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Refrigerator Ethics

Gr…I want to post about my quilted placemats, and I just can’t seem to get them done. Sigh… I’d be tempted to stay up late to finish them tonight, but I need to start adjusting my schedule so I’ll be ready to score high school exams in two weeks. I’ll be up at 6:30 am, so I can score from 8 – 5:30. Yes, 8 hours a day… for 7 days straight. I’m just going to keep telling myself that I’m going to have an awesome time with my roommate in the evenings and that I’m going to love coming home and buying a new oven without feeling guilty about the expenditure. Otherwise, I might be tempted to poke myself in the eye with a pencil before the week even gets started.
I’m still trying to clear up some school projects too, so I was at work today and realized that the fridge in the faculty break room has me absolutely stymied.

My current state of torment started with grape jelly.

Grape jelly is on the door of the faculty fridge, and it looks like my grape jelly — the brand I buy. But, I’m sure other faculty shop at Aldi’s too. But, I do seem to remember taking grape jelly in at some point, so I could have peanut butter and jelly sandwiches instead of just eating peanut butter off a spoon for lunch. Now, I don’t know if that is my grape jelly though.

And, here’s where I’m stymied. I can’t figure out the etiquette of the workplace fridge.

Sure, I could label my food. But, I don’t want to do that. We have an established order of business in our faculty break room. If food is in the fridge, it belongs to someone and is off limits unless it’s explicitly labeled for community consumption. If something is on the table in the center of the room, it’s ok to attack it and consume it like a ravenous lion that hasn’t eaten in a week. No one who has their wits about them would ever leave food they expect to see again on this table.

So, with this order established, I feel strange labeling my food in the fridge. I don’t want any colleagues reading this to get offended because this is a matter of personal preference. However, labeling food in our work fridge seems needlessly aggressive to me. If I were to scrawl “Jess” across my spinach and egg salad or my leftover eggrolls, I’d feel as if I were implicitly saying, “If I could chain a savage dog to this styrofoam container, then, heck, yeah, I’d do it. Keep your paws off my food.” But, we’re nice people. I don’t feel like I need a savage dog to guard my food.

On the other hand, if I don’t label my food, I’m left with the grape jelly conundrum. Is it mine? And, since we’re all nice people, that grape jelly could be in there for years if it’s mine. Because  no one else is going to touch it if it’s not theirs. I’m serious. They won’t. There is a frozen pot roast in the freezer with an expiration date of 2009. I’m pretty sure it’s mine. But, what if it’s not? I’d be throwing out someone’s pot roast, and even if I’d be saving a life because no one should eat frozen pot roast that has been expired for four years, something still feels wrong about doing it.

And, as I write this, I’m thinking I remembered that I left stuffed pepper soup in the fridge by my other office. Hm…I’d better check on that tomorrow because I’m not sure what stuffed pepper soup will smell like 4 years from now.

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Still here…

Two days — that’s how close I am to wrapping up classes for the semester.

I had a horrific week last week — one of those kinds that I could only write about publicly if I had a pseudonym so anonymous and untraceable that I could do highly sensitive  undercover work with it. But, this week is leveling out. A few unexpected bumps cropped up along the way — like having to sub in for a prof this week. Fortunately, her class was scheduled to give presentations, so a video camera was all I needed to jump in as substitute. And, seeing her freshmen present on what they’ve learned in English class this semester has actually been fun.

The writing center has been abuzz with conversation about John Donne and secular and sacred poetry and last minute visits.

This is the time of the semester that my brain gets so overloaded that I think, “Is this essential right now?” If I answer no, there is a good chance that it’s waiting until next week. So, if you would come to my house, you’d see a thin film of dog hair on, well, everything. It’s be there waiting for me when I get around to it. My emails is stacking up, and hopefully, I’ve answered the essentials. Next week, I’ll try to set aside some concentrated time to deal with it. This shedding of the non-essentials is actually quite freeing. For now, I concentrate on breathing and pacing myself through grading – and coffee.

And this week, I’m mostly just thinking about cookies. Yep, I realized something the other day as I was in my office eating cookies for breakfast.

