The Rantings Of A Burned Out Canner!

Every morning when I come downstairs from a restless nights sleep, I know exactly what is waiting for me, and it’s not a pretty sight.

Canning season has been in full swing for what seems like FOREVER now and the house, the kids, Hubby, and especially myself are really starting to suffer for it. As I trudged down the stairs this morning, dreading what I knew was waiting for me in the kitchen, as well as every other room in the house, the first thing that popped into my head was:

I want a clean stove!

Is that really too much to ask for? Can having a clean stove be something I will only dream about or is it something that might actually, possibly, just maybe happen some day in my life before we have to replace it for the third time because I’ve burned yet another one out?

Don’t get me wrong, I do clean my stove. Not as often as I should, or probably as often as most people do, but it does get clean. The trouble with cleaning it though is that gosh darn it if it doesn’t just get completely dirty again. And we are not just talking a spill here or a drip there. No, we are talking totally and completely unrecognizably stained, burned and splattered.

I don’t think I’m a messy person. I wouldn’t consider myself to be flippant when it comes to cleaning up messes, but my stove is NEVER, and I don’t use that word lightly, clean. Even when it’s clean, it’s not really clean. There is always just a subtle streak, a tiny spot, or because this stove is now several years old those black marks that just won’t come off there to mock me. Is it a curse? Am I the only one who can’t seem to have one day when her stove is clean for more than the ten minutes between meal preparation, canning projects, or kitchen endeavors?

Realizing that a clean stove just might be too much to ask, I began to think about all the other things that I want, and the list was HUMONGOUS!

  • I want a kitchen floor that I can walk on barefoot and not have to worry about crunching, sticking, or slipping.
  • I want kitchen cabinets without food drips all down the front of them.
  • I want empty counter space. Yep, either the counters are filled with full canning jars, empty canning jars, stacks of dishes to be cleaned, pots and pans to be scoured, or food to be processed.
  • I want a kitchen table without crumbs all over it because no one thought to shake out the tablecloth after the last five dinners I made.
  • I want a kitchen sink that isn’t already full of dishes soaking or stacked so high you can’t even use the faucet.

Then I moved from the kitchen:

  • I want coffee and end tables that aren’t covered and stacked with recipes, note books full of notes on future blog posts, gardening books, and all sorts of papers strewn on every table and taking up every cushion on the couch.
  • I want to know what color my carpeting is. I think we have navy blue, but for all the dust, lint, dog toys and hair, and other paraphernalia all over it I just can’t be sure. Doesn’t anyone around here know what a vacuum is – oh yeah, that’s my job. Okay then, I want my carpet vacuumed.
  • I want to know what watching television without a ½ inch of dust on it is like.
  • I want to know who keeps putting all those cobwebs in every corner and in every crevice imaginable.
  • I want the stack of ironing sitting on the fireplace to magically be done and all the baskets of unfolded laundry folded and put away.

Moving upstairs:

  • I want the sheets on every bed to get a washing that is too long overdue.
  • I want all the work that needs to be done in Zeb’s room behind me: The border on his ceiling needs removing, the walls need to be primed and repainted (including the ceiling and closet), his videos, trophies, and anything on his dressers or bookshelves need to be boxed so we can throw out his old “little boy” furniture to make way for his new bedroom set being delivered in a couple of weeks, we need to remove the old carpet and put in the new, and I need to find new bedding, make a new window treatment, and all the finishing touches a remodeled room requires. I want it done before he turns 22, which is in a few months, but in reality I have less than a month to get all the prep work done before the furniture arrives.
  • I want to wash my windows. Yes, you read that correctly. I WANT to wash my windows. I hate washing windows but at this point the prospect of washing them appeals to me. I basically only streak them, but I want clean windows so I’m willing to streak them as only I can and clean the tracks too! Of course the reason I want to clean windows now, when it isn’t really a priority, is probably because there is no way in the world I’m going to do it. When I actually have the time for such a project, I will hate every minute of it, but if I went upstairs right now and started cleaning any window, I think I’d find some sort of distorted comfort in it.

