Author Archives: Chrissy

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Mongolian Beef and Broccoli over Cauliflower Rice

Always on the lookout for new Whole 30 recipes, I stumbled on this gem from thehealthfoodie.com today. I am allowing myself to use soy sauce, cause my little grocery store would scoff at me if I asked for coconut aminos. I can see the little old lady with the perpetual scowl who works there shaking her head with a grimace if I would ask. I also didn’t use the honey, and I used regular old table salt, not that fancy high faluting Himalayan salt. It was delicious.

I think the best thing out of this recipe, though, is the cauliflower rice! Oh boy, I’ve heard people say it was good, but dude. That was good. I can make that for many side dishes, not just this one. DH doesn’t particularly like spaghetti squash, which I try to use as a replacement for pasta, but he liked this. I didn’t tell him what it was, though, so he may have thought it was something like couscous or something. *shrug* But the important thing is that he liked it.

Mongolian Beef and Broccoli over Cauliflower Rice
adapted from thehealthfoodie.com

Cauliflower Rice
1 small head cauliflower, zinged into rice-like pieces in the food processor
1 T lard
1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
1 T garlic
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
2 T sesame seeds
1 T red wine vinegar
1 T roasted sesame oil

Mongolian Beef and Broccoli
2 T lard
1 medium yellow onion, diced
½ cup soy sauce
2 T garlic
½ teaspoon ginger
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
pinch of salt and black pepper
1 T tapioca powder
1 pound sirloin steak, thinly sliced
½ bag frozen broccoli

First, make the cauliflower rice: Cut the cauliflower into small florets and place in the bowl of your food processor. Pulse a few quick times (about 10 to 15) until it resembles the texture of rice. You may have to do this in batches, because if you put too many in the bowl, the blade won’t touch the top pieces and the bottom ones will start to turn into mush.
Add the lard to a large skillet set over medium heat and cook the onion, garlic, sesame seeds, salt and pepper until fragrant, about 5 minutes.
Add riced cauliflower, vinegar and sesame oil and continue cooking for an additional 5-8 minutes, until cauliflower is cooked but remains a tad crunchy.
Remove from heat.

Now, make the Mongolian beef: Heat the lard in a large pan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook for 2 minutes.
Meanwhile, add the soy sauce, garlic, ginger, red pepper flakes, tapioca powder and a pinch of salt and pepper to a glass measuring cup and whisk until well combined.
Pour that mixture in the pan with the onions and let it come to a boil. Continuously whisk until the mixture is thickened, about 2 minutes.
Dump the steak slices in the pan with the sauce. Cover and simmer the meat in the sauce for 4-5 minutes, or until no red meat is apparent.
When the meat is almost done, add the broccoli. Cook until heated through.

Delish. It was very, very good. A little salty, because of the soy sauce, and so I may take out the extra salt next time, but not enough of a problem to wreck the dish. I was surprised that it wasn’t too hot, because of the red pepper flakes, but it wasn’t. The meat was fork tender and very nicely flavored. We had enough for DH, Boobock and I, and enough for a really nice healthy meal for lunch on Friday. Some additions I thought of after the fact: bean sprouts, large rings of onion, sweet or jalapeño peppers (?) with the meat, peas and carrots in the cauliflower rice (after the whole 30 is over).

Here it is, before devouring.
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Also, a hint on finding a lid for a cast iron skillet. Use an upside down cast iron griddle pan! Works like a charm.
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Thank you, thehealthfoodie.com for the inspiration!

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No-Sugar Pear Mostarda

Scroll scroll scrolling through facebook today, I found an article by Such and Such Farms, a blog by a couple in Missouri that are trying their hand at organic farming and providing specialized fruits/vegetables/meat to high end restaurants around St. Louis. I find that so many blogs are based on the coast, and our climate is just so different than theirs (i.e., we have drying winds and drought while they are concerned about drainage) so when I find a more middle of the country blog, I try to follow them.

She mentioned that she had cooked rabbit with a cherry mostarda on the side. Cherry mostarda? What is that? Never heard of it. So, I started looking.

Mostarda di frutta (sometime also called only mostarda) is an Italian condiment made of candied fruit and a mustard-flavoured syrup. Well, candied fruit is out, and so is any kind of syrup, cause I’m back on the Whole 30 diet, yo. But I do have a cabinet full of pears canned in water with no sugar. Surely I can find a use for those.

