Sunday, February 21, 2016

Dilemna for a Gardener with a DVM

It was a beautiful day today. Spring is around the corner, so we took a trip to the greenhouse. I was checking out the vegetable seeds, thinking about what would be good this year, and it brought me back to last year's garden. I remembered that the first step will be to figure out how to keep the rabbits away.

"I think there is a rabbit's nest in the garden," my husband told me one Saturday afternoon last summer. He had just called me over to the garden to ask for my opinion, which is a bit surprising since I can't tell a weed from a vegetable plant.

As a gardener, he wanted to save the plants, but as an animal lover he was torn; he didn't want to disturb the babies if there was indeed a nest. I did not want the rabbit's nest to get between me and my fresh produce, so I insisted we lift up the hay and look. We started to dig around in the straw bale garden, but no nest. Suddenly, a squeak came from the center of the hay loud enough to make me jump. We saw the mama rabbit dart across the lawn to calm her squeaking baby only to stop short when she saw us snooping around the nest. Our suspicions were confirmed.

This isn't the first time we have come across a rabbit's nest in the yard.  However, previously, the nest wasn't smack-dab in the middle of the garden. We left the nest alone, and we did manage to get some produce out of it, but this year I'm definitely going to investigate ways to protect the garden.

What pests are in your backyard?  Any tips to keep them away from the garden?

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Words About Scrapple

I have written a few entries inspired by my grandma's recipe box, but this one is a little different. Below is a recipe re-created from an older family recipe.

The top of the recipe card reads, "My grandma Gonzales made this in 1934. I devised this recipe years later (1950)." In 1934, my grandma was only 5 years old, and Pearl Parsons Gonzales (aka grandma Gonzales) died a short time later, in 1935, at the age of 58. This peaked my interest, because for my grandma to remember the dish, it must have been good.

I continue to read the recipe and it calls for hamburger meat and cornmeal, which to me, immediately reminds me of a meatloaf. Whenever we ate dinner at my grandma's house, she always made a green salad and served it along with cheeseburgers, steak, or meatloaf. I can remember helping her make meatloaf several times. Each time, she molded the ground beef to the shape of the stainless steel mixing bowl so that the egg yolks would fall perfectly in the middle. Next, with her hands, she mixed in the breadcrumbs, ketchup, and from the spice rack, the seasonings from a jar titled, "Meatloaf Seasoning."

Even though I am picturing a meatloaf dish, I still want to know if scrapple is a "thing", because I have never heard of it. After a quick Google search, I find out that scrapple is indeed a "thing", and it can even be purchased at grocery stores in certain regions, such as Delaware and Pennsylvania. It is a loaf, usually made with cornmeal and scrap pork pieces. (Get it? Scrapple? Made from scrap?). Finally, it is sliced and pan fried, and often served for breakfast. 

Now that I know about scrapple, I have so many more questions. What does scrapple taste like? It seems scrapple is popular among Amish communities; did she have ties? Have you had scrapple? Would you like to try it?

Maxine with grandma Gonzales (1930).

Friday, January 29, 2016

Four Thousand Two Hundred and Sixty Eight

All new parents are going to need diapers, but how many diapers are needed? What size?  How much will the diapers cost? I have been asked these questions a few times by new parents, so I wanted to share this information for anyone who needs it.

The best deals on diapers are usually when the diapers are bought in bulk, but you don't want to buy too many of a size that the baby will grow out of quickly. With our first baby, we were so worried about her growing out of the newborn diaper size, that each time we went to the store we bought the smallest pack. (We went to the store a lot that first month!)

After a couple of months of buying diapers, I started to figure it out. I started ordering them on-line from Wal-Mart, and began to track the diaper usage. I tried a couple of other diaper brands during that first month, as well as the Honest delivery service for a couple of months, but in the end, I was happy with Pampers. Below is a photo of the diaper usage. 

One thing I noticed is that babies go through a lot of diapers in the beginning, but the price per diaper is a bit less. Then, as the babies get older they use less diapers, but the price per unit is a bit higher. So overall, the amount of money spent each month stays pretty steady until the baby is potty trained. By purchasing from Wal-Mart online, the cost was just under $50 per month. This time, I am using Amazon Family, and I'm hoping to save a little more money this time.

So? How many diapers will you need? Here is a best guess based on my babies:

Newborn - 256 diapers (This will last about a month.)
Size 1 - 234 diapers (This will last about a month.)
Size 2 - 612 diapers (This is 3 XL boxes, and will last about 3 months.)
Size 3 - 1,674 diapers (This will take you through your baby's first birthday!)
Size 4 - 932 diapers (I imagine you will be a diaper expert by now.)
Size 5 - 560 diapers (This will hopefully take you up through potty training!)

Overall, it cost $48.21 per month to diaper my baby, for a grand total of $1,192.43 for the first two years, which totaled to 4,268 diapers. 

