Archive for August, 2007

Cooking Lessons

Zach’s PieIn preparation for real life, we’re trying to teach the boys some basic life skills, like laundry, cleaning, and cooking. When we asked Zach if he could cook, his first response was, “Of course! I can warm up pre-packaged food in the microwave.”

Ha! That’s expensive, and nearly as unhealthy as Morgan Spurlock’s all-McDonalds menu.

So, we clarified, and he now understands we mean scratch cooking – at a level of complexity beyond grilled cheese sandwiches – although that’s a good start. The benefits? Besides self-sufficiency and economy, it’ll make him popular with his college apartment-mates – and maybe even more attractive to girls.

So, our approach is to ask him what his favorite foods are, and then teach him to cook them, both from scratch and using shortcuts. I’m involving him in the whole process – intelligent grocery shopping, recipe comparison and selection, learning cooking techniques, and eventually producing an entire meal.

Blackberry Pie

Tonight we made one of his favorite foods – blackberry pie. He is a wise grasshopper, he says:

There is no “I” in team,
But there is an “I” in pie.
Pie ties it all together.

We started with picking the blackberries ourselves before dinner. We didn’t go completely scratch, since this is his first adventure in measuring cups and food preparation. We bought rolled up pre-made crusts to simplify a bit.

We looked at several recipes on Food Network and, and settled on this one as simple and easy to adapt for quantity.

I had to walk him through the recipe one step at a time. We adapted the four-cup recipe to use six cups of berries, and he did the math. He learned some basic food science during the process. Why do you premix the flour with the sugar? To avoid lumps. What’s the best way to mix the flour mixture into the berries with minimum mashing? Folding.

We poured the berry mixture in, carefully unrolled the top crust, and he learned how to fold and seal the crust with a fork (the easy way). For the steam vent, I had him cut a “Z” in the crust – an artist’s signature. ;)

It tasted superb, although it could have thickened up a little more.

Recipe Notes

I did some research on runny pies. (I’m a geek, I can’t help it…) First, we should have cooked the pie longer, it would have thickened better. It probably was not bubbling all the way through. Second, it seems flour is not the recommended thickener for blackberries; most sources seem to recommend instant tapioca starch or even potato flour.

So now we need to go all America’s Test Kitchen, pick more berries, and bake another one. We’ll keep applying lessons learned until we get it perfect. :)

Next Lesson

This weekend we’ll make spaghetti! Maybe even with meatballs.

Posted on Wednesday, August 29th, 2007 by Jeri
Under: cooking, family | 4 Comments »

Ten Rounds with Insomnia

After an hour and a half of staring at the ceiling in the dark, I decided to get back up, take a couple of Benadryl, and browse the Net until I’m sleepier. The things that go through my mind when I can’t sleep really should be keeping me awake. The train runs something like this:

It is so late, I’m going to absolutely hate it in the morning. Should I get up and take something?
(After having finished Christopher Moore’s Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove) I wish I could write satire and humor with ease.
I wonder what his inspiration is for some of those scenes – particularly the weedwhacker?
The Mariners’ baseball game sure sucked tonight, and the officiating stunk too.
I shouldn’t have had that DQ buster bar; that plus no walk today makes it a pretty unhealthy day.

(scratch ankles)

I wish it weren’t already feeling like fall, we only took our boat out a couple of times this summer.
I am so, so, so frustrated about some recent decisions at work, but there’s nothing I can do about them.
I wonder what Ben’s going to end up taking in college, now that he’s already somewhat disenchanted with his most recent choice?
What time is it now? Ugh.

(flop over)

I wonder if the dogs will bark if I get up?
Should I take a dog with me when I go down to my mom’s this weekend?
Lyza is getting so sick and slow, I need to take her to our high-tech, upselling vet and am afraid of what she will tell me.
She also needs a bath and thorough grooming. (the dog, not the vet)
I forgot to make dentist appointments again today.
Should I make a hair appointment too?

(throw off covers)

Isn’t there anything I can do to resolve the issue at work? Anything?
I hope my husband isn’t getting sick, he was afraid he might be and he sounds congested.
I hope I don’t catch it.
Sheesh, I need some sleep for my immune system!

(fight with pillow)

Did I read somewhere that some lottery is now up to $310 million?
What in the world would I do with that kind of money?
I need new tires for the van and truck. I hate buying tires.
I need to take the car in to have its brakes worked on.
Has Ben gotten any more learner’s permit hours logged? If he’s gonna drive before he’s thirty he needs more time.


Why do I have such a bad case of writer’s block lately?
Why do I blog, anyway, and why are some posts so much more successful and conversation-starting than others?
I should use this unproductive time coming up with a blog post.
Does my current writer’s block bode poorly for my freelance writing ambitions?
It would be great to make a living at that and not have to deal with crap at work.
Zach should pick blackberries tomorrow. Oh, wait, make that today.
Good lord, it’s late, and my eyes are dry and open wide, not an ounce of sleepiness.

(put covers back on)

Did I mistakenly consume any caffeine this evening? (no)
Is my caffeine moratorium helping my headaches? I’m not so sure, and I do miss it.
Does Barq’s root beer have any caffeine? A root beer float sounds good.
Why is it so stuffy in this room?

