Two-Step Tomato Abbondanza!

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We have a neglected raised garden bed in the backyard. It had been part of a sandbox configuration, but for years, it’s been a weed patch and dumping ground.
This year, I really wanted to garden with it because it’s a nice, compact size, and it’s right in my line of sight when I look out over the yard, and I couldn’t deal with the shame! The shame!!

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Formerly crummy! Now, a tomato fantasyland.

I’m in the frozen hinterland with only a very short growing season, so  I watched a dozen or so YouTube videos by MI Gardener.
Since watering was a problem for me (I’ve killed years’ worth of container gardens!), I went with the channel’s trench method of bedding. That’s where you dig a trench and fill it with spongy , water-holding decomposing matter like straw.

I didn’t have straw, so I used an old log that washed up in the lake. It was sodden and stinky – perfect for my purposes! Since it was springtime, I also took advantage of about half a dozen dead fish that washed up in our yard. Stink-o-rama, and a little disturbing, but I was tired of my kids staring at them. And, they were far less stinky six to eight inches under. But enough about that!

I bought a seed packet of beets. (Love beets, hate buying them.) I also wanted watermelon* because my kids love it and I thought it would inspire them to help with the weeding. 😉 So, we all went to the garden store and they chose: watermelon, tomatoes and peppers. (HOT peppers – they like a challenge.) We brought them home, planted them in neat rows, and for exactly three days, the kids fought over who would water them. Then, they moved on with their lives. But everything was okay! Because of the log…blog magic log
MI Gardener also had a video about how to increase your tomato output. I thought this might be a gimmick, since this guy clearly had a lot more going for his tomatoes than I did. To boil down an 8 minute video, you flick the tomato flowers with your fingers. I did this whenever I saw flowers, thinking it wouldn’t make much difference and BEHOLD! I have a TON of TOMATOES!blog tomatoes 1 So many, my beets were completely eclipsed.blog tomatoes 2  Alas.
Basically, using only these two tips from that MI Gardener has given me tomatoes beyond my wildest dreams.

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Tomatoes all around!

I didn’t actually have any dreams of tomatoes to begin with. And now, I have a bajillion. Thanks, MI Gardender!

Next summer – BEETS!

*The watermelon vine died early on. We planted it too early. RIP. I scattered wildflower seeds over its plot.

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Take the Money and Run

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In the never-ending quest to raise money for our school, the powers that be have decided they want a “colorful-powder bipedal locomotion event.” (If I get sued, it will be for overuse of thesaurus.)

You may remember, I went to a motivational lunch for such an event a few years back. I honestly did go with an open mind, and hey – free meals will make people do just about anything! But, when I left, I felt horrible knowing that some public school kids begged their grandparents and smashed their piggy banks to pay for that meal.

My fellow PTO members heard my conclusion and we had the same fundraiser we always had with our own brand of fun incentives that didn’t involve anything more ominous than a pie in a face or a ride to school in a police car.

But that was then.

Now, there’s a new group of PTO parents (who we appreciate!), spring is somewhere on the horizon, and the year’s coffers are almost empty. The professional, for-profit fundraising vultures are circling with their siren song of huge returns and “hardly any” work. This year, someone else attended the free lunch. And they really took the bait. So, it would seem, we’re going to shell out and “spend money to make money.”

Maybe it’s not too late. When I went to the fundraising lunch a few years ago, I was incensed when – in the very same breath that they were promising us we wouldn’t have to lift a finger – the FUN-raiser, Dynamite Dave, hinted that if we wanted our school’s event to be a real success, we could find ideas on Pinterest.

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Well, with all this talk about white t-shirts and colored powder, I did a little research of my own. You know what I discovered? It’s kind of FUN to make your own colored powder. And it’s FREAKISHLY CHEAP!

We used cornstarch (97 cents at Target), food color (I’ve had it forever, so I’m going to guess it was about three bucks. It’s $3.69 on Target’s website, but hey – I can do better. And, no, I’m not an affiliate.), and water.

