Mon mari, le gourmand/ Jam Brulee

April 24, 2008 at 10:38 am (Dougisms, Makes me Smile)

I have written before about my husband’s lack of exaggerated compliments. Sometimes it works out well for me. For example, the first time I made the plum pie he was very impressed. Sometimes however, it does not work out so well.

Case in point: Spaghetti. I make spaghetti fairly often. I make a big batch and I stick it in the freezer so that we can have easy meals when I don’t want to cook. A couple of years ago I made a batch and Doug got a weird look on his face. I couldn’t taste anything wrong, so I asked him what he was thinking (I should know better!). He said, “Oh, it’s fine, but do you think you could get your father’s recipe?”

Now, I’m not pretending to be a better cook than my dad, but I know for a fact that, in my family, we all use the same recipe. “No,” Doug assures me, “your dad’s is better.” At this point I am new wife, and am easily taken to being insulted, but whatever, I just keep on making my sauce. When my dad was here last week though, he offered to make spaghetti one day. So, I pull out all of my ingredients and I take notes. What is it that he does differently? He uses everything I give him, and does it the way I do it, so what is going on? And then he leaves! He heads off to the store for some extra ingredients. Aha … this is it! I will finally know the secret. I’m on my way to finally satisfying my husband’s spaghetti sauce needs. What, you ask, does my father bring home from the store? Some Italian seasoning, or maybe it was Oregano (clearly I should be taking better notes!), and some Ragu! Apparently my Wal-Mart brand seasoning wasn’t cutting it (I think my dad mentioned something about being frugal), and the Ragu was just for adding volume. So, for all intents and purposes I feel the sauce was the same, and yet when we sat down to dinner that night, Doug knew that the sauce wasn’t mine! Grrr!

Case in Point #2: Jam. I have, on a few occasions attempted to make freezer jam. For the most part I think it’s usually turned out well. I use it in a lot of cooking, plus for sandwiches. However, Doug is no fan of the freezer jam. I don’t know what experience in his youth made him bitter against the freezer but he has made very clear that he doesn’t like the jam.

So, after berry picking on Saturday I decide to make some actual cooked jam. I go over many recipes and finally settle on one that has many good reviews, and that requires no extra ingredients. I pull out my candy thermometer and my big pot and I get set to go. I put three plates in the freezer so that I can check the consistency. All is going well. The jam is boiling, and the thermometer is reading 210. I know that I have to go to 220, so I stand at the pot and I stir. I know from the comments with the recipe that it takes a long time to go from 210 to 220, so I’m not worried. I’m heating up my jars, and I wait. The mixture hits 220 and I start arranging my jars. Here is where I encountered my first problem. I should have just turned the stove off, because in the time it took to arrange the jars, the temperature of the jam sky-rocketed to 230!

I should have just left well enough alone. I should have cut my losses, but I decided to continue with the canning process. I bottled all of those slightly caramelized jars of jam. Everything sealed up nicely. Then I went upstairs.

Doug wasn’t home for any of this. I heard him come in and make his way over to the little bowl of extra that I set out. Then I hear him come up the stairs. What do you think his first words to me were? I’ll tell you, “Sarah, you let that jam get to soft ball.” That’s right, soft ball. He’s killing me with candy making terminology! Worst of all, he was right. I made strawberry candy that I couldn’t get out of the jar!

The next night Doug tried to fix the problem by re-doing all the jam. It turns out that my candy thermometer was way off, so I don’t feel too bad. Doug used three thermometers to properly calibrate! After a couple of hours, Doug got everything to the proper texture, but there was no getting rid of the slight burnt sugar taste of the first night.

Ah, what will I experiment with next. I have to find what I’m passionate about and good at soon!

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Who’s Your Daddy?!

April 22, 2008 at 3:52 pm (Family)

 

 

Everyone at the Alamo

We had a great visit with my parents last week, and while there is still some dust under my refrigerator, I do now have a whole freezer full of spaghetti sauce, and my yard has never looked better!

 

Samuel and Grandpa working in the yard

This was the first time that my dad has come that I have been the only one around. Before I’ve had siblings or family or other friends who also were on the receiving end of the visit. This time however, it was just us. Samuel had a great time being his grandpa’s special helper. I feel like we might spend this whole week recovering from all of the fun stuff we did. Doug and I even got to go to a movie one night while Dad and Ellen watched the kids. There was also an adults only dinner out, which was very tasty and relaxing.