Googling around found me a couple recipes that had varying amounts of sugar, a few with sherry, a few with Apple Cider Vinegar, a few with bay leaves, other spices, some say to blend it up into a creamy condiment, some say eat the fruit in big chunks. I decided that I could try without the sugar, and ACV, and simple spices. Here is my version:

No-Sugar Pear Mostarda
1 pint Pears
1 tsp ground yellow mustard
1 tsp brown mustard seed
2 T apple cider vinegar
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper

Dump entire contents of pint into a sauce pan. Add both mustards, salt, pepper and vinegar. Simmer 20 minutes or so. I used a pastry cutter to cut it up into small chunks, but not a creamy consistency.
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OMG. I love it. I am eating it with a spoon. It will be great on the steaks coming off the grill in about 20 minutes. But a spoon is fine as well. No added sugar, but it is perfect for my taste buds. It was a shock to DH, but I think he is coming around. Oh well, if he doesn’t end up liking it, more for me!

I am thinking this could be canned in a water bath canner. Some extra spices, but 2T ACV to acidify it even more than the fruit itself does. Oh yeah, baby, I know where all the pears are going from now on. I did 14 quarts and 2 pints of pears this year…hope that is enough since I’ve found this recipe!

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What to do with venison

DH and I like to go out deer hunting, but before we met, I hadn’t ever been before. So, it has been a definite learning process, any my penchant for being impatient and wanting to rush everything is not helpful for hunting. I love being out there with him, though, and I am slowly getting better

In the years past, my approach to deer hunting has been “throw some lead out there and see if something will hit something.” I know that isn’t the right way to hunt, but that is how I have been doing it. I don’t know how I do it, but somehow I have been shooting the legs off the deer. One year I hit the front right leg, it bounded off, and then one more shot blew out the two back knees. That brought it down, and we had to cut the throat to kill it. Not the best meat that way…the adrenalin/blood still being pumped through the meat make it taste bad.

This year, DH took me dove hunting; my first time. At first I was doing it like I had before, boom boom boom, hoping something might hit something. We went a few times, and I calmed down, got more patient, and was able to start taking them down cleanly.

So, this year, when we went deer hunting, on the way out, I told DH that that is how I wanted to do it. Ignore my buck fever, don’t just throw lead out there, be calm, take a good shot, don’t jerk the gun, and make a clean kill. We went to one pasture, drove to one side of the pasture and determined that the wind was from the wrong direction to start hunting there, so we drove to the other side. We got out, I looked up, and a buck was looking at me about 100 yards away, broadside. I said “should I shoot it?” DH said it was awful small, but I wanted to shoot it. Actually, I thought I would miss, but I wanted to take the shot. Calm, aim, squeeze. He took a few steps and we lost him over the little hill. The doe that was beside him also went down that little hill, and ran down, across the ravine, and back up the other side. I thought I had missed and was very disappointed. DH said, no, let’s go look. Walked over the little hill, and he was down, two steps away from where I shot it.

The rack was pretty small, but the body was good sized. And more importantly, I shot it in the chest and by the time we got to it, it was pretty much out, and when we drug it to the pickup, he was dead. A good clean kill. Exactly how I wanted this year’s hunt to go, so for me, it was a successful hunt.
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I know, I know. What a small rack that deer has! But the body is big, and the hunt was successful.

I felt bad. DH didn’t even have time to do anything. The hunt was over like 30 seconds after getting to the pasture. At least we have another season starting in January, though it is doe only.

We started to dress it, and I do my own cleaning, except DH likes to break the pelvis with the ax for me. He also give me pointers and helps hold things aside if I need it, but I wield the knife. This shows that the bullet went in to the chest. A perfect shot! :)
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We field dressed it using the bale bed (seriously, is there anything they can’t do?), and then took it to his parents’ house to hang for a few days, after rinsing with cold water first.
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I wanted to go help with the butchering, but I was working and DH had a free afternoon, so he took Boobock with him. With his Dad’s help, they got it done in a few hours, before I could get off work. They used 2 15 quart totes to put the meat in and froze it in his parents’ freezer, as both of ours are full of pork and beef.

In previous years, we have had someone else butcher it for us and turn it into summer sausage and jerky, but honestly, that was expensive and we still have some in the freezer from last year and the year before. We have also tried to grill steaks before, but it turned out very tough. That was before we got this screaming deal on a $300 grill for $80 on the local buy/sell/trade website, but still, I have never really had any deer that tasted awesome. We tried using salt to make it more tender, but we used way to much and it just tasted like a salt lick.

Do-do-do-do! Jackie Clay to the rescue. In her “Growing and Canning Your Own Food” book, she says to can it just like beef or any other meat, and it will taste wonderful.