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Here’s my daughter and a friend mixin’ it up! (You make oobleck first – this project just keeps getting better!)

Here’s the color drying.

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We only made a little to start

Here it is after we ground it back into a fine powder!

This was such a satisfying (and did I mention cheap?) activity, I want to make more of this. A LOT more. If anyone from our school wanted me to do a color powder project with, say, 300 kids, I might not say no. That’s how gratifying it was. Come September or October, it would be completely dry and ready for an “event.” (Wink, wink!)

Getting coated in colored powder looks awesome. But for these professional “fun” raisers, I’m seeing more of a tar-and-feathers motif. Atlanta Public Schools has a thoughtful blog and Facebook page on this subject – please give it a read!

I would still love to hear a heartwarming story about one of these events, so if you have one, please share in the comments! Heck, I’d love to hear either way. Thanks! 😀

 

Very Flu – perstitious

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If it seems like I’ve been avoiding you lately, I have.
February is a cruel month in my part of the world. It’s the apex month of contagious diseases. Everyone knows this is the worst flu year in forever, but what you don’t know is that just because it’s not on the news anymore, doesn’t mean it’s over. And I don’t want it.no-thank-you-600x300

Look, I was once like you! I flouted the flu shot, and took my chances. I rarely ever got sick with “the flu,” the official respiratory kind, or the stomach bug people call “stomach flu.” (Clever.)  It was very easy for me to dismiss symptoms. So young, so carefree!

Now, I have a family: not just kids, although it’s REALLY HARD to keep children healthy when they go to school like they do… I also have parents and older relatives who don’t bounce back so easily from everyday viruses. Gone are the days when one of them takes to their beds and gets up 24 hours later. Now, it’s more like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

Social interaction this time of year is well-intentioned: there’s the Superbowl, Valentine’s Day, this year’s Olympics, and the Academy Awards in early March. I just finished a lovely and inspiring book about Hygge, the Danish Art of living cozily, a large portion of which involves pot luck events. hyggebk

Pot Luck? Something someone prepared off-site where someone may or may not have been sick? Um, no.

There’s a fine line between fortifying your immune system (yes, I understand, social contact will do this), and being stupid. So, please excuse the following from me:

I’m no great hugger to begin with, so don’t “bring it in.”
I will wash my hands. This will take as long as it takes.
I will absolutely not taste something using your cup, spoon, or fork. Come on, gross!
And if I find out you’re secretly sick, I will CURSE you. Oh yes, I have studied the dark arts exactly for this purpose. Don’t be surprised if you’re visited by a plague of jury summons and pantry moths.

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Just. Saying.

 

When the weather warms up, and we’re not walking around with wracking coughs and Kleenex in our sleeves (shudder!), I will be happy to be friends again. Until next October when I will get another flu shot and go back into hiding.

How Lynn Got Her Food Back

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Here’s a secret only parents know. If you have to change everything to keep your kid healthy, you do it. People get lung cancer, heart disease, all kinds of other illnesses all the time, and they’re like, “Meh…” but if a doctor said, look, the whole family has to stand on one leg for two hours every day from now on to keep your child healthy, you would all be standing on one leg. Guaranteed.

When my son was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes, we did all of that (not the standing on one leg – if only!!!) First, it was a chart on our fridge of what he HAD to eat at EVERY meal.

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Nightmare! Mealtime tears all around. 😦

Then, we graduated to carb-counting, which is the current life-long standard. There are tons of mixed-messages in carb-counting land. “Let him eat whatever he wants, and dose for it. He’s a kid!… But don’t let him have fruit juice or sugar soda because you’ll wind up in the hospital. Really, he can eat anything! But, this meal has 200 carbs, so be careful giving all of that insulin…” It can be super confusing.