 

At the Alamo

I know it was a hard week for my dad because his mom was in the hospital almost the whole time he was here. Even though he was understandably distracted and pre-occupied, he still managed to continually volunteer service to us. (I had to draw the line at new patio furniture, because I felt like we were already taking advantage) It was also tough becuae my oldest son, who is normally the perfect grandchild, decided to let loose with a whole bunch of imperfect behavior. Another illusion shattered!

There are lots of times when I am grateful that we live on our own away from some of the family drama, but this visit made me see what we miss in living so far.

 

Picking strawberres with Grandma

p.s. A special kudos to Liz and Jill for always being so willing to share their visits with Roger and Rozanne with my family.

p.p.s. This is the trip where I learned that you can go to Chuck E Cheese’s at 9:00am, and that you don’t have to buy the pizza! We were there for over an hour … all by ourselves!

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Shout out to Sharleen!

April 15, 2008 at 4:11 pm (Family)

I am officially adding my sister-in-law Sharleen to the “my homies” section of this site. I haven’t put her blog on here before because it’s by invitation only and I didn’t want to seem all elitist. You know, showing you all what you haven’t been invited to! Oh well, not everyone can be as cool as me and Sharleen! It’s too bad too, because her blog is super cool, but you’ll never know!

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Busy Busy Busy

April 14, 2008 at 10:15 pm (Family, Fun Stuff)

Most of the time I feel like our life is a little bit blah. I’m not complaining, because every time there’s been a lot of excitement it’s been chaos, but we were definitely becoming predictable. That is until last week. Now, I feel like it’s been non-stop activity for 2 weeks straight (and by non-stop activity, I mostly mean getting the house ready for my father’s inspection!).

We went to Houston a week ago to meet my father and Ellen before they went on their cruise. Doug took that opportunity to make his way to California for Greg’s birthday party, so the boys and I had some quality time with grandpa and grandma. All I can say is, thank heavens for this invention:

 

I don’t know how we would have made it through Houston without this guy givig us some much needed help. It got us to the mall, the movie theater and the Popeye’s Fried Chicken.  Doug also used one in California, and now I hink we’re pretty much sold on the idea. It make make its way into our home via some sort of joint birthday gift!

We hung out with my parents for the week-end, and then they were off on their cruise. Doug came back into town Sunday afternoon, and then we headed for home. On the way back I made Doug stop here:

so that I could look at the Martha Stewart village. All I can say is, deluxe! If you’re driving through Houston, or any other city where KB is building Martha homes you need to stop by. I would have taken some pictures inside, but they’re kind of particular, and I didn’t want Martha to get mad at me. These houses were gorgeous. Apparently the new theme in master suites is a completely separate bathroom for the man and woman. It’s not overly practical, but I kind of like the idea of never having to see my husband’s bathroom! Of course, if I never see it I would nver be tempted to clean it, and then who knows what would happen! 

During the first part of the week I was in a little bit of a funk, but then I talked to a friend and I read this, and I decided there must have just been something in the air. Every so often you just need to feel like someone knows how you feel, so talking to Anna and reading Anne were a total pick me up.

This week I also planted my garden. It’s amazing how impending houseguests can get you moving. Last year, my mother-in-law sent around questionnaires to all the girls in the family. Oh, I can’t tell you how I stressed over these questions. It took me a couple of hours because I wanted to make sure that things were right. Doug and I are from diferent types of families, and sometimes I think my sense of humor is a little much for Doug’s parents. So, I stressed and I stressed. I reviewed my answers with Doug, but he didn’t get what all the stress was about. Then, all the girls’ answers started coming out in e-mails. I wasn’t quick enough, so now I knew what all my sisters-in-law were writing and that added to the stress. What is the point of all this, you are asking yourself. Well I’ll tell you … One of my answers to the goals question was about how I wanted to start a garden, and oh yeah, my in-laws are coing home in a week and there are no vegetables in my back yard! So, to make a long story all that much longer, we planted a garden!

I wanted this:

Copper Cap Raised Beds

but it was a little pricey, so instead my husband built me this:

 

It pays to marry a handy man!

I feel good though, because I planted my seeds a couple of weeks ago, and as of yesterday, it’s all still alive. The woman at the garden told me that I for sure wouldn’t kill the tomatoes, because apparently I don’t have a plant killer aura about me. I’ll let you know how that works out.

