Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Calm Before the Apricots

Forty Pounds of apricots. Dozens of preserving jars. One water-bath canner.
                                                         Must be May!

They should arrive this weekend, and usually they are under ripe. I can do a bit of panic ripening next to a bag of apples, but most years they start to ripen after a few days at room temperature.

The plan:

12 pints apricot jam
4 1/2 pints apricot butter
Several quarts of apricot nectar
6 Pints Apricot halves in syrup
12 1/2 pints chutney
Fruit leather and jelly candies made from discarded peels from jam
A pie or two for the freezer (apricot/cherry pie is a favourite)
Anything left gets dried

I bought a few last weekend, and told the greengrocer I'd let them ripen before deciding if I would put up the first or second crop this year. Last year, the second crop turned out terribly small, and not very pretty so while it made OK jam, it wasn't great for dried fruit. The advantage of the second crop is that it is typically less expensive, but I get a really excellent price anyway, so I won't quibble over what I'd save by waiting. If the first crop is bad, sometimes it is worth waiting, but some years it is just a loss all the way around.

I've figured out what my family will use in a year. I don't bother with strawberry jam, or marmalade anymore (I'm the only one that likes marmalade anyway) and really put my attention on apricots, prune plums, and Concord grapes in the fall. We just opened the last jar of last year's apricot jam (the chutney went long ago) so I have a pretty good sense of how much we use. Of course, we don't eat 12 pints of jam a year-we do however give several jars away at Christmas. It seems odd to be planning gift giving in May, but there you have it.

Last year, I did the apricot jam in blue tinted Ball jars. The jars are nice enough to use after the jam is gone, but the effect of orange jam through blue glass is not attractive. I've learned my lesson, clear jars it is. I'm not a fan of the quilted jelly jars either, or the strange sized jars they sell these days. I prefer Ball (or Kerr) jars to the more expensive glass lid jars as they are easier for me to tell if the lids have sealed. I suppose it is a matter of familiarity-if you've always used glass lids and rubber rings, then you don't think twice about it. I'm a lid and metal ring type of bottler.

I know that not everyone water bath processes their jams and chutneys. While it is true that a shit load of sugar/vinegar will typically kill just about anything microbial, I feel better putting it through the water bath to ensure a better seal. I did all that work, so an extra fifteen minutes out of my life isn't that big of a deal. I also do a very thorough sterilisation of the jars beforehand, though I now live in a house with a dishwasher (my first in 25 years) so maybe I'll give that a try on the heat dry cycle. No, you won't get botulism from jelly, but the moulds that can grow in there are a carcinogen. True, you'd have to eat a lot to get cancer, but over a lifetime? Anyway, it may seem like overkill, but the water bath isn't going to hurt the jam any, so I do it.

I'm exhausted just typing this. I'd better go have a lie down. And a drink.

The Scary Animals (and the Clown) Want You To Get Well

We've all been hit with a round of something viral that causes lightheadedness, and laryngitis. I know you could have worse symptoms, but Danny has never experienced vertigo, and the poor kid has been grabbing at walls trying to walk. To minimise the risk of him falling, he took some meals in bed. Enter, THE TRAY.

Well if that doesn't scare you into getting well, nothing will. From the hairless monkey, to the wolf/fox hybrid holding what I'm positive is not a glass of milk, this tray is the stuff of childhood nightmares. You know the parrot is giving the bear orders to eat the dog, and the clown on the screen is telepathically recruiting the animal friends into some sort of cannibalistic cult. The potted plant is a nice touch though. There's always a potted plant, isn't there? Of course there is.

Thankfully, we don't need to use it often. I am however convinced that the strangeness of the tray speeds the recovery process along because no one in their right mind would want to look at that hairless monkey any longer than absolutely necessary. Zippy the Chimp he ain't.

