Wednesday, July 31, 2013

July Pointless Lists

Happy birthday, Harry Potter! You probably don't have to rely on your friends to send cakes by owl post anymore. I bet Ginny and the kids throw you pretty great parties. This makes me happy.
I've always been a big fan of July. I guess mostly because of my birthday (although the older I get, the less of a consideration THAT is), but also because it's the middle of summer, and the days are long and gorgeous, and the food is fresh and delicious, and I'm not even cold. I love it when I'm not even cold.

So let's see. In July we went to the fair, Abby turned 14 and I turned 41, we saw a heck of a lot of people, I just made a double batch of basil pesto from my own garden, I read a couple of real books, Johanna started Aikido and loves it, Johanna also has become the boss of the rope swing at the public pool (my dad has been great about taking her this summer, and the good news is that I don't have to watch her risk her life every time she jumps in, what, I come from a long line of very nervous people), Abby worked a very busy weekend at the neighbor's lavender farm, and... well, I'm a little stressed out at the moment because I have too much to do, but I think if you ask any woman, you'll find we're all a little stressed.

Pointless list time!

Books read:
The Fault In Our Stars by John Green. I love love love this book. It's one of those things Abby kept bugging me and bugging me and bugging me to read, and finally she just handed me her copy, so really, what choice did I have? It's sad and beautiful and so well written and I got teary at the end. Um, and now I have it on my Kindle because that's how great it is, plus apparently it's on sale at the moment for $3.99. Recommend. Also: My imaginary son is now named Finnick Agustus. You think I'm joking, but I am not.

Looking for Alaska by John Green. So after I read The Fault In Our Stars, Abby made me read this book, and you know what? I didn't really like it. I mean, it was fine, but it didn't grip me like his other book did. Probably I should have read this one first and then I'd have enjoyed it more. No biggie, you can't win them all.

...And I've been rereading Harry Potter. I'm still on the fourth book (they're at the Quidditch World Cup) but then I started reading these other books and that was that.

Garden update:
Eric just tilled up our green beans because they are for sucks this year. We've managed to get like two zucchini so far, which confounds me. The tomatoes are looking good, though, and really, isn't that the important thing? I'm wondering if we're at that point where we have to give the garden a rest and manure the crap out of it (HA HA HA, that was fun to write). Any garden experts out there willing to post a comment? (I just took off that "what's this word?" whatever test thing for comments, so hopefully that makes it easier.)

Canning update:
So up until this year I've made tomato sauce and just froze it, but I'm getting brave in my old age, so a couple of days ago I actually canned tomatoes and now they're shelf stable and I'm kind of feeling like a big deal. I made sure to put my two tablespoons of lemon juice concentrate into each quart jar so we don't end up dying. It was easy and I want to do another box because a dozen quarts are just not enough.

Just for Eric I made Dilly Beans for the first time (it's the year of firsts) and that ended up being kind of fun. Also: It turns out 20 pounds of green beans is a lot. I made a dozen quarts and blanched and froze the rest. Um, except there was still some left so I gave a bunch to my parents. There's only so much a girl can do.

Eric likes my canning exploits in a general sort of way, but he REALLY likes my homemade pickles and went to great lengths to procure a box (one of probably two, unless he gets his way and we go insanely big this year. That's a distinct possibility because even with hoarding--i.e. I had to fight to give a jar to my grandparents--he has run out). And then he even helped me can them.

In the jam department: Blueberry and raspberry. I purposely didn't do any cherry this year, and I'm kind of wondering if that was an error in judgement.

Check this out: 
Reasons My Son Is Crying. My kids are (mostly, ha) over this stage, but there's just something about seeing little kids crying for ridiculous reasons that makes me laugh.

A happier Cranky Steve story:
Steve has cats (not wild) and raccoons (wild). He is completely enamored with his baby raccoons and was telling me about how A) they're now so comfortable around him they come into his house and sit on his kitchen table and 2) one of the babies likes to grab his hand and pull on all his fingers and then lightly bite him. He's like, I'm not sure what this means, maybe he thinks we're equals? and I'm all, I'm pretty sure he's just trying to share his rabies with you, except Steve doesn't think his raccoons would have the audacity to have rabies. I don't know, it sounds sketch to me.