This is my first year to can any meat at all. I started with some chicken legs/thighs that were on sale for $.88 a pound. I put 4 packages of that in the big roasting pan I borrowed from my mom, filled half way with water, and cooked at 350 for a few hours until the chicken was falling from the bone. Using Erica Strauss’s hint she uses for peeling tomatoes, I used a pair of kitchen gloves to protect my hands from the hot meat, and I separated it all from the bone. I washed up some pint jars, added 1/2 tsp salt to the bottom of the jar, filled with chicken, used the broth that was made when I cooked the chicken, only to within 1″ of the top, mind, and pressure canned for 75 minutes (would be 90 minutes for quarts).

DH loved it. Loved it! He would use it for chicken noodle soup, crack one open and eat from the jar, and I started using it for chicken pot pie, and we both loved that.

Next I tried some sirloin. We got a steer butchered and we always have trouble with the sirloins coming out dry and tasteless on the grill. Again, before the $80 steal of a grill, but still, other cuts were better for grilling, we found. So I took 5 of them, thawed, cut into 1″ or smaller pieces, browned them in an electric skillet but not cooked all the way through, hot packed into clean pint jars, made a thin broth out of the leavings, added 1/2 tsp salt to each jar, and then filled with the broth, up to 1″ of the top. Pressure canned for 75 minutes (would be 90 minutes for quarts).

Again, out of this world. DH would just eat it like soup, heating it in the microwave first. I actually made soup with it with onions/carrots/celery/garlic, and it was divine. And again, beef pot pie, using 2 jars each time, and making 2 pies, one for that night and one for later. Yummo!

Hey, that looks like a pattern! Salt plus browned meat into jars makes a very tender, very good meal.

So, that is what I did with the venison. I had DH’s mom take the deer out on the two days ago and put it in her fridge, as she had room, and thaw it, and I worked on it yesterday. The one difference I was afraid of was that deer have more tendons and something called “silver skin” that coats some of the muscle, and I know that you have to get rid of that in order to have good meat. Good thing DH just got me a new set of knives for Christmas! I just took my time, peeled that silver skin off everything, and chunked into 3/4″ or so pieces. Anything that looked questionable got tossed.
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We decided to brown it like we did the sirloin. You can raw pack it, but Jackie says it looks better in the jar if you brown it first, so we listened to her and browned it. Didn’t cook all the way through, just browned the outside, using lard so it wouldn’t stick to the bottom.
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DH even got in on the act.
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We decided to do quarts this time, so we used 1 tsp salt, added the meat, filled with boiling water/broth, and canned. Quarts = 90 minutes of processing.

They all sealed, so we got 7 quarts of meat all ready to make…venison pot pie! DH couldn’t stand waiting anymore, so he cracked one open today just to taste. It is amazing. The best tasting venison I’ve ever had, and tender. Definitely the way we are going to process the other tote, and if we do get another deer during the late season, we’ll do it to that one too!
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Slowly learning to knit

As I’ve said before, my maternal Grandma taught me how to knit in the loosest sense of the word when I was 10 or so. I think it was probably because I was a hyper child and I gave her a headache by jumping around so much, and she wanted me to sit still for one fricken minute already. I now understand, Grandma.

Anyway, she would cast on, and she showed me how to knit and how to increase and decrease. I remember one project where she cast on 2 or so stitches, then I increased each row until it was a nice washcloth size diagonally, then decreased each row to get back to 2. My mom helped me tie that one off. The hard part about this was that she lived 3 hours away, so I couldn’t really get any good advice from her on how to do things. But, I am a good knitter.

Knitter, I said. I couldn’t purl, I couldn’t cast on, and I couldn’t tie off. I think that washcloth was the only thing I made. When we went to visit her, she actually had a knitting machine, where you loaded the yarn and you ran some kind of shuttle back and forth, and you could just whip out the projects. Every time you ran the shuttle across another row was created. Beat the heck out of knitting by hand, but you couldn’t do anything fancy with it. And so ended my childhood introduction to knitting.

Probably 10 or so years ago, I bought some purple yarn and a book called 10-20-30 Minutes to Learn to Knit. At the time, I tried, couldn’t figure the purl part out, and so I quit. The yarn and the book sat in my project basket for a while, and I decided to bust it out this year.