There was no way he was going to read aloud with his voice going, and the eye motion of reading wasn't going to happen with vertigo, so I let Danny watch a two hour long DVD of pumkin chunkin. You know, where you launch pumpkins across a field with a trebuchet. We did that one Halloween at a fundraiser for a local church (well, it did bring out a crowd) and I have to admit, there is a thrill to seeing pumpkins sailing across a field (or parking lot). Anyway, since it was kinda-sorta educational, I let him loaf about in bed watching videos. Don't worry, I also made him watch a documentary about Angela Davis, so his sick days aren't a complete loss. 60's radicals and the physics of catapults-homeschooling is always an adventure.
"Heh, heh, heh...I just slipped the dog a mickey."

Monday, April 28, 2014

Maida Heatter's Lemon Buttermilk Cake (version #2)

This was Maida Heatter's second attempt at the lemon buttermilk cake after the first one was published with faulty instructions. I'm glad she re-worked it for the New Book of Great Desserts, because it is a really wonderful cake. Unlike so many lemon desserts where all you taste is sugar, this really does have a strong lemon flavor. The cake lasts well, tightly wrapped.
 I was looking for a way to display the cake slices when I remembered this fold-out cake tray I bought in Iowa last summer.
The penguin tea towel came from Lincoln last weekend.
Danny's always been fond of penguins. When he was very small (maybe two?) he used to check my bed at night for penguins. This procedure involved turning down the bed, lifting the pillows, and poking about with a straw until he was satisfied the bed was penguin free. One day, I told him there were penguins in the bed trying to bite me, so springing into action with his trusty straw, he set about locating the culprits. What he didn't know was that earlier in the day I'd purchased some chocolates wrapped in foil to look like penguins. As he pulled back the pillows I heard a gasp, then saw the look of disbelief spread across his face. "There really ARE penguins in your bed!" he screamed. I had to explain that they were chocolate.

I was going to re-type the recipe from the book when I came to my senses and put Google to use (it is too late to be sitting here re-typing recipes). I found a copy from someone who not only knew Maida Heatter, but had been someone that wrote to her explaining that the original recipe had failed. I'm not about to ignore that level of brush with fame, so go here:

I have to show you one last recent purchase I never would have brought home if my son hadn't urged me to.
 Get it? Rocks! I remember this stuff from the early 80's. There wasn't a room in the house that didn't have something made from Lucite in it.

Since we have the glasses out, here's a recipe for strawberry lemonade I made today. You can serve it on the rocks.

Strawberry Lemonade:

Juice of 4 lemons, strained
2 quarts strawberries, roughly chopped
1-2 cups sugar (we used 1 but that makes for rather sour lemonade, so adjust to your taste)

Place the chopped berries in a bowl and cover with sugar. Cover and let stand about 2 hours, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar.

Place strawberries in a food processor (or a blender, or lacking that, get out a potato masher) and puree until liquid. Strain through a fine sieve to get the seeds out. This is tedious, and you'll need to keep stirring it around to get it through. Fiddly, but worth it. Pour in the lemon juice and add 2 quarts of water (again, you can adjust this to taste). Stir well, and serve cold...on the rocks. With buttermilk lemon cake.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

I Watched it For a Little While


 I thought it was time to mention this Omaha landmark before it disappears like all the other distinctive places.
 $44.95 a night seems reasonable enough. but honestly this seems like the kind of place you  wouldn't be spending the whole night. That stretch of L street isn't exactly posh. There is a K-Mart within walking distance, which makes me sad they don't do the Blue Light Special anymore. I suppose I ought to explain the Blue Light Special. K Mart had a mobile discount cart they would move to different areas of the store and it had a  blue light on a tall pole (so you could see it across the store). When the light moved on to the next spot, the special was over. This was a "thing" people did (in the Midwest anyway) in the 60's and 70's. Nothing like a Saturday night with your parents at K mart chasing the blue light.

Know what you could have bought at K Mart in the 60's? A set of Burwood thingies for your living room.
 Sure, they catch dust like crazy, but that's what you have children for-dusting the wall art. Or polishing the leaves of the jade plant.
Yeah, they're going to need a good going over with a damp cloth.

