Sunday, November 28, 2010

Personal Hygiene - keeping it in the bathroom

A few years ago I witnessed something at the Costco gas pumps that I have not been able to forget. A middle-aged woman stood by her car as she waited for her tank to fill and flossed her teeth. Right there in front of all the Costco gas pump patrons and the attendant, she flossed her teeth. Her entire set of teeth. Is this normal? I’ve been thinking about her for years. What kind of person must she be? What might she be doing right now? Wearing a facial mask while she grocery shops? Shaving her legs at the public swimming pool?

I’m a firm believer in keeping one’s personal hygiene in the bathroom. I’m okay with a woman pulling hand lotion out of her purse and using it in public, or reapplying lipstick in the car using the little mirror on the visor. Anything else needs to stay at home.

I have a friend who once told me her pet peeve is people clipping their nails in church. Which means she has actually seen people clipping their nails in church. Who would do that?

I have a young college-aged friend who recently admitted to me that she has washed her hair in a Wal-Mart sink. But she was on a cross-country road trip. Under cross-country-road-trip conditions, I might have been tempted by a Wal-Mart sink, myself.

But all of these examples of public grooming – flossing, nail clipping, hair washing – are nothing compared to what I saw last summer while stopped at a red light. I just happened to look over at the car alongside me, and there was a twenty-something-year-old woman washing her armpits. I’m not sure what she was using. It could have been an actual wash cloth, a moist towelette, a diaper wipe. Whatever it was, she was scrubbing furiously with it. And when she saw that I was looking her way, she quickly stopped and looked at me like she was trying to figure out if I had seen what she was doing or not. I politely turned away. After about five seconds I looked again. She was scrubbing away at the same pit. Again she quickly stopped and looked at me with a worried expression. I politely turned away again, with a big grin on my face. This was getting to be rather fun. I jerked my head back in her direction. Down came the arms. Unfortunately the light turned green and I was forced to give it up. Hopefully she did, too.

I am all in favor of a thorough personal hygiene regimen. I like it when people are clean and well-groomed. I’m glad the woman at the Costco gas pumps has a flossing habit. I just find it odd when people commit acts of personal hygiene in public. Please, floss, clip and scrub regularly, but do it in the privacy of your bathroom!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Please Pass the Gravy - a plan for a stress-free Thanksgiving

Yesterday afternoon, my husband and I put the Christmas lights up in our backyard. (Yes, we put lights in our backyard. See December24, 2009 post "Christmas Lights.") We usually don't turn them on until the day after Thanksgiving, but after we got them up yesterday, I couldn't bear to unplug them.

"Just tonight," I told Kent. "Then we'll wait till next Friday."

Then, late last night, it began to snow. Christmas lights look so much prettier with snow. Kent had gone to bed. Joel was still out with friends. I was making my Thanksgiving gravy ahead of time. (I got the idea from my friend, Judy. She's a wonderful cook and she has a fabulous recipe blog - With the wonderful smell of roasting turkey filling the house, that unique stillness that only comes when it snows at night, and the glow of colored lights out the family room windows, I was really enjoying a peaceful start to the holiday season. A little soft Christmas music playing in the background, a steaming cup of peppermint tea...

And on Thursday, when the turkey comes out of the oven, I won't have to stress about making the gravy. If I want to, I can make some more, but I won't have to worry about having enough drippings or ending up with lumps. Because right now, I have half a gallon of really good turkey gravy in a Ziplock bag in my freezer.

And as the holiday season starts to pick up and get stressful (our daughter is getting married a week before Christmas), I have last evening to look back on.

Make-Ahead Turkey Gravy

6 turkey wings, drumsticks or thighs (I used thighs)
2 medium onions, peeled and quartered
1 cup water
2 quarts chicken broth, divided
3/4 cup chopped carrot
1/2 tsp. dried thyme (I used sage instead)
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 Tablespoons butter
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Arrange a single layer of turkey pieces in a large roasting pan. Scatter onions over the top. Roast in preheated oven for one hour and fifteen minutes.

Place browned turkey pieces and onions in a 5 quart stockpot. Add the one cup of water to the roasting pan and stir and scrape up any brown bits on the bottom of the pan. Pour the water into the stockpot. Stir in 6 cups of chicken broth, carrots, and thyme (sage). Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, for one and a half hours.

Remove turkey pieces from the pot and place on a cutting board. When the pieces are cool, remove skin and discard. Take the meat from the bones and save for another use. (Freezes well.) Strain contents of stockpot through a large strainer into a 3 quart saucepan. Press on the vegetables to remove any remaining liquid. Discards the vegetables and skim the fat off the liquid.

Bring the contents of the pot to a gentle boil.

In a medium bowl, whisk flour into the remaining two cups of broth until smooth. Gradually whisk the flour mixture into the simmering turkey broth. Simmer 3-4 more minutes or until gravy has thickened. Stir in the buttter and pepper. Add more sage (or any seasonings) to taste.