Things I've learned:
My husband does not appreciate when I use swear words that have to do with delicate regions of the male anatomy. My mother actually can hate something I write (I didn't previously believe that was possible). Using an online thesaurus is fun, and also you'd be surprised at what words they let you type into their search engine. Johanna is a huge fan of the 1988 Garfield cartoon series and likes to quote Garfield whenever possible. I am too old to to stay up until 11 p.m., which is what happened when I took Abby and her friend to the fair. I'm still screwed up.

Monday, July 29, 2013

In which Cranky Steve loses his shit at me

Update: My mother hates this post and would rather you not read it at all. Actually, she'd rather I take it down, but the thing is, life is not always pretty, nor is it always hilarious. Sometimes words suck. Which is kind of the entire point.

Update #2: Okay, fine. Turns out my husband hates this post too, but not because of content like my mother, but because of my excessive potty mouth. "If it was just you reading it, then it would be okay, but..." he said about three minutes ago. So I've edited out the cursing--thank you, online thesaurus--but I've put the edited parts in bold italics because apparently that's my only avenue of rebellion at this point. Also: That was REALLY fun. I need to edit my work more often...

Note for my mother: This post is a little swear-y.

Last weekend--if I may be so bold as to start off topic instead of simply veering off later--we were in the greater Kelso/Longview area for a little memorial celebration for my grandma (she died on my birthday five years ago. Also: I miss her)--that's another post for another time--and we were all chillaxin' on Gram's back porch--which is now Seth's back porch--when my Aunt Ann says, hey, how's Cranky Steve these days?

Ann, have I got a story for you.

I've written many times about Steve and his antics (like here, here and here, should you feel like going down memory lane), but I've never actually been the direct recipient of his unpredictable ire. Usually I'm just the one watching him freak out with my mouth hanging open. We've got kind of a dual personality going on here with that guy. He can be so fun and happy, but he can also be such a private investigator. Often in the very same day.

So anyway. Monday afternoon (the 22nd in case you need details), Joe the Publisher mentions to Chris the Office Manger that the guys are going to be working on the front office that evening--Steve's office is turning into the company's magazine headquarters, and he's moving into essentially what is now a hallway, except hey, he's getting a window and it won't be a hallway when it's his office, right?, so win, really. But this does mean that part of our front area is being encroached upon. Joe is into getting rid of unnecessary, unused items, and Chris is big on using space efficiently. But Joe had a meeting, so it was Chris who had to do the dirty work.

I felt kind of bad for her because she was trying to get Steve to make some decisions and he was just being like urine. Dude, we get it, you don't want to move, gird your loins already. I volunteered to take a partial box of printed envelopes that we no longer use to the recycling bin in the print shop, and then when I came back from what felt like kind of an ordeal because they're remodeling back there, too, and nothing is ever where you think it would be, Chris had these dusty subscription cards that I had never even seen before in my 2.5 years at the office and was wondering if we needed to keep them or not.

Well, they're subscription cards, and we have a subscription manager, right? I don't know, it made sense at the time.

So I go in with a partial stack of these things and ask Steve what he'd like to do with them, but instead of answering my question he tells me--in a voice that implies I am a complete idiot--that he uses them "sometimes" and has a box. Okay, fine then. I have an empty box by my desk--we usually take these to the print shop so they can reuse them, but since the print shop is in shambles I've just kind of been holding onto it for lack of a better idea--so I grab the box, stuff my cards neatly inside, have Chris put the rest in there, and take it to Steve.

This is the fun part of the story, just FYI.

I'm not even in the door yet and Steve is swearing under his breath. "Good Shepherd! King of Kings! Prince of Peace!" he keeps chanting, and I say, in that voice I reserve for newborns and cranky coworkers, "I know, Steve, I know," and I put the box on his desk, on top of some papers (because his desk is always overflowing with papers) that are shoved to the side in one messy pile.

He grabs the box, shouts, "Poopies!" and then throws the box against the shelves to the back of his desk. The top flies off, of course, and cards spill out everywhere. "HOW'S THAT FOR A PLACE?" he yells, but by that time I'm turning on my heel and I just say, "Perfect," kind of over my shoulder, in a very strong (hopefully sarcastic) voice that I was proud of, the gluteus maximus, and walk the Hades out of there.

