking about!

Oh yeah! (Scroll down to previous post for comparison.)

I love how quiet snow is. With the curtains pulled while we sleep we have no idea that the world is being blanketed in white. I love the surprise--mostly because I'm not usually the one who has to shovel it. :)

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Emergency Drill?

For the past few days, the weathermen in Utah have been warning us about the coming arctic blizzard which was predicted to arrive yesterday evening. We were told of 50 mph winds and temperatures in the single digits, as well as half a foot or more of snow. In response, I went into preparation mode yesterday. I bought new tires for the van to replace the bald ones. I did a quick run to the grocery store to stock up for the week. I brought firewood inside to keep it dry and ready. And the school canceled #3's after-school karate class to allow teachers and students to safely get home ahead of the storm which was coming between 3:00 and 4:00.

At 5:00 we were ready! The kids and I snuggled on the couches to watch the local news project how bad things were going to get. Even though our picture windows revealed only a gorgeous sunset closing the day on blue skies, I was excited about what was coming! By the time we turned off the news at 5:20, the storm was picking up north of us and was expected to take snow all the way south to St. George.

At 6:00 we could hear the wind whistling in the dark. I turned on the radio to hear a talk show host passing on the governor's advice to check on our elderly and single neighbors. I went so far as to pass that advice on through our neighborhood email.

At 7:00 I built a fire in the wood stove and we snuggled in again for a movie.

When I went to bed at 10:30, I heard an occasional wind gust and saw a dusting of snow. I anticipated waking to a quiet, white marshmallow world.

Here's the view from my back deck this morning:

My four-year-old is pretty disappointed that my promises of building a snowman are not happening today. I've checked the news, and all I can find are reports of slick roads and snow being dumped north of us. How many inches is that? Our street is dry, and even the dusting of snow we got last night has blown away. So we have a cold day with no fun white stuff to play in. Did any of you get "dumped" on?

I'm beginning to wonder if this was just a state-wide emergency drill, because not much panned out here. I really am grateful to not be shoveling today, and to have clear roads for Thanksgiving travelers...even if we missed out on an exciting storm.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

...Outside the Box: Fear Factor

First to appease my guilt...yes, this is a Halloween-themed blog post. I almost skipped it, but I had so much fun with this that I just couldn't let these photos sit unviewed. At least it's getting posted before Thanksgiving. That would have been the point of no return.

For their classroom Halloween party, my #2's fifth-grade classmates voted to have a Fear Factor theme. (If you're not familiar with the show, I can sum it up by saying that the contenders do a series of disgusting tasks to win cash.) The Room Mom (she definitely deserves capital letters in her title!) came up with a few games, but I got really enthused about grossing the kids out and she let me put the following activity together.

I told #2 for a week previous to the event that I was in charge of finding gross things for the kids to touch, and I had some pretty good ideas. After my grocery errands on that Wednesday, I told her that I'd gone to the butcher and couldn't wait for Friday! She asked me where the stuff was that I'd bought. I told her she would never find it beforehand. I didn't add that I hadn't made anything yet, so she just assumed I'd picked up some disgusting animal parts and hid them at someone else's house. My plan to let her imagination get the best of her was working! The next morning on our way to school, #1 asked what I'd gotten at the butcher's. I refused to answer her question directly, but told her I'd seen plenty of things to choose from: cow tongue, fish heads, pig feet, squid, eyeballs, etc. The Room Mom later reported to me that while at school on Thursday, she'd overheard #2 telling her friends about my visit to the butcher. My deceptive devices were perfect! Bwah ha ha!

Friday morning I put it all together.

I hot glued pieces of lawn bags to the black Nissin noodle meal boxes. (The lunches are pretty good, but digesting four of them in one week was a bit much. But what can I say? I'm just one of those moms who will do anything for her kid.) I left a hole at the top so the students could reach their arm down into the container without being able to see what they were touching.

Then I labeled the containers and added the contents: Pig Intestine, Lamb Eyes, Turkey Hearts, and Maggots.

I was not able to be at the school Friday afternoon to run the game with the class, so I recommended to the Room Mom that she tell the kids the point of the game was to figure out which items were real and which were fake. I assumed the kids would realize they were not all real, but wanted them to psyche themselves into thinking some of them were.

