Tuesday, March 22, 2022

Happy spring!*

 Well, friends, I did it.  I had the dry pinto beans out, so I filled a quart canning jar with dry beans and weighed them (if you don't know what I'm talking about, click here.  Don't forget to read the footnotes).  All the beans I had, which weighed a little under 1½ pounds, came up to where a 1 inch headspace would be on the quart jar, and 1 inch headspace is the amount of headspace specified in the recipe.  So yeah.  Not sure where they're getting that 2¼ pounds of beans per quart jar from.

It was a full day yesterday.  I spontaneously decided to make and can some chicken stock.  I am not a spontaneous person.  I am a planner, and I don't like it when things don't go according to plan, even good things.  Case in point: sometimes I decide to make cookies and take the butter out of the fridge to soften.  It is not unusual for that butter to still be on the counter softening 3 or 4 days later.  Because I can't make cookies, or do pretty much anything, spontaneously.  

I decided to make the chicken stock, because I was going to be cooking beans in the pressure cooker, and I figured I might as well make the stock first†, since I was going to haul the beast out.  And I already had all my pressure canning stuff out** from canning the beans the other day, so I figured I might as well can the stock.  I felt strange the whole time, because this wasn't something that I had been planning to do, and it feels like too big of a job to just start on a whim.  Yet, there I was.  Acting like a spontaneous person.

I say it was a full day, because it felt busy.  I crossed 11 items off my to-do list, when normally I shoot for 5, and am happy with 3.  The stock was not on the list--nor were the beans.

* * * * * 

Anyway.  It's spring.  Both meteorologically and astronomically speaking. 

I was appalled when I discovered that meteorologists say that spring starts on March 1 and ends May 31.  I mean, everyone knows that the first day of spring is the day of the vernal equinox, right?  And summer begins on the summer solstice, right?

But we all know that the equinox is not all it's cracked up to be.  At least, those of us who either read or wrote my equinox blog post know.  And this year, I decided.  Spring started March 1 for me.  It's easier to keep track of, and I'm still feeling a little bitter about the whole equinox thing, so, yeah.  I'm feeling pretty good about it, and I'm not going to let anyone bully me into not letting spring start until March 20 or 21.  So there.  It's spring, and I'm happy about it.

* * * * *

* I feel like this blog post is much more about chicken stock and beans than it is about spring, but I'm keeping the title.  I hope you don't feel too too baited and switched.

† I've been saving the bones from the 10 pound bag of chicken wings I bought because Hubby wanted chicken wings and no one had them except for Sam's Club.  We finally finished the bag on Sunday.  I'm a little sad that I didn't make stock from our Christmas turkey carcass, but I forgive myself, because at the time we were not using much chicken stock, and now, well, we are.  Next turkey, I'm making stock.

** Not to worry, friends.  The canning stuff has been put away, so there will be no more spontaneous canning projects in the near future.

Monday, March 21, 2022

Menu plan for the week of March 21

 I canned a load of pinto beans the other day, because I had the dry beans, and I'm planning use pinto beans this week.  But now that I have 8 beautiful pint jars of shelf-stable, recipe-ready pinto beans, I kind of want to save them.  It doesn't seem right to use 1/4 of them two days later.

So now, instead of using my convenient canned beans for taco bean soup, which is why I canned them, I'm planning to cook about 1/2 lb of dry pinto beans in a pressure cooker first.  Silly Scarlet.

I have my own method for canning dry beans, but I decided to look up the directions in my Ball Blue Book of Canning to confirm that my beans would be canned safely.  The only difference between my method and Ball's method is that they use approximately 2¼ pounds of beans per quart jar.  Y'all.  I use 2 pounds for four quart or 8 pint jars.  

I follow the Blue Book instructions: soak overnight, rinse, cover with 1" water, bring to a boil and simmer for 30 minutes, and I'm telling you: there is no way you would be able to fit 2¼ pounds of beans prepared in this manner, in one quart jar.  The only way you could fit that many beans in that size jar is if you packed them in dry, and even then, I'm not sure they'd fit†.  And then your jar would explode if you tried to can them, because beans expand when they're cooked.

