Spelunking in the Refrigerator

It’s just an extension of the Pantry Raid, really. The Pantry Raid means just what it sounds like: gathering enough ingredients already available in the house in order to avoid a run to the store.

Chuck ended up searching a filled-to-overload kitchen and created his own version: spelunking in the refrigerator.

The kitchen counters were piled high and the refrigerator was packed tightly, Tetris style, after we hosted extended family for Father-In-Law’s funeral. Leftovers from dinner, extra beverages as we emptied the coolers; you name it, we had it. Searching for an evening snack became a challenge.

Challenge, I said, but not insurmountable. I’d made a simple white cake to go with strawberries the day before, and Chuck spotted a half full carton of chocolate frosting. Success! And unique success, too! Somehow, successfully spelunking into the refrigerator ended with a unique result that didn’t feel like a leftover.

Give me a few days, a rope, and a headlamp, and I just might dig up the ultimate Pantry Raid.

A Memorial, not Memorial Day

Every year we start Memorial Day by throwing our lawn chairs in Amigo’s bike basket and hitting the road for half a block to stake our claim on a good place to watch the parade. Seriously, it’s half a block from our home.

And after the parade, we head back the half a block to our home. Home, to help out our “real live veteran in our front yard,” as Amigo put it. Father In Law doesn’t want to struggle down the street with his walker, so he often settled under our mock cherry tree and read a book. We gave him a little flag next to his lawn chair so he could be part of the festivities.
Our “real live veteran” passed away recently, and we laid him to rest today. In his possessions we found several letters he’d written to his parents when he was stationed in Japan during the Korean conflict. Some were typed, some were handwritten, and all were fascinating insights to what he was like as a young man.
Emails may be convenient, but do you keep them? A box labeled “War Mementos” was a journey into the past for our family.

Rhubarb-Strawberry Slab Pie

Taste of Home called it raspberry, not strawberry. In my part of this world, the rhubarb is usually in season with strawberries, less so with raspberries. I pulled both strawberries and raspberries out of the freezer to make this. Rhubarb? I had plenty. In fact, I had enough rhubarb leftover to freeze for later.

The pie was big, too. We took some to Petunia, some to Chuck’s mom, and I gave three pieces to the next door neighbors.

Berry-Rhubarb Slab Pie

based on a recipe from Taste of Home

Ingredients:

3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour (or my favorite, whole wheat pastry flour)

1 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup milk

1 egg

2 cups sugar

1/3 cup cornstarch

8 cups fruit: rhubarb, strawberries or raspberries

Directions:

In a large bowl, combine flour and salt; cut in butter until crumbly. Whisk milk and egg; gradually add to flour mixture. Mix with fork until dough forms a ball. Divide dough into two portions, one slightly larger than the other. Wrap each in plastic wrap. Refrigerate at least one hour.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Roll out larger portion of dough in a rectangle about 18 by 13 inches. Press dough into a 15x10x1 inch baking pan. In a large bowl, combine sugar and cornstarch. Add berries and rhubarb; toss to coat. Spread on pastry.

Roll out remaining dough; place over filling. Pull up edges of lower crust and press them together. Poke top crust with a fork in several places.

Bake 45 – 55 minutes until crust is golden brown. Serve warm with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

If you have a large enough family, you won’t have to give any away.

Goals – inside, outside

It’s summertime – the approximate ten week period that passes for a “break” in our oddly outdated agrarian school calendar. In the old, old bygone days, students would help at home on the farm in spring, summer, and then harvest season in the fall. School terms might be limited to winter or some of the town and city kids might come in early fall while the farm families kept their children home to work the land.

But I digress.

It’s summertime, and the living is relatively easy. I can sleep in, but I don’t. My body clock is set firmly between 6 and 7 A.M. I’m up and at ’em, coffee cup in hand. Up and at what? That’s where the goals come in.

I’ve decided to make one indoor goal and one outdoor goal. Daily tasks such as loading, running, and emptying the dishwasher don’t count. Watering the garden and the containers doesn’t count, either. It’s a necessity.

Yesterday the outdoor goal was to fix up the rock garden. That entailed getting rocks and sculptures and misc. from the garage and placing it strategically in the rock garden. Inside? Clean the bunny cage & replace used litter box with clean box.

The goals are a minimum. I don’t stop there. Having definite goals, no matter how small, keeps me from feeling overwhelmed. “I must get more done! Must accomplish! Must do, go, achieve!” Nope. It’s a long break, and it’s a break. Setting and meeting goals is good for my mental health. Meeting goals allows me to let go of the gotta-get-it-done attitude and relax.

That said, here are today’s main goals. Indoors: laundry. Outdoors: lift pallet garden to a steeper angle. Chuck helped with that one.

