Thursday, July 31, 2008

Peter Piper

This is only the beginning of my husband's pepper harvest, Loyal Ones. I fear that you may never see your BloomingtonGirl again in person. Alas, she may never get out of her kitchen with so many peppers to preserve.

What was he thinking? That there would be a shortage of sweet bell peppers this summer? That peppers would suddenly become our family's staple food?

But look at him, the dear man. He is so proud of his bounty. In addition to the peppers, I was presented with a bucket of fresh basil this morning, which I made into a base for pesto that is now in our freezer. Also, there is a large pot of jalapeno peppers awaiting some kind of processing as well. Oh, and did I mention the ten or fifteen acorn squashes and the twenty butternut squashes that are lying around, silently demanding my attention?

If anyone out there wants to get my husband back into a regular golf game or perhaps an every-weekend hiking trip to ease him out of the garden mania and in the process help me out of the kitchen, contact me, okay?

Friday, July 25, 2008

The Truth

Loyal Readers, the above graphic is of a bumper sticker that I've seen a couple of times here. It is one of many many Christian bumper stickers that adorn a large number of vehicles in this area of the country.

For the record, I have no objection to religious bumper stickers. I enjoy them quite a bit. I do notice that the vast majority of them, perhaps all of them, are Christian in nature. Come to think of it, I have yet to see a catchy little phrase marketing a particular car owner's Jewish or Muslim beliefs.

Back to the sticker.

"Orthodoxy. Proclaiming The Truth Since A.D. 33. "

Two things bother me about this sticker.

One. The arrogance of "The Truth". I just love when people think that they know "The Truth" about anything that concerns things larger than ourselves. As if a normal human brain - especially one which compels one to slap a bumper sticker on one's car publicizing one's most important core beliefs - can be large enough to KNOW the so called Truth. I, for one, hope that "The Truth" is a little larger than what my little brain can fathom.

Two: The bumper sticker proclaiming to "Proclaim The Truth" does not, in fact, "Proclaim The Truth".

The so called orthodox gospels as we know them- the ones that the Orthodox Church follows - emerged in their present form long after A.D. 33. It was not until the end of the second century when they began to resemble what we know today. In addition, there were many other gospels in existence (Thomas & Philip, for example) that were in competition with those that eventually became anointed FOUR. (Mathew, Mark, Luke & John...even I, an atheist can remember what they are in part because they were the names of the four hunky Carswell brothers I went to high school with, but I digress.)

If we are going to be "Proclaiming The Truth", we ought to get our facts right, oughtn't we?

I was prompted to go to a website sponsored by the Orthodox Church and was amused to see that the first topic that it dealt with under the Frequently Asked Questions section was circumcision. Would someone please tell me why lopping off excess skin on a penis has anything to do with one's spiritual life? I don't have strong feelings about circumcision, for the record. Oh, yes, the Orthodox Church didn't object to circumcision for hygienic reasons but didn't think that Christians were obligated to follow the old testament rules on this procedure. Another main topic on the site was the explanation of fasting seasons and days. Hmm.

Anyway, if you are interested in reading more about the topic of the gospels, there are some wonderful books by Elaine Pagels, a professor at Princeton, who is, I believe, a Christian. I love to read about historical Christianity. It may surprise you, Loyal Ones, but it used to be one of my favorite topics. That one man could walk the Earth over 2000 years ago for less than four decades and get but three mentions (three small mentions) by the historian of the times (Josephus) and yet completely change the belief systems of the entire world is fascinating to me.

But, whether he was "The Son of God" or simply a man who was enlightened beyond our normal human experience, I think that he would be mortified at some of the hateful things that have been done in his name.

I think also that if Jesus could have seen the future, he would have hired a good agent and publicist to ensure that his message was delivered with some class and taste. There are some horrific examples out there of the opposite. To wit:

Jesus felt my pain? How does this driver know?

Must we cheapen one of the most influential spiritual leaders man has known with Racing Flags?

Sounds like a Yippee! thing to me. He suffered, but the hell with him, what's in it for me? Where's the tact, people? Yes, perhaps we should be happy about this, but it is a little insensitive to proclaim it in this fashion, if you ask me. (And, of course you do.)

LOVE this one. As if people cannot help but murder one another if the bible isn't taught in our schools. Puhlease.

In closing this post, I offer one of my favorite bumper stickers of all time. I think it says it all and that Jesus's marketing guys would have gotten his enthusiastic approval on it. It really does point out how misguided the God on Our Side stuff is.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

The Happy Couple

Dear Loyal Readers, I bring tidings of great joy.  Our daughter Katelyn and Philip Shipper, her long time boyfriend and fiance of two weeks, eloped a couple of weekends ago in that wonder of all cities, Las Vegas.

Here they are looking stunning and happy.