What were/are they thinking? *

Here's what I'm thinking: we should eat food this week.  Here's what's on the menu:

  • Fend for self/Taco bean soup
  • Tacos with all the fixings
  • Spaghetti, green beans
  • Fend for self
  • Pizza, salad
  • Hamburgers or hot dogs, buns, tator tots, grilled veggie (I'll see what looks good when I get to the grocery store)
  • Grilled chicken, salad, veggie (from the freezer)


* * * * *

† I mean, obviously, now I'm going to have to try it.  I'll report back.  If I remember.

* I suspect that they're confused** about fluid ounces, which is a measure of volume, and ounces, which is a measure of weight.  Because commercial cans of beans contain 16 or so fluid ounces, and a pint jar contains around the same amount of fluid ounces, and a pound is 16 ounces, so they figure a pint jar can contain a pound of beans.

** I feel like, as an authority on safe canning techniques, they should not be confused about this.

Thursday, March 17, 2022


I've always had this notion that the vernal and autumnal equinoxes (equinoxi?) were called equinox because on those days, we had equal night and day.  Imagine my disappointment, nay, my feelings of betrayal and dismay, when, a few years ago, I decided to check.  On the equinox, I looked at our sunrise and sunset times, and discovered ... I'd missed it.  The day that we had had equal day and night had been a few days prior†. 

Today is our equinox, as in the day we have equal day and night, here near the 45th parallel north.  See that?  Sunrise at 7:19 a.m.*; sunset at 7:19 p.m.  Equal.

Astronomically speaking, an equinox is the moment when the sun crosses the equator**, which means that the Earth's axis is perpendicular to the sun's rays, which should mean, in theory, that everywhere on earth gets equal amounts of light and darkness.  And it's true that everywhere*** on earth gets approximately equal amounts of light and dark on the day of an equinox--it's just not quite equal.

But, of course, there are other factors involved, including the fact that light is stronger than, and overcomes, darkness††.  I mean, there are science-y words for it, but that's what it comes down to.

Fun fact: Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station, Antarctica switches from polar day (when the sun is always above the horizon) to polar night (when the sun is always below the horizon) around March 23, which is also not the equinox.  

* * * 

† We also do not have our longest night on the winter solstice or our longest day on the summer solstice.  Talk about feeling betrayed.

* That feels untrue, since it's over an hour later and I haven't seen the sun****

** The celestial equator, which is an imaginary line in the sky above the equator.

*** Not the south pole, obviously.

**** Because it's cloudy, not because the sun didn't rise, but it feels like the sun didn't rise. 

†† The presence of something (light) drives out the absence of something (darkness).

Wednesday, March 9, 2022

March is practically over.

My favorite mystery shops are released four times a year, in January, April, July, and October.  That means that the shops are listed and are available to be requested for assignment four times a year.  The shops are assigned on a first come, first served basis.  There is someone,* some faceless mystery shopper colleague**, in my area against whom I am always racing to get, at least, the shops that are closest to me, and so it behooves me to know when those shops will be released.

Unfortunately, the shops are not always released on the first day of the month.  Sometimes they'll be listed a few days before the first of the month; sometimes they will become available a few days after the first of the month.  And they're not always listed at the same time of day, either.  It's not a consistent day or time, is what I'm telling you.  I have fallen in to the habit of checking for shops more and more frequently as the beginning of one of those four months approaches, so I don't miss them.  These are my favorite mystery shops, after all.  They are easy and pay well with a generous reimbursement, plus I get to surprise people sometimes--I enjoy doing them.

I found myself ramping up my checking-for-mystery-shops about a week ago.  You know, around the 2nd or 3rd of March?  And every time, there would be nothing, and I would look at the date and realize that April is still most of a month away from now.  My brain thinks that March is mostly over.  I don't know why, but it does.  Even now that I've realized what I'm doing, part of my brain still thinks March is mostly over and those shops will be showing up any time now.

It's not, you know.  March is not almost over.

