Friday, April 30, 2010

Napkin Notions

Please welcome my friend and guest blogger Samurai Mom, who tells it like it is:

My Mother-in-law uses paper napkins. She is very diligent when it comes to napkins. There is always a napkin holder full of paper napkins on the table. They are often seasonally themed, flowers in the the spring and summer, turkeys and pumpkins in the fall and snowmen in the winter. Napkins are laid at every place setting at every meal, there is no excuse for untidy eating at her table.

This is all very commendable and hardly warrants a blog post except for the fact that I feel very strongly about napkins, to be precise I feel very strongly about paper napkins.

I find them to be trashy.

Paper napkins make sense at a large event or in a fast food bag but otherwise I think that they should be stuffed into the glove box to be used in emergencies only.

It is odd that I have such an aversion to paper napkins. It is not as though we were too fine for paper napkins in home where I was raised, in fact we didn't even use napkins. We didn't use anything save the backs of our hands! If a meal was particularly messy or involved very sticky finger foods someone was dispatched to the kitchen mid-meal for a handful of paper towels or even a damp paper towel. Table manners were not exactly the highest priority.

And thus we see that my views on disposable napkins are: Irrational? Hypocritical? Yes.

I have decided to take a stand on the subject of napkins and for several years I have been adding to a collection of cloth napkins. I even have some handmade napkins which are very painful to make as the steam from the iron burns my fingers as I press those tiny little hems. I have a set of silver napkin rings and a handy little drawer in the side of the dinner table in which to store my collection of napkins.

And that is where the napkins stay as we eat our meals, sans napkins, every day, just as I was raised.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Jell-o Project: Easy Strawberry Cheese Salad

I don't know if there is some trick to turning out a beautiful Jell-o mold with out having the outer layer of Jell-o melt and make a sloppy mess all over your Jell-o photo shoot. I dip my mold in warm water for like 20 seconds and take it out and I get drippy, unattractive ooze.

While the ooze may look unappealing for the photo, it didn't affect my scientific subject's opinion of this week's Jell-o one bit. Ethan and Isaac still hated it while Jonah, Robert and I loved it.

Tonight's offering was Easy Strawberry Cheese Salad. Ethan had specifically requested strawberry Jell-o with strawberries in it. I realized that with this request he was expecting those two ingredients only, but where is the fun in that? It was time to try a layer. A cream cheese slash sour cream slash walnut layer.

Ethan did actually eat two-thirds of this fruity dish because he claimed to feel bad for wasting. I'm pretty sure he just didn't want to admit that he actually liked it. A little bit.

Isaac on the other hand, took his mandatory taste and promptly spit it out in the sink. However, when I told him that his dessert would also be one bite that he would be required to spit out in the sink unless he could suffer a bit more Jell-o, he decided he could give the Jell-o another shot. Ha!

I told my two Jell-o hold outs that they should enjoy this delicious fruit Jell-o while they could because soon I would be serving them Jell-o with meat! Even Robert was shocked that I would attempt to put meat in Jell-o. When I told him it would most likely be shrimp, he looked at me like he didn't even know me anymore.

Muwah ha haaaaaa!

Monday, April 26, 2010

The Jell-o Project: Beets Can't be Beat

For my beet Jell-o experiment I had the option of a sweet or savory Jell-o. I decided against Beet Jell-o with horseradish and went with this lovely concoction with cherry jello, pineapple and beets.

I love beets. I grow them in my garden and eat them until...well, I'll just leave it at that: I eat them.

So, naturally, I found nothing offensive about beet Jell-o. In fact, 3/5 of the family cleaned their plates of the beet Jell-o. Two licked them clean, but I'm not at liberty to say who.

Isaac took a small bite, as did Ethan, but neither was very impressed. They have no sense of adventure.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Jell-o Project: In Which I Make a Case for Vegetable Jell-o.

I get it! I finally understand why housewives of yore suspended vegetables in Jell-o!