More later on this big news.

Join me, Loyal Readers, in wishing them a Happy Ever After.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Is it just me...

...or has Lance Armstrong become totally annoying? The photo here is old news, taken ages ago - last December. Now, he is linked romantically to Kate Hudson. The last good thing that happened to him was whatshername, the singer...the one he was engaged to. Lucky for her they broke it off.

Grow up, Lance. You have kids for goodness sake.

And, now he's hawking some bogus energy boosting vitamin hooey. I've worked with that industry before so I know how much bull they can sling around in their health claims.

As if he doesn't already have enough money! What's next? Lance Armstrong erectile dysfunction pills?

I know that he has done lots of "Live Strong" good, but he really annoys me.

There. That's off my smaller than average chest.

I think that I might be cranky, again Loyal Readers. No, no. Not from constipation. (Happily, that problem has passed, so to speak.) I am cranky because I keep injuring myself in the kitchen. The weird part is that it isn't like me to have all these kitchen mishaps. I am starting to get a little nervous in my kitchen, if you must know the truth.

Today, for instance, I was grating cheese - carefully, I might add - and one of the small pointer grater points jumped right out and stabbed me in the palm, where my skin is already very sensitive and dry. Ouch. Then - and this is the big one that hurts A LOT - I burned my right palm this evening while making - God only knows why - strawberry jam. I was putting an empty jar into the almost boiling water bath (using my safe little jar gripper thingy) and I did it too fast. The jar filled rapidly with water and a big splash came flying out right onto my palm. By the time I had gotten over to the sink, blisters had formed AND broken. It was sort of amazing. They have reformed now.

You will be glad to know that I finished the jam using a combination of an ice filled plastic glove and a bowl of ice water. The one enjoyable thing about a second degree burn is the relief you feel when you put ice on it. AAHHHHH. Nice. A small third degree burn is preferable since you feel nothing. One can't be too picky when it comes to burns.

So, the jam is finished - I made up the recipe, by the way. I added some cranberries and cherries to up the pectin (strawberries have very little) so that I wouldn't have to add commercial pectin. I don't know why but I have something against that. Weird, but true.

The jam jelled nicely and it has a beautiful color. It is a bit sweet, but still nice. Organic strawberries were on sale at Bloomingfoods for 99 cents per pound so I felt compelled. Next time, I will keep on walkin'. Tomorrow I have to jar up two crocks of kraut that have been fermenting in the basement. After that, I think I'm done for awhile. Let's face it. It is just too dangerous.

Jack has been sick this week with a cold. He goes to camp - insists on going and seems well enough in the AM - but by late afternoon, he is down for the count. Poor little guy. It has been so long since he had any kind of cold that I forgot how they hang on for him. I hope he turns the corner tomorrow.

In other news, I finished a new book called The Opposite of Love by Julie Buxbaum. I read a piece by her in the New York Times that interested me. I wrote to her and she wrote back to me, so I thought the least I could do is buy her first book. It is pretty good, actually. A relatively fast read, a bit overwritten in parts for my taste, but a good solid novel.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Tea Pickle Update (Yes, can skip this)

Because Steph specifically asked me to report on this, I offer this post in her honor.

Today, I decided that my Tea Pickles were done fermenting and ready for the fridge. The recipe instructed me to boil the strained brine, discard the solid seasonings (garlic, tea leaves, pepper corns) and to rinse the pickles. Following that, the boiled strained brine is poured over the rinsed pickles that have been packed into clean jars with fresh garlic and pepper corns. I was a bit iffy about these pickles, based on the appearance of the brine while they were fermenting (dreadful looking, but it smelled good).

I am delighted, nay, ecstatic to report that the pickles are really special. At first bite, you think, hmm, a half-sour pickle. A moment later, you realize that there is no dill but instead an subtle smokey undertone that was wonderful. In fact, I think that I would double the tea next time to get more smokiness.

An wonderfully different pickle. I recommend it. If you are interested in the recipe, leave a comment.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Loved this Article, BUT...

...I am not going to show it to my husband for fear he will get ideas...

A Farming Life

Sunday, July 13, 2008

BloomingtonGirl's Prison of Pokemon, Pickling, Preserving and (not) Pooping

I always did like over done alliteration, Loyal Readers. But, let's not waste time talking about that. Let's jump right into my rant, shall we?
First of all, I am completely sick to #$%@-ing death of Pokemon. It is like our family has walked into some sort of alternate universe. The Universe of Pokemon. All Pokemon, All The Time. It wouldn't be so bad if Jack were not the only child at home. If he had siblings his own age, he might badger them into participating in his stupid Pokemon "battles". Sadly he has no siblings at home. Play dates can stand in for real siblings of course, but when Jack has no play date, I have to be his Pokemon opponent.