My first project was another washcloth. Hey, something nice and square and something we can use. Sounds good. It turned out…like a first time project. The sides were funky because I didn’t keep the tension right, though. I did 4 rows of knitting, then 4 rows of purling, repeating this over and over again, except I switched that up once and only did 3 rows, so the pattern is off, but for a first project, not awful.
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So, the next project was for Boobock. I wanted to jump right in and do something more than a washcloth, so I decided on a hat. The 10-20-30 minutes to Learn to Knit book had a 16″ small hat, which is a bit big for his head, but the baby hat was too small and I didn’t know how to adapt anything, so 16″ hat it is. I only had size 10 needles, so size 10 needles it is. I picked up two skeins of the same yarn at Alco, which is closing, so boo for that, but these were on clearance, so yay for that. The color was Painted Desert, which was one of those ones that changed colors, so I figured if anything messed up, maybe the random pattern would catch your eye instead of the mistake. Good plan, as it turned out.

The pattern called for different colors of yarn to make a stripe, but I didn’t do that. I did use the pattern as if I did change colors, though, and the pattern turned out pretty cool.

16″ (small) hat
adapted from 10-20-30 Minutes to Learn to Knit

Cast on 96 rows
Rows 1-5 K1, P1 across
(change to your second color if applicable)
Row 6 Knit across
Row 7 K1, P1 across
(change to your third color if applicable)
Row 8 Knit across
Row 9 K1, P1 across
(change to your second color if applicable)
Row 10 Knit across
Row 11 K1, P1 across
(change to your original color if applicable)
Row 12 Knit across
Row 13 K1, P1 across

K1, P1 across until 8″ from cast on edge. – this should be extended for bigger head. There isn’t much room to roll the cuffs up as I like to do for extra warmth on the ears.

Row 1 K1, P1, (K3 tog, P1) across to last 2 sts, K1, P1 = 50 sts
Rows 2-6 K1, P1 across
Row 7 K1, K2 tog across to last st, P1 = 26 sts
Row 8 P2 tog across (13 sts)

Cast off

I had some trouble at the beginning adding a stitch on every row, so I would have to decrease each row. This messed up the pattern at the bottom, but I eventually got that straightened out. I left the mistakes at the bottom, cause this is a 3 year old’s hat, and if someone complains, I just don’t want to hear it. The 8″ went fairly well and fast, and then I started doing the decreases. I thought that was going swimmingly, but I dropped a stitch at some point, and I stretched the fabric and it went zipping down a few inches. I don’t really know how to fix that, so I just kind of weaved it up and to the top and called it good. On the back side it looks awful, but from the front you can’t even tell.

This gave me a sort of flat piece of knitting that needed to be sewed together. I looked up how to sew it together using a crochet hook, cause I don’t have a blunt needle to use, and it worked out just fine. It was really like casting off, so that was familiar.

Boobock modeling in front of the Christmas tree. He wanted to do funky things like pull it down on his face or cock it half on one ear and over the top of his head, and I finally got this shot. Silly boy.
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More of a side view.
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Acceptable for a 2nd project. And something useful. I’m good with this. Now, on to mittens!

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Christmas ornaments out of used canning jar lids

We got a letter in Boobock’s book bag after his 3 year old preschool class last week, saying they were having a Christmas party this Friday and we could bring treats if we would like. Panic panic! I’m not crafty, and I don’t make cookies particularly well either.

But, this threw me back to my grade school days. The mother of one of the boys in my class used to make each one of us a ceramic ornament, with our name on it, the name of the school, and the grade. I have to admit, as a kid, I wasn’t exactly super excited about it, but you know what? Each of those ornaments is still up on my parents’ tree. And I remember her and her kindness now, 30+ years later, and I don’t remember who brought cookies.

Well, I don’t have a kiln. But…I do have used canning jar lids. And so I hatched a plan.

There are 10 kids in the class, including Boobock, so I needed 20 wide mouth lids. And that was no problem at all to grab out of the used canning jar lid drawer. After that, I would need about 10 feet of tinsel, a hot glue gun and something to decorate both sides of the lids.

I picked out lids that didn’t have any rust, or at least I could rub off quickly. I also checked the edges for any dents or protrusions and used a pair of pliers to straighten that out, so the edge was smooth and not any danger to tiny fingers.

I knew the hot glue would cool quickly, so I measured and cut the tinsel so that the center of the tinsel was right on the edge of the ring. Half of the tinsel was outside the ring and half was laying on the lid. Assembly line this so that you get them all the same length and it goes quicker.

Then, I put a canning lid down on the table with the white side up (the underside of the lid) and put a ring of hot glue on it. I kept it on the white part, not on the rubber part. Then I shaped the tinsel into a circle and laid it down on the lid, pushing hard. I put hot glue on the underside of another lid, and this time also in the middle. I then squished the two lids together, to make a tinsel sandwich.

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I didn’t do such a good job of centering things here, but this tinsel was such that I could trim it up and make it look nice.