Miscellaneous:

  • I want a fresh cup of coffee. I have been drinking out of the same pot of coffee, just reheating it, for the past three days now. A fresh cup of coffee sounds so good right now, but a luxury that cannot be – BECAUSE I’D NEED A CLEAN SPOT ON THE COUNTER IN ORDER TO MAKE IT!
  • I want all the shoes that everyone just tosses off and leaves in the entrance to the laundry room put away where they belong. Let me qualify that by saying “put away by the people who tossed them there” and not by me!
  • I want someone to walk Bell. Although it does give me a reprieve from everything overwhelming me here in the house, it would sure be nice to have someone else take her for a change.
  • I want dinner done. No matter what I do all day long, dinner is the one thing that absolutely, positively, without fail has to get done TOO! Not in leu of, but along with. How nice it would be to actually spend a day just making dinner and not have to worry about everything else on my perpetual to do list.
  • I want the gardens to be cleaned out. The cucumbers and peas are done and need to be cleared to make way for spring crops and there are several gardens that need revamping for next year as well.
  • I want all the peppers and tomatoes waiting to be harvested picked and processed, the pumpkins pureed and frozen and the corn dried. Actually at this point I just want the peppers and tomatoes to STOP. The peppers especially seeing as I can’t figure out anything to do with them and there are at least a few hundred more peppers out there to pick.

Is all this really too much to ask?

Oh, and I want a stocked, full pantry. Wait. I forgot…the pantry.

Yes, this is stocked and overflowing. A testament of where my time has gone, what I’ve been doing, and why everything else in our house seems to be in complete upheaval and an utter disaster. So is this the price I have to pay for a full pantry?

The argument could be made to pace myself. How??? Fruits and vegetables wait for no one. The window of opportunity for preserving is so short that it is impossible to stop and smell the roses. So the only thing to do is push forward and keep telling myself “this too shall pass.”

Still, what I wouldn’t do for a fresh cup of coffee right about now, and with that I’ll sign off – Simply Grateful.

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Quick Fix Monte Cristo

Hard work is often the piling up of the easy things you neglected to do. – Unknown

The weather did not cooperate today, so the garden will have to wait at least another day. The plum tree though is well on its way to full bloom.

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Instead of dodging raindrops outside, I decided to concentrate on finishing up a ton of little projects that have been accumulating since Christmas. Spring is the ideal time for deep “spring cleaning” so today was the day.

The first chore on my never ending to do list I wanted to get done was a trip to St. Vincent De Paul to drop off a carload of donations. It amazes me how much crap one can accumulate in a short period of time. I made a trip like this just before Christmas, and now I’ve got twice as much stuff to get rid off. Clothes, books, purses, shoes, bags, appliances, dishes, Christmas decorations, and even some exercise equipment — and that was just the first load. Next week I’ll fill the car again and maybe free up some extra space for my pantry.

Next on my list was a clothes basket full of ironing. I swear I let it pile up until there isn’t a clean shirt for my hubby to wear. Does anyone iron anymore?  None of my neighbors do.  How do they manage that?  Even hanging clothes outside on the line I need to run an iron across nearly every shirt and pant that I bring in.  At least it’s not as bad as when my grandmother used to iron — she ironed underwear and sheets.  I don’t take it that far.  It took most of the afternoon, but now it’s done until I clean the winter clothes out of the closets for the summer — yes that was on the to do list too, but I needed to enjoy the moment, albeit temporary, of an empty ironing basket.

All afternoon I checked little things off my list and really thought I was making headway, until I looked at the clock and realized I had only 30 minutes before dinner was supposed to rear it’s ugly head.

What to make? Although I don’t like to make a habit of serving sandwiches for dinner, the Monte Cristo sandwich is definitely filling enough to squeak by as a meal.

