Summer break is over

Well, kinda. For me, anyway. I walked in the graduation and ceremony and everything, and am definitely part of the class of 2014 … but I also have 3 credits to finish up. So I’m taking an online course this summer to wrap up those last few credits. It’s a 12 credit course, so I could conceivably just phone it in and still get enough credits — I just don’t feel comfortable with that in any way whatsoever.

I like school.

John’s vacation ended this week, so today was pretty much spent in a blur of housework and canning. I don’t know why, but for some reason I don’t really do chores as much when he’s home. It’s like, I know the laundry and dishes and whatnot need to get done, but I also just want to hang out with my guy. Generally, timing my workload to do the housework while he’s at his job is a good strategy … it just doesn’t work well when he’s on vacation, lol.

I did at least get to try some new experiments in food this week: I made homemade pho yesterday, and tonight we had wienerschnitzel with spätzle. I’ve made wienerschnitzel plenty of times before, but this is my first experience with spätzle. Man, I love testing recipes.

Today was canning day. I made my homemade applesauce, which I’ve decided to call awesomesauce, since it was the surprise hit of my canning ventures last summer. I use a basic recipe I found on Allrecipes, and add some lemon peel and cinnamon to it. I don’t know how much, exactly. I just kind of eyeball it. It tastes … bright. I don’t know how else to describe it. I don’t even like applesauce normally, but this stuff is really yummy. It disappeared so fast last year that I’m making tons of extra this year.

Awesomesauce

Awesomesauce

I also tried something new: Apple cherry jam. The base recipe I worked off called for apple juice, but I was like screw that noise. Instead I used two diced apples and a cup of cold water (I doubled the entire recipe). Oh, man, it’s really good. I’m actually pleasantly surprised … believe it or not, I’m not a huge fan of cherries. We only got these because John wanted them. I’m more of a raspberry girl.

Apple cherry jam

Apple cherry jam

This picture so does not even approach doing this jam justice. Seriously. I cannot wait until that first loaf of homemade potato bread comes out of the oven tomorrow, and I can slather it with this jammy cherry goodness. My mouth is watering just thinking about it.

Man, I wish Rini and Luix had visited this week. I could give them some jam. Can I mail jam overseas? Is that allowed? I bet that’s not allowed. Side note — I asked Rini if she takes half and half in her coffee, and she said she takes her coffee with milk. I gave her a kind of funny look and was like, “You mean whole milk?” because who wants 2% milk watering down their coffee? Well, apparently in the UK, they don’t have half and half. I don’t even … I can’t even …

But … how do you drink coffee?

I don’t know why I remembered that. Probably because Rini imitated the way Americans say “half and half” (dropping the so it’s pronounced haf n haf), and it was so nasal and twangy and hilarious sounding that John and I have been exaggerating our American pronunciation ever since. And tonight we had to buy half and half.

Seriously, try pronouncing half and half with the “l“. It comes out, hallf and hallf, with the same “a” sound as in “hall” instead of the flatter “a” we usually say half n half with. It’s very weird.

Anyway. So. Today was canning and drying fruit day (yes, we dried some fruit) and grocery shopping day. Tomorrow will be baking bread and doing laundry and canning more awesomesauce day. I also have to bake some cookies with Kidling — I promised him we would try out this recipe for Jell-o cookies. And over the next week, we have soccer practice and games, homework, class readings, and I need to schedule some informational interviews. Oh, and it’s the 4th of July next week. And we want to ride over to Eastern Washington at some point to pick up raspberries. This summer is shaping up to be pretty busy! Man, remember the lazy summer days of childhood, when you didn’t have to worry about chores and laundry and practices and schedules? Ah, well. We all must grow up sometime, I guess.

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Summer fun, vacation, and canning season

The days are so full I barely have time to blog. I’ve started one or two posts that are in draft phase, inspired by some discussions over on reddit, but I think I want to revise them a bit before posting (if I remember to at all).

This week has been pretty busy. Saturday we went garage saling, and scored quite a few neat finds. Besides the creepy doll and antique typewriter pictured below, we also found a working ice cream maker, some antique bottle caps, a beautiful red coat, a nice cowl-neck sweater, an hors d’ouevres server, some out of print books, a huge box of bionic lego sets for Kidling, two dog food dishes, and two foldable camping chairs. I may have forgotten a few items … John had some things he found, too. Total cost for the entire haul was under $15, so I feel like we did well. Oh! And I found some cute baby clothes for my little niece. Godniece? Adopted niece? Whatever, she’s the cutest.

Creepy Doll: $0.25

Creepy Doll: $0.25

Antique Typewriter: $1.00

Antique Typewriter: $1.00

We were planning to go to this summer solstice party we’d been invited to, but by the time the afternoon rolled around I was getting my ass kicked by a migraine of epic proportions. So instead we headed home so I could lie down in a dark and silent room with a cool cloth on my forehead. John hung up blackout curtains to make the room darker for me, brought me some excedrin migraine, and took Kidling off to the park to play soccer until I felt better.

You know, I always appreciate my awesome husband, but I am really blown away by how lucky I am to be married to this man when I’m feeling like shit. He’s so patient and compassionate, and he does the sweetest, most thoughtful things to help me get through it. Before John, I was with my share of assholes — the type of guy who tells you to toughen up or stop crying when you’re feeling like shit. John learned pretty quickly that my pain tolerance is pretty high (walking as soon as my epidural wore off after a c-section), so he takes it really seriously when I say I’m not feeling well. It’s funny how valuable such a simple thing is — to be taken seriously when you’re not feeling well.

