Monthly Archives: April 2009

Baking a pie, or “Why I don’t cook”

“You know what would be good,” I said. “Pecan pie. See if they have any pecan pie.”

Jay walked around the Safeway bakery, cell phone to his ear. “Nope. No pecan pie. Carrot cake? White cake? Boston cream pie?” He listed another dozen options. “Any of those sound good?”

Hmmm. Really wanted pecan pie. I could make a pie. But not a pecan pie. Oh no, I know I’d screw that up! Chess pie! I had a great recipe from my mom for chocolate chess pie, and it should be easy. “No, but hang on.” I went upstairs and dug out the recipe. “I need a small can of Pet milk, some cocoa, and a pie crust.”

“We have cocoa.”

“No, we don’t. We have Nestle’s Quik. Not the same thing.”

“No, under there where the cereals are. There’s some cocoa thing.”

I dug it out. Ghiardelli Hot Cocoa Mix. “Nope. Still not right.”

“Okay, so what kind do you need?”

“Um… powdered?”

“Okay. Sweetened or unsweetened?”

“I have no idea. Hersheys. In the brown container.”

“Same question — sweetened or unsweetened?”

I sighed. “I’ll call my mom and then call you back.” I hung up and speed dialed my mother. “Do I need sweetened or unsweetened cocoa for a chess pie?”

She tried not to laugh. “Unsweetened.” She expounded for 30 seconds, during which Jay buzzed in twice. I ignored him, thanked her, and called him back.

“Unsweetened,” I said.

“Great, but now we need to know what kind of pie crust.”

“What are the choices?”

“Graham and Oreo Cokie Graham.”

“Neither.” I thought for a minute. “Frozen! Check the frozen aisle.”

He walked over and searched. “Marie Callander’s Deep Dish Pie Crust,” he announced.

“That’s it? I don’t think I need deep dish. Just regular.”

“That’s it… Oh, wait. Here are some others, but they’re deep dish too. Some are less deep than others.”

“Get one of those then.”

“Okay. Now Pet Milk. That seems to be a brand, and they don’t carry it. What is it?”

“Evaporated milk. Canned.”


“No, evaporated. Not Eagle Brand Condensed,” I said smugly. (At least I knew something!)


The next morning, I gathered together my ingredients. Hmmm. That can of condensed milk looked awfully big. 12 oz. Is that a big can or a small can? Maybe a big can was 24 oz. or something. Better ask… I toddled downstairs and e-mailed my mother. 5 oz, she confirmed. Pet Milk is evaporated milk, and a small can is 5 oz.

Okey dokey, then! I was finally ready to make my pie. Ugh, I’ll need the mixer. Why are these KitchenAid mixers so bloody heavy?

Hmmm. It calls for margarine. Do I even have margarine? Is there a reason I need margarine? Can I use butter instead of margarine? Off to e-mail Mother again. No immediate reply, so I called her. Uh oh, not home.

Several hours later she replied that butter would be fine. Cool, I’ll use butter… tomorrow. Working now, no time for pie.

Today was pie day! I got all my ingredients out and lined them up. Got the mixer and the measuring cups. Preheated the oven. I was set, and this was going to rock.

Hmmm. Is evaporated milk supposed to be chunky like that? Well, it says “shake well” on the can, so probably so. I put everything together, and mixed it. Still kind of chunky, so I turned the mixer up really high. There, that’s better. Poured it into my pie crust. Easy, peasy. Pie for lunch!

Bake for about 30 minutes at 350. Hmmm. Is it supposed to be that jiggly when it’s done? Does the wooden toothpick trick apply to pies or just cakes? I e-mailed mom. No response. (I expect she’s given up by now.) So I asked a coworker. “Oh no,” she said. “That means the eggs haven’t set. Put it back in for 8 minutes or so, and then check it.”

I put it in for 10. Still jiggly.

Another 10. Still jiggly.

I took it out, but it was REALLY jiggly, so I figured I’d better put it back in again. Opened the over door and realized I hadn’t slid the tray out. Oh crap… the pie plate is collapsing…

With nothing solid in the middle to support it, the pie plate just kind of folded. Pie went EVERYWHERE. Oh, did I say pie? I mean completely liquid chocolate, because it hadn’t set AT ALL.