Because it doesn't taste too bad and it gets kids to eat their vegetables. Of course those vegetables are surrounded by sugary, jiggly, gelatin which probably off-sets any health benefits one might get from eating said vegetables, but sometimes you just have to take what you can get.

This week's Jell-o salad was Carrot Gelatin Salad. I decided my first foray into the vegetable/Jell-o mix would be a relatively safe one. Carrots are, after all, a fairly sweet vegetable that I thought would lend itself to the sweet, cold, slipperiness of Jell-o. Plus, my kids enjoy a carrot from time to time. How could I go wrong?

Unfortunately, the kids are growing suspicious of the dome shaped things I plop in front of them every Tuesday night and are not as willing test subjects as they once were, back in the days of Lime Jell-o with Pears.

Isaac took a very small bite, it might have been a lick, and was not impressed. "Can't you make the Jell-o with cheese in it again?"

Ethan took one bite and even though he looked like he might throw up, I forced him to take a second. "I liked lime Jell-o with pears," he said.

Jonah took about three bites and was done. "It's OK." He said.

Unacceptable. There was nothing unpalatable about the carrot Jell-o salad. I thought it was delicious. I decided the results were skewed because my test subject's preconceived notions.

So last night, after a few days of palate cleansing with my regular dinner fare, I reintroduced the carrot Jell-o salad and told everyone I wanted a second opinion.

Just one piece of advice to the family: Think carrot, not fruit.

Robert: This is a good way to eat carrots.

Isaac: It is kind of tasty, but not that good.

Ethan: Too carroty

Jonah: Mmm, good. (he then ate the rest of the sample himself.)

I know this still seems like a failure, but I think carrot Jell-o Salad just might find itself on the Nelson dinner menu sometime in the future...

...after a few other Jell-o experiments, of course. I have yet to try Jell-o with meat!

Next week: Beets!

Monday, April 12, 2010

The Jell-o Project: Apricot Cottage Cheese Salad with Lemon

For those of you who are following along at home, here is the recipe for Apricot Cottage Cheese Salad with Lemon. (I could not find apricot Jell-o, so used Tropical Fusion instead.) Thank you to all who suggested I blend up the cottage cheese before I mix it into the Jell-o. As you can see from the picture, I didn't follow your advice. My family was not happy.

I don't know that there was much I could have done with this recipe to make my family like it. Personally, I thought it was not too terrible, cottage cheese curds and all. I enjoy cottage cheese on it's own and know for a fact that cottage cheese is sometimes mixed with fruit for a delicious, low fat snack.

So, what is the difference with the Apricot Cottage Cheese Salad with Lemon? We had cottage cheese, we had fruit. How could this combination go so wrong?

Personally, I think it's the solidity of the whole thing. Cottage cheese and fruit should just be more fluid. And definitely not jiggly.


Isaac took a bite and encouraged all others to give it a fair shot. "It's not that bad! You should try it. If I can taste it, you can." Of course he refused a second bite.

Ethan was the biggest baby of all, taking a microscopic taste and quickly pronouncing it "disgusting."

Jonah probably took the biggest bite. I had high hopes for Jonah, my fruit eater, and the Apricot Cottage Cheese Salad with Lemon. He very kindly swallowed, but did not take a second bite.

I was the only one to eat the whole thing.

There are two still left in the fridge.

I should do something about that.

Next up: Something with vegetables.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Sew What: The Freshman

I bought this book a few weeks ago and have been dying to make my own skirt. This week the stars aligned and there was a sale at Fabric Depot (35% off EVERYTHING!) and I knew the time had come.

The book teaches how to create your own pattern so each skirt is a custom creation just for you. I started off with the first and easiest skirt in the book, the A-line drawstring skirt. What I really wanted to focus on was how to draft a pattern.

After taking measurements I made my pattern and put the skirt together. It was too big. I was discouraged because it looked like a sack and I didn't want to take the whole thing apart. But, I did take it apart and took an inch off each side and an inch off the length. Here is the result:

There is rick-rack on the hem and I created a "belt" for my blouse to tie the whole look together. I'm calling this skirt "The Freshman" since it's my first attempt at patternless skirt-making.