"Well, that went well," I said to Stacey, and then I sat down at my desk for a minute reliving the situation, trying to see if there was something else I could have done, but then I just concluded that Cranky Steve is now Jerky Steve and you know what? I think that would have happened regardless. If not at that particular moment with me, then like five minutes later. Ticking time bomb and all that.

Later, like maybe a half hour or something, I'm helping this guy at the front desk place a classified ad, when up comes Jerky Steve, all calm and joking, because apparently he knew this guy. I didn't even look at him, and eventually he went back to his office and then must have left the building because I didn't see him again after that.

I wasn't really sure what to expect on Tuesday, but for the most part Jerky Steve just ignored me. I was cool with that. I mean, not that I felt physically threatened by him or anything--I grew up with someone who had outbursts like this (I have two brothers and it's not Tim. Do the math), so I get it, but wow, that doesn't mean I understand.

He left not long after I got in, and I told Stacey and Deb in Reception (not to be confused with Deb in Sales) that he had come unglued with me the day before, and they were all, he's stressed about because his office is being moved to a hallway, it's not you, it's the situation.

Speaking of King of Kings, apparently it's perfectly acceptable for Jerky Steve to lose his feculence at me because it's not really AT me but around me. Am I on Candid Camera? I was like, interesting theory, but I'm not real pleased with him at the moment. I'm not sure what upsets me more: The fact that Steve went number two crazy at me, or the fact that it's considered "normal" and even "okay" that he does that. Because this is not the first time, and it will certainly not be the last.

Eventually Jerky Steve did come back to the office, and he was shuffling around all sigh-y in his stupid Berks and toe rings, and I was like, hey Stevie, what's up? And he was like, hey, Trish, and that was it for the rest of the day. Awkward.

Wednesday: Jerky Steve was falling over himself plying me with compliments and is downgraded to Cranky Steve again.

Thursday: Cranky Steve is tipsy because he has to walk 15 steps to get to the cabinet where the paper is kept, and if people want to make it hard for him to print off his reports he'll just go home.

Friday: Cranky Steve feels that it is too hot outside and wants to go take a nap. Also, everyone in town is stupid.

I don't know, people. I just don't get it. But it was a long week.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Saturday "Art," Abby is 14 today but look at the pic she drew me for MY birthday edition

Abby knows me SO WELL. Also, I can't draw a straight line,
so I can only assume those are Eric's genes coming through.
Happy birthday, Abs. You are a miracle and a gift.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

An unexpected conversation

I have a couple of items in the classified section of the newspaper--a Pampered Chef veggie platter and a silicone muffin pan--and, even though they are Priced To Sell, they've pretty much just been sitting there for almost a month.

Which is cool. I've got time, people.

Now, to the point (-ish):

Wednesday morning, at 6:30 a.m., no less, the phone rings. I was pretty sure someone was dead because who calls at that time unless it's a major emergency? Eric rushes in to answer it, assuming I was sound asleep, I guess, which is hilarious because I am the lightest sleeper in the world. Oh, and insomnia. That's really fun. Anyway, then he's all like, have you sold your veggie platter yet? And I was all, what? No, and he was all, let me have you talk to Trish, and because I had not had coffee yet, it took me a second to realize he didn't want me to talk to myself after all, but to whoever was on the other line.

Okay, then.

So it's this obviously little old lady (with no sense of time, but that's just conjuncture on my part) who is all, do you still have your veggie platter? And I was all, yes, and then I start explaining the thing to her, and she's very interested except she's A) old and B) housebound and C) in the next town over.

It took about five minutes to get that all sorted out. And then she just started talking. And talking. Sometimes I think that my purpose on this earth is to simply listen to people. Thirty minutes later, I had learned:

She's from Kentucky
She came to Oregon in 1963
With her brother and his family
And her family
She left a couple acres of corn and tomatoes
Because her brother said there were jobs over here
And the car broke down twice
And they came with only the clothes on their backs.

Her father was a tobacco farmer
And they get paid once a year
So they lived on credit
And she never had a doll
Which is why her house is filled with dolls.

Also, she's a big fan of Elvis
And has a lot of memorabilia
Like, A LOT.

