Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Canning Circus

I may never can again.

Things did not go well when I attempted to put up some incredible chili last week.   So yesterday I made chili and froze it.   The goal for today was to can either salsa or plain tomatoes.  Taking the lazy way out I decided to can the tomatoes plain.  However, it failed to be "the lazy way."

1.  Accident with the pressure canner which was supposed to be doubling as a water bath.  Boiling water.  Exploded.  On me.  (Lots of cold showers and many applications of fresh aloe mean that I ended up with only a few blistered areas.  The treatments resulted in most places settling down to bad first-degree burns.)

2.  Broken handle on the canner lid when it hit the floor.

3.  Lots of water all over the floor.  When the shower was colder than I could stand, I'd get out and would make attempts to mop up the kitchen's puddles.

4.  Then Maggie accidentally dumped the mop bucket.  All the water from the canning accident --plus the water that had been in the bucket from mopping earlier-- was back on the floor.  I'm glad I could laugh at that instead of cry.

5.  One of the canning jars broke.  The canner was full of tomatoes floating around in the canning water. 

6.  Water boiled out of the canner onto the stove, extinguishing the flame on the burner, while the natural gas kept pumping out into the kitchen.  Hooray for open windows!!!

So what all else went wrong?  I can't remember at the moment.  But this list seems mighty short compared to how the day actually went!

I now have
a) very clean kitchen counters,
b) a floor that's been mopped three times since Monday, and
c) some nice tomatoes in the freezer.

Moral of the Story #1 -- Quit canning.
Except for jelly.
Moral of the Story #2 -- When I forget this lesson, make sure I never can anything in quart-sized jars again ... unless I buy a regular water-bath canner.  Pints will be the limit for water-bathing in the pressure canner.

I'm going to have to wear real shoes to work later this week.  Flip-flops are really a lot easier on my burned foot.

Remind me again why this is supposed to be worth it?

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Fresh-Tomato Chili

Saute together in a humongous pot:
1.5 pounds hamburger
2 onions, finely chopped
1 large sweet green pepper, finely chopped
1 large hot pepper, minced (or a medium-sized very hot pepper)

Meanwhile, use the food processor to chop up a whole gob of tomatoes (about a gallon of diced tomatoes with their juice).

When the hamburger is browned and the veggies soft, add
1 Tbsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 tsp garlic powder
3 Tbsp dried parsley
1.5 Tbsp chili powder
1.5 Tbsp cumin
1/4 tsp basil

Stir well.  Add tomatoes.  Mix. 
Drain water from 4 pints of of canned kidney beans.
Add beans to soup.  Heat.  Adjust seasonings.

Mmmmmm.   This is the chili which I tried to can, and I shouldn't have.  Batch #2 is bypassing the pressure-canner and going straight into freezer bags.   Mmmmmm.

Sunday, September 09, 2012

Offering to Help

As my mom's health began taking a turn for the worse last year, she mentioned one of her regrets.  She says she wished she'd done more things to help her parents as they got older.  At the time, Mom heeded the advice of the social workers and the nurses and the therapists, who all say not to do things to help an elderly or disabled person, if that person is capable of doing the job for himself. 

This makes sense.  Right?  If we cater to a toddler, that child will expect to be waited on.  That child will not grasp for independence.  We will thwart the child's motivation to "Do It Myself!" when we overhelp.  So would it not be the same for a person who's had a stroke or other health impairment?  Are not those multitudes of little, daily tasks sort of like "therapy" practice?

And yet, how much frustration do we allow to crowd in on a person's life?

When we're raising our kids, there's a question we continually bump into:  "Is he ready for this?"  Is Joey wetting his pants because he's not developmentally capable of using the potty, or is he just being stubborn about peeing in his diaper?  Is Susie refusing to stay in her bed at night because she truly needs company and comfort, or is she just being manipulative of her parents?  When your homeschooled 9-yr-old cannot read and cannot memorize his times-tables, is it because he's a lazy so-and-so (and will not do the work), or because he's a late-bloomer (and cannot do the work)? 

But that question doesn't go away when the kids grow up!

We end up with sore muscles.  Do we keep up that exercise regimen we just started?  Or do we give the sore body a rest to recuperate?

Do we give help to the neighbor who's struggling to return the grocery cart to the cart-corral?  Or do we let the man do it himself, as it is his day's exercise? 

Do we help a teenager straighten out the jumbled words coming from a brain that struggles with auditory processing?  Or do we leave her on her own to figure out why we don't understand her question?

I am capable of coming into the kitchen while carrying a bushel of tomatoes.   But I am glad when someone opens the door for me.  Just because I could do it, doesn't mean they should let me.  Or make me.  It's polite to offer help.  It's kind.  It's a courtesy that we should offer to one another.

Those of us who teach children have watched as our students reach the saturation point in their learning.  A fourth-grader wants to read a book for fun that's easy enough for second-graders. Isn't that okay?  Or do we make him read up to his ability level all the time?  A teacher lectures, but must give the students an occasional break to get out of their seats, walk around, chat for a couple of minutes, etc.  When our brains are taxed by new concepts, or hard skills or ideas, we may need a short break.  We need time for the new information and new skills to gel, to settle, to become part of us and our thinking.  That goes for post-stroke therapy, or learning to walk again after an accident.

It keeps coming back to "I can't" versus "I won't."  When someone can't, we respond very differently from when they won't

But how do you know which it is?