* * * * * 

Speaking of March, we're coming up on that week of minor March holidays: Pi day, Ides of March, 3/16 Day***, St. Patrick's Day... Am I missing any of them?  Probably.  Then there's the spring equinox, after a few days break.  Oh, then 3/21: countdown day.  Anybody going to celebrate any or all?  Let me know in the comments.

* * *

* It could be more than one someone, I suppose

** When I am in a location that I know is mystery shopped regularly, but am not, myself, currently mystery shopping, I always wonder if someone else in the room is conducting a mystery shop right at that moment.  It's weird and interesting to think about.

*** For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.    

Tuesday, March 8, 2022

Why not use it?

 I have this bowl.  It's so pretty, with its butterflies, flowers, and dragonfly, and a cheerful yellow interior.  I like it a lot.

I obtained this bowl several years ago because of Kohls cash: I don't remember now whether it was to reach the threshold to earn Kohls cash* or if it was purchased with Kohls cash.  Since then, it's lived, decoratively, on top of a kitchen cupboard.  I have rarely, if ever, used it.  At the time, I thought the bowl would be dual purpose--used both for decoration and as a serving bowl.  But y'all.  It is very rarely that I make enough of a single type of food to justify getting this bowl down to serve it in.

You may recall that I'm following along** with a spring cleaning challenge.  The first day of the challenge, a week ago, I was supposed to clean our kitchen cupboards***, and as part of cleaning the kitchen cupboards, I took down the d├ęcor above my cabinets, cleaned the tops of the cabinets, and washed the various bowls, pots, and casserole dishes† that live up there, including this bowl.

Do you have space above your kitchen cupboards?  I really like being able to put stuff up there, first, because I feel like I don't have a whole lot of storage in my kitchen, and second, because I think it looks nice to have pretty things up there.  But by george, does it get icky up there!  It's dusty, of course, because ...well... I don't dust, and I especially don't dust up there.  But it's also sticky.  It is very sticky dust on top of my cabinets.

As I was washing the sticky dust†† off the bowl, I thought to myself, "self, you never use this bowl, because it's too inconvenient to get the step stool, climb up, grab the bowl, say, 'ew. This bowl is sticky,' and wash it before using it.  You should get rid of this bowl."

And I almost did.  I had it in the get-rid-of-these-things pile.  I was about to take pictures to post it for sale, when I decided I liked it too much to let it go.  But I was also determined to not put it back up on that cupboard.

Instead, I decided to use it.  I cleaned it and stacked it with my mixing bowls--which is a much more appropriate use for this size bowl††† than serving‡.  Last night I mixed up mini waffles‡‡ and delighted in using my bowl.

It had never occurred to me that I could use my pretty bowl for something other than looking pretty.  But I'm so glad it finally did.  This is my new favorite mixing bowl, and it makes me happy when I pull it from the cupboard to use.  That yellow interior is so sunny and bright--it's like I have a little bit of sunshine hiding away, just for me.

Do you have anything like that?  Something that seems too pretty or too nice or too valuable or too sentimental or too ~whatever~ to use?  I don't know--I feel like you'll get much more enjoyment from those things if you actually use them.  Give it a try?  Let me know how it goes.

* * * * * * * 

* This is not something I do anymore. I have spent way too much of my life wandering around Kohls looking for something to buy using Kohls cash.  If I earn Kohls cash, ok, but I will not go out of my way to earn it.

** Loosely following--following in the sense that I receive the emails and considered printing out the 31 day list.  So far, I've completed day 1.  The challenge has moved on without me to day 8: clean bathroom counters and sinks, which doesn't seem much like a "spring cleaning" task, but it does make me feel better about skipping the last 6 days of the challenge.

*** The challenge did not specify if this was supposed to be inside, outside, on top, or all of the above, so I chose to ignore the insides, concentrating on the outside and top.  One day is not enough time to do inside, outside, top.  It's not even enough time to do all of the outsides.  For me, anyway.

† Also, a serving platter (from my grandmother's china), a pretty pie plate (which I do use), and an oil lamp (which we use when the electricity goes out, for an extended period of time, when it's dark).