The traditional Monte Cristo is ham, turkey, and cheese dipped in egg, of course, as usual I did not have all the ingredients. Not being one tied to a recipe, I took all the lunch meat and cheese out of the fridge and viola! dinner.

Monte Cristo Sandwiches on the griddle.

Monte Cristo Sandwiches on the griddle.

Monte Cristo Sandwiches

  • Bread or Rolls
  • Lunch meat – I used ham, salami, bologna, and pastrami
  • Cheese – traditionally it calls for cheddar and swiss. I used spicy Fiesta Jack and Provolone
  • 3 Eggs
  • Milk
  1. Assemble sandwiches making sure to place the lunch meat in between two slices of cheese.
  2. Dip completed sandwich in egg mixed with milk.
  3. Cook on griddle until cheese melts and bread browns.
  4. Serve with maple syrup.

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I was the only one who ate the sandwich with syrup. Hubby likes his plain, Zeb eats his with ranch dressing, and Grace uses thousand island dressing. Served with a side of homemade French fries and a salad it was dinner.

Some days it’s nice not to spend hours in the kitchen making dinner and yet serving something that is hearty and fulfilling, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

Michigan Monday Morning

“The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quiet, alone with the heavens, nature and God. Because only then does one feel that all is as it should be and that God wishes to see people happy, amidst the simple beauty of nature.” – Anne Frank

It is a perfect Michigan Monday morning. The temperature is around 63° at 10:00 and the sun is already high in the sky, beating down on me as I sit here on the patio enjoying a moment of peace before continuing on with the demands of the day.

The birds are singing, filling the yard with their song and soothing my mind as it races with all that needs to be done. Already there are sheets and a quilt on the line stretched across the yard drying, the dishwasher has been run and is waiting to be emptied, the kids have been dropped off at their respective schools, my hubby is off to work with his lunch packed and ready for him to heat up, dinner is planned, and the dog has been walked. Not much more that I want to get done today, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t a ton of things to do.

Walking through the yard this morning I stopped off at the lilac bushes on the side of the house. After the snow we had the other day, I figured any chance of blooms this year were gone. To my surprise, the blooms hadn’t sprouted far enough from the protection of the leaves surrounding them and they are just now starting to poke through. It looks like the bushes will be covered in blooms by Mother’s Day and then I can fill the house with the delicate lavender flowers and enjoy the sweet smell for days.

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Most of the bulbs I planted last spring didn’t make it through the winter. I think the squirrels got the majority of them and those they didn’t, the snow took last week. There are just a couple under the plum tree that appear to have survived. Hopefully the snow will not make another unwelcome visit and maybe I’ll get to enjoy a few flowers before the weather is consistently warm enough to plant some annuals.

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The plum tree is still bare. This isn’t out of the ordinary. Typically it doesn’t start to show signs of life until May, and late-May at that. Last year it gave us more than 120 pounds of usable fruit (more than 100 pounds had to be thrown out). I’m not sure if plum trees produce fruit every year. It had been three or four years since we’d gotten any usable fruit because of brown-rot, so I’m not sure what this trees cycle is. It would certainly be nice to get a bumper crop again. Although if you’d asked me last year while I was canning the 120 pounds of plum, I probably wouldn’t have been all that receptive to ever harvesting another plum. Thank goodness time calibrates perspective.

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The grass is still spotted yellow, but some green has pushed its way through the matted down clippings left over from the final cutting of the season last October. The grass should probably be ready to cut in the next couple of weeks, well on its way to the thick plush lawn I love.

Today would be a perfect day to barbecue, but nothing sounded appealing when I was planning dinner for tonight. I finally settled on trying a new recipe for pepper steak. I have tried this meal several times in the past and have been left disappointed. Most of the time the steak is tasty, but nothing like the pepper steak served in Chinese restaurants. Thank God for the Internet because there are so many recipes out there to try I’m sure that one day I’ll get it right. So, although standing outside by the grill on such a beautiful day was tempting, I’ll just open all the windows in the kitchen and enjoy the fresh air as it streams through the screens.