I really have very little idea what I'm doing. (I wish I had a sister here to shop with me and help me put outfits together.) Even so, I got some nice compliments on The Freshman at church today. I can't help but wonder though, if some of those compliments were people just trying to be nice because of a glaring homemade look to the skirt. I will just assume everyone was in awe of my fashion sense and mad sewing skills.

At the fabric sale, I bought enough fabric and notions for 3 skirts. Next up is a fitted waist skirt with zipper which I hope to make next Saturday.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The Jell-o Project: Lime with Pears

These are my grandma's Jello-0 molds. I believe they used to mold a salad called shrimp aspic. I wanted to make them a part of our family tradition in the traditional Jell-o way. For some reason, Jell-o of yesteryear contained things like vegetables, Miracle Whip, and meat. It makes no sense to put those things into a sugary, wobbly mold, but those crazy culinary risk-takers did it anyway.

For some reason, our forefathers and foremothers did not question this weird trend. They embraced it. They served it on a lettuce leaf with a dollop of mayonnaise on top.

This fascinates me. What was it about our ancestors that allowed them to eat things like Tuna Delight Salad Mold and Lemon Beet Jell-o Salad and still want to try Pineapple Cucumber Lime Jell-o salad the next day? Have our taste buds evolved? Or, could I condition my family to eat and enjoy such concoctions?

I started subtly: green Jell-o with pears.

I don't think I will ever be able to bring myself to use mayonnaise as a topping, so I opted for whipped cream.

I got mixed reviews. Isaac, of course hated it. Well, he loved it, except for the pears and lettuce. Ethan ate it, reluctantly. Jonah loved it and even ate the lettuce, which I told him he could skip. He then asked for seconds.

I'm going to do another fruit inspired molded Jell-o salad this week and next week my family will be subjected to Jell-o with vegetables!

Tonight: Apricot Cottage Cheese Jell-o with Lemon Juice

Friday, April 2, 2010

Proof: I'm Funny

Every once in a while the stars of cleverness and humor align and something great happens. I direct you to good friend and former missionary companion Betsy's most recent blog post about a Facebook comment I made regarding her status.

And if you are unfamiliar with Billy Collins and you have about 32 minutes check out this video of Billy reading his poetry. Or, if you only have a minute and a half, watch this:

Thursday, April 1, 2010

How to Be a Boy: Going Number One

The urge to urinate will, undoubtedly come at the most inopportune times. Who can spare 30 seconds during an exciting game of hide and seek, while building the perfect sandcastle, or during your favorite commercial for cold cereal that you've only seen 48 times?

When Mother Nature calls, one must answer--or pay the embarrassing and wet consequences.

Here are some places that, as a boy, you might find useful for relieving yourself.

Port-a-Potty - Conveniently located just about anywhere, porta-potties have the curious ability to make younger boys suddenly have the urge to pee just so they can get into that foul and mysterious blue box.

The Front Yard - Make sure you choose to pee in the front yard around 5:30 pm when all the moms and dads are coming home from work. When your mom finds you with your pants down peeing into her azalea bush, claim you were trying to kill a slug.

The Bath or Shower - Hey, it all goes to the same place, right?

In the Car - As a boy, you can do something girls can't: Pee into an empty water bottle in a moving car. With great power, comes great responsibility. Make sure you get that lid on tight.

In the Snow - Must I explain this one?

With Your Friends - What's better than one erratic stream of urine hopelessly missing it's mark? Three!

The following locations might seem like an obvious choice for going to the bathroom, since they are in fact bathrooms, but don't be fooled. They are substandard urination locations and should be avoided.

A Toilet in Your Home - First you have to lift the seat and then you are required to get your pee into one central location without going out of bounds or splashing. Way too much work. Plus, the toilet is disgusting! What is all that yellow stuff on the rim anyway?

The School Bathroom - It smells weird, even when clean. There is always one kid who forgets to flush when, for the love of Pete, he should have flushed. And even though you have no problem peeing in the front yard, a urinal just seems too public.