This one is plastic made by Dart Industries. These were later (70's, I think). We didn't have anything like this because my mother was a painter (meaning we had her work hanging in the house). This will go nicely with the white and gold chalkware swan.

By now you should be convinced that Nebraska is where the 70's went to die (and haven't quite finished the job)but in the event you still remain unconvinced, here's a bit of California pottery to make the case. Strangely, I already owned the bowls that fit around this beauty-now I have a set.
 You wouldn't put fruit in it, and cover it so I'm not sure what I'll use it for.
 I don't know why I love this stuff the way I do. Anyway, for .69 cents I wasn't about to leave it.
I found a new wall I like for photos. This one is outside Thrift World at 36th and Q. The building dates from the early 70's, when stonework like this looked modern.

This little relic has seen better days, but then so have I. I handed over my five bucks as fast as I could before someone bought it out from under me.
This is a handsewn dress (not by me). It would look better on a thinner person, but I didn't have one of those, so here's how it looks on me.
It was rainy, so I got out my trusty plastic rain bonnet. And the sign from Janice because hey, I can't have kids on my lawn in the rain-it'll leave footprints.

So now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to spend what's left of the weekend relaxing in our rumpus room.
Man, I wish they still did the Blue Light Special at K Mart.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

You Put the Turd Into Saturday

Hey, I earned it.

I'll just say that it is nice to finally have all my hard work acknowledged.

In other news,
Go Big Red. An elderly woman walked past, and told me I had the perfect Nebraska outfit on today (the University of Nebraska's football team colours are red and white).
It is a bit early for white, but it was such a summery sort of day, I couldn't resist. Unfortunately it will be short lived as we are under all sorts of storm warnings for this evening. I bought a tray of plants at the Spring Affair in Lincoln, but I don't dare leave them outside tonight.
All roads eventually lead to the "best red wall in Omaha", because we had stuff reserved at the library. That drive between Lincoln and Omaha is killer. I feel like I could sleep for the next day and a half-and I wasn't the one driving! We did stop at the thrift store in Lincoln again because we found such great stuff last time-once again, I was not disappointed. Yes, there's California pottery in the finds.

Outfit Particulars:
Blue Nelly Don 1970's Jacket-Thrift World
Red 1970's blouse-Thrift World
Necklaces-Assorted thrift stores
Bangles-Assorted thrift stores
Pleated skirt-Goodwill
Earrings-Can't remember
1940's Naturalizer shoes-Thrifted

It is simply amazing how many people will stare at me like I just dropped in from planet weirdo when I do these poses in the lobby of the library. I mean, have you never posed for a photograph? What part of a "Polyester Clad Goddess" do you not get? Beige? Natural fibres?  Get it the hell away from me!
Look what I found!
I hope he doesn't bite.
Have some fun this weekend, and if anyone doesn't like it...
Give 'em a tin of prune juice and an award, because they're likely constipated.
Who put the turd into Saturday?

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Funny, I Just Call it, "Making a Cup of Coffee"

The morning newspaper tells me that people who measure their coffee, grind their own beans, and then put it through a pot like a French press are, "Home Brewists." Yes, of course they are, because they're Home Brewing, not just pouring boiling water over grounds like some sort of uncultured vulgarian.

Oh dear. If people are that obsessive in other aspects of their lives we encourage them to seek therapy, here we're just...encouraging them. Just as well, if the state began sectioning people for being douchebags our taxes would skyrocket to pay for it...because there are a whole hell of a lot of douchebags at large.

Was that a rant? Oh my, I think it was.

I believe there is a right way (mine) and a wrong way (everyone else's) to do things, and I don't doubt that some coffee tastes better when given a bit more attention than being tossed in a pot with some boiling water-but so what? Should you warm a teapot before making a pot of tea? Yes, you should, but hot water tossed over a teabag will do for most purposes. Must everything be an exercise in perfection? I bake bread, but I have never weighed my ingredients, used hydration percentages, or taken the temperature of my sourdough starter. I bake bread, I don't turn my kitchen into a food science lab-and I certainly don't get all pretentious about what others do in their kitchens.