Don’t judge. I ate a banana too.

I realized that I have a food crush. Yes, an infatuation with Biscoff cookies. The feelings are hard to explain – as they so often are when in the throes of springtime love. So saying these cookies are addicting will have to suffice. I should ask the administrative assistant to ration them out to me so I don’t sit at my desk stuffing my face with them. But, she’s on vacation, so there is no one left to protect me from myself.

Don’t judge. I bought a Nutribullet this week and have consumed two smoothies full of spinach, carrots, and cucumbers…and more bananas.

Also, don’t judge. Of course, I did not pay $120 for the Nutribullet. I get Kohl’s coupons.

Anyway, back to those cookies. As my brain was paralyzed by overload, I sat in my office munching on my cookies and reading the packaging (because reading email would have been an overrated use of my time). And, I realized that Biscoff touts itself as the “airline cookie.” Huh…apparently these cookies are served on European airlines, and the airline patrons were so ga-ga over them, understandably so, that the company started selling them to people on the ground — people like me.

This led me to wonder if any other airline food has ever before in history managed to create excitement. Unlikely.

I’m also pondering why U.S. airlines can’t seem to come up with a crush worthy food. Also unlikely considering that some of the airlines still serve peanuts despite the fact that peanuts these days seem to make 99 out of every 100 people have some type of allergic reaction.

At any rate, thank you, European flyers, for making such a clamor over these cookies that they found their way to me, in my office, so I could eat them for breakfast.

After consultation with the Biscoff website, I’ve discovered that there are Biscoff cookies that are coated with chocolate. I want these intensely. But, I should probably pretend like I do not know that they exist.

Then you would have to judge me for eating the entire $28 package of 100 cookies — for breakfast. No banana.

Disclaimer: Biscoff didn’t pay me to say these nice things about their cookies. Really, this is about the best my brain can come up with for content, leading most of you to be glad that I only have two days of classes left as well.

Offer: Biscoff is more than welcome to sponsor this blog, a terrifying prospect for them I’m sure.

 

New word of the week

I particularly dislike it when people say OMG. It’s a little too close to dragging God’s name through the mud for me, so though I’m not a fan of cursing, I’d probably just prefer they straight up curse if that’s what they want to do. Then, I just know that perhaps “using their words” as we tell young kids to do is failing them in the moment.

With that said, I get why OMG has snuck into the our language, or at least, I have a hunch that is completely devoid of any empirical linguistic research evidence. Sometimes, we do just encounter an event that boggles us – we want to express dismay, disbelief, and  general shock. Maybe we are after all trying to tell God about it.

But, in light of the fact that I don’t want to use OMG and that cursing at my workplace is quite clearly frowned upon, I’d like to propose that “Oh, YKM!” move into our speech. I know to make it do so, I’ll have to reprogram the world to forget that in texting it’s become the substitute for “You’re killing me.” Because, instead, I’d like it to mean, “Oh, you’re kidding me!” Think about it. Wouldn’t “Oh, YKM!” be a great way to quickly express dismay, disbelief, and general shock when saying, “Oh, you’re kidding me!” would take too long or seem too harsh?

“Oh, YKM!”  I just realized I could have been using this phrase all week.

For example, when I came home after the Monday to beat all Mondays and found a dead mouse in the trap by the couch, I could have sighed loudly and said, “Oh, YKM!”  as I slumped my shoulders in despair.

Or, when that crazy driver was in a super rush to pull out in front of me a few day ago and then determined to drive about five miles per house, I could have shaken my hand at the windshield saying, “Oh, YKM!”

Or, when my email inbox topped 800 — again — I could have just curled up under my desk whimpering, “Oh, YKM.” No, actually, the full, “Oh, you’re kidding me” would work better in that situations.

Or, last week, when I fell through one of the holes in my walkway with such a lack of grace that my shoes flew off, I grasped to the fence for dear life, and I found myself standing barefoot in a mound of loose dirt, I could have said, “Oh, YKM!”

Yes, I’m liking this new expression. The next time life serves up an order of crazy with a side of chaos, I’m going to use it.

