Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Canning jar seedlings

I mentioned that my tomato plants are poking themselves out of the dirt.  Awesome!  Somehow, I am amazed that I don't kill all my plants just by looking at them, the way I used to do in the old days.

The dirt is in canning jars.  This is how I've been starting my seedlings for several years now (see this old post with a few more details), and it seems to work just great.  I have lots of empty canning jars by March, so what better use for them than to begin next year's cycle of food preparation?

Really, the only variation from a few years back is that now I keep all the jars in a cardboard box, all the better for carrying them en masse outside to play in the sun (and harden them up) once the weather turns warmer.  The cardboard box is like their Magic School Bus, that takes them on their field trips to wonderful new places.

I know that indoor seedlings need something like real sun or a grow light if they want to grow big and strong, but I get twitchy leaving a grow light on all day -- after all, I'm the person who walks around behind family members turning off lights when they leave the room.   (Yes, I admit it.  I'm THAT person).

So last year, I tried to make sure my plants got daily field trips into the backyard whenever the weather cooperated, and that seemed to be enough vitamin D and UV and such to get them ready for their eventual transplanting.

Grow, plants, grow!

Monday, March 30, 2015

What to (not) get Miser Mom for her Birthday

I had a great birthday this past weekend.  I got to drive to a fabulous math meeting; I got my grading done in record time (whoop); K-daughter went into labor, so even as I write this, my granddaughter is on the way (whoop-to-the-whoop!).  Ooh, and I heard that one of my papers is going to get folded into a "best math papers of the year" volume put out by a Prestigious Press.  Oh, and my tomato seeds are sprouting.

With all this excitement-o-rama to keep me occupied, it's not like I need extra commercial/consumer stimulation.  So I was very happy that nobody bought me this purse.  My husband was the one who pointed it out to me -- it comes from some fancy maker (Dooney Bourke?) and it has the IronMan logo, not to mention a several-hundred dollar price tag, and he's been getting email ads for it ever since we finished our race in August.  I look at those weeny little handles for carrying it, and I can't imagine lugging it around.  I'm happy to leave that bag to others and stick with my own home-made bag, which has shoulder straps and actually carries the kinds of things that I need.  

Similarly, the billboards that advertise tanning salons are popping up like crocuses all around our highways.  To me, there could be almost no greater torture than paying piles of money for an experience that would force me to be inactive for long periods of time while endangering my health.  So I'm glad that that's another present I didn't receive.  Whew!  Am I lucky, or what?

No one gave me jewelry, and since last year I went to a lot of effort to carefully give all of my existing stash away, I was very glad to get no more.

I did receive two sets of very thoughtful presents.  My daughter got me a pile o chocolates.  (yum yum yum).  

And my husband, after some not very subtle hinting from me, was glad to get the chance to drop some money on a gift I've been sort of obsessing about ever since I saw it on nicoleandmaggies blog in November.  (So it's a present from the blogosphere, as well -- thanks, n-and-m!)  As a present from my husband, I now have a pair of Maped metal pencil sharpeners.  And boy, are they nice.  Srsly.  Worth the wait.  
They're nice enough that someday, I might pass them along to my granddaughter, now that I'm going to have one.  

Life is good.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

a small thing to love: a broom

I'm not sure why I'm so fond of a good broom, but I am.

I like the kind with wooden handles and straw bristles, not plastic. I always drill a hole in the wood and add a loop or a ring to hang the broom, so the bristles don't warp from sitting on the floor.

I like a good broom so much, that about two months ago I splurged.  I spent $12 and I bought an upstairs broom, even though we already had a broom hanging in the kitchen.  First thing I did when I got home after buying the new broom:  drilled a hole and inserted a ring, and hung it in the hallway.  Now the boys don't steal the kitchen broom and leave it in their bedroom; they have a dedicated bedroom broom.

That's all.  I just like brooms.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Update: In the Twinkle of a (Dog's) Eye

Last July, I wrote about a doggy dilemma:  do I take my aging dog in for ophthalmic surgery, or not?  By denying my dog care, was I dooming him to pain and suffering?  Blindness?

He'd been scratching his eye and squinting, and the vet diagnosed him with a torn cornea.  Often those heal on their own, but for Miser Dog, not.  We were encouraged to take him in for more intensive treatment, but I decided not to.  I figured his advanced age didn't warrant serious intervention.  But I did worry that I might be soon taking care of a blind-in-one-eye dog.

Now, lo these many months later, I am happy to report that Miser Dog is fine.  He gallantly helps with clean-up of dishes, as yesterday's post shows.  He also bravely defends our home from squirrels and joggers by standing sentry atop his dog house.  If any intruders come too close, he woofs them away.
Miser Dog standing guard.  
 The dog house stands over a window well, outside the window to our dining room, and within a fenced-in dog run.  The dog door that lets him back into the dog house is down in the window well.  A set of hand-built stairs helps him get from the floor of the basement up to his dog door, which we set in a panel of wood where the window used to be.  From there he passes through the door, and hops up from the window well to the level ground (and from there up onto the top of his dog house).
Miser Dog heads outside for a little fresh air.
 To get back in the house, he just reverses the process.   He's got quite a bit of pep still in him.  And he seems to be none the worse for wear in spite of last summer's cornea concerns.  In fact, you might say he still likes to keep an eye on things.