Yes, this is definitely a rant-stick with me people, just a bit longer.

I just love the assumption that because I don't go to the absurd lengths others do with respect to coffee, tea, bread or whatever else people are obsessed with at the moment-that I'm ignorant. Oh, I would just fall all over my coffee press if I could just taste coffee made, "properly." I don't think so. I've lived through percolators in the 60's, cold drip coffee makers in the 70's, Melita cups in the 80's, French presses in the 90's, and have come full circle to a pint jar of water and 1/3 cup ground coffee left to soak overnight. I strain it into a pot in the morning. Classy, eh? I like it, but I wouldn't turn my nose up at a cup of instant if someone offered it because (take note douchebags, this part is important) someone is offering you a cup of coffee (or anything else). You know, hospitality. Your role in this (again, pay attention here) isn't to go into a detailed description of how you prepare yours. Your part isn't to question the source of beans. Your part is to act like a normal human being for a few minutes, and graciously accept what is being offered. 

Hang in there kids, I'm almost through.

Home brewing is already taken by the beer people, and frankly they've had the phrase so long I think it only right we let them retain the rights to it. What you are doing, is making coffee. A person making coffee at home is not called a brewist, they are called, a person making coffee.

Janice? Are you here hon? I'm going to need your help shouting...

GET THE HELL OFF OF MY LAWN! You damn home-brewing brewist kids with your French presses and funny electronic cigarettes.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The Girls Would Turn the Colour of an Avocado...

At some point in the 70's, between the oversized florals and the foiled bamboo, there was a fashion for wallpaper in a similar print to my jacket.
The colours would have been in the same range as well. Avocado. The best rhyme ever for avocado is El Dorado:
So yeah, I'm dressed like 70's wallpaper and kitchen appliances. I tried to echo no-wax linoleum with my bangles, but I don't think I'm quite there.
Outfit Particulars:

70's polyester jacket-Thrift World .98 cents
Green dress-Sears, about 8 years ago
Seashell pin-Hand-Me-Ups
Earrings-K Mart
Bangles-all over the place

I think Pablo Picasso probably did get called, "asshole" even in New York. Here's the studio recording:

Monday, April 21, 2014

Go Sit by the Sofa, and I'll Take a Picture

The vintage photo series returns, this week with photos of my family on/near sofas. I won't keep you in suspense, here's the plastic covered sofas of my youth.
I'm the wee one sitting on my sister's lap. I have no idea who the other two girls are.