My own little cake wreck…

I learned this weekend that it’s best for me to not try to make Easter themed food. Last year, I made the creepy deviled egg chicks that the family was squeamish about eating — and understandably so.

Deviled eggs chicks This year, not wishing to let that tradition of food gone terribly away die, I made a cake – the ugliest cake ever. My mom and grandma wanted me to try to replicate the buttercream icing from the birthday cakes that we used to get from the Catonsville Bakery. I mean, it was really no big thing that they were asking for since the last time I had that icing was when I was….oh….five. And, then I ate the smallest bit, scraped it off my cake, and gave it to an adult. I wasn’t a fan, but I would have been happy if I could have replicated the icing for them. I told my mom I wasn’t going to go all out on the decorating because it’s been about two and a half years since I decorated a cake. That  one turned out ok for the most part though the monkeys could have used a little work.

monkey cake But, my mom told me that if the icing was the right kind everyone would want roses on their slice of cake, so they could have more icing. I wasn’t even good at making roses when I was practicing them, so I knew making them after such a long break from decorating would be a disaster. I figured that instead I could do Easter eggs on the cake. How hard could they be?

Bunny doo doo cakeUh…they are very hard to make. And, yes, those are supposed to be Easter eggs. This cake shall go down in the family history as the little bunny doo doo cake for what should be fairly obvious reasons.

Ah, well. Sometimes creativity is risky. If I’m going to attempt something next Easter, I’d better start a rigorous training program by the Fourth of July to prepare.

Blogging in my Dreams

On Saturday, I slept in. Like really slept in. I went to bed around 2 or 3 am and slept until after 11. I half opened my eyes, and the dog came and laid down next to me because he loves sleep in mornings. They mean I’ll lay there and pet him for a bit instead of jumping up to get the day started. I then fell back to sleep. Finally, I woke up after 12 and put the dog out (what a good dog to wait all that time). We curled up back in bed, and I read a short mystery story. Then, I went back to bed until after 2. Oh, those kinds of Saturdays are sometimes very welcome.

In all that sleeping, I was bound to dream. I had a dream that I was walking in New York City. For some reason, I was carrying a very, very heavy bag with me. I walked to the far reaches of the city for no apparent reason, and then I turned around and started to hoof my way back across the city. Again, I have no idea what I was accomplishing. Maybe this was symbolic of my rather non-productive Saturday.

As I was trudging through the city with this heavy bag, I remember coming across huge escalators, and somehow they were a shortcut to where I needed to go (even though I didn’t know where I was going). So, I rode the escalators to the top and found that I was confronted with a giant sliding board that curved all around like a water park slide. That was the only option; I couldn’t go back down the escalators, so I had to take the slide. I was dreading it with that heavy cumbersome bag, but I made it down the slide.

The slide deposited me in a very, tiny cramped space with no exit except for two PVC pipes about 4 inches across. (Maybe I should have played less Super Mario Brothers as a child.) I was highly distressed in the dream because I had no idea how I was going to get my body stuffed inside the pipes to get out, and I knew I was going to have to leave my bag behind.

Here’s the most bizarre part of the dream — as if the rest of the dream wasn’t bizarre enough. The slide ended in  a mass of  circular curls, and I thought to myself, “I need a picture of that, so I can describe this on my blog.” I took out a camera and was trying to maneuver all around the small room to get a good angle for the picture.  I consciously shoved aside my panic and told myself to get the picture and then worry about how to get out. Then, I woke up.

I’ve always told people that being a blogger changes my perspective on life because it makes me pay attention to stories. I just don’t think it’s ever invaded my dreams before.

Mouse in the House

Clearly, Dr. Seuss did not ever struggle with actual rodents invading his living space. No person could fight that battle and find it fun to make rhymes about such events. Lest my readers think I’m overly dramatic about such events, perhaps some history lessons would help. Here are some of my animal encounters. Let’s see, there was the bat in the living room, the time that I thought there was  dead possum under the deck, the time that there was actually a dead possum under the deck (and a dead squirrel on the stairs…and in the trash can), and the epic mouse battle of 2009.