She wants to move
Because there's a spring under her hutch
Like, water bubbling up
And it's ruined a lot of her things
But she's not sure where she's going to move
She's trying to get rid of things
But not her dolls
And she likes to get stuff she can leave behind for her kids
One works at Kmart
And the other is crippled
And had a blood clot go through her brain at 14
And had open heart surgery
And she is sad because she thinks no one likes her
And she fell backwards and hit her head at Burgerville recently
So now she has stitches in her head
And she's 54.

The little old lady would cry if she could
But she knows she can't
So she laughs.

And her Kmart daughter lives next to her
And her apartment is always filled with smoke from wires or something
So she sleeps at the little old lady's apartment
Which is good because she's afraid of falling
And this way her daughter can look after her.

She told The Lord she will help Him however she can from her chair
And one day he sent this little girl who was afraid of her up until that point
She didn't know why she was so afraid
But she came in and they had a talk about her drinking
And the little old lady prayed with her and helped set her life right again
And they dumped all her booze down the sink
Which was a lot of fun.

Then one day The Lord sent her a series of numbers
Just a voice and the numbers
And she wrote them down
But she didn't do anything about it for a year
And then she called the library and discovered it was a zip code in New York State
And it turned out that's how she found information on her uncle
Who had left to be a gold miner and they'd never heard from him again
Well, they did when his wife died but her grandmother was sick
And of course her grandfather wouldn't leave her grandmother
But she's into genealogy now and has learned a lot about her family.

Um, and some other stuff
But there was so much
That I forgot probably half of it.

(I was going to make this into a list, but it ended up being a poem. The words do what they will.)

So at the 35 minute mark, Eric comes in and I kind of shrug and he mouths, do you need to use me as an excuse? And I was all, that is BRILLIANT, so I said, I'm enjoying talking with you, and I'm really sorry, but my husband is leaving for work and I need to help him make his lunch. That last part was a total lie because Eric always makes his own lunch (since Day 1, actually), but anyway, I figured someone of her generation would think it completely understandable. Then Eric went into the kitchen and started pulling containers out of the fridge and was all like, get in here, this lunch isn't going to make itself!, and that made me laugh.

In conclusion, I really like my husband.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Falling off the wagon

Recently I've been in a little bit of a zero waste slump. It's kind of ironic that this is happening in the summertime, when the farmers' markets are open and all my purchases come home in reusable bags and jars.

It's just the trips to the grocery store that are killing me. Oh, and Walmart, which I have broken up with but Eric has not.

I've been bad bad bad is what I'm saying. And the sad part is that it's all stemming from sheer laziness. The girls are home and I am wiped out--it takes a lot to deal with everyone day in and day out (Teachers: You are grossly underpaid), let alone go to work and clean the house and whatever else it is I'm supposed to be doing.

I'm still taking jars and reusable bags, but while my cart is better than it used to be, it is worse than it was.

Also: Everything goes straight to hell if I'm not the only one shopping.

Also: I can't completely get away from waste anyway.

Also: Have I mentioned lately that this depresses me?

Well, anyway, it's been a while since I wrote about my zero waste efforts and figured I may as well face up to my failures as a human being. The silver lining is that I have not fallen off the minimalism wagon (still think all that is genius) so... maybe it all balances itself out, I don't know, yeah, probably not, justification doesn't always work, never mind.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Saturday "Art," my birthday edition

Johanna set the breakfast table; pizza outside at my parents' house; Johanna and me wearing party hats, except you can't actually see that part; my mommy loves me and made me a cheesecake.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

A penny saved is a Dollar Tree sword

Johanna's goal this summer was to find enough change abandoned on the street to make a dollar. And then to take that dollar to the Dollar Tree for A Treat.

Let's just get this out here right now: I am not really a fan of the Dollar Tree. It's just a lot of junk. Stacey at work swears by the Dollar Tree for cleaning supplies and there was some guy on the news recently with his Dollar Store Diet. So people do find value there. I'd just rather pretend it doesn't exist. (I like to stick to stores that don't induce panic attacks when I walk through the doors. Clutter makes me nervous.)

One more thing to get out there: I thought it would take her WAY longer than a month and a half to gather a buck in coins on the street. (I suppose the change Eric left for her to find didn't hurt, either.) What's kind of funny is that as the ordeal went on, the four of us got really good at spotting change. I've never found so much change in my life, honestly, but it kind of turned into a fun quest for all of us. We're STILL looking, so there you go.