I really should head inside to work on the unending chores that await me, but the slight breeze tickling my arms reminds me that sometimes taking a break is more important than getting a job done. When I finally do drag myself away from this beautiful morning and begrudgingly continue on with my To Do List, I will take with me the memory of this time. Life is what you make of the moments were given. Appreciating this perfect Michigan morning is one of those moments worth holding on to, savoring, locking away inside. Moments like this ground me and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

“I think that I cannot preserve my health and spirits, unless I spend four hours a day at least – and it is commonly more than that – sauntering through the woods and over the hills and fields, absolutely free from all worldly engagements.” –
Henry David Thoreau

Ride-On Vacuum

I’m not going to vacuum till Sears makes one you can ride on. — Roseanne Barr

It’s only fair, you know. Why is it that men get all the really cool toys. Cleaning house takes a lot of tools, more than mowing the lawn. And do you see them coming up with tons of gadgets to make a housewife’s life easier? Me neither. Excuse me if I don’t equate a bag-less vacuum to a ride-on mower. Not quite the same thing.

Men get self-propelled mowers, mulching mowers, tow-behind mowers, and the ever popular ride-on mower. What I wouldn’t give for a vacuum that could do any of those things. I suppose some vacuums are self-propelled, but until they make one that does it without me having to tag along, it’s not self-propelled enough.

What I’d really like though would be a vacuum with a mulching attachment. No more worrying about those pesky dog toys getting caught up underneath or a shoelace tangling itself in the wheels. They’d be chewed into mulch in seconds. So much for having to pick up discarded candy wrappers or that ever popular Kleenex that’s taken up permanent residence on the great room floor.

How about a tow-behind vacuum so I’d have some place to throw all the stuff that I have to pick up and put away. Instead of having to make thirty or more trips from one end of the house to the other, I could just toss it in the back and ride from room to room dropping stuff off as I went. It’d be great as a way to carry all that laundry too. No more struggling to lift the over-full laundry basket and I wouldn’t have to make more than one trip.

My favorite though would be the ride-on vacuum. This would be the ultimate in-house cleaning gadgets. There could be cup holders, a built-in iPod dock, GPS, designer colors, — everything. Not that I’d need GPS, but if you’re going to get a ride-on vacuum, you might as well go all out and I really want it in lime green.

And no, my house is not that big, but have you seen how small the lots are that some of the these men that have ride-on mowers are. I swear my kitchen is bigger. Plus, typically our lawn gets cut once a week, whether it needs it or not. Vacuuming needs to be done around here daily — not that this happens, but if I had that ride-on vacuum, it would have a far better chance of happening.

So, fair is fair! If men can have ride-on, mulching, self-propelled, tow-behind mowers for taking care of the outside of the house, I see no justifiable reason women cannot have the same features in a vacuum for taking care of the inside. And don’t get me started on how helpful it would be to have a dust blower, just like my husband’s leaf blower. I can see me now — protective goggles in place, work gloves on my hands, and a 195 MPH gas dust blower on my back. It’d have to be a backpack model and how about giving that a vacuum feature too. This way when the kids leave that dirty laundry all over their bedroom floors and the towels all over the bathroom, I could just suck them up and drop the bag in the laundry room.

I am really going to have to spend more time in the lawn and garden section at Home Depot. The possibilities are endless. At the very least, they should come up with a vacuum that has a cord long enough to get from one end of the house to the other, a hose that has enough suction to pick up a bowling ball, a crevice tool that can get under the couch and behind the refrigerator without me having to move them, a bag that never bursts, and a belt that never breaks. Having someone to operate this vacuum would be nice too.

Until vacuums catch up with all the advances of lawn mowers though, I’ll marvel at how far we have come since the broom and dust pan were our only options, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

How Clean Is Your Floor?