Chocolate in the oven, on the door, running into the drawer under the oven, big puddles on the floor including under the stove.

20 minutes later, the pie, the liquid chocolate, and a roll of paper towels are in the trash. My shoes are still sticking to the floor when I walk, but I think that’s because there’s chocolate on them, not chocolate on the floor. I don’t really care either way.

I suppose the exercise was good for my waistline, because not only will I not be eating that pie, I won’t be making another. Trying to teach me new tricks is utterly futile. Maybe someday Jay will make a pecan pie for me. Until then, NO MORE PIE.

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Productive weekend

I had planned to be a lounge lizard on my final weekend of vacation, but that didn’t happen. I was out all day Saturday, and then I did yard work and laundry on Sunday. But here at the end of the weekend, I’m actually quite pleased with all that got done.

During the winter, the property got a bit… out of control. Fences down, hoses and cords and buckets spread about, junk tossed into odd places, limbs down from a winter of storms. Predictable stuff that happens every year, and every year we have to have a clean up weekend to get it back into shape. That was this weekend.

One of the neighborhood boys got into a bit of trouble, and we were somehow part of it, and as his punishment he had to spend some time doing chores for us. He and Jay got quite a bit done on Saturday. They cleaned up the limbs that were down in the front part of the property and the drylot, cut up a tree that had fallen across the north fence, and cleaned up rocks and brick pieces — our chimney is crumbling — from the yard.

Jay also did quite a bit of fencing. When he did that work on the drylot last fall, our contractor (Todd) cleared some additional land. We left it open and available to the horses over the winter, but this weekend, Jay officially fenced in and built a gate for “Pasture Zero.” It’s a small pasture, but it’s near the barn and will be perfect if we need to segregate one horse for any reason. While he was working with the electric fence, he also fixed the north side of pasture two and ensured all the lines were hot.

When Todd did the clearing last year he tore down a line of critter fencing at the front of our property. Jay didn’t get that replaced, but he got the land cleaned up and planned where the fence will go, and he did get a row of critter fencing along the border between the front part of the property and pasture two — the one “open” spot where a dog (Aslan, I’m looking at you!) could get through and run willy-nilly in the pastures. The front part of the property won’t be horse- or dog-safe again until that one line of critter fence is replaced, but once that’s done, the front will be a “usable” space again.

The grass clearly knows it’s spring and was beginning to look jungle like, so we arranged for someone to come out and mow today. That meant I spent the morning doing chores to get the grass areas ready for him. I pulled in electrical cords and hoses, put away bucket, put junk on the junk pile, and basically went through and ensured he would be able to mow without hitting mower-killing rocks or logs.

In the afternoon the boys from across the street came over and, with a little financial incentive, finished up our chores. They delivered a BUNCH of old wooden posts to the burn pile, finished cleaning up any remaining junk that needed to go to the junk pile, and cleaned out the barn. I love it when they clean out the barn — they are meticulous! They’re not always so picky about getting the manure in the manure bins (as opposed to spilling out everywhere), but we were pretty specific about the requirements for payment, so even the manure bins are neat and tidy.

All in all, it was an extremely productive weekend (and the freshly mowed grass is just icing on the cake). We’ve still got a couple of big projects. We haven’t managed to dismantle the twisted mound of metal that used to be the additional shelter in the drylot, and our storm-decimated hay barn is begging to be dismantled and junked. Once those are done, we’ll be able to have the junk pile hauled away… but that will cost $1000 dollars or so, so I’m not anticipating doing it in the short-term. Maybe later this summer if I stay employed and maybe get some overtime.

Back to work tomorrow. Hopefully they didn’t figure out that they don’t need me!

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Vacation project: Outline that novel!

I’ve had the novel sitting on my desktop for, what, six months?, and I’ve barely touched it. I work on the outline off and on, but I’ve made some significant character changes that required some plot reworking. I’m pleased with the changes. They add depth and fix some character motivation issues I was having. (There’s still one major character motivation problem I haven’t been able to fix, but that’s an issue for another post.)

So when I finally took a couple of weeks off, I set a goal of getting my novel full outlined. Um… didn’t happen. But I worked on it almost every day, and I made very solid progress. I am very happy with what I got done, and I even started working on the actual text. (Imagine that! WRITING the novel!)

