The Geekiest Girl

A few of my favorite things…

Archive for the month “August, 2011”

41 years old and never felt the earth move…until today.

We had a 5.8 + earthquake in central Virginia today, twenty-seven miles from where I was walking down the hall on the 3rd floor at work. On my way to get a cup of coffee. Or a fax. Something stupefying and work-related. That’s when the floor started to move in just that exact way that it shouldn’t.

I found the nearest unoccupied doorway, stood and waited. And waited. 25 seconds is longer than you’d think. But nothing moved other than the floor. No ceiling tiles dropped and no books fell off the shelves. Nothing dramatic. Except me wondering if it would get any worse.

I went down the stairwell immediately behind two people moving slower than I liked. Until we arrived on the 1st floor, within sight of the exit, where they stopped.

They stood, blocking the hallway, while they decided if they were going to go potty now or later. Perhaps following the aftershock.

I contemplate my options, TombRaider style.

Now, this was no west-coast style earthquake. No buildings fell. No loss of life. All in all, a good earthquake to be in. So far. Still, I thought it best to leave. And yet, there they stood. Pondering. Blocking my way.

Those who know me know I am not a patient person. In normal circumstances, I fly through hallways and burst out of doorways on my way to the next thing. It’s just how I walk: purposeful. Fast.

But I waited. This was kind of an emergency and I thought I should behave calmly. I thought of George Costanza on Seinfeld shoving aside a clown and an old woman with a walker as he raced to the door to get away from a fire. That wasn’t me.

Finally, they reached a decision: go pee. Me? I headed for the door, ready to avail myself of the nearby woods and bushes if need be.

Ever taken a boat ride in moderate swell? You know how your legs continue to adjust for the waves, even when you are on dry land? I still feel that hours later.

It wasn’t dramatic. Barely even scary. But it was my first earthquake. I checked it off my first experiences list and said to the universe:

“No more for me. I’m good. Thank you.”


I’ll do it my own dang’d self: Part 3 Canning Under Pressure

One Friday, a few months ago, my boss passed me in the hall. She noticed I had a big grin on my face:

Boss (curious):  “What are you so happy about?”

Me: “I’ve decided to can chicken stock this weekend!”

Boss (puzzled):  “Why does that make you so happy?”

Me (grinning maniacally now): “I have absolutely no idea!”

Thursday had been a bad day and I’d driven home deeply discouraged. I was thinking about what I could do that weekend to make up for it. I remembered I had enough chicken bones to make stock. I love to make stock but typically freeze it to preserve it and the freezer was full to bursting.

I drove on awhile and when I reached the top of the big hill just before home, I gave myself a mighty dopeslap: “I could CAN it!”

But chicken stock can’t be canned like blackberry jelly. It’s a low acid food and requires higher pressure to reach temperatures for safe canning. I didn’t have a pressure canner. I’d have to buy one! Oh, the joy of finding a reason to buy a new tool!

My first canner.

Susan’s Silly Simple Chicken Stock:

  1. Save chicken bones and leavings in a one gallon ziplock bag in the freezer.
  2. When the bag is full, empty into a large pot.
  3. Rough cut strong flavored vegetables and put them in the pot. Any veggie that isn’t a starch will do just fine.
  4. Add herbs.  Thyme and rosemary are always good, but use what you like. Tie them up in a bit of cheesecloth to make them easier to remove later.
  5. Add enough water to the pot to cover the bones and vegetables, then add a bit more.
  6. Add a dash of vinegar to help release calcium from the bones into the stock. No more than a tablespoon.
  7. Simmer for 12 to 36 hours until it tastes like soup. It is best not to let it boil. Slow cooking is better.
  8. Strain out the chicken bones, vegetables and herbs. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  9. Chill the stock overnight and then skim the fat off the top. You are done!

A brief word before we begin:

Canning, when not done properly, can be dangerous due to a risk of issues such as botulism. This post is NOT intended as a complete how-to. I highly encourage you to try canning yourself but educate yourself first. Read the instructions that come with your canner. I also highly recommend Ball Blue Book Guide to Canning. In the U.S., contact your local Cooperative Extension System office for more information (and it’s free).

Early that Sunday morning, when the chicken stock was ready for canning, I started the process. The first step was to wash the new pressure canner. I gave myself a lovely gash on my arm while washing the inside of the lid. Those new canners bite!

Next, I washed the jars then filled them with hot water so when boiling chicken stock was added, they would be less likely to break.

The world's most boring picture.

I brought the chicken stock to a boil:

Ok. So THIS may be the world's most boring picture.

I put the boiling stock into the pre-heated jars, added a lid and band to each, then carefully loaded them into the canner. (A jar lifter is HIGHLY recommended to make this easier and safer.)

Eight jars of yummies.

After adding water to the canner and clamping down the lid, I turned up the heat to bring the water to a boil and force the air from the canner. The instructions said to allow a “moderate” flow of steam for 10 minutes. Moderate? I assume “minimum” would be invisible and “high” would peel paint off the wall.

Watching steam leave the pot.

Once the steam had run long enough to force all air out of the canner, I put the pressure regulator over the steam vent and watched the pressure rise. When it was at the recommended pressure, I set the timer for 20 minutes and played “Army of Darkness Defense” while I waited. (Supervision, while necessary, requires minimal effort.)

Oh, the pressure!

After a lengthy cool down, I opened the canner to remove 8 lovely jars of canned chicken stock. The lids started popping before I had them out on the table.

My lovelies.

My basement shelves are filling with jars of yummy chicken stock. When the zombie apocalypse comes, I’ll be ready.

Yes, it’s all about learning how to do things yourself and being prepared!

A brief interlude…”It’s all about the triumph of intellect and romance over brute force and cynicism.”

The canning chronicle will continue. But first, a brief and delightful interlude:

Craig Ferguson captures the heart of Doctor Who: silly and goofy and serious and smart and absolutely fantastic! Enjoy this paean to a most wonderful bit of science fiction and storytelling.

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