I cannot tell you how incredibly BORING and STUPID it all is. Lest you think that I am a completely unfeeling mother, I want to state for the record that there is a part of me that really does understand that these young years go by quickly and that someday I will wish that my child wanted to spend time with me to do anything at all and so I should cherish these little Pokemon battles...blahblahblah. Yes, there is that part of me. But, the larger part of me is of another mind entirely. Behind glazed over eyes during the seemingly endless and completely meaningless Pokemon battles, that larger part is wondering how soon Chris and I can send our kid to boarding school and not look like awful parents. Oh, and not screw our kid up too badly. Don't get me wrong, I do love my child deeply. But, Pokemon is slowly sucking my brain out.

Now, it wouldn't be so bad if my other major compulsory activity were something that didn't maim my fingertips on an almost daily basis. Yesterday, I lopped off a piece of my index finger. So, now I have matching mutilated digits to show for all my cabbage cutting. This time, the injury was from a food processor blade I was employing to shred up some cabbage for coleslaw, apparently my husband's new FAVORITE food. Who knew? I have never once seen him so passionate about any one thing in all the time I have known him. I cannot count how many times a day he says, " I really like coleslaw" lately. I like it, too, but come on, people. It's getting a bit ridiculous.

At least I didn't have to go into the clinic for the index finger injury. I knew I was up to date on my Tetanus shots after all.

This weekend, I have made coleslaw, pickled red cabbage (canned no less) and Japanese salted cucumber pickles. Oh, yes, and I started a batch of homemade yogurt earlier this evening. It should be done incubating by the time I go to bed. If not, my husband can get up from his sleep to transfer the stuff to the fridge. After all, it was his idea to do all this home fermentation.

Yes, your BloomingtonGirl is cranky. And, I'll tell you why, if you can promise to be discreet with this somewhat embarrassing information. No, I am not having the dreaded PMS. I am, quite honestly, CONSTIPATED! That is the injustice in this situation! All this cabbage and pro-biotic crap and I'm not regular!!! How can this be? I am consuming large quantities daily of sauerkraut and coleslaw and half-sour pickles and all I have to show for it is some stinky gas. Some very stinky gas, if I may say so.

Someone wise once said (and it may be my favorite saying of all time) that "There is nothing so overrated as great sex and underrated as a great dump."

Don't misunderstand, Loyal Ones. I am not saying that great sex is not great. It is. Even mediocre sex (not that I ever have mediocre sex, of course) is pretty darned good. But let's face it. While people might often go on and on about how great sex is, you would be hard pressed to get someone at a cocktail party to exclaim, "Wow, I had a GREAT dump today! It was absolutely heaven!" And, let's be honest. Who doesn't feel like a million bucks after a great poop? I would feel like two million if I could have one of those underrated poops right now. Not one million. TWO.

That's enough of that. I am off to put Jack to bed (!!!) and hunker down with Lady Chatterley. I am almost done with it and have to say that I think it to be a rather weak novel. I will finish it however.

Maybe in the bathroom if I'm lucky.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Just In Case...

you aren't one of the millions of people who have already seen this video, I am providing the link:


I cannot watch this without getting choked up for some reason. It just makes me so happy. If you want to know more about this project, you can go to the guy's website.

Where the Hell is Matt?

Hope you enjoy it!

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Go Colts?

It is a shame, Loyal Readers, that it is not football season. (It isn't, right?) I would be able to root for the Colts in high style.

Underneath this large and colorful bandage is a thumb with a little piece missing at its end. This morning, I was (what else?) making sauerkraut (Russian Soured Cabbage specifically). I guess in the spirit of the recipe, I was "rushin'" when using the antique contraption my parents dug out of their garage (at my request) to shred the cabbage. My safety conscious husband warned me the other day that I might cut my finger when I was making (another!) batch of our beloved kraut. I was just happy he wasn't here to say something insightful such as "Why did you do that?" or "Were you being careful?" or the dreaded, "I told you this was going to happen." I didn't even call him at work to tell him about it because I didn't want to hear it.

Even though I was wounded, I finished making the kraut. I asked myself, What Would My Mother or My Mother-In-Law Do in, wrapped my bleeding hand up and drove to the doc in a box to get bandaged up properly and to get a Tetanus shot. I considered posting pictures of the piece of my thumb that is no longer attached to me, but thought it would be in bad taste. And, lately, taste is what I am all about, no?