The final dime that put her three cents over the top came July 12. Forlorn, next to one of the meters on main street. Sad, really.

Except Johanna was completely thrilled and beaming as I handed over the dime. It's the little things, people.

On the 13th I took the girls with me to run errands in town. We went all over the place, except they stayed in the car when I went into the liquor store for good cheap vodka for my vanilla and mint extract extravaganzas because I thought they'd get tossed, and getting thrown out of a bar once with your children is quite enough, thank you.

Wait, what was I talking about?

Oh, right. So the Dollar Tree is in the same retail mall as my favorite grocery store, so I had Abby walk Johanna over, change in hand, to see what she could find. This is called divide and conquor. Also: I did rather dodge a bullet.

So I'm looking at organic mac and cheese boxes and wondering where my zero waste mania had gone, when here comes my two precious darlings. One brandishing a sword. The hippy guy checking out the vegan soups sort of looks at us, and I'm all, huh, in this overly tense climate perhaps brandishing a sword in a grocery store is not the best idea ever, so I put it into my reusable bags and tried to pretend that I didn't just let my 8-year-old buy a weapon with change she found on the street.

That's some fine craftsmanship.
Let's review how this makes me a terrible mother:

  1. I let my child buy a weapon.
  2. Unsupervised except for her 13-year-old sister.
  3. There goes all my lessons about minimalism and zero waste.
  4. And not buying stuff just to buy it.
  5. I can't even justify it by saying it could be part of a Halloween costume because there's a no weapons policy at school.
  6. Even for fake cheap plastic weapons.

Let's review how this makes me an awesome mother:

  1. Johanna is SO HAPPY.

In conclusion, I'm hoping she gets tired of her sword rather quickly and it will eventually be donated to some charity or another (um, do charities even want cheap plastic swords?).

And: Please don't judge me.

Monday, July 15, 2013

T-minus four

A warm welcome from the orchard next door.
I'm in my last week of being 40, and, having thought long and hard about how I want to spend my last days as an International Bright Young Thing*, have composed a list of what I'd like to accomplish before the big 4-1 (not that THAT is very traumatic in and of itself. The 4 stays the same, after all). You know, really make the most of my days by:
  1. Drinking coffee
  2. Napping
  3. Dying my hair
  4. I mentioned napping, right?
  5. Reading
(You're probably wondering how I'm fitting all of this in. It has been a busy, packed week to be sure, but somehow I manage.)

The interesting part about aging is that, of course, you don't feel any older on the inside. Sometimes I'll catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror and I'll literally be shocked. I still imagine I look like I did in high school--no glasses, no dark roots, no bags under my eyes, no facial hair. Out of everything, I think it's the facial hair and the fact that my tweezers are my best friend that pisses me off the most. I feel a rant coming on, but raging against the machine is NOT on my list, so... moving on.

Well, whatever, I guess. The upside is that I get to pick my cake, and I'm thinking creme brule, which is not a cake, yes, I realize that, but the birthday girl is always right. Plus creme brule is way easier to make than a cake, just FYI. And yes, I'm making my own birthday dessert! This is what you call "control issues."

And wow, July goes fast. How can it possibly already by mid-month already?

*Jesus Jones. I don't know, I always just kind of liked this song. Reminds me of my freshman year of college when I scored the cassette tape for like three bucks at the music store. And THAT, my internet friends, is how you date yourself without even trying.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Seven pointless thoughts/stories

1. The only time I regret having children is when a One Direction song comes unbidden into my head.

2. I'm wondering if people will take that last sentence literally.

3. I should probably 'fess up and admit the rest of the mouse infestation story, which is basically that I'm a terrible minimalist. My parents got rid of this awesome throw rug in their bedroom--LL Bean, square, and very pretty--and I scooped it up. And then put it under my bed. I meant to put it in the living room, or in my own bedroom, but I just never got around to doing it. Eric even asked if we should donate it to the church rummage sale (sorry, last time I'll mention it) and I was like, no, I have plans for that. And then the pregnant mouse had her babies in that rug underneath the bed and tore it all to pieces. Let this be a lesson, kids: Mice are bastards. Oh, and don't hang onto things just to hang onto them, I guess.