#2 was so worried by the reaction of those who touched the turkey hearts, that she wouldn't even give them a try. Even one of the fifth grade teachers exclaimed at how gross the hearts were, and when she took her hand out of the sack it had red fleshy stuff on it.

Here are the items right before I contained them. Can you guess what I used for each?

Here's a hint: everything is vegetarian and edible.

Here we go clockwise from the top:

The "maggots" were jasmine rice that I dried slightly in the toaster oven at 200 degrees until it wasn't sticky but still had some softness in the body. Then I coated them with non-stick spray to make them a bit slimy and added a bit of peat moss for good measure.

The "lamb eyes" were large, cold, peeled grapes. I really liked how the indentation where it connected to the stem felt a little like an eyeball lens. The peel also came off in strips that felt a little like veins.

The "turkey hearts" were Roma tomatoes that I blanched to remove the skins. These worked better than regular tomatoes because of their pear shape, and they are fleshier and less juicy than other tomatoes. (I had quite a few kids convinced with these.)

The "pig intestine"...this one was my masterpiece...any final guesses? pie dough! I rolled it into a rope, which was tricky because it didn't want to hold together; so I added water as I went, which improved the slimy feel. After I looped and coiled it, I was quite pleased with the weight and the way the dough had enough give to feel like guts when pressed. I outdid myself by painting light streaks of blue food coloring and coating it with Good Value brand butter-flavored non-stick spray, which has an awful smell similar to old vomit. I don't know if the kids appreciated my artistic details, but I sure did! #2 said that at the end of the game, the Room Mom opened the containers to reveal the true objects. The kids were still pretty grossed out by the "intestines", but one brave (?) boy took a bite out of them to prove they were edible. No one else could get past the look of the pie dough.

I hope I'll get to do this activity for a future fifth-grade class. The kids are the perfect age to buy into the grossness, and I had tons of fun putting it all together!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Our Harvest

Please excuse my blogging absence. I've been busy with a lot of projects, including preserving the food we've grown. Our garden was not as productive as I'd hoped it would be, but I've learned a few things to improve output next year. Still, though, I am grateful for a little land where I can plant seeds that turn into food for my family.

Our tomato plants did well, and I canned homemade spaghetti sauce and stewed tomatoes for the first time. Considering how many tomatoes I picked, I was a little disappointed with the amount of sauce produced. Next year I'll put in several more plants.

I did save the juice from the tomatoes I processed and ended up with a full half gallon. That stuff burns going down, so I figure it must be good for us!

Besides the tomatoes, I've frozen beet greens, green beans, snap peas, squash, and edamames. I've bottled apple sauce, apple butter, and apple pie filling. We've eaten yams and potatoes and beets. I've dried fruit leather and apple slices. The lettuce, onions, carrots, and strawberries have agreed to be happy outside. I even picked 13 cantaloupes just a week ago, and they are slowly ripening in the garage.

Now my weeks of preserving are over. This year I have a better sense of the gratitude felt by the pilgrims who had stores of food to see them through the winter. Just as they were grateful for the generosity of the Native Americans, I am grateful for my in-laws and four neighbors who shared their surplus with us and helped me process some of it.

Even Kent got in on the canning action. When his brother brought over two jalapeño plants loaded with peppers, he got inspired! Our friends came over a couple Sundays ago and helped us pickle the jalapeños with carrots and onions. While the peppers were processing, we enjoyed a tray of homemade jalapeño poppers dipped in strawberry jam. So good!

Now that my food is harvested, I can get back to storing up family stories on the blog. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010


My little sticker proves that I voted today, and my ballot proved to me that my political views are changing. For as long as I can remember, I've skimmed over the qualifications of the Republicans and, being satisfied, I voted straight ticket.

I continue to listen to Glenn Beck, though maybe not as fanatically as a few years ago. (I'm balancing him out with NPR a few days a week.) Since the 2008 election, Beck has been asking his listeners to do their own homework and pull away from the parties in order to vote the candidate of choice. So I read the candidates' statements in the voter booklet and visited their websites to learn what they thought about various issues.

Today I found myself voting for two Democrats (and there would have been a third had I been in a different precinct). In Utah County, my votes for those Democrats didn't go far, but I am happy to find out that I am more discerning with my vote than in the past. I still consider myself generally Republican, but now a little more Independently minded.