Thursday, May 30, 2013

surreal experiences.....part 1

but I'm guessing the only classroom that is offered in is "life". 
We recently needed to purchase a second car for the family.  
Nothing odd about that.  People buy cars all the time. 
What made this purchase surreal was the idea that the car we purchased last week could potentially be the car our oldest uses when he learns to drive....GULP.  How did THAT happen?

I choose to not think about that...for now....

I grew up on the east coast.  Severe weather was a blizzard in the winter or a hurricane in the summer. (Usualy only Category 1 or tropical storm strength by the time it got to us.)
 Both of these events can be predicted days in advance and leave plenty of time to stock up on toilet paper, bread, milk, coffee and yarn. Once prepared, it can be a nice "mini" vacation. 

I now live in Tornado Alley.  Here my spring is filled with anxiously scanning the skies for geenish colors and rotating clouds.  I have been known to stay awake into the wee hours of the morning watching the weather radar on the computer and listening for the warning sirens.   No relaxing preparation for these storms....  Nope.  Now it is a panicked stampede to the basement and a dive under the cushions with your bike helmets strapped to your heads.
Really hard to do while trying not to spill your coffee on your knitting....

Flooding where I grew up meant that the storm drains had backed up and there was standing water on the road outside the house.  Words like "sump pump" and "back-up battery" weren't even in my vocabulary.

Today I spent the morning listening to a local radio show spend a full HOUR on how to keep your basement dry in flood season.   I now know how to check for clogs in the drainage pipe, how many times an hour your pump should cycle, and how to tell if you need a bigger sump pump.  (HINT: If your furniture starts to might need a bigger sump pump....)    I caught myself wondering .."If the basement does flood, can we just install a diving board on the stairs and have an indoor pool?"   

I grew up a city girl.  Gardening meant trimming the handkerchief sized patch of grass in front of the house.   Maybe putting a potted plant on the porch steps.  Stocking up on food meant a 5 min walk to the store for a loaf of bread.  The local community college offered classes in computer programming

Now I find myself selecting seeds, choosing sunny vs shady spots in the backyard and wondering if this summer is going to do as much damage to my basil as last summer. 
 I own canning supplies....and know how to use them.....
"Stocking up"  means calling the local community college and ordering a side of beef from their Ag. program.....

I am not complaining.  Fresh air, fresh veggies, fresh beef...these are all good things.  (We can skip the fresh ink on new drivers licenses..... ) I'm just still trying to wrap my foggy brain around this very different existence that I now have.

So, if you see me wandering around outside with my bike helmet on mumbling about green skies, indoor swimming pools and needing to hide the car keys from my son, please do the following:
1) gently point me back towards my house
2) ask my children to check that the sump pump is working
3) remove the helmet from my head and the keys from my hands
4) plug in my coffee maker and get a fresh pot brewing

....'cause I must need a second cup to help me get caught up in this class on the surreal.....

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

just saying "No".

But I made up for it today!

No, you can not talk to me while I am working with sharp knives and boiling water.

No, you can not try to microwave/cook/toast anything for lunch today while I am in the kitchen.

No, I do not care about lawn mower gas leaks, ant hills in the garden, overdue library books or world peace today.

No, I do not know what you are having for dinner....if you're lucky it will be cereal.

No, I can not take you for a walk today :(

That one was hard.

Here is what I said "YES" to today...


and finally....

It may not set right, seal right, or taste right, but it is done!

'Cause I'm trying to catch up in the class on that.....

Monday, May 27, 2013

How to make strawberry-rhubarb jam....

It's not that I can't make jam....I have!  Several times!  Freezer AND canned varieties!
It's just that  there is a fatal flaw somewhere in my chaotic,unorganized carefully planned schedule.

So far, I am working on a record of seven days to make my most recent batch of jam...soon to be eight if this post takes me any longer.

The recipe goes something like this:

Day 1: Pick up fresh rhubarb from a friend's house.  Put rhubarb in the fridge and wonder where you left your canning supplies....

Day 2: Happily discover strawberries on sale for $.99/lb at the store.  Buy 12 pounds, eat 2 pounds, spend the rest of the day telling the kids to stay out of the strawberries so you can use them to make jam.  Try to remember if you have jelly jars in your canning supplies....

Day 3: Think to yourself..."I should really do something with those strawberries before they go bad or the kids eat them all..."  and "Did I buy extra pectin at the end of the canning season last year?"

Day 4: Concede that you are NOT going to get any canning done today.  Slice and freeze the 6 pounds of strawberries that are left.

Day 5: Remember where you left the canning equipment, but over schedule your day so you don't have time to unpack the canner, jars, or freezer jam supplies.