And, now the mice are back. I suspected as much two nights ago when I heard noises from behind the coat tree in the dining room and then had to coax the dog away from that corner where he had his nose planted up against the coat rack. Then, last night the noises returned behind the coat tree and seemed to then move into the living room under the love seat, which is entirely too close for comfort, especially after someone at work told me about the time that a mouse ran up her pant leg and bit her while she squeezed it to death. She’s a very truthful individual; she was not reciting an urban legend.

Today, I went to Walmart and stocked up on traps. I got some of those nifty little ones that trap the mouse and keep it dead in a little black disk, so I don’t even have to see it. That’s my first line of defense, but I’ve got two back up plans if they fail. I’m so freaked out though now that I’ve been on the shopping excursion because there was a rat trap. It was so big, and this mouse is so noisy. My imagination took of like an Olympic 100 yard dash runner, and I could just picture having to deal with a rat the size of a small household cat.

I hope the mouse dies soon. It’s causing tension between the dog and I. I’ve told him about 10 times to get out of the dining room, so the mouse will come out and go into the trap. Deogi got miffed about that and went upstairs. Of course, he thought he was being all sly in coming back down and slinking into the dining room 5 minutes later as if I couldn’t hear  the bottom five stairs creaking.

If he could talk, here’s the conversation we would have had two nights ago:

Me: Deogi, it’s time for bed.

Deogi: I’m staring at the coat rack.

Me: Deogi, stop.

Deogi: I don’t hear you.

Me: Let’s go to bed.

Deogi: I’m staring at the coat rack.

Me: Bed. Now.

Deogi: You hear me.

Deogi: I’m staring at the coat rack.

Me: RRRRRRRRRRRRRRR!

Deogi: Fine

And, here’s how the conversation would have gone last night while he was on the couch next to me, staring intently at the middle of the living room floor.

Me: What are you staring at?

Deogi: I’m concentrating.

Me: Seriously, your eyes are bugging out of your head. You’re freaking me out.

Deogi: Freaking you out?

Me: Yes.

Deogi: You’re the fruit loop here. You’re the one whose been moving your laptop stand and power cord around for the past 30 minutes like it’s under attack.

Me: I feed you.

Deogi: I know, but you’re still annoying me with your paranoia.

Me: Well, you’re confirming my paranoia by staring at the floor.

Deogi: Stop worrying. I’ll eat the mouse.

Me: You’ll get rabies or the bubonic plague.

Deogi: It will taste good.

New Year’s Goal Revealed…and a few more recipes

The most recent issue of Better Homes and Gardens helped me form my goal for the new year. And, no, it’s not to get into Better Homes and Gardens even if getting a one page feature in the magazine is a little lifetime dream of mine. This goal is more attainable. I want to try one new endeavor or finish one project each week and then, lucky blog readers, blog about it. I’m keeping the parameters purposefully broad to allow for some flexibility. If I get the bottom hems of my otherwise assembled curtains sewn and get them hung, I win for the week. If I try a new smoothie recipe, provide a link on my blog, and say “Yum, that was delicious,” I win for the week. I’m even going to allow the exploration of a new place to count though trying a new dish at a familiar restaurant will not count. (I have to keep myself from getting too lenient on myself.)

Why did I pick this goal? Well, it should force me to do at least one blog post a week, which will in turn eliminate those mid-semester months when my blog languishes in cyberspace. But, more importantly, I’ve noticed that whenever I get busy, the activities that I seek out to recharge are the ones that tap my creative nature. I suspect I’ll feel like I’m leading a more balanced life in 2013 if I’m more disciplined about creativity.

This week, I’m working on starting to pull together the syllabus schedule for the new course that I’ll start teaching in two weeks, but since that process at this point doesn’t make for particularly interesting blog fodder unless you care that the goal for today is to read a 257 page book in its entirety, I’ll share some recipes that made their debut at my small, very quiet New Year’s affair — oh, and I’ll catch you up on the newbies that I promised in the last post as well.