I scrapped the beginning I started with last year. I hated what I’d written, but more importantly, it wasn’t critical to the story. The new beginning not only introduces key characters and leads into the inciting event for the novel as a whole, but it also sets up two key storylines that come into play later.

The writing itself… is coming slowly. I really want to have a draft finished before the Pacific Northwest Writers Association’s annual conference at the end of July. To do that I’d need to average 1000 words a day — about four pages. Four pages isn’t much. I can do that, right? Right now four sentences is overwhelming me. Why is it that when I write nonfiction or fiction that doesn’t “matter,” the words just fly off my keyboard? Okay, maybe it’s not THAT easy then, but it’s definitely easier than this. At this rate, I might have a draft finished in three years, not three months!

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End of vacation blues

My vacation was fabulous. Didn’t go anywhere special or do anything earth-shattering… and that was wonderful. Great weather, freedom to just relax and hang out, quality time with my husband and the critters. Loved it! (Did I mention the great weather? SUN, warm temps, and lots of spring color. Heaven!)

Today is my birthday. Low key, just like I like it. We forgot to make timely reservations, so Jay and I went out to diner at The Melting pot last night. Yum! A splurge, but it was a yummy splurge. We’re going out with neighbors tomorrow night — not technically a birthday celebration, but I can pretend, right?

My mom told me to do something exciting today, so we bathed Pflouff. It was definitely exciting, though more so for her than for us. I quicked one of her nails, and DANG that girl can bleed. I’ve quicked nails before, and yes, they seem to bleed a lot and forever, but I’ve never seen one bleed like this. It bled for TWO HOURS. We packed it with styptic powder twice at the pet wash, and then I packed it twice more when I got home. If it hadn’t worked that last time I was going to take her to the vet.

Poor Pflouff. I was going to try to clip the hair between her pads, but I think she had enough foot trauma today, so I let it go. I trimmed her ears just a little. I wasn’t happy with my thinning shears though. They were cutting more than thinning, and so the line on her ears was too… unnatural. I was afraid to do any other trimming, because we want to put her in a show in early June.

I am SO intimidated by grooming!

Anyway, the day’s excitement is over, and so is my vacation. Back to work on Monday… and I’m not looking forward to it. (I told Jay on the way to dinner last night that we needed to rob a bank so I didn’t have to go back, but ridiculously honest man that he is, he wouldn’t go for it.) Please know that I am very, very grateful to have a job to go back to… I’m just feeling the end-of-vacation blues. I think I’ll send Jay for a lottery ticket.

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Vacation and a garden

I’m on vacation for two whole weeks!! I haven’t had any time off since I started this contract in April of last year, and although it seems risky in these economic times to take unpaid time off, I absolutely HAD to do it. I’ve been doing everything I can to avoid thinking about work this week, and may I say it’s LOVELY!!!

I’ve decided to venture into the unknown and plant a container vegetable garden this year. I like the idea of gardening, but I knew I wouldn’t spend hot summer days on my knees weeding a regular garden, plus we’d spend more money trying to keep the deer and rabbits out than we’d ever save in produce. So I decided to try raising just a few vegetables in containers on my deck. I’ll put an ex=pen around them to keep the dogs out, and the dogs will keep the rabbits and deer out. Since the plants aren’t on the ground, I’ll likely have fewer problems with bugs and pests too.

It’s too cold here to plant outdoors right now. Mother’s Day is considered our last frost. So I got one of those little seed greenhouses, and planted the seeds in that today. If I’ve managed to screw that up, no worries, I can still plant directly in the containers in May when it’s warm enough to have everything outside.

I’m planting one tomato plant, green beans (which Jay and I love raw from the garden), edamame, cucumbers, snap peas, carrots, and chives. I bought an already-started tomato plant, and it’s in my sun room for the next few weeks. The seed-starter greenhouse will be there too, though since it’s warm and variably sunny today, I’m letting them sit out where I did the planting for a while.

While I was at it, I also repotted my philodendron (George) and my Poinsettia. George was getting root bound, and I had trouble finding a pot big enough for him! Hopefully they’ll both be happy and thrive in their new pots. I’ll definitely move the Poinsettia out with the vegetables, but I don’t know about George. For some reason, he has always seemed to do best in a combination of fluorescent and natural light. Hmmm. Maybe down by my computer?

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