4. Whew! That's a load off my conscience.

5. I love it when Eric barbecues some random meat product (like Mormon Chicken cut into strips. I can't believe I still have this in the freezer) and all I have to do is breeze in and make a side dish. P.S. In the Pacific Northwest, we say "barbecuing" instead of "grilling," even though there's no sauces involved. I guess that's what barbecue is, I have no idea, I'm just writing the words down as they come.

Mt. Hood. Is a boss.
6. One of our closest neighbors is a lavender farm, and Abby is going in today for a hour's training session. She's scheduled to work at an upcoming festival, which should be interesting because she's terrified of bees, and I don't know how familiar you are with lavender, but anyway, bees love that stuff. (She's going to be a "U Pick Girl," which I think just involves handing people the supplies they need and maybe answering some questions and knowing which mountain is which.*) Anyway, Abby is supposed to wear long shorts or capri pants--she owns neither--and she's borrowing a pair of my capris. The kid is 5'11", so they fit, except she's, ahem, smaller than me in the waist, so she's got a lot of belt action going on. I'm proud of her because instead of wanting to go out and buy the proper apparel, she was just like, hey Mom... I think this totally counts as minimalism, which makes my rug hoarding seem slightly better. It all balances out is what I'm saying. Um, right?

7. I don't actually have a seven, but I made the post title before I actually wrote anything, so there you go. I mean, seven things shouldn't be that hard, right? Well, apparently, it is.

The end.

*Mt. Hood to the south, Mt. Adams to the north. Honestly, that's the only way I know which direction I'm headed.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Three blind mice

Sorry it's been a while since I've managed a "real" post (although the nature of this whole blog is futility, so... I don't know, draw your own conclusions, I guess). You'd think I'd have a good excuse, but you'd be wrong. I have THREE good excuses!

First: I worked practically full time last week because Stacey was out of the office (and in Texas, where her son was graduating from Boot Camp). Lots of everything at work, and then home again to Mt. Laundry. Apparently I am the only one who is qualified to run the washing machine, by the way. Sometimes I throw fits about that, and you know what happens? Right, I am still the only one doing laundry. What to the evs, family.

Second: We spent the Fourth of July in Salem because our nephew was invited to play in the "First Annual Futures Tournament." People, there's no such thing as "First Annual." Quit saying that! You're driving English Majors everywhere insane. It's "First Ever," and then "Second Annual." Don't look at me, I didn't just make this all up, those are the rules! I had to listen to that announcer say "First Annual" all damn day, which was not as much fun as you'd think it would be. I made a point to complain loudly as a teaching opportunity for all of those seated around me. And the good news is when those strangers in front of us changed seats, it really opened up a lot of leg room.

Um, what was I talking about?

Volcanoes Stadium.
Oh, right, Salem. My brother Tim lives in Salem, so we arranged to meet him before the games started for lunch. We never get to see him, and here we've seen him twice in less than a month. Wicked awesome. The baseball tournament started at 4 p.m. It was a double header, but it wasn't so bad. I finished the second Harry Potter and made good progress on the third. (What? Abby finished the fifth and started the sixth.) And afterwards they had this completely amazing fireworks display. It's just a stadium, so I wasn't expecting much, but it ended up being like a half-hour of totally legit fireworks. It was gorgeous. And fun. We never did get to see Kam except on the field, but I'm pretty sure we all cheered loudly enough that he totally knew we were there.

And then we spent the night at Tim's. His neighbors showed their patriotism by blowing stuff up all night.

Third: We've had a bit of a mouse infestation which has left me emotionally scarred and in need of some serious therapy. A pregnant mouse was loose in the house (poetry!) and had her babies under our bed. Side note: Mice babies are actually pretty adorable, just not when they're trying to murder you with their rabies and plague. I watched Skilly clamp down on one and walk it out of the house like a champ (that was actually kind of awesome) and Eric scoop up babies into my mop bucket (not quite as awesome, I made him bleach the bucket afterwards, I am not even joking, but it's still infected and that stresses me out).

