Thursday, April 24, 2014

To Err is Human

Grammar and spelling mistakes in formal writing bug me. If somebody is going to put something out there, some writing that is supposedly well-polished, it should conform to our language's conventions, right? 

Well, yesterday I eagerly opened up the newspaper to see if another column was published. It was, and although I'd already read it about 40 times over because it needed a ton of revision, I read it again. 

And then I spotted it. A grammar error. Right in the first paragraph. 

Cringe. Sigh. Repeat. 

Yes, repeat. I know I'll probably do it again. Even on this blog, an outlet I consider less formal, I've probably already made tons of mistakes I didn't intend. 

So on I'll continue, perhaps a little more careful about editing and definitely less likely to criticize when I read somebody else's mistake.

Monday, April 21, 2014

The Weed-Eaters

Last week the children and I did something I've wanted to do for quite some time. We harvested dandelion greens from our yard for supper.  I've heard of people eating dandelions because they're health-conscious or poor. I was curious. So out came the bowls for gathering, and we nearly froze in the crisp breeze while we gathered from our newly greened-up yard.

My 2-year-old thought dead leaves and grass would compliment the dandelions nicely.

I must admit that cleaning the greens was tedious. Even without the little one's contribution of leaves and such, plenty of grass found it's way into our sink full of dandelion leaves. My eldest helped me for a while, but his enthusiasm for the task soon waned. As soon as I had what I guessed to be enough for supper, I just tossed the rest of the uncleaned into the compost bucket.

I'd heard my mother talk before of how they used to eat dandelion greens in spring, so I called her for some how-to cooking advice. She told me what she remembered, that they'd collect the greens really early while they were still tender and not too bitter and that Grandma would make what she called "lettuce gravy" to pour over the cleaned greens, but she didn't have Grandma's recipe for the dressing. I called my aunt who looked in her "little black book."  There she found where she'd written down exactly what Grandma told her:

Beat up an egg. 
Put in about 2 tablespoons of flour and a cup of water.
Add vinegar and sugar and salt to taste.
Put in some meat grease, about a tablespoon.
Bring to a boil. Then cool to eat.

I talked to my mother again who'd found a similar recipe in a local cookbook that gave me a bit more of an idea about measurements for this warm dressing. Then I made it and poured it over my bowl of greens.

Dressed and wilted dandelion greens, after the crew ate

So how was it? Well, there were mixed reviews. My husband said he wasn't a horse, but he didn't give it a totally vertical thumbs-down--I think he left room for something else, like maybe sauteed poison ivy, to be worse. My second-born gave it two thumbs down; I think he said something along the lines of disgusting. The two-year-old lost interest in eating anything except the fresh-baked bread we had. The other three children all gave it thumbs-up. But. One who gave it thumbs-up didn't eat more than one bite. One didn't take seconds. The other one said he liked it, but didn't want to eat it because it made his tummy hurt. Later he insisted that he loved it and took seconds to prove it. None of them actually gagged on it.

I, on the other hand, liked it. I thought it tasted like endive, with a slight bitter but not unpleasant taste. I would totally do it again, especially if I didn't have to clean it. But whatever you do, don't reheat it for leftovers. I gagged on that.

Friday, April 18, 2014

The Hancock News Column--April 9, 2014

The following is my first published "Spice of Life" column, published in The Hancock News.

       Springtime in my childhood usually included a stop at my hometown’s Ben Franklin store. Just before Easter part of the store was transformed by hot lamps, kiddie swimming pools, and fences. I remember gawking at little live chicks, ducklings, and bunny rabbits. This wasn’t merely a display; these little cuties were for sale! 
I can’t remember if I begged for one and was denied, or if I was just smart enough to know there was no chance my mother would let me take home one of these fuzzy pets. Year in and year out, I had to settle for the marshmallow Peeps and chocolate bunnies I found in my Easter basket. 
I wasn’t totally deprived of the cute baby spring animal experience. No, my grandaddy had little lambs on his farm. Grandma would mix up special milk in tall glass Pepsi bottles fitted with nipples, and I loved taking them out to feed the lambs whose mommas couldn’t or wouldn’t nurse them. Their surprisingly strong heads would butt against you as they pushed in front of others to fill their bellies. It’s amazing how they could suckle so hard and guzzle that milk down so fast. Sometimes I’d briefly let one  nurse on my finger with its rough tongue and super-suction grip.
Back then I didn’t even realize that people ate lamb. We certainly never did. In fact, the first time I tried lamb was when my in-laws prepared a leg of lamb roast for a special holiday meal. I was surprised by the stronger flavor; it does not taste like chicken.
A year or so later, we added lamb to our “special meal” list. One time we had it for Easter dinner, and our children, as children often do, decided since we’d eaten it once for Easter dinner, we must keep the tradition going. We can change up the side dishes or dessert, but I think there might be an outcry and mutiny aboard this ship if we should happen to serve up ham or turkey instead.
If you’ve never tasted lamb, I do recommend it. It has a stronger flavor than chicken, beef, or pork, but it’s nice to have a change once in a while. Sometimes I make a stew or curry with small chunks of lamb, but my favorite is a boneless leg roast, just the way we serve it for Easter dinner. Just remember to use a meat thermometer; since lamb is a more expensive meat, you definitely don’t want to ruin it by overcooking. 