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Time to put the hanger on. Simply some ribbon cut to length and glued on.
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Next, I measured the inside of the lid. I wanted the silver outside to show, but wanted to decorate the middle. It was 2 5/8″ so I used powerpoint to create a circle that big and chose what to put as the decoration. I used the school logo for one side and the class name, year and name of the child for the other. I printed these on cardstock and cut them out, making sure to cut the black line of the circle off as well.
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Then, more glue. I made sure to keep well away from the indention on the lid so the glue wouldn’t squish out. Pressed down hard, and voilà:
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And the other side:
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A fun project that Boobock got to help with (a little. He “helped” by cutting paper while I cut the circles out, and he guided the glue gun while I pressed the trigger.) And though the kids might not appreciate it this year at 3 years old, they may when they are 30.

(Also: heehee on the lens flare. It would be right at home on the rebooted Enterprise.)

Fighting the winter doldrums

Leave the house before the sun peaks up to the horizon, work inside all day, come out after work to twilight. Ugh. Winter doldrums are here. I just feel…blah. I decided to go off my diet for Nov/Dec for some reason, because I was stuck and not losing any weight and discouraged, and so, I have gained. Blah. The house is a disaster and I only seem to be able to fight up the urge clean (slightly, ever so slightly…like laundry and dishes; forget washing the floor, let alone dusting) on the weekends. Blah. I just feel blah during the week and I drive home, come inside, eat supper and watch tv or play around on the internet.

Over Thanksgiving weekend, it was nice outside and sunny. I was able to work in the garden, raking up old straw and putting some in the chicken run, and burning the rest (2 sections down, 4 to go). Ah, to be outside, without a coat even, was glorious. I also helped DH put some electric fence out, but instead of a full day of that, he had a cow calving that didn’t get done until after dinner, so we just built fence for a few hours. And then the next weekend, we were able to go deer hunting Saturday, and just being out there with DH was so nice. I mean, I’m glad I got a deer, but that was just a bonus. Being together doing something fun like that outside and not just sitting around watching TV was great.

But seriously, since the time change, that is about all the time I have had outside. I am going stir crazy. Instead of internet/TV, I have started to learn how to knit. It is going…ok. Kind of sloppy on my first project, but I have successfully made a not-quite-square washcloth :) I’m now trying to knit a hat for Boobock, and it is a simple pattern of K1-P1, but somehow I keep adding a stitch. I have to keep counting, then if it is off, the next row I knit two together to get me back to the correct number of stitches. It is making the pattern wonky, but hey, its my first real project and he is 3, so I doubt his peer group will make fun of him for a knitting stitch out of place.

My grandma taught me how to knit when I was in grade school, but she always cast on for me, didn’t teach me to purl, and didn’t teach me to tink (knit backwards) or how to fix mistakes, so I’ve really been trying to learn all that. I can knit like a whirling dervish, but purling is much slower, and that extra stitch is just annoying, and annoyingly consistent. Like, one extra stitch every row.

It is time to do something about this blah winter doldrums thing. I get these urges to just DO SOMETHING sometimes. I know if I wait just a bit and the feeling grows, I’ll stick to it longer term. If I get a wild hair and start immediately, I’ll do it for a day or two only, but if I wait, and the feeling grows stronger, I will last months. So…waiting for Jan 1. I’m a big one for New Year’s Resolutions, starting diets on Mondays or the 1st of the month, etc. So, I know that Jan 1 is like my big chance.

Of course, diet and exercise are first on the list. Like half the rest of the civilized world, I know it isn’t inspired, but it is needed. I’m going to restart the HIIT workout I did last year, and try to get so that I can do all 5 workouts (each workout twice) at one time. Last year, I started with the warmup and workout 1 (x2) and then an ab workout, and did that 3 times a week for 4 weeks, then did warmup, wo1, wo2, wo1, wo2, ab workout 3 times a week for 4 weeks, etc. I got up to doing wo1, wo2 and wo3 x2 and was ready to go up to the next step, but then Christmas came and I stopped. I decided to take January off…and then our lives went to hell and I never got back into it. I hurt myself in July by finding a hole with my bad ankle, trying to catch myself and hurting my bad knee and it has never felt right since then. It still hurts every day, all day. If I am sitting it doesn’t hurt, but if I stand, even, it hurts, let alone walk or run. I am hoping that the squats and lunges will be tolerated, because if I can’t do those, I am at a serious loss at what to do.

The best part about that workout is that I only need like 5′x5′ to do it in, so I can do it in the kitchen, or in the living room, and I don’t need any equipment…except for the resistance bands, which my God-child got for me last year for Christmas I don’t have to go to a gym, Boobock can do it with me if he wants, and I can even do it over lunch on my T-Th days at home if I want. And, as I start very slow and add on after 3-4 weeks, it is constantly challenging.