Wait, I can hear my mother screaming, "Count!" from the other room. A town house is no place for children's piano lessons as there's nowhere to hide.
The problem with that plastic covering was that it eventually cracked, and left discoloured streaks on the white silk they were trying to protect. It was OK to sit on most of the year, but come summer you'd sit on that thing wearing shorts and stick to it. I like this photo of my dad looking at the coloured vinyl record like, "What will these kids come up with next?!"
Here's a photo of my cousin (left) and my sister on a plastic covered sofa that I think was at Gran's. It wasn't ours anyway, and my aunt had blue crushed velvet sofas that no one was permitted to sit on-so it wasn't their house. Poor Andi, I can't believe they dressed the poor girl like that.
There's a sofa in the back with my mum perched on the edge of it. It looks like a birthday party (hats, party dresses etc.) and it looks like our front room, but damn if I recognise that television. I barely recognise my mother. My Aunt isn't looking her best sitting on the floor either. At any rate, my sister and cousin don't appear to be having a very good time. There's a whiff of a John Waters movie in this photo.
I'm starting to wonder if anyone ever enjoyed themselves at a party. My cousins are flanking the woman at the centre (no idea who she is) and my gran is in yellow at the right. I have no clue who the other people are, but that is our front room, and I remember those two green watercolour paintings.
Now this looks like a fun birthday party. I don't know where it was taken (not our sofa) but I'm in the centre (pink tights)and smiling, presumably because I'm not at home!
Mt two grandmothers sitting side-by-side and making an attempt at smiling for a photo. They despised each other. Despised is being generous. This would have been about 1977-78.
But all plastic covered sofas eventually need recovering, and by the 70's, my mother found she liked gold toned tapestry. This too must have been a birthday photo as there's a balloon at the top of the frame. I have no idea what the hell I'm wearing, but my birthday is in February so I don't know what she was thinking with the white pants. I think I'm "posing" but it might just be the angle of the photo and my messed-up spine (which was more noticeable when I was young). I'm not sure what became of the lamp, but I have the table beneath it. Each time we move house my husband wants to get rid of it, and each time we later admit it was a good thing we kept it. Ugly as can be, but that table is the most practical piece of furniture in our house (it has storage beneath).
Finally, three women who are relatives through various marriages, and were all adored (because they weren't as crazy as the rest of us!). On the left is my Aunt's (mother's sister) mother in law. She was a lovely woman who always had candy and half dollars in her handbag for the children. I was always envious that my cousins got a normal grandmother. The Woman in the centre was Aunt Chevy, who could knit whilst talking to you, and never look down at her work. She was incredible. She tried to talk my father out of marrying into the family warning him that they were all, "Nuts", but it fell on deaf ears. Years later, he admitted she knew what she was talking about. On the right is Aunt Sadie, who was  a wealthy old widow that sent beautiful presents (I still use and enjoy a pair of Lucite bookends she sent when I was 13). Everyone said she was cranky, but I guess that just endeared her to me. I wish she'd given me that handbag sitting on her lap! She looks displeased to be sitting amongst the rabble. I believe this was my sister's wedding shower so maybe 1980? I can't remember.

I'm sure I'll find more sofa photos after this is posted, but I hope you enjoyed a plastic covered trip down sofa memory lane. One more for good measure-a rare photo of my sister looking happy (mother must have been out doing the shopping):

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Grab My Smelling Salts, I Feel a Rant A-Comin' On

Ahem, dearhearts and gentlepeople, the Midi-Ring is not a thing. It may be a trend to wear a smaller ring that does not quite sit as far down your finger as it should, but it is just that-a smaller ring that does not fit far down your finger.

I have no opinion as to the aesthetics of this look, but it does not require a special purchase of a ring made to not fit properly. We all have those in our collections-we call them pinky rings even if they did once fit (pre-childbirth) on the ring finger. So shove one of those on your fat little fingers and call it a day. There, I just saved you at least fifty bucks. You're welcome.

We're living Idiocracy. Yes, we really are.

Easter 2014

Hoppy Easter, everybunny.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Clothes Made For a Windy Day

Everyone should own billowy clothing-it gives you such a splendid feeling. Just between us, this is a dressing gown but, shhhhh no one will ever know.
It is made of the most wonderful, papery silk that protects me from sunlight whilst remaining cool enough to wear on a humid day. I wish I had ten more of them.

 Wide-legged jumpsuits do their share of billowing as well. I could soar, I tell you!
Something tells me these two pieces are bound to become wardrobe staples this summer.

Outfit Particulars:
 Jumpsuit-K Mart
60's Robe by-Mode O'Day Styled in California (Damnit, should have worn the Gaymode shoes but maybe you shouldn't mix modes, even in California)
Shoes-BCBGirls-thrifted Goodwill
Belt-retail years ago
Silver cuffs-Gordmans (a very long time ago)
Slave Bracelet-Mum's from the 60's
Earrings-Can't remember
Floral headband-Gordmans
Macramé handbag-Thrifted
The shoes were more comfortable than they look.

Come on kid, let's go make some people stare at us in the library! These are going to be cherished childhood memories someday. Maybe. Possibly. Unlikely. Fine, we'll go home and dye some eggs. You're part Ukrainian, you should be good at it.

We have a slew of good movies to watch this weekend from Pan's Labyrinth, to Escape to Witch Mountain. We also picked up Fantastic Planet.

Right, off to see to those eggs now.