The Geekiest Girl

A few of my favorite things…

Archive for the tag “do it yourself”

The Paint Job: A Short Story

Harrigan picked up the phone on the first ring: “Shit.”

“What?” said Sam. “I saw your post on Facebook: ‘Just provided 12 square feet of proof that the world DOES need professional painters’. Thought I’d give you a ring. It sounded sad.”

“Well, I suck. I painted my bedroom wall and it looks like ass. Ass painted my favorite color.”

Sam snickered. “Thanks for that image. But what’s going on?”

“What makes you think something’s going on?” asked Harrigan.

“Because I know you and I know when you’re upset and it’s more than a shitty ass-colored wall…”

“The wall isn’t ass-colored” Harrigan corrected.

“Then what is it?”

“Orange-vermillion. Streaky, lumpy, hideous orange-vermillion. This wall makes me hate my favorite color!” She took a breath. “Why do I feel like crying?”

Sam smiled. “Because it’s your first day off in weeks and you thought this was a project you could handle and you failed. You never fail. You aren’t used to it.”

“You’re saying I’m failing at failure?”

“Pretty much.”

Harrigan teared up at that. “I’m thinking of doing either caffeine or alcohol. Wanna come over and help me choose?”

Sam sighed. “I can’t. I’m in the middle of a thing. Besides ‘You don’t need to sit and moan…’”

“’…you need to get on that bone.’” Harrigan finished. “Really, you’ve got to come up with a better cheer. That rhyme sucks.” She chuckled. “Alright. I need to do something….I’ll…unpack. How’s that?”

“After two months? Not bad.”

Harrigan asked, “So, how’s your thing?”

“It’s coming along. Chapter five should be finished by four. That’ll give me time to get dinner started.”

“Oooh, that’s right.” Harrigan perked up. “Who’s the dish?”

“Don’t you mean ‘what’?” Sam asked.

“No, stupid. I meant ‘who’. I forgot you were having someone over. This is the third…”

“Fourth” interrupted Sam.

“Fourth date? Nice. How long’s it been since your last fourth date?” Harrigan curled up in her chair. It was nice to think of Sam seriously dating again.

“Are you saying I suck at dating?”

“If by ‘dating’ you meant ‘painting’ and by ‘I’ you meant ‘me’, then yeah.” Harrigan reconsidered the line for a moment, then continued. “Good luck to you, though. I’m serious. And be nice to him. Are you wearing the blue?”

“It’s peacock blue and yes, I’m wearing it.” Sam turned in his chair to look at the shirt, already ironed and waiting, 3 hours early. “Harrigan. I’m scared.”

“I know. But it’ll be alright. This guy’s been nice so far, right?”

“More like perfect. That’s why I’m scared.”

“Oh, sweetie.” The only long-term relationship Sam had had in years was with her. She knew that didn’t count. Not really. Not like this. “Just enjoy yourself. You can’t fail. He can’t help but fall for you. Now go finish that chapter so you can start dinner.”

Sam was silent.

“By the way” Harrigan asked, “what’s happening in Chapter 5? Is Frank finally gonna get some sweet, sweet lovin’?”

She could hear Sam’s smile through the phone. “You bet. Right after Lori sees how nicely he painted her bedroom wall. G’night, you terrible, horrible painter.”

“Night to you, too, asshole. And good luck.”

“Same to you.”

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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!

I’ll do it my own dang’d self: Part 2 The Canning!

Nature is trying to kill me!

…or at least my body thinks it is. Scratches and mosquito bites welt to the size of nickles and stay that way for days. Pollen clogs my lungs and leaves me semi-asthmatic. My best months of the year are winter – nothing is growing.

So when I tell you that for the past 2 years I have braved mosquitoes, brambles and general airborne nastiness to pick blackberries for blackberry jelly, and when I also tell you that I am NOT a fan of blackberries nor of jelly,  you will understand my full meaning when I say “I love to can!”.

I feel…..virtuous…..when I can. I am preparing for times of want during times of plenty. It is not a crucial skill now (and most certainly NOT cheaper than buying the same thing at the store) but there is some comfort in knowing how to do it. Perhaps one day it will be necessary, either because of the zombie apocalypse or another man-made disaster. In the meantime, I do it because I want to. Because it makes me feel good. Because it makes me grin all the way home.

Two years ago we bought a house. A house with 1/4 acre of blackberry bushes out back. It also came with a decent sized kitchen and a basement with shelves ready to be filled with goodies.

That first summer as we picked berries, made jelly and canned it, I felt I was making something from practically nothing: just a bunch of berries, a lot of sugar, pectin and heat.

The liquid mixture boiled until it morphed from liquid to syrup to a gel. Then, quick as we could, we poured it all into sterilized jars, put those jars into a huge pot and boiled THAT until everything was hot enough to kill the nastiness.

And then, there was the pop: that lovely moment when the jars were lifted from the hot bath and as they cooled…POP! went the lid. That pop meant the seal was good and the food we just made would last for years. I took each jar and set it on the table, counting the pops. They all sealed! After they cooled, I started filling my basement shelves.

I got good at it. A few batches the first year, a few more the next. Had the process down. The jelly was great. It started to become…..routine. What to do?

Next post: There’s ANOTHER way to can and it involves new tools!

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