At first, I filled my pantry with dismal sugar-free stuff. This felt even worse, and, to my mind, made life harder for my son. “Here’s his special candy! When everyone else has that, he can have this!” Food is communal, and these simulated foods were just exiling him further. Plus, no matter how bad something tastes, if your kid is in first grade, some other kid is going to eat it when he’s not looking, or at least WANT to eat it.

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Food is my best friend. Just ask my chins! Ever since I was a kid, I’ve loved cooking. Diabetes is heartbreaking on many levels, but this one was the thorn in my personal side. I love to cook for other people! I cook! I bake! It’s my way!

This is turning into a long story, so I’ll just break down my progression. We went from diet chart to meals I could calculate, which got boring fast, to the exciting part…

YouTube! You can find any way to make anything on YouTube, and I found Momof6 and FoodWishes. Those are my mainstays, and here’s why I love them. Momof6 is a master of planning and organization. With her tools, I am able to look over a whole two-to-six weeks’ worth of food (ALL food – snacks, school lunches, etc.), plan, and have an idea of how “glucose friendly” everything’s going to be. Food Wishes, then has the best way to prepare dinners, so I can still express my love and caring.

Yesterday, I made Salmon with a sauce I can’t pronounce, so I will call Butter Sauce (here’s the link), knowing that with strawberries, cauliflower, and roast potatoes, everyone was going to bed on a full stomach with good numbers. Tonight will be Chicken Fried Rice (a family favorite!) And tomorrow is leftovers (surprise) because I’m making a lot of meals lately.

I know for SURE there are channels on YouTube for restricting carbs (if that’s where you’re at), going gluten-free, “clean,” vegan, paleo – anything you want! It took me some time to curate my own preferences, but it’s worth it.  I can bake my cake, and my kid can eat it, too! Love is back in the air!!

See for yourself! Happy Valentine’s Day!

Savings Status: It’s Complicated

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I feel like ranting today. Want to come along?

Are you familiar with click-funnels? They’re the tiny screens on websites asking you to enter your email address for one reason or another, sometimes with some incentive like a free article, a coupon code, or something as lame as “updates” so that the site has a legal way of holding on to your personal information.

Lately, when you don’t want to opt in, there’s a snarky message like, “No thanks, I hate saving money,” or “No thanks, animal welfare is someone else’s problem” – oh, PETA… you cut me deeper than a slaughterhouse line worker.

Anyway, when I get a message like that, I usually give my laptop the finger. Go ahead, check with the NSA!

But, it’s not just online merchants that piss me off lately. It’s my hard-core Mom stores, which I shall call “Karget” and “Thol’s.” Even my grocery store seems to want to get on my list. Why, “Pack and Slave”, why??

Okay, I downloaded your apps. I have your loyalty cards. I use your coupons. That’s all I have the life energy for. Fuck with me no further! Want to give me something free every Friday? WHY must I sign into my account and download another coupon? JUST GIVE ME THE DAMN THING.

Why does Thol’s have a Yep card AND Thol’s Trash? If you need me to watch a YouTube video to explain how to shop in your store – I’m not shopping in your store if I can help it! In case you hadn’t noticed, I can get LOTS of stuff for half the price delivered to my house, so why aren’t you making it EASIER for me to save? What the actual hell?

And Karget… the WalMart of shoppers in denial… I get it, you have a credit card. And, I STILL have to scroll through thirty pages of coconut-based protein bars to download coupons? I handed you my credit on a platter, you know more of my personal information than I know about myself. Yet, I seriously have to weed through coupons that expire? No.

In the words of Dana Carvey’s George H.W. Bush, “Na Gaa Da.”  Did you see me in the store today? Guess what? I ordered that kids’ birthday gift from Amazon Prime! Hahahahaha! It was two dollars cheaper than your clearance price! Yeah, feels good. Feels REAL good!

Except you know I bought your cheaper fruit cups and post-Christmas clearance soap.

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Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back.

But I didn’t like it.