Serve immediately or pour into containers and refrigerate or freeze.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Placemat Totes - part of the "Every Weird Thing..." series*

A young friend of mine named Jessie has a really cute tote bag she uses on Sundays to cart her scriptures and other church paraphernalia around in. Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (sometimes known as Mormons) attend three consecutive hours of church meetings on Sundays. Yes, three hours. Really! First we attend our main church meeting, known as Sacrament  Meeting (See February 26, 2010 post "Now Go Sit Down"). It lasts for seventy minutes. Then the adults and youth attend Sunday School classes until the end of the second hour. During the third hour, the women attend Relief Society (see my first ever blogpost  "The Visiting Teacher" posted on July 8, 2009) and the men go to Priesthood Meeting. There are youth meetings for ages twelve to eighteen during the last hour, too. The children attend what we call Primary for both the second and third hours. There is also a nursery provided for babies between eighteen months and three years. In order to run all these classes and programs, everyone in the church has a responsibility. Maybe you teach the five-year-olds in Primary. Maybe you're in the presidency of the Sunday School. Maybe your responsibility keeps you busy on a day other than Sunday and you just attend to hear lessons prepared and given by others. Either way, a good L.D.S. church member always has books. And Kleenex. And maybe highlighters. A baggie of Cheerios for a small child. Breath mints. No-doze. (Just kidding - Mormons avoid caffeine.) Anything we might need to sustain us through three hours of church. And my young college-age friend, Jessie, has a really cute tote bag she uses on Sundays to haul all this stuff around in.

"Jessie, I love your bag," I told her one Sunday.

"Thanks. It's made out of a placemat."

Ha! Who'd have thought?

Many months later, I found myself needing to come up with an idea for a homemade gift. My responsibility in the church is in the Relief Society. Occasionally, the Relief Society holds additional meetings during the week. (Because sometimes three hours of church on Sunday is just not enough.) At these meetings we might learn a new skill, be educated on a topic, have a parenting class, go on a field trip to a museum. My job is to coordinate these weeknight meetings. We decided to have, in conjunction with our Annual Soup Dinner, a Homemade Gift Ideas Night. Women could share ideas for homemade gifts, giving help to whatever degree they felt comfortable. They could simply show the item. They could provide an instruction sheet. The could give a link to a website. They could offer personalized instruction to anyone who might want to make their item. As one of the women in charge of this activity, I felt like I needed to come up with an idea.

Jessie's placemat tote bag!

I actually made three of them. It was really easy. I'm pretty sure chimpanzees could be trained to produce these bags.

All you need is a placemat and a yard of grosgrain ribbon. And a sewing machine. If you can sew forward and backward in a straight line, you have the skill necessary to complete this project.

Step one: Fold the placemat in half (the hamburger way). Stitch along the sides. Make sure to backstitch at both ends.

Step two: Flatten the seam allowance open and form corner into a point.

Measure 2 1/2 inches from point and mark with a pencil. Both sides.

Step three: Stitch across from one pencil mark to the other in a straight line, backstitching at beginning and end. Repeat steps two and three on other corner of bag. Turn bag right-side-out. Voila!

Step four: Cut the yard of ribbon in half. Cut a notch out of each of the four ends by folding the ribbon in half ( the hot dog way) and snipping out a triangle. Make sure you snip in the right direction!

Step five: Position ribbon on bag. Stitch a small box-shape to secure in place. Stitch over it three or four times for added strength. Repeat with remaining ribbon ends so that you have two handles on your bag.

Step six: Load up bag and go to church. Don't forget the No-doze. Just Kidding!

*Every Weird Thing You Wanted To Know About Mormons But Were Afraid To Ask Because Then The Missionaries Might Show Up At Your Door

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Pumpkin Treats

Time for pumpkin treats!

Last week I realized that I had yet to enjoy a pumpkin treat this fall. I opened our neighborhood cookbook and found a recipe for Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bread, submitted by my friend, Jodie. I knew it would be wonderful because all of Jodie's recipes are wonderful. Only one problem: I'd recently recommitted to eating healthy. Maybe we (whomever it is out there I make these commitments to and I) could compromise. How about if I changed the white flour to wheat flour and replaced the shortening with applesauce? And the chocolate chips with raisins? I did, and it was wonderful.

Whole Wheat Pumpkin Bread with Raisins

2/3 cup applesauce
2 2/3 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 2/3 cups pumpkin
2/3 cup water
3 1/3 cups whole wheat flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. ground cloves
2 cups raisins

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a bundt pan with non-stick spray. In large bowl, mix together applesauce and sugar. Beat well. Stir in eggs, pumpkin and water. Mix flour and other dry ingredients together in another bowl. Add to pumpkin mixture. Mix well. Stir in raisins. Pour into prepared pan and bake for about 70 minutes. Bread is done when a toothpick or skewer inserted in center comes out clean. Let cool for about fifteen minutes, then invert onto a plate.

Okay, how about a couple of not-so-healthy pumpkin treats? I'm not making them this year- I'm only telling about them.

Pumpkin Bread Pudding  (also from the neighborhood cookbook - Deniece - another excellent cook)

6 T. dark brown sugar
1 cup raisins
2/3 cup hot water
1 (15 oz.) can pumpkin
4 large eggs
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups milk
2 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. ginger
1/4 tsp. allspice
pinch of salt
1 (12 oz.) loaf day old bread, cut into 3/4 inch cubes

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a bundt pan and sprinkle with the 6 T. dark brown sugar. Set aside on a baking sheet. Place raisins in a small bowl and cover with hot water until plump. (I've made this without the raisins. Still really good.) In a large bowl, whisk together pumpkin, eggs, sugar, milk, vanilla, spices, and salt. Toss in the bread cubes and stir gently to evenly coat. Let stand for a few minutes. Fold in the raisins. Put in prepared pan and press down slightly to make level. Bake for about 40 minutes or until custard is set in the center and top is golden. Let cool slightly, invert onto a plate and dust with powdered sugar. Slice and serve. This is my children's favorite fall dessert.
 Deniece gives a recipe for macadamia sauce to go with it. I've never made it. I think it's really good as is. I did put caramel sauce on it once and that was really good.

Pumpkin Pie Shake

vanilla ice cream
canned pumpkin
brown sugar
ground cloves

If your blender works better than mine, put all ingredients in blender and blend. If not, put all ingredients in large bowl and mash with a potato masher. All amounts are to taste.