Day 6: Go to the store and buy pectin and lids for the jelly jars you are almost certain you have.  Realize that your wonderful husband is using this time to finish several home improvement projects that require things like power tools and the kitchen.....
Leave pectin and lids on the counter to remind yourself of your failure....

Day 7:  Determine that you ARE GOING TO MAKE JAM TODAY!  Announce it to your friends and family so they will not do anything silly like want to use the kitchen to eat...or drink....or socialize....
Then realize all the other things that must get done today....
such as...

unfreeze the strawberries

wash the canning supplies

walk the dog.....I mean, how can you say "no" to this face?

Chop the rhubarb, locate the recipe that you printed out last year and didn't get to try, find the extra pectin and lids you bought last year, but only pint jars instead of the jelly jars you were SURE you had....
Then leave it all on the counter to go to your retail job, wistfully dreaming about the sweetly sour tang of strawberry rhubarb jam on your morning toast.

Come home to clean jars, thawed strawberries, and a blog post burning in your caffeine deprived brain.

Blog your post (with pictures! ooohhh...ahhhhhh ), locate your recipe, and ready yourself for :

Maybe tomorrow I will have a picture of the jam ;)

...but maybe not...because it looks like I really missed the class on that!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

How to have a stress-free vacation.....
or maybe just a stress-free pre-vacation....

How else would you explain my  latest fiasco attempt at jetting away for some fun n' sun?
Maybe it had something to do with the following items that had to be crossed off my "To Do" list before we left....

My top priority was to find my summer clothes....and hope they still fit.....
It is just slightly stress inducing to know that somewhere in the dark recesses of you basement hides a plastic tote full of summer clothes that fit last summer's "Ihadtimetoruntwentymilesaweek" body.  It is even more stress inducing to know that you somehow have to make those packed away clothes fit this spring's "IhadNOtimetogototheYandIworebaggyclothesallwinter" body.  Grrrrr.......
We're not even going to mention  swim suits.....So. Not. Going. There.

Second on my list was to make sure that the house (or at least the kitchen, bathroom, and one bedroom) was clean enough for our house/dog sitter to not have to call the health department before agreeing to spend time in our home.

I then wanted to get as many hours in at work as possible, since I would be gone (and off payroll) for two weeks.  My brain kept calculating how much this vacation was costing me.....not a good prescription for relaxation.

Added to this was the fact that I had sub plans to get ready, a class to teach and some academic commitments for the kids that had to be finished up two weeks early. 

and I decided to apply for a job that better fit my skill sets and availability for the summer....
and apply for a different position with our educational group for next fall....
which meant I needed an updated resume and semi-intelligent sounding cover letters.....
which meant me spending time figuring out the extra features on the word processing program....
on the computer....
We all know how fun and relaxing THAT is for me......

Things were going well at about T-minus 4 days before take-off. 
The clothes had been located. (but not tried on....)
The kids had found and packed their own clothes. (you only need 3 pairs of underwear for a 2 week vacation...right????)
I had started my resume. (O.k. only had my name and contact info....but choosing the font type and size are crucial, time-consuming decisions!)
The bathroom sinks had been cleaned out, the lesson plans had been written, schoolwork had been started and all but 8 hours of scheduled time at work had been completed.
With four days left, I had plenty of time to finish the rest of my self-assigned tasks in a calm, relaxed manner.  

I returned home from work Saturday evening, spent about an hour talking with my husband, and went to bed.
I then proceeded to spend the next 24 hours wondering if I was going to even make it to the bathroom in time, let alone make a flight in 3 days. 
Just in case you were wondering the answer is: No.  Having the stomach flu and trying to keep the kitchen and bathroom "guest" clean are NOT compatible activities.

Also... No. Having the stomach flu and trying to work with computers and word processing programs are NOT mutually beneficial.

And make that a definite NO on having the stomach flu and working 8 hours of retail.
So. Not. Happening.
...having the stomach flu for two days and then trying on last summer's clothes???? Yes.  Those two activities can be combined.  

So I spent 36 hours on the couch, not cleaning, writing or packing. I got the basics done.  We got on the plane.  I could finish the typing and e-mailing of resumes on my husband's lap top while we were en route to our vacation destination.   I thought I could just sit and relax on the plane.  I thought I could catch a little nap in my seat.  I thought I would be able to get a chapter of my book read in relative calm and quiet.
I thought, maybe...just maybe... I can begin to unwind....
I thought wrong. 
The man in the seat behind me (father of a 3 year old) turns to the mother across the aisle (travelling with a 9 month old) and says,
"Hey!  Wanna see whose baby gets the loudest screamer award by the end of the flight?"
So. Not. Relaxed.
I must have been stressing about vacations when they announced the class on that.