!!UPDATE!! You know those coupons at the checkout that promise savings on future shopping orders? blog check outHere’s what to do if they don’t print… go to Catalina’s Customer Service Page and upload a picture of your receipt. They will send your savings!! 🙂 Thanks, guys!

So, You Want to Attract Norwegians

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Hey!

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Psst! Over here!

Are you a country looking to attract Norwegians, the Cadillacs of immigrants? Well, look no further…

First, I am going to take a stab in the dark and say you don’t want to attract just ANY Norwegians. Norway has been welcoming immigrants from other countries since before the invention of the Tripp-Trapp.  Countries like Poland, Somalia, Iran, Turkey, and Syria. While these people would probably make amazing Americans, they’re already living in Norway, so I’m guessing they’re good.

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Funny, you don’t LOOK Norwegian…

However, the immigrants you’re thinking of are people of “Norwegian Ancestry.” Nice, blonde haired white people, amiright? Turns out, those people are pretty picky, too!

Gone are the days you just set up a logging camp and Norwegians come flooding over.

First of all, Norway has the highest standard of living in the world. They’re not going to come here and settle for jobs at WalMart, or even Trader Joe’s!

They have free education and free health care, standards people come to expect in MOST industrialized countries – and almost every other country!

They care about the future of the planet, and have ratified the Paris Climate Agreement, so before you lay out the Velkommen mat, grab a pair of coveralls and start scrubbing. This place is a MESS!

If you want to attract (and, I might add, KEEP) a “desirable” population, all you have to do is Make America Better Overall! (MABO!)

 

Five Pounds of Polish

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Remember when I said I wasn’t a food blogger?

This is not a food post. It’s a Tales of the Supernatural post. If you’re a believer in the Law of Attraction, you might say that what you think about expands. In that case, one or both of my parents must be thinking a whole lot about exactly one thing:

Five Pounds of Polish Sausage.

If you don’t know what Polish Sausage is, well… you lucky bastard!

It’s a gray tube of meat.

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Let’s make our national sausage the same color as metal!

Beyond that, there’s not much to say. Oh, if you approach it while it’s cooking, it might spit hot grease at you. My mom used to prepare it in a pot on the stove, and it would get a foam on it to rival the Yamuna River.

So, you can see why it’s a staple at our holiday meals!

Anyway, we serve them cut up into 3-4″ sections because five bites is a reasonable portion of Polish Sausage for a human to consume in one sitting.

My mother, who was going to host dinner on Christmas Day, got sick and had to shunt the hosting responsibility to my saintly sister-in-law. Since Mom always serves Polish Sausage, as her ancestors always did (How do you think we stay Polish?), she made a point of getting “Five Pounds of Polish.”

“I’m not feeling great,” she’d tell me, “but I need to get to the store and get five pounds of Polish for Christmas… If it’s not snowing, we’ll pick up five pounds of Polish… the kids will eat a lot, I’d better get five pounds…”

This created a crease in the space-time continuum.

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Mom created the Polish Vortex

She did bring five pounds of Polish that day, which for fifteen people was exactly 4.7 pounds too many.

And THEN, because of “ancient mystery”… my Dad’s friend prospered them with exactly five MORE pounds of homemade Polish! Well, what are you going to do? This is the good sh*t.  They’re going to have to eat it, of course, and with gratitude because it was a labor of love.

(Don’t worry, they’re going to eat it. My parents cut pancakes into halves and then fourths and eat them over a period of days until they’re GONE.)

Now it’s the New Year, and they’re chipping away at their sausage, and it’s all well and good.

BUT WAIT!

Yesterday, Mom gets a call from her niece! She went to buy Italian, and she specifically said she wanted Italian – “DON’T GIVE ME POLISH!”, she said (as anyone faced with both sausages would.) And what did she get…?

So what can they do? This winter is going to be as long and gray as that Polish. Happy New Year, everyone – be careful what you attract! XO