†† I don't know how to convey to you how sticky this stuff is.  It does not go easily.  It feels like it's permanently bonded to the surface, and it takes quite a bit of soaking, scrubbing, soaking, scrubbing to get it off.  It's not as easy as, say, I'll just wipe this off with my soapy dishcloth.  Nope.  

††† About 6 quarts, I'd say?  It holds about the same as my second-to-biggest mixing bowl.

‡ I'm not a serving bowl person anyway.  The food I make generally gets served from whatever it was cooked or assembled in, because my main objective in life is to generate as few dirty dishes as possible.

‡‡ Hence, the batter drips in the photo.  You were judging me for posting a picture of a dirty bowl, weren't you?  Well, the dirtiness--it's kind of the point.

Tuesday, March 1, 2022

Do you spring clean?

 What does "spring cleaning" mean to you?  What comes to mind when someone says that phrase?  And regardless of what "spring cleaning" means, do you participate?

My understanding* is that spring cleaning was a thing because people heated their homes by burning coal, and over the winter coal dust would settle on everything.  And now that most of us (in the US) don't heat our homes by burning coal, spring cleaning isn't strictly necessary, especially since we're keeping our homes tidy and clean through regular cleaning and maintenance†.

There's something about spring, though, that makes me want to do things like pull out my fridge to clean behind it, get down on the floor with a scrub brush and toothbrush to get into the cracks and corners that my mop doesn't reach, and wash the baseboards**.  

I'm pretty sure the thing about spring that makes me want to do things like that is the fact that there are approximately 485 bazillion spring cleaning challenges and lists out in cyberspace at this time of year.  This year, I am following Taylor at Stain Removal 101's spring cleaning challenge.  

I'm also not really following, but seeing Jordan Page's Productivity Bootcamp spring cleaning challenge on Instagram.  This week in JPPB, challenge taker-on-ers are supposed to be cleaning bathrooms, and the tip she gave was to take the toilet seat off to make it easier to clean those hard to reach spots.  Dude.  I take the toilet seats off once a month (except the one whose bolts are rusted into place) and even that isn't enough to keep 'em clean.  I cannot imagine what a year of build-up would look like.

Anyway, today in SR101, we're supposed to be cleaning our kitchen cabinets.  So I took all of the small appliances out of their cabinet and vacuumed†† it, decided not to do the switcheroo I have been contemplating (moving the small appliances to a hallway closet and moving the bulk/overflow food storage††† to the lazy susan in the kitchen), and then mopped my kitchen, dining, and entry areas, before plopping myself down on the couch to write a blog post*** about it.  And, after all, the floor is wet in there, so I can't be expected to clean cupboards now, can I?

I timed myself mopping the floor.  And by timed, I mean I forgot I wanted to time myself, but I was listening to The Greatest Showman Original Motion Picture Soundtrack, and I started sometime during A Million Dreams, and ended right near the end of Rewrite the Stars, which I love and can play on the ukulele****.

I wanted to time myself because it always seems like such a laborious and time-sucking process, mopping, but I have learned through timing myself doing other things, that usually things I think will take a Really Long Time, don't.  Unloading the dishwasher, for instance--that takes less than 5 minutes.  Seriously.  I didn't believe it either, but there it was.

I do think I'll clean at least some of the kitchen cabinets today, especially since this blog post is coming to an end, but I'm not sure if I can muster up the endurance to get through them all.

OK.  Floor's dry.  Here I go.

* * * * * 

*Based on what, I am not quite sure.  Something I read or heard, no doubt, but I'm fuzzy on the specifics, including the validity of the source.

† Ha!  As if.

**Which I didn't realize was an actual thing that people do until recently-ish.  I thought washing baseboards was strictly a made-up job used to punish children.

†† Because the toaster is stored there.

††† Oh, how I wish I had an actual pantry.  We had one in our first house, and I didn't appreciate it the way I should have, the way I would, now.

***Still my favorite chore avoidance technique.

****Also a favorite chore avoidance technique.

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