On Saturday I went to a cooking class with a couple of friends. It was a class on Parisian desserts. I don’t know about you, but a bacon and goat cheese cake doesn’t really sound like dessert to me! The bonus was that I finally got to see the Central Market. For those of you in Texas, Central Market is a totally lovely grocery store. I will post later about some of my finds. For now the find I will tell you about is crawfish! They were having a big crawfish boil and they were selling 20lb bags of live crawfish. So, I asked my friend if she would mind if I put a bag in her trunk, and she kindly said yes.

So, that brings us to yesterday, where we had our crawfish boil. Dad and Ellen came back from their cruise, plus there was a family who just moved here from Baton Rouge so, we were ready for some entertaining. Well, I don’t know how entertaining we were, but we had crawfish so that makes up for a lot!

I am envisioning one more busy week, and then we’ll be in the clean mode for our next round of visitors!

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Disney Time Again

April 8, 2008 at 1:50 pm (Great deals)

Last year I wrote about the amazing deal that my sister-in-law got for us at Disney World in Florida. Well, it’s that time of year again. We will not be going this year because our Summer is already jam packed, but if you’re looking for a fun time and a great deal, call the Disney Vacation Planners at: (407) 939-7675.

Make sure you tell them that you want the deal that includes dining. There are specific dates, but if you’re looking to get out of town and stay at a Disney property, this is the best way to do it. I think today is the first day for this deal, so there should be lots of room left. My sister-in-law has already booked her trip, and she’s making all of her dinner reservations as we speak.

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Apron Swap

April 8, 2008 at 10:28 am (Crafty Stuff, Fun Stuff)

Over at The Feathered Nest they are doing an Apron Swap at the end off the month. I thought this would be a good way to give me a little bit of deadline anxiety without too much stress. I’ve been feeling a little under-inspired lately. Our routine is pretty much the same every day, and I don’t really have all that much incentive to shake things up. I thought that if I signed up for the swap that I might be forced into some creativity! So, starting April 28th I think everyone should go sign up for the swap. It sounds like a fun way to get a new apron. Any takers?

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100 Easy Lessons?

April 1, 2008 at 1:42 pm (Kids)

Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons

So, we have been using the book, Teach your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. I’ve been waiting to post about this until I actually convinced myself that we would finish the book. Today we did lesson 63, and now I feel like the end is in sight!

Doug has been very worried about making sure our 4 year old would be a good reader by the time he enters school. This was really prompted by his competitive side when he saw a little girl reading the sacrament prayer out of the scriptures at church one Sunday.

“How old is I.,” he asked

“She just turned 5,” I replied

“Crap, we’re going to be way behind!”

Ah… nothing like the love of learning for learning’s sake!

My problem then became, where do we begin. We taught Samuel his letters ages ago, but then we were sort of stuck. I didn’t know what the logical progression was when it came to reading. Samuel isn’t one of those boys who could figure it out all by himself (although, freakily enough he can figure math out by himself).So, my wonderful sister-in-law Ingrid recommended the 100 Easy Lessons book. Now, she didn’t actually use this book herself because her children are actually self-taught geniuses, but she knew someone who had had some success.

Off I went to Amazon and got myself the book. One of the things I really like about this book is that it is all scripted out. It tells you everything you’re supposed to say to your child. It gives you pronunciation guides, things to say when they do everything right and things to say when they make mistakes. I just wish it gave me something to say for when my kid is staring at the ceiling saying, “No, no it’s just too hard. I can’t read.” When I tell him he needs to look at the words to be able to read I just get a nasty look! There is also practice writing at the end of every lesson.

The other thing I like is that we’re always finished the lessons in 15 minutes. It’s not too much. Well, sometimes it is too much, but that’s probably more about my lack of sleep than my child’s ability. As a friendly hint: if any of you are thinking of trying this, the time to do reading lessons is not right before bed! We’ve had a few meltdowns when we’ve left it until the end of the day. My favorite time is right after lunch when the other two are napping.

I am amazed at the things that Samuel is able to read after two months. Just today his reading lesson involved a charming little story about a man, who couldn’t see, taking his gun to go shoot a deer. It was so tender! Yeah, so the stories seem a little out of date, but hey he’s reading them! Now, I don’t think this new-found skill is really genius on my son’s part, I just think it’s proof that persistence pays off, and it pays off better when there’s an actual organized plan involved.

However, now I think we did this a little early. I was hoping to to be able to sneak Samuel into school this year, but apparently the school-board is very strict with it’s cutoff date, so now I have to go find some more learning tools for when we’re done with the reading next month. Any ideas?

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