And now, while I wait for the first load of laundry to rinse and spin, I can relax.

Readers, do you set goals? Give yourself permission to take care of yourself? Leave comments. I’d like to know.

Cleaning the Classroom – Encore

I attended a graduation party for a former student, a girl I’d taught in fourth grade. She had just graduated from high school (my alma mater, no less), and was preparing to head off to college. I reminisced on the way home. 

One year my fourth grade class decorated the chalkboard with flowers during the last few weeks of school. I liked it so much that this year, I assigned them the task. We were gearing up for a field trip to see a play based on the book Seedfolks by Paul Fleischman. I helped prepare them for the story by reading about urban gardens, learning about plants, planting their own tomato plants in little pots made from toilet paper rolls, and more. One day I presented them with several shades and lengths of green construction paper, told them these were their stems, and challenged them to create flowers using our bin of paper scraps.

They outdid themselves.

The flowers were lovely, each as original as its creator. My young students (ages 9-10) decided to write their names on the board to claim their work. They wrote and drew and made more flowers, and I was glad to say Yes to saving their work from the cleaning staff. I knew Di, the cleaner who keeps my room spotless, would love the classroom flower garden as much as I did and would be glad to leave it untouched by rag or vinegar cleaning spray.


When a student moved the week before school let out, she made sure to pick her flower from the board. On the last full day of school, plucking the flowers was a high priority for the young paper gardeners. By then the chalk was getting dusty, but the paper work was as unique as ever. High art? Nope. Just right? Absolutely.

Rhubarb Season!

It’s that time again. I hadn’t been able to get to the rhubarb patch due to illness followed by bad weather followed by the siding project. By the time I got to it, harvesting and weeding were all happening at the same time. I ended up with about 5 – 6 cups of the delicious tart fruit, and I searched my cookbooks for an easy way to use it.

Daisy’s Rhubarb Compote

  • 4 cups fresh rhubarb, cleaned and finely diced
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

Combine all ingredients in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil. Reduce to medium heat and cook for 15 minutes, stirring frequently. Rhubarb should be soft and sauce thick. Serve either warm or cold, but my recommendation is to serve it warm with a dollop (you choose the size) of whipped cream. I suppose vanilla ice cream would do, too.

This compote, like a thick applesauce, had a nice tasty kick to it. I might try adding orange zest or ground ginger to my rhubarb barbecue sauce next time I make it.

Spring Memories

 

A few years ago, and not so far away, I had a papasan chair that masqueraded as a large pot for plants. We’d noticed it tipping, leaning to the right, and it needed help to get upright again. Nobody leans to the right for long in Daisy’s household. Trust me. 

It looked like this from the sidewalk.

It looked like this from the sidewalk.

Close up, it looked even worse.

Close up, it looked even worse.

I wrestled, pulled, pushed, and eventually slid the top off its base. Then I reached for the camera – and I laughed out loud. Any neighbors lucky enough to witness the event surely think…trust me, I probably don’t want to know.

It's all about that base.

It’s all about that base. Whoa.

I tipped and balanced the planter part until it seemed stable, and then added a cinder block to help keep it in place. The base went out to the curb for Excess Garbage Day. Convenient timing, wasn’t it?

That papasan bit the dust the following fall, but I got lucky. Chuck sent me a text one night on his way home from work. There’s a papasan out on the curb a few blocks from home. Do you want it?

Of course! I tell you, folks, the man’s a keeper. He saws holes in old chairs just the right size for pots of flowers. He picks up an aging papasan chair for the same purpose. When the planting is done, I’ll share photos.

Readers, can you suggest a few unusual planters? Chairs, buckets – the sky’s the limit.

The 40 Bags in 40 Days Project Ends

I could have ended the post title with “unsuccessfully”. I did not manage to remove from the house something significant each day of 40. I did, however, manage to pare down quite a bit and learn a few lessons from the project.

Lesson 1: Any project that requires daily participation has the risk of failure. Between teaching, handling Amigo’s schedule, adjusting to Chuck’s new job, and life in general, there will be days that I simply can’t invest the time and energy in a side project.

Lesson 2: Projects are easy at first; they get harder. The Purge the Clutter project, as I nicknamed it, started to get more challenging about 15 days in. That makes sense, too; the easy excess was easy to toss. I had to search and think through later pieces.

Lesson 3: Major pieces in the project took more than one day. The piano, for example. We’re still working on it. Expect updates along the way.

Maybe I didn’t succeed in tossing or donating bags of goods every day. I can’t feel like the project failed, though. I did clean out quite a bit, and I set aside a batch of items for a June garage sale. Eventually, I’ll take to clearing spaces again, but without the Each Day Every Day pressure.