Below are a few pictures to go along with this post. First, is the Russian Soured Cabbage in the crock just before adding in the brine. Isn't it lovely? Second, is a picture of the dreaded cabbage cutting contraption. What you can't see in the picture is that there are three separate blades on the thing. The third picture is simply dessert. A delicious picture of my delicious little guy.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

A Late Night Update

This will be brief, Loyal Readers, because I have had a very very very long day. This morning, I drove out to the middle-of-nowhere, or Clay City, to go to the famous Clay City Pottery to purchase ceramic crocks (or "jars" in parlance). It was a rural drive with scenic views. I now know that Jesus loves me because there were two bill boards en route that told me so. When I saw the first sign, I had some doubt as to how the sign maker knew that Jesus loved me in particular but when I saw the second, I took it as a sign, so to speak. In addition, I learned what the letters of the word BIBLE stand for. Basic Information Before Leaving Earth. Who knew?

After spending about twenty minutes in the run down little shop that is Clay City Pottery, I left with five large crocks, one small crock, one pie plate and a slight cough from all the airborne clay dust in the place. The price was very reasonable because the crocks were all seconds. They are plenty good enough for brining, though.

My afternoon was filled with many tasks and errands, some a bit odious if I may be honest. One bright spot, however, was checking on my Smoky Tea Pickles. The brine smells so incredibly GOOD! I can't describe the aroma and do it real justice. But, I will say that it is an interesting mix of smoky and spicy and garlic notes. If the pickles taste half as good as the brine smells, we will have a hit.

I am off now to continue to read Lady Chatterley's Lover. An interesting tale. Not one of my favorite books but worth a read.

Oh, I almost forgot to mention that we got our new yogurt maker today. Before you know it, this house will be one big fermenting vessel.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Sparklers & More Pickles

Happy July 5th, Loyal Ones. I thought I would post a couple of pictures of Jack enjoying some sparklers on our patio yesterday evening. It gets dark here so late, that we didn't bother to wait for it. Sparklers nowadays are pretty cheap, if you don't mind me saying. I remember them as burning for much longer and being much brighter and just plain better than the ones that Jack had last night. He didn't seem to mind, though. Plus, since we bought them yesterday they were something like "Buy One Get Ten Free!" so we had a ton of them. The smell of them is the same, though. Brings me right back to Pig Tail Alley in Herkimer, NY. Yep, that's what the locals called the street on which I grew up.

In other exciting news, I started a new batch of what promise to be, if nothing else, interesting pickles. They are called "Robert's Tea Pickles". I have no idea who Robert is, but apparently he likes the taste of smoky tea in his pickles. Here is a picture of them (along with my still STUNNING Hydrangea stems and the half-sours that are on day six of their own fermentation.

The tea used in the pickle brine is Lapsang Souchong. I had heard of it but had never tasted or smelled it. It smells like a smoke house, one that I don't feel much like drinking in a tea.

I'll keep you posted on my progress because I know my Loyal Readers want to be IN THE KNOW.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

An Article

Good Morning Loyal Readers. Thought I would share this with you.

Read This

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

King Kong

Loyal Ones, Jack and I are taking a little down time this afternoon and watching the original King Kong movie.  It is FABulous.  Jack really likes it so far and the star of the show has not yet appeared.  There are so many crack ups in the movie.  The cook on the ship is a "Chinaman" with the whole "me no like this" speech complete with the r's and l's mixed. His name, of course, is Charlie.  the clincher is that he is an African American wearing Foo Manchu style moustache.   It reminds me of some movie we saw years ago with Charlton Heston cast as a Mexican.  No matter that he was completely NOT Mexican and affected no accent.  It was okay because he had a stereotypical thin moustache.

Anyway, the movie is great fun and the plot thin enough that I can blog at the same time. Bonus.

Yesterday, we went to see Wall-E.  Wonderful and sweet.  I guess we are on a movie roll.  It's summer., what can I say?

DRAT.  Jack just lost interest in the movie.  He wants the "new and improved one.  They didn't even put color in this one!"

So much for the classics.

PIckle Update

Good Morning, Loyal Readers.  Because I know you have been wondering about my Half-Sours, I am posting a little update for you.  At left is the latest photo of my little babes, fermenting away.  I came up with the brilliant idea of placing Pizza Express cups on top of the plastic bags because they kept flopping one way or the other.  The cups stabilize the bags beautifully.  

Since this is my first ever batch of Half-Sours, I am not sure how they are coming along.  The pickle juice was somewhat clear yesterday with some brown cloudiness on the bottom.  Today, the cloudiness is throughout the jar with no brown tinge at all.  I am hoping that this is the way it should be.  My husband said that they are beginning to look like his grandmother's pickles.  Translation:  "Phew.  These pickles look right, honey."  (He was visibly relieved today after observing with concern the brown tinge yesterday. )

The smell of them remains wonderful, so I doubt anything untoward is going on in the jars.  Bubbles are starting to form as described in the recipe.   So far, so good.  (I think.)

Tomorrow they go into the fridge for a three day wait.  And then, the proof of the pickles will be in the tasting...