Third goal is doing my chores every day with no exceptions. I have a good schedule, I just need to do it every day. If I do every chore every day without fail, the house looks aaaaawwwwweeeeesome. And it isn’t hard, just a commitment. But really, once I get the house clean and do every chore every day, sometimes it only takes like 10 minutes to do that day’s chores.

Only a few more weeks until Winter Solstice, which I definitely don’t celebrate or anything, but that day means the days will start getting longer again at least. A few more weeks until I can glimpse a light at the end of the tunnel.

Jackie Clay’s Amish coleslaw

I discovered Backwoods Home Magazine about a year or so ago, and especially love reading Jackie Clay’s blog and q and a sessions. She is a wonder woman in my book. Work work work work work, she does it. Mostly, I read her garden information, and DH got me her canning book Growing and Canning Your Own Food last year for Christmas and her Pantry Cookbook for my birthday. (I approved the double gift for both…Christmas babies have a strange relationship with Christmas…) She cans everything! It is amazing. I can’t imagine how much time she is spending just putting up food. I like how in her book she says things like “you can can cabbage, but lots of people don’t like it. I rinse it and it tastes just fine.” Not many people put recipes in their cookbooks that will possibly taste bad to the reader.

I especially like that in the second book, the Pantry Cookbook, she says how to use some of the things you put up in the first book to actually make food. So many people make 35 jars of jelly and nothing else. I don’t know about you, but we go through 1, maybe 2, jars of jelly a year. If I am going to spend my afternoons and weekends sweating over a steaming pot of water, it better make my life easier in the long run. The Pantry Cookbook gives you some great ideas.

One thing she says you can can, but that it isn’t deemed “safe” by the Arbitrators of Canning Truth is something she calls Amish Cole Slaw.

I love the Amish canned coleslaw, BUT it is NOT an approved recipe. (It is basically pickled sweet cabbage, so I’m not too worried. I can’t tell you to try it, only that generations of Amish have used it and so have I for a few years now.) Here’s the recipe:

1½ cups vinegar
2 cups sugar
½ tsp. celery seed
½ tsp. mustard seed
2 tsp. salt
1 large head cabbage
1 cup diced celery
½ cup diced onions
2 cups shredded carrots

Mix vinegar, sugar, and seasonings. Mix with vegetables. Stir very well. Pack into sterile jars and process in a water bath canner for 10 minutes. (If you live at an altitude above 1,000 feet, consult your canning book for directions on increasing your processing time to suit your altitude.) — Jackie

I leave the sugar out, so it is really just pickled cabbage/celery/onions/carrots. Full strength vinegar with vegetables? Yeah, I’m ok with canning that in a WBC. Last time, I just did cabbage and carrots with the spices. That worked too.

Without the sugar, it is really too tart to just eat by itself. When I want to eat it, I have been dumping in a colander, and rinsing. That leaves some of the pickled flavor, but it doesn’t turn your mouth inside out with the strength of the acid.

I’ve used the rinsed version as a base for spaghetti sauce with meat to help keep me on the diet du jour, or Manwich meat as topping too. I’ve also used it in any version of vegetable mess, putting it in last as it has already been cooked for 10 minutes when being canned. And, sometimes, I’ll sprinkle a little Splenda in it, stir, and just eat it like cole slaw. We just used the last can from last summer up about a week ago, so when I get 8 pint jars empty, I’ll need to chop some veggies up and make some more. Very versatile thing to have on hand.

I have some good news

No, I’m not pregnant.

But, that is what you immediately thought isn’t it? And now that I had to go and burst your bubble, you are a bit disappointed, aren’t you? And no matter what news I tell you now, it won’t hold up to that bit of excitement you had when you thought I was pregnant.

Never mind. I’m not telling you what the good news is. It will be anti-climactic and disappointing for you.

But just think what that little exchange did for me. You got to bring me down and remind me of my failures. Of the children I have lost. Of the months and months and months of charting and trying and dieting and crying. So, even if I was going to tell you “Good news! I just got a raise!” (I didn’t) or “Good news! I finally figured out how to get my chickens to stop eating their eggs!” (I haven’t) or “Good news! Boobock is finally sleeping through the night in his bed!” (he isn’t) I now get to think of my dead babies. And feel like I need to apologize to you for bringing the mood down.

Bravo. Bra-fucking-o.