But the worst part was when Skilly caught one last forgotten mouse baby and went to show it off to his best friend Abby. At 11:30 p.m. With her screams echoing down the hall, my mommy instinct kicked in and I saved Abby's entire life by grabbing the dustpan and catching the bastard and flinging it out the door (took two tries, freaking out again just thinking about it, living in the country is overrated). I must really love that kid.

...And so that's why I haven't been writing real posts. The end.

P.S. Today is the 20th anniversary of my first date with Eric. I'd do one of those little heart emoticons but I don't know how.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Pointless Experiments: Homemade Mint Extract

You know what I miss? Shamrock Shakes. PEOPLE. That was like the highlight of my youth, when St. Patrick's Day rolled around and McDonalds started serving Shamrock Shakes again. It was a short, yet delicious, month.


Due to lifestyle choices (aka my progressively worsening food sensitivities... and because we would rather support local farmers than a corporation), we don't eat at McDonalds anymore. Well, Johanna does when she's with my parents, but Abby refuses, and Eric and I aren't exactly clamoring for a Big Mac. (Don't sue me, McDonalds, please. I'm not saying other people shouldn't eat Big Macs, I'm just saying I personally do not, okay?)

And anyway, since I have an intolerance to artificial colors, flavors and preservatives, it's not like that bright green Shamrock Shake is even a possibility. Unnatural colors are a tip off in my world.

All of this is just to say, do you know what's in a Shamrock Shake? Wait, strike that, I don't want to know. I mean: Do you know how to recreate a Shamrock Shake? Thanks to the internet, I do.

Vanilla ice cream. Milk. Mint extract. Green food coloring? Good lord, people, why? THERE'S NO POINT.

Ahem. Sorry. I'm possibly a little bitter.

My attempts at finding a nice organic natural mint extract failed (I spent all of like two minutes looking at the grocery store, give me SOME credit), I turned to my best friend Google. There are a lot of homemade mint extract recipes online. And here's the gist of it: Take mint leaves, crush or chop them, then soak them in vodka for like a month. Actually, here's the exact link I used just in case you need that kind of precise information.

I already had some good cheap vodka from my homemade vanilla extract extravaganza of last year (I just keep filling up my main bottle every time I decant any liquid to my smaller jar, it works like a champ, I am a genius), and mint leaves are readily available at my favorite farmers' market, and this? Is not rocket science.

I didn't take any pictures of my efforts because it was really boring. But thanks to online free images, I've put together this little tutorial for you.

Take a jar like this:
And add chopped mint leaves (wash in salad spinner and take a pair of scissors to the leaves):

And then pour vodka all over that:

Also: There are no stock photos of vodka being poured over mint leaves in a canning jar.
And then put it in your dark, cool pantry for a month. Maybe shake it up a bit every time you open the door or something.

It's one month later! Strain the leaves from the liquid and put it into another clean jar:

(Okay, this photo is mine. And no Instagram. I know, I'm shocked too.)

Wow, that's dark. And smells potent. And is kind of awesome.

Fast forward to one of Eric's racquetball nights late last month, when the girls and I are left lawless in the house: Tillamook Old Fashioned Vanilla ice cream. Milk. Four teaspoons of mint extract. In a blender. For dinner, what, don't judge me, I also made a sandwich, it was fine. (Johanna could not get over the fact that we were having "dessert" for "dinner." That was kind of awesome and totally worth it right there.)

OH EM GEE, as Johanna would say. This is EXACTLY the taste I remember. It's not very often I can recreate something so completely the same. Abby said it's not like the shakes she's used to--so I don't know if that means that McD's has changed their recipe or that mine wasn't bright green--but it was still good. Good? It was like heaven in a glass. I need to teach that kid to use more exact language, I guess.

Other mint extract experiments have included iced mint mochas for Abby (ironically, you have to put in some of the vanilla syrup with the mint extract for the mint flavor to come through.  Maybe I need to find a mint syrup for the kid?) and mint brownies. So far I haven't figured out how much extract it takes to actually taste mint in the brownies--I'm using my standard recipe I got on the back of a cocoa can in 1995 and just throwing in a few teaspoons willy nilly--so we'll call that a work in progress, but the mochas are lovely.

In conclusion, my scant 1 1/2 cups of mint extract should last another month at the rate we're going. I'm thinking this would be a pretty cool Christmas gift, too. Time to pick up more good cheap vodka.

I love it when my experiments actually work out...