Peppermint Mocha Cupcakes

These cupcakes looked so great in the picture on the inspiration blog that I had to try them out for the Christmas party. But, I think they were cursed from the beginning. Anyone watching me make them would have thought I’d never baked anything from scratch prior to this attempt, which, despite my addiction to box mixes of brownies, is simply not true. I missed out on the fact that my butter needed to be room temperature and that I needed strong brewed coffee while incorporating all the ingredients, so I wound up frantically scrambling to put butter on the warm range surface to expedite its warming and grind espresso beans that I forgot I had in the freezer. As if that wasn’t enough, my canisters must be getting old. I used to nearly punch myself in the face every time I opened them because the seals took so much effort to break. Not so this time. I picked up the sugar container by the lid only to have the lid pop off and spill a mountain of sugar all over the counter. I’m fairly certain the dog licked about 1/4  cup of sugar off the floor. I wound up icing these cupcakes in burgundy instead of red since after I pulled the red coloring gel out of my cake box, it disappeared (and I still really, really hope I find that container before the dog does). And, for some bizarre reason, the red stripes melted off the peppermints that I stuck on top of the cupcakes. I’d like to say though that I don’t blame any of this on the recipe. The cupcakes were amazingly moist when I first pulled them out of the oven. I just think this recipe isn’t for the faint of heart and perhaps was a wee bit of a stretch outside my baking comfort zone.

Bonus: I looked up a method to prevent cakes from drying out since that seems to be a persistent problem of mine, and I now have the motivation to try all the espresso desserts I have saved since that darn bottle of espresso powder cost me $11 at Williams Sonoma.

Maple Glaze

My dad grew up around this amazing bakery called the Saxonburg bakery, and they made amazing maple rolls. The bakery has shut down, but my family and I have a ridiculous craving for those maple rolls. So, I’m on a quest to try every maple glaze and icing on the planet until I find one that replicates the one from Saxonburg bakery (or until someone in possession of the recipe sends it to me). I started the quest by using the maple glaze at this blog. Don’t get all impressed and think I made the Better than Starbucks Maple Scones as well because I cheated and put the icing on canned cinnamon rolls. It wasn’t the bakery’s glaze, but it still was delicious. My family all gave it two thumbs up and said they’d welcome the chance to have it again. Too bad there are probably at least 100 other maple glaze recipes that we might have to wade through…

Breakfast Pizza
Ok, this recipe for breakfast pizza  is ridiculously easy, but it’s a good idea to have on hand if you get the breakfast blahs. And, we all know that a good breakfast recipe is either easy or can be made the night before. Seriously, who wants to roll right out of bed to start cooking. Not this girl. I like getting recipes from blogs because I can tell where I might mess up or get additional ideas to embellish the recipe. In this case, I decided to borrow the idea of using sausage gravy for the sauce of this pizza. Who has two thumbs and made the sausage gravy from scratch? This girl (but I made it the night before, of course). I wound up with the pizza crust, a layer of sausage gravy, a layer of cheese, 5-6 scrambled eggs sprinkled with reserved sausage crumbles, and then more cheese. Yum. It was yum the first time, yum when I ate it for leftovers this morning, and I’m guessing it will be yum when I eat it for leftovers tomorrow.

Oh boy, I still have 3 unrevealed  recipes, but this post is getting long. I’ll save them for another day, but if you’ve read this far, I’ll reward you with our family’s punch recipe. We give it freely to those who ask, and I did find out it had been published in a church fundraiser cookbook, so I guess I can spread it to the blogosphere without having someone from the family hunt me down to pluck out my fingernails one at a time.

New Year’s Punch

2 cups cranberry juice
2 cups pineapple juice
3/4 cups sugar
1 tsp almond extract
1 qt. ginger ale (4 cups)

Mix together the ingredients and stir well to make sure the sugar gets dissolved. Add ice.

If you’re making it ahead, it’s ok to mix together everything sans the ginger ale. Add that and ice at the last moment and give it one last stir.

I think if you double the recipe, you can squeeze it into a one gallon pitcher if you stir very, very carefully. But, really, you ought to just drag out your punch bowl and triple or quadruple this recipe because the punch will go fast.

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