(throw off covers)

If I could write like any writer I know, who would it be? Not Christopher Moore. Maybe CJ Cherryh? Dick Francis? Kristine Smith?
How would I know what my own writing voice is supposed to be like?
I need to write more. Lots more.
Should I do NaNoWriMo (national novel writing month) this November?
Man, that would sure kill my blogging – and any focus at work.
Gaaah. Work.

(flop over)

My Treo is not working right for email and calendaring. I should sit down and figure that out.
I should work on my Cisco softphone too, it hasn’t worked since I migrated to Mac.
I really like my Mac, I should get them for my kids so they can use all the cool media software.
How much would a graphics tablet be if I can get a good deal?
What time is it now? Sigh. I think I’ll get up and go take some Benadryl.

(scratch ankles)

Will my husband worry if I’m not in bed?
Can I do this without waking up the dogs and making them bark?
Maybe we have some ice cream, I can make a root beer float. (nope)
OK, I’m getting up quietly. I’ll be back when I feel a little sleepier.

(creeping out of bed)

Posted on Wednesday, August 29th, 2007 by Jeri
Under: health | 1 Comment »

Green Blast from the Past

Green RiverSunday afternoon, Bryan came home from the grocery store carrying a blast from the past – a six pack of Green River soda.

For those that have never had it, Green River is a brilliant green, sweet lime soda, with a taste remniscent of snow-cone syrup.

When I was a girl, we would celebrate birthdays at Farrell’s Old Fashioned Ice Cream Parlor. Those are mostly gone now.

We’d have Green River to drink, and a giant ice cream sundae for dessert. My favorite was tin roof – hot fudge, peanuts, whipped cream, cherry… mmmm.

They had an ice cream dessert back then called the Pig Trough. Ten scoops of ice cream, ten different toppings, bananas… the challenge was for one person to finish it. I never tried it, even to split with a party, but I always wanted to share one with a few folks. It looked like a messy good time.

On the way out, Farrell’s had an old-fashioned candy shop, with huge spiral lollipops, dozens of flavors of stick candy, long rope licorice, cotton candy and lemon drops in a big glass canister with a metal scoop. As if anyone needed more sugar! I never bought any candy there but the colors and variety had me wide eyed with amazement.

The scent and taste of Green River took me back to those days, great memories of sun, childhood and family outings!

Posted on Monday, August 27th, 2007 by Jeri
Under: family | Comments Off

Saturday Morning with the Geek Family

We had scones, jam and decaf coffee for breakfast, and now we’re all sitting around the family room in our pajamas.

Each of us has his/her own laptop computer in lap, connected to the Internet via secure wireless.

Zach’s browsing and commenting on his favorite Drunk Duck and DeviantArt graphic arts forums. If Ben were here he’d be hanging out on Gaia Online. Bryan’s surfing sports & entertainment news sites. And I am skimming my RSS reader contents and writing blog posts.

It’s really quiet, except for the occasional media file playing and the dogs snoring.

We’re pathetic geeks.

Posted on Saturday, August 25th, 2007 by Jeri
Under: family | 1 Comment »

School Shopping Fun

Friday afternoon I took off work a bit early and enjoyed the entertainment experience of school shopping with Zach.

Neither of my boys have much of a sense of style, preferring wrinkled, faded cargo pants and ancient t-shirts to any other clothing. Comfort is king!

Zach didn’t need a lot, he already has enough t-shirts to open a shop. Nonetheless, he wanted pants, shoes, a few other things, so in one afternoon, we hit Costco, the mall, Walmart and the haircut shop.

Costco usually has great buys on cargo pants. Zach told me that the jeans in stock, though, were “too emo” – i.e. narrow legged. They also had plaid flannel shirts, which Zach thought would be awesome to wear. He’s now the proud owner of a red plaid lumberjack shirt.

At the mall, we always have a tough time shoe shopping. Stores don’t stock much in size 14. Rather than looking for shoes we like, and sizes second, we have to do it the other way around. There are usually about 5 size 14s in the entire store, and they’re never cheap, but he managed to pick a pair.

He found a watch he wanted at JC Penney’s. It was hideous, Armitron black and gold, with a massive black rubber band tooled up to faintly resemble a leather band. He was in love with it though, and the price was right.

Then we hit the haircut shop. Calling it a ‘salon’ would be overstating things. Zach doesn’t go for style there either – in the summer it’s a buzz, in the winter a classic barber-shop cut w/ bangs. It takes 20 minutes and he’s happy.

And, finally, WalMart. I feel about WalMart like Beast Mom feels about Fred Meyer. Zach is super persnickety about undies – comfort, again – and requires XL sized socks, and Walmart is the only place close that carries either brand. He also talked me into one new t-shirt – with a head shot of Chuck Norris on it, and the caption, “There is nothing to fear but Chuck himself.” Both boys are into the cult notoriety of Chuck Norris.

We also stocked up on school supply basics – notebook, paper, pens, pencils. Does geometry require a calculator? Who knows. Walmart was surprisingly poorly stocked with such stuff. After a brisk 20-minute wait in line to check out with a semi-conscious cashier, we were done!

Thank goodness!

Posted on Friday, August 24th, 2007 by Jeri
Under: consumers, family | Comments Off