I’ll try not to be so selfish next time.

cover photo

Nope, not ready yet

I was supposed to get a tattoo tomorrow. Some of my sisters want to get one, and so we scheduled it so we could all get them together. I don’t currently have one, and I never thought I would get one, as “I don’t like anything that much that I might not like it in the future.” But you know what I will never not like? My family. My husband, my three sons, though only one is with us.

After I miscarried in March, I was a wreck. For weeks, all I could do is cry. One night, staying up late, I found some inspiration in some tattoos. There were two especially that I liked, and I knew that my sister K could draw it for me.

I sent her facebook messages all night as I refined my thoughts, as she blissfully dreamed.

Here was the first I felt drawn to:
flowing image

I loved the flowing lines, and especially the top left and bottom middle. Just simple lines, not especially detailed, but I felt drawn to it. That was going to represent Boobock and I. I also asked her to add DH to that as well.

I then found this one:
heart - foot

I mean, that exact one is kind of crude, but I liked the foot on the heart. I liked the idea, but wanted the style to be like the top one. I would want two of these, one for each baby I lost. And to definitely show that there were two of them, both of the hearts needed to be right feet.

Then, we needed to think of if I have another baby, another like the top, or if I miscarry again, another like the bottom. That would be hard, though. A design that would look good as is, or adding one or the other.

And…no angel wings. People don’t become angels when they die. They hopefully become saints, but never angels. Angels are separate beings created by God, not dead people.

I thought of adding a phrase to this as well. It turned out that the image was so powerful that it didn’t need a phrase, but I still love what we came up with:
May God hold you in His arms until we gather as family.

I sent her all this late into the night, and then she started drawing. She sent me different pictures on her phone, and eventually came up with exactly what I wanted:
cover photo

I love it. I look at that and see DH and I holding Boobock in our arms. We are surrounded by love. Our two sons we never met are forever a part of our family, though we never got to hold them. We have room for more, if God so chooses to bless us (and if my body can get with the program), but we know that even if we can get pregnant, there are no guarantees. In our arms or surrounded by them, I am still their mom. And we are still family.

And when the final picture came through from my sister, I felt peace. Designing this and dealing with all the symbolism really and truly helped me cope with our latest tragedy. After she cleaned up the lines a bit and framed it, she gave it to me. Looking at it has calmed me over the past 6 months when I needed it most.

And so, tomorrow is the day. My sister A asked me if I was going, and I said yes and asked her for a bit more information, as to where and what time. As I was driving home, I started thinking about the picture and how I was going to explain to the tattoo artist exactly what everything meant, the symbolism that was so perfectly rendered by K, and I got a heavy feeling in my chest. A nagging feeling about…something. I tried to shrug it off, but over the years, I have made big mistakes when I ignore that feeling, so I decided to explore it. The feeling I had was “are you sure you are done?”

No! No, I don’t want to be done! I need to continue to feel hope that we can have another child. I am not ready to give up. I am not ready. I got this overwhelming feeling that if I tattoo that permanently on my body, that we are done. Even though we designed it to allow additions. Even though ink in your skin does not mean anything other than you had someone inject ink into your skin. No. I can’t let those fatalistic thoughts creep into my head.

And as my eyes started brimming with tears, I had to call someone. And so, I called my sister J, who had put this whole tattoo party together. I felt so badly. She is only 18. She doesn’t need to get unloaded on by her 36 year old sister about things she hopefully will not ever have to contemplate. I started telling her how I was feeling, and how I was so sorry for her going through all the trouble to get us all appointments and all, and I was backing out. I really started crying then. I mean bawling. About the symbolism of it all and trying to explain what I was feeling, and oh, I just felt awful.

But after making the decision, I felt peace. Peace that not getting it now is the right decision. That there may be time still and to not lose hope. And I still have the picture, framed and signed and made with love, and that is good enough for now.

Sickness and mourning and Ebola

What with the news of higher and higher numbers of Ebola suffers in Africa this year, and the high death count (I’ve seen as high as 71% of the people who contract Ebola in this current outbreak have died), naturally the question of “how far will this disease spread” is a common one. Usually, in the news I read, this also is accompanied by “will it spread to the United States?” and “will it become an epidemic in the United States?”

We are assured that it won’t come here, and we are further assured that our hygiene and medical system/burial practices can handle it even if it does come here, so we shouldn’t be worried.

Am I worried? No. There are many other things I need to worry about before I worry if anyone I know contracts Ebola. But it isn’t logical to take these assuaging statements as facts.

First, will it come here? Well, it already is here. 4 people have been flown into the country already with the disease. The first 3 were flown in with much fanfare in specialized airplanes, the first 2 to Emory University in Georgia, the third to the Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha Nebraska, (which by the way, he was released today: US Ebola Patient Released; Says He Feels Great

We haven’t heard much about the 4th patient, though. He walked into the hospital after getting a flight to a local Air Force base in Georgia, and is also being treated at Emory. New Ebola Patient Arrives in U.S. for Treatment They haven’t released his name, nor how bad the illness is for him.