My theory on housework is, if the item doesn’t multiply, smell, catch on fire or block the refrigerator door, let it be. No one cares. Why should you?
-Erma Bombeck

How long is that balled up Kleenex going to sit in the middle of our great room floor? Until I pick it up and throw it away. The kids have walked over it now for the past two days and haven’t batted an eye. My husband has asked me several times whose Kleenex it is, but do you think he’s bothered to bend over and pick it up? That would be NO!

Why is it I am the only person in this house that has the ability, strength, or maybe it’s skill to pick up all the crap that falls on our floor? Candy wrappers, stray pieces of lint, twist ties, dry leaves — you name it, it is probably on our floor right this minute. I have given up trying to keep the floors clean. Why bother? They are just going to get dirty again and seeing as I am obviously the only person who cares, I have decided I can live with it.

I truly don’t get when someone brags, “My floor is so clean you can eat off it!” Who in their right mind would want to eat off a floor? Have you seen some of the things that end up down there? The dirt, the dust, the spiders, the grime, and what about the fact that day in and day out we walk on them with our feet. Heck, my floors are barely clean enough to walk on barefoot, let alone eat off. I’m not a horrible house keeper. I don’t have dirt collecting in every corner. Mold isn’t flourishing behind my cabinet doors, although you might find something from last week’s menu in the back of the fridge resembling a chia pet. I just don’t think keeping things pristine is as important as enjoying the time I have with my family and that doesn’t include stressing out because no one cares to pick up ANYTHING that ends up down there.

God forbid anyone make a comment about the accumulating mess on the floor because the minute they do, I’m handing them a broom, a mop, a vacuum, or whatever I can get my hands on at that moment and telling them, “If you don’t like it, clean it.”

So today, rather than pick up that balled up Kleenex, I decided to take a picture of it and write about it. Far more productive and it will definitely last longer, because the minute I pick up that Kleenex, another one will find its way down there. That must be one of those unwritten housekeeping laws. Job security? Sure, but who wants that job?

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If nothing else, at least Bell enjoys tearing it apart into shreds so I can vacuum it up.  Anything to keep from bending over just one more time today.  And for this, I am Simply Grateful.

Going to Work

The sun is coming up in the east, brightening the morning nicely. It is still wet outside from all the rain we got last night, but I am hopeful that the sun will bring warmth which will dry the patio enough for me to sit outside sometime later today.

The winter here in Michigan was brutal this year. Record snowfall, record low temperatures, and winter hanging on well into spring made it hard to believe there was ever going to be an end in sight. Even now there are patches of snow hidden beneath bushes and piles from snow plows still hanging on giving me reason to believe that winter is still not truly over.

Being stuck in the house for so many months, has taken it’s toll on my mood and most definitely my perspective.

“You can’t get anywhere unless you start.”

I did not want to get out of bed this morning. It wasn’t for lack of sleep, it’s just that I didn’t want to go to work today especially because “going to work” only meant rolling out of bed. The minute my feet hit the ground, I’m working. Every other person in this house can get up and enjoy a period of leisure, up until they have to leave the house to “go to work” or “go to school” or “go to anywhere but here.” Me? Well I’m here and here and here. Oh yeah, I do go to the grocery store, the produce market, and the big box stores when required, but that is just an extension of my job here at home.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my job. I wouldn’t trade it for one of those highfalutin corporate office jobs with a grumpy boss and gossiping co-workers. The only perk I can see with that type of job is that when you leave the office, work is done. For me, the work is from sun-up to sun-down.

Conversely —

“Eighty percent of success is just showing up.”

That being said, I’m already a success this morning. Everyone else in this house has to work a whole lot harder to get to the point of success I’ve reached just by getting out of bed.

See how perspective can turn things around. Is the glass half-empty or half-full? Depending on my mood, I can go either way, but when I can rub the sleep from my eyes and take the blinders off, I remember that I have the best job in the world.

No job is perfect. Scrubbing toilets, washing windows (or streaking them in my case), pulling weeds, and scouring pans might not be all that glamorous, but making the lives of the people I work for (my family) richer, is where my heart is. Some mornings, I just need to remind myself of this so I can be — Simply Grateful.