Are there any dangerous dachshunds walking by on the right?  No . .
Nope; don't see any dangerous dachshunds!

 Any scurrilous squirrels threatening from the left?   No . . .
Thought I mighta saw a squirrel, but it retreated.

By the way, notice the total lack of squint.  It looks like his eyes healed up okay, even without professional intervention.

Okay, then, Miser Dog's sentry duty is done, and it's safe to come back in the house.
Welcome back, Miser Dog!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Canning Jar Burgers

Okay, so the title of the post is a bit of a lie.   This isn't about canning jar burgers, it's about canning ring burgers.  Either way, we think this idea is pretty cute.

N-son had a stroke in utero, and so some kinds of physical activities are still oddly difficult for him -- especially things that require fine motor skills with two hands.  Making hamburger patties, curiously enough, is one of those tricky things.

So last week when it was his night to cook, he asked for help forming the hamburger patties.  And being the kind of mom who wants my kids to grow the heck up so they can fend for themselves in a few years, I decided to try to find a way that allowed N-son to make patties all by himself.  And the answer to this burning question (or, at least, to this grilling question) is canning jar lids.

Because, as it turns out, the ring for a wide-mouth canning jar is perfect for holding a quarter-pound of hamburger.  We had a 2-lb pack that we sliced into 8 equal blobs of hamburger.  Each blob went into its own canning ring, arranged neatly on a cookie sheet.  (The dog, in the background, is intensely curious about this process.)

 To get beautiful round hamburger shapes, just pat the meat down into the mold.  Super easy: it can be done with just one hand -- in this case, the non-stroke-affected left hand!   You can see that the middle canning ring hasn't yet been patted down, but the close ones have.  The burgers get nice and round and have an even thickness.

 Use the tray to carry everything over to the grill.  The burgers slip right out of the rings.
 See how nice and even these shapes come out?

And here, of course, is what Miser Dog has been waiting for:  clean-up time!  He likes to help pre-rinse our dirty dishes before the go into the dishwasher.  Everyone in our family has a job to do.
I didn't take a picture of the finished burgers because by the time they were ready, I was ravenous.  But they came out great.  Good job, N-son!  Bon appetit!

Monday, March 23, 2015

Lumpy old people

Well, life has been a swirl of paper and pain over here in the Miser Mom neck of the woods.  My husband and I have been divvying this up: the paper has sort of piled up around me, and the pain has piled up around him.   Fortunately, both paper and pain seem to be subsiding.

The pain started attaching itself to my husband right after the New Year.  It started with discomfort whenever he sat.  For an ADHD guy, sitting has always been one of his least favorite activities, but the pain got so acute so that he couldn't sit at the dinner table, or sit in church, or sit in a car . . . yoicks.  He got some X-rays.  The preliminary diagnosis:  degenerative spinal arthritis leading to crumbling lumbar something-or-others, leading to pinched nerves.

The pain turned into numbness.  MRI's of his spine followed, suggesting that maybe spinal arthritis was not really the culprit, after all.   If it wasn't the butler that did it, who?   Like a bad TV show, we had to wait for the next week's episode of MRI to scan his pelvis.  As long as the docs were filming, they decided to go for some shock value, and so they sent him in for electrical nerve testing.  (Along the way I got to discover just how frightened my husband is of electric shocks . . . it was nerve testing in more than one sense!)

Fortunately, eventually, both the second MRI and the Franken-tests confirmed that the problem was a cyst on his hamstring.  A big (1.5") cyst, but basically just a blister.  Another week of waiting, a sonogram to determine precise location, and a needle to drain the cyst, and he returned back to nearly normal.

Which, for my husband, is not exactly normal in the sense that one might mean for other people.  He's thrown himself back onto his bike, is taking Russian language classes for fun, and is trying to get a waiver to stay in the army a few more years.   (And why, you ask, would the army want to toss out a perfectly good 62-year-old man who is possibly suffering from degenerative spinal arthritis?)

The fix for the cyst was simple.  The diagnosis was the bear in the cave; we'll be sorting out the bills and reimbursements for his many tests for a few months yet.  But at least we know now he's not decrepit; he's just lumpy.

I, too, have been getting lumpier over time.  Every once in a while, I notice a hard lump (on my thigh, on my arm), and I point it out to my doctor with understandable alarm.  So far, my doctor just shrugs it off with "it's a fatty nodule".  Okay.  I've got fatty nodules.  And the older I get, the lumpier I'll get, too.  I'd looked forward to growing older with my guy, but it looks like our marriage goes beyond even that:  now I know my husband and I can grow lumpy together.