Also, there is the fact that tens of thousands of “unaccompanied minors” – or you know, 35 year olds claiming they are minors, or anyone else who wants to, can cross our borders. What do they have? Scabies, tuberculosis, measles, Enterovirus 68? I know the first two are true. The fourth had a sharp uptick in America this year, where it hasn’t been common, though it is common in other parts of the world…a tidbit that was in the first article I saw about this virus, but not in any subsequent articles I saw. The fact that we don’t know who is coming across is a major health threat. What would stop someone with Ebola from driving down from Canada or walking up from Mexico? Or flying right in to the country? We don’t quarantine anyone anymore, and the virus has a 3 week incubation period.

Second, yes, I know there is a difference between 3rd world Africa and 1st world America when it comes to hygiene. We tend to shower and wash our hands much more frequently than those in Africa, and we do have flush toilets and not latrines. And as shown by the 4 that have been treated, we are reasonably sure that the virus hasn’t spread beyond them. But at Emory, they have had trouble dealing with the waste associated with treating this disease…gloves, hazmat suits, diarrhea and vomit and blood, etc. “CDC spokesman Tom Skinner said the agency isn’t aware of any packaging that is approved for handling Ebola waste.” And this at the premier hospital for treating Ebola victims! What happens at the podunk hospitals I am surrounded by?

And before the person is sick enough to be taken to the hospital, how are they treated at home? Boobock had a fever a few weeks ago. I just held him all weekend. Held him, and when we wanted to see if he had a fever, I kissed his forehead before getting the thermometer out. When he needed medicine to break the fever and kept refusing – I could get the small portion of they syringe in, but he clamped his lips up so the entire thing wouldn’t go in – DH put the syringe of medicine in his mouth and said “yummy!” and then tried to get Boobock to take it, which he finally did. And when he puked the one time, I wasn’t prepared. I caught it in my hands, yelling for DH to get a bowl, and then he took Boobock and I went to the bathroom to clean my hands in the sink. I washed it off, but it went down the drain. He was better by Sunday, and DH and I never got sick. So, what if he had had Ebola? All three of us would probably have contracted it. Because we haven’t seen this disease in this country before, many people won’t take it seriously enough at the beginning (like we didn’t treat his fever very seriously), and then panic will take us too far in the other direction, swamping ERs and doctor’s offices.

Thinking about this, someone would have to physically tear me away from Boobock if he got Ebola. Someone would have to physically block me from holding him and comforting him. I do not know how I could handle seeing my 3 year old behind plastic, feverish, vomiting, crying, with diarrhea, scared to death, and not hold him and try to calm him. And that is with me knowing about germs/hygiene, and how deadly this virus is! How can we expect people who most likely don’t know what is causing this disease, nor how it is spread, to hygienically care for their loved ones?

And let’s look at “cold and flu season”. How many of you go to work when you are sick? How many of you proudly exclaim how your fever was awful yesterday, and even though you sound like your lung is about to be hacked up your throat and stuffing tampons in your nostril to stop the flow of snot is looking pretty good right about now, you made it in today! “Give me a medal for spreading this to everyone in the office!” you gleefully exude.

Anti-bacterial soap and hand cleaners don’t work on viruses, yo.

Do we know how to clean up after someone who is sick? Does Clorox kill Ebola? If you wash it off down the drain, is that a health hazard? CAN you wash it off down the drain with soap? How hot do things have to be to sterilize them? Hot water in the washing machine? Boiling gets up to 212*. Pressure canners get up to 245* or 255*. Is that hot enough? For how long does it require?

Finally, I hear many media reports on the virus talking about the “burial custom of touching the body” in Africa. Well, let me tell you, that ain’t just in Africa. The last two funerals I went to, I saw people touch the deceased’s hands in a farewell gesture. I saw people give a kiss on the forehead and hug the deceased. And then wipe their eyes or blow their nose, with nary a thought. We know that these two funerals were not for Ebola victims, though. That should make a difference, if the person is diagnosed. What if they aren’t?

And what if they are? What happens when someone dies of Ebola in this country? Are they cremated? Are all crematoriums able to handle something like this? If not, where do we ship the bodies? Across the interstate? Fly them? I don’t know, and I haven’t heard much discussion about it.

But I’m not *worried*. This isn’t keeping me up at night. I just don’t believe we are permanently in the clear like we have been told we are.