Don’t be put off by a lack of exact measurements in this recipe; the amount you need really depends on the size of your roast and how much of a Dijon crust you want on your meat. Buy either bone-in or boneless leg of lamb, but if you buy a boneless roast, please remove the outer plastic covering but leave on whatever the butcher has holding that roast together--either string or a netting. Otherwise, your roast will unroll while cooking; trust me, it’s not pretty. 

Clove-Studded Dijon Lamb Roast

1 leg of lamb roast (boneless or bone-in)
1 or 2 jars of Dijon mustard
whole cloves

 Preheat oven to 350℉.

 Using a paring knife, make a small, deep slit in the lamb and insert one whole clove. Repeat at one-inch intervals all over the roast.

 Place your studded roast in a shallow roasting pan and slather it all over rather thickly with the Dijon mustard. 

 Put your roast in the oven; baste once again with more Dijon about half-way through estimated cooking time. Let the roast cook for about 30 minutes per pound (more or less), depending on your preferred doneness. Recommendations for medium doneness vary from 140℉-150℉. Remove from the oven. Place your roast on a platter and tent with foil; allow roast to rest for 5-10 minutes.

 If your roast is boneless, remove any netting or string. This will mean that much of the mustard crust will come off, too. That’s okay. If you like, just scrape some of the mustard off of the netting and pat it back onto the roast or just serve it up right next to the roast for those who want it. Carve and serve. There’s no need to remove all the cloves; just make sure your guests realize they need to be watchful to remove the cloves themselves.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

The First

Ten copies of The Hancock News

Why in the world would ten copies of Wednesday's edition of our local paper, The Hancock News, be stacked on our table? The obvious answer is that my husband bought them. But why would he do such a thing? Because he was (perhaps overly) proud of his wife.

On Wednesday, my first "Spice of Life" newspaper column was published in our small weekly newspaper. The editor said that we should shoot for once or twice a month, depending on advertisements and such. It's not a paying job, but it does feel nice to have something published.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Gross Out

Let me warn you that this post is aptly titled. If you are distressed at the thought of swishing messy diapers in the toilet or cleaning up child vomit, then perhaps you shouldn't read on because that stuff is sissy stuff compared with what I am about to reveal.

Why would I post something that makes my skin crawl? Well, for one, my eldest wanted me to; he thinks it's cool.

My eldest, the poor lad, has inarguably endured the most creepy, disturbing moments in our home. For some strange reason, they both occurred in our laundry room.

When he was but 7, my newborn daughter's shriveled up umbilical cord fell off. No big surprise there really. The problem was that we couldn't find it. We looked and looked in bed, on the floor, in the car seat, in the pack and play. Nothing.

A few days later, my very helpful son was moving the laundry from the washer to the dryer when he came tearing out through the kitchen, hollering and clearly upset. "There's something gross in the washer!" He half-whimpered, "It looks like raw meat or something bad!"

I reassured him that I would take care of it. When I laid down the baby, I went to investigate. At first, what I saw frightened me. Had a serial killer sneaked into our home and put his victim's mangled finger in my washing machine? And then it occurred to me; the lost umbilical cord had hidden in dirty laundry and found it's way into the washer where it was completely rehydrated and discovered by my dear son. At least it was better than my first unreasonable guess.

And then there's what happened yesterday in the laundry room. You see, our dryer has been on the fritz a bit. We've been having to put the clothes through more than one cycle for them to dry completely. In the afternoon I called my friendly appliance repair aunt who lives across the country and asked her if it was worth getting it fixed (since the dryer is almost 13 years old). She said it was simply a venting problem, and I should clean it out.

I found a wooden chopstick and started with the outside part of the vent. The dryer was running, and as I poked around, bits of lint flew out at me and landed in the shrub nearby. That's not all. Two Legos, two hair thingies, and an unidentified piece of plastic also fell to the ground. And a big clump of stuck-together lint. But not really anything that I felt was enough to keep the clothes from drying.

Phase two of fixing the venting problem involved me, my husband, and aforementioned brave and willing son. I looked on while strong husband pulled the dryer forward as far as possible without it hitting the toilet. Then nimble son (who could fit into the small space) climbed over the washer and dryer and began cleaning lint and such from the floor with the vacuum hose. Then he held up the dryer vent pipe, and we could all clearly see "stuff" inside. We worked together to insert the vacuum hose and start sucking. We heard all sorts of sounds like Legos being hosed up. Then I had to leave it up to my men to finish because the baby needed me.

Take a deep breath because the worst is just ahead.

I heard the fellows continue working. Then I heard, "Just stick your hand in and pull it out."

Can you guess what was pulled out by my young son?

Why, yes, it was a mummified mouse! You're so smart.

I was right, wasn't I?  Pretty gross.