Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Fingernails of a Tomato Canner are Orange

After 4 months of hosting a tomato garden, I have famously lost interest in the whole endeavor. The dozen or so tomatoes I handpicked out of my garden in August were delicious and satisfying. But, they are now ripening at an alarming rate; appearing everywhere, decorating the plants like Christmas bulbs. Only it’s not Christmas. It’s “Canning Time” and like Lucy and Ethel on the candy assembly line—I can’t keep up.

Although I’ve never “canned” anything in my life, friends and websites assured me that it was easy. So I took 20 lbs. out of my fridge and studied the recipe.

Directions to Can Tomatoes:

1. Start cauldron filled with 4 gallons of water to boil using 2 side-by-side burners

2. Run jars in dishwasher cycle

3. Put lids in water to boil

4. Put tomatoes in a large pot of boiling water, and then thrust them into a large ice bath so peels will be easy to remove.

By this 4th step, I have some notes to add:

Some peels came off of some tomatoes. The others needed to be peeled with a potato peeler. Peeling the skin off a mushy tomato is a bit like shaving an inflated balloon. The tomato skin is taut, but unexpectedly your finger (or the peeler edge) ruptures the peel, causing the inner red-orange, seeded goo to escape and fly. I’ve plumbed and been squirted by so many tomatoes, my kitchen looks like a bloody scene from “Grey’s Anatomy.” On the bright side, I think I may have invented a new art form.

The recipe reads on:

5. Core and cut peeled tomatoes into smaller wedges.

I liken the “Hold down the Slippery Tomato in Order to cut it” maneuver to that of Ms. Pac Man trying to gobble the ghosts before the time is up. This step could be a game by assigning a child, equipped with baseball mitt, to catch rocketing tomato pop-flies.

6. Into sterilized jars, put tomatoes in within ¼ inch of the top. Put in lemon juice and fill with boiling water.

7. Place jars with lids in water cauldron and boil for 45 minutes.

8. Remove and let cool. Jars will be sealed when you hear a “ping” signifying a proper, safe seal.

I listened, and waited...4 hours, but I didn’t hear a single “ping.” Doubt has now been cast as to whether the proper, safe seal has been achieved. Will I give my family botchulism? Will I be known as the notorious Heidi the Poisoner?

Anyone interested in one of my quarts of homegrown tomatoes? If not, you can get the same size jar at Piggly Wiggly for $1.98.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

“Oh, God! He’s got the Power Washer Going Again”

I know when “Power Washing Day” is approaching. My husband, Fred, opens the garage
door and starts lining things up on the drive-way. Once he has the power washer going, “POWER WASHER FEVER” overtakes him, and he wants to spray everything in sight. Toys, dumpsters, grills...nothing is off-limits.
For Fred, the power washer I got from him for Father’s Day is one of his most beloved possessions. I’m quite sure if I presented Fred with an ultimatum—“It’s either ME or that power washer,” I’d be sleeping on the sofa, while ‘PW’ spooned up next to him in bed.
I have several problems with Fred’s Water Spewing Tool. First, I object to the word “wash.” Assaulting household items with high-pressure water does not “clean” them...not really. It’s like telling a kid to take a shower, but then adding, “You don’t have to use soap—the water will do it all.” A more appropriate name for the device would be “Power Rinser."
Second, of the few things I would like to have “Power Rinsed,” not many of them were engineered to withstand 20 megatons of water being sprayed at them. My refrigerator, for instance, could stand a good “Power Rinsing,” but the meat drawer would no doubt invert, lights would dim and the back-spray would gauge Fred’s eyes out. Our dog, Jasmine, needs a good POWER RINSING, but unless I want to go pick her up in...Nevada---I’ll use the garden hose. Anything “rickety” that’s given a power-wash gets annihilated. Fred power washed our deck once, and all the paint peeled off of it. He power washed his bicycle and took it for a ride and the rear rim “mysteriously” bent. Coincidence? I think NOT.
Final irritant? The unspoken contest among the 99 percent male power washer owners; the “mine’s bigger than yours” show. Each man knows his own machine’s vital statistics--horsepower, amps and its ability to heat and/or dispense detergent...and those of his adversaries. A man could be made to feel small if his machine didn’t measure up.
It all starts with the pull of the rip-cord and the VRUUMMM of the engine. Once the power washer is running, it signals other men down the street...who stop what they’re doing, cock their heads to the side and stagger out to their garages. A chain reaction has been set off. Soon, men are blasting furniture across driveways, “water brooming” the crevices in their sidewalks and insisting that their houses are dirty. Innocent bystanders, children and dogs duck to avoid being knocked unconscious by the debris sailing through the air like frisbees.
“Is Daddy using the power washer?” my daughter Krista asks.
“You heard it too?”
“I’m gonna make sure he’s not power washing my bike,” she said, starting towards the garage.
“Just don’t sneak up on him—you’ll end up in Nevada.”
Post-wash, Fred leaves the “tenderized” items out to air-dry where he can sit in his chair and admire his work...while avoiding the, “What did you power wash THIS TIME?” questioning waiting for him inside.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Big Girls Don't Spin

I signed my husband, Fred, daughter Krista and I up for a family “Spinning” class at the YMCA. It sounded mild enough and fun for togetherness. Krista is a kid and Fred, a former college athlete, who is accustomed to “work-out-till-you-barf” sessions is never going to admit that anything labeled "family" is anything more than a "stretch." I’m the only one who has to worry about being in shape. But, I'm ready. I can ride a bike; I can do cardio classes. Best of all, thanks to my sedentary job—I am well prepared me for a 45-minute session of sitting on a bicycle seat. If nothing else—I am an experienced sitter.

“Spinning” bike seats are nothing like my bouncy desk chair or my couch. “Spinning Seats” are comically small, oddly shaped and feel like limestone. The longer I sat on it, the more I couldn't ignore a certain part of my anatomy. After approximately 3 minutes of shifting and wincing, I starting to experience the “Where does the seat think IT’S going?” phenomenon. Day-dreaming of a fanny-sized ice pack was the only thing that pushed me onward. I felt like one of those Snow Monkeys you see at the zoo with the red backsides everyone thinks hurt.

For a bike class, we did an awful lot of standing too. At one point, I concluded that the only thing worse than “Sit-Down” biking was “Stand-Up” biking. Then there’s the 'adjusting-the-bike-tension-to-make-it-harder' element. After an especially hard “Up-Hill” routine at a Level 4 difficulty--

“Your tension clamps aren’t even touching the wheel,” Fred pointed out.

“Oh, God.”

When the class concluded, I walked C3PO-style to my car; C3POed into the house and headed straight for a hot bath. It was there that my leg muscles stiffened and knotted. For the next 4 days, ablaze with “Ben Gay,” I alternately iced and heated my upper thighs and used the "I don't care how much it looks like a sex-toy" heated massage wand almost constantly. Still, I was crippled...definitely

Anticipating class #2, I decided to seek some posterior relief. I heard about padded biking pants and shopped...and shopped. None could be found in my size. Perhaps market research conducted by the “Padded-Pants” manufacturers suggest that chubby girls have their own padding. Even if I do have "junk in my trunk"—"junk" still has NERVE ENDINGS!

Rejected substitutions to Padded Pants included:

1. Sitting on an actual pillow (which would never have stayed put)

2. Stuffing a pillow IN my pants, which might work (but, do I really have so little ego left?)

3. Unscrewing my desk chair seat, bringing it into class and shoving it into the peg hole.

How do you toughen yourself up? Is there some abrasive “Pre-Spinning Class” underwear? Inquiring minds (with “Spinner’s Butt”) NEED to know.