Sunday was a bit more of a lazy day. We did some canning (strawberry jam, yeah baby!) and caught up on shows and reading that have been pushed to the side with the houseguests and whatnot. On Monday, we hit up Wild Waves. Kidling brought a friend, and it was (as usual) super fun. They’ve installed some new rides and are doing some expansions, so we had the added bonus of exploring the new stuff. It was a really long and exhausting day, and we’re all a bit sunburnt (but happy!) from it. The next day, I baked some homemade bread like I do every week, but this time I doubled the recipe so I could pay back a friend who came by to check on our animals while we picked up my sister in Seattle. It was too much dough to knead in the mixer, so I had to knead it by hand — or I would have if Mishka hadn’t come by right then with my little godniece so we could go on a walk! John took over the kneading, and I got my walk on.

I also worked on my assignments for my online course. I had to watch a really cool video about the criminal justice system in the United States of America, which I highly recommend to anyone interested in the criminal system. The bit at the end, when she talks about the risks of Megan’s Law, really intrigued me. It made me think of this CNN article I read awhile ago, The Rapist Next Door, about a new monitoring system being tested in Alaska. Did you know Alaska has the highest rape rate of any state? I didn’t either.

Anyway, on Tuesday evening, Kidling had his 2nd soccer game (his 3rd one is on Thursday). His coach says he’s doing really well, especially as this is his first time playing on a team. He always remarks on how much Kidling has improved between games and practices, and the positive reinforcement is really inspiring Kidling to practice on an almost daily basis. It’s pretty cool.

Today we headed off to Eastern Washington for fruit (more canning!). I love this state so much it hurts sometimes. It’s incredibly beautiful. We went over by way of Chinook Pass and hooked back through White Pass. It’s amazing to watch the changes in foliage and scenery as we pass through the state. Even the scents change!

I love that we don’t need to drive out to a special park or something to be surrounded by forest — going down pretty much any highway, the forest arches above and around, while the asphalt track of road winds ahead, sliced through with sun and shadow. It’s almost ethereal. I love Eastern Washington, too — the beat of the summer sun lancing down from a pale blue, cloudless sky; the golden warm hills rolling one into the next; the silver green shrubs dotting the landscape.

Image Credit: Greywolf.bravepages.com

Image Credit: Greywolf.bravepages.com

Besides apples (for homemade applesauce) and cherries (canning plans to be determined), we also picked up John’s camping gear. He’s going on a week-long off-road motorcycle camping trip that stretches from Canada into Oregon and back through this beautiful state of ours. He’s taking his go-pro, obviously, because he’s going to be seeing some of the coolest scenery. I’m almost jealous enough to wish I rode a dual-sport, too — but I’m not really an off-roading type of gal. I like my sport touring just the way she is.

Testing Recipes: Bacon Cinnamon Rolls

You may have seen this image floating around on Pinterest and Facebook. Probably Tumblr and G+, as well.

omg

I adore both cinnamon rolls and bacon, so I saw this and I was just like:

Omg, omg, omg!

Of course I had to go out and get the stuff to try this immediately. I bought everything earlier this week, but I had a bunch of papers due on Friday, two reading selections to complete, my Spanish homework, and John started his new shift this week. So you know what today was, right?

It’s time for bacon!!!!

Recipe-testing day! (kind of. This doesn’t really count as a recipe, because it’s really just the last step of slightly altering the pre-assembled ingredients before the requisite baking).

Allright. So, full disclosure, I did not decide to write a post until after I made the things. I promised to update a friend on how it turned out, and decided to do this instead of a FB status. After all was said and done, this is my assessment:

It was all right.

It’s okay. It’s nothing to write home about, and certainly nothing to get super excited about. But it wasn’t awful. There are some improvements that can be made, I think:

  • I lightly cooked the bacon prior to rolling it into the cinnamon roll. My husband suggested this step, and I think it was a good idea. It ensured the bacon was not only fully cooked, but retained some it’s bacon-y texture instead of becoming a limp bacon strip essentially boiled inside the expanding dough.
  • Remember to roll the cinnamon rolls back up tightly, because after unrolling them they kind of want to stay open.
  • Make extra cinnamon-butter. I didn’t do this because I didn’t think of it, but I wish I had. A decent amount of the cinnamon filling comes off when you unroll the things.
  • Following the above point, make sure you’re using a clean surface like a cutting board, and have a knife or spatula handy to scrape up the cinnamon filling/ butter that peels off.
  • Cut  the bacon. I didn’t do this, but I recommend it.

For the final point, I’d say, like 1″ strips for the bacon. When you just do the one long massive strip in the roll, it ends up pulling the whole strip of bacon out with the first bite. Don’t get me wrong, it’s delicious — but it means that it’s not bite after bite of cinnamon-roll bacony goodness, and that is the main reason for my “meh” reaction. I could have just cooked up some bacon while baking the cinnamon rolls and had the same situation.

Seems . . . pointless.

So instead, I’d suggest cutting the cooked bacon strip into 1/2″ or 1″ strips and laying down the full strip of pieced bacon in the roll. This will allow for a better bacon-to-bite ratio.

I think the next time I try it, I will also sprinkle some of those real bacon crumbles on the top of the cinnamon rolls. (I’m actually thinking I should go ahead and try to make actual homemade cinnamon rolls, which I’ve never done, and incorporate pecans, bacon crumbles, and a maple glaze.)

Bacon! Maple! Pecans! Cinnamon Rolls!