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Hello Yum-Yum Dolly Crispies

Today I was chowing down on my daughter's chocolate Bunny Grahams, and I was thinking about how good they would be in a pie crust or a s'mores dip, but then I snapped back to reality and decided that they were satisfying enough straight from the box.

Later in the evening, though, I began snooping through my grandmother's recipe box, and I think it must have been fate; there was not just one graham cracker recipe, but three graham cracker recipes.

The first recipe was for a classic, hello dolly cookies, but I'm not really into coconut, so I decided to keep looking.

The second recipe was for yum-yums. I feel weird calling something a yum-yum. I'm not sure why, but it would seem strange to me to bring a dish to a party and say, "Hi everyone, I brought yum-yums." Try saying it out loud to yourself, and see how it feels. It is gooey butter and sugar poured on top of graham crackers, so I'm sure they are indeed yum-yum, but to me it is one of those funky words that I would like to avoid, so I decided to move on to the next card.

This graham crispies recipe calls for melting dark brown sugar and butter and pouring it on top of the graham crackers along with pecans, and it was starting to spark interest to my taste buds, but as I was pulling out the butter, I realized that unfortunately, I had already devoured the entire box of chocolate Bunny Grahams.

Not all was lost, though, because then I started thinking about one of my favorites that my grandma used to make, the no bake chocolate cookies. I don't have the original recipe, but after a quick Pinterest search I found multiple recipes, and this No-Bake Chocolate Egg Nest caught my eye. Chow Mein noodles are used to make it look like a nest, and then there are tiny little Cadbury chocolates to look like little eggs. To top it off, I finally found a place for the graham cracker bunny inside the nest.  And yes, I know that bunnies do not lay eggs, but I'm pretty sure that the Cadbury bunny does, so I think it is still a decent idea. What do you think?

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

All Jell-O Salads Under "Jell-O"

When going through my grandmother's recipe box today, under the 'S' tab, there was an index card that read, "All jello salads under jello."

I chuckled seeing the index card explaining how the recipes are catalogued, but also laughed about Jell-O having an entire section to itself inside the recipe box. It quickly transported me back in time thinking of all the family gatherings over the years, and how there was always at least one Jell-O dish, if not two.  

In the early years, the ingredient lists were lengthy. The recipes below include everything from crushed pineapple and cranberry sauce to celery, onion and cottage cheese to marshmallows, cheese and nuts.


In later years, there were less fruits and vegetables in the Jell-O, but the dishes were not any less elaborate. One Easter, my mom used a bunny mold and nestled it among several Jell-O Jiggler eggs on top of a bed of dyed coconut. (If you look carefully at the picture you can see the Jell-O rabbit in the center, which I can only assume is some exotic black cherry or black raspberry flavor of the 90's.)

Jell-O hasn't made an appearance on our table for a while. I think the last time I had gelatin was when I was in labor, and only allowed liquids.

But even though gelatin dishes are not as popular at our table as they used to be, it can still be found in one of my favorite desserts. In fact, my birthday is coming up, so I'm going to head to the store to get some ingredients for my favorite type of cake, Jell-O Poke Cake. What will you be having for dessert?

Monday, February 2, 2015

Stools in the restrooms? Yes, please!

I’m sending a plea to all business owners and managers.

Please, please, please place stools in your restrooms!

Let me explain. It is an exciting time when your child is officially potty trained. No more, do you have that gut sinking feeling when you realize you are out of diapers and have to run to the store. No more, will your shoulders be sore from carrying around the infamous 10-pound diaper bag. (Ok, 10 pounds is an exaggeration, but you get my point). And most importantly, the money spent on diapers each month can go towards something a little more fun.

However, once free from diapers, there are more trips to the restroom. Basically, anywhere you might go, whether to a restaurant, a grocery store, an airport, a farmer's market, a museum, a bank, or even a gas station, your child will say those famous words that send parents into a frenzy,

"I have to go potty."

When I hear this, I go into automatic pilot mode looking for that familiar sign of a stick figure wearing a 1950's A-line skirt. We walk briskly, and once we arrive and open that stall door, I breathe a sigh of relief,

"We made it!"

However, once we come out of the stall, there in front of us are porcelain sinks dropped evenly in a long piece of laminate. Each sink with its own steal faucet, and in between the faucets, up on the wall, are soap dispensers. Below each soap dispenser, there is a small crusty pastel colored clump that has dripped from its respective dispenser. Hanging on the wall is a long mirror. And in that mirror, I see my face; it is the annoyed and tired look. The look where I know I SHOULD say,

"Now, it is time to wash your hands."

But instead I say,

"Come on, let's go. We can use magic soap."

BTW, magic soap is a pseudonym for the pink, sparkly, berry scented hand sanitizer that I carry in my purse. There are a few exceptions to this last part. If we are at Whole Foods or Wal-Mart I happily say,

"OK, wash your hands and let's go!"

Whole Foods and Wal-Mart? I know they seem like two very different places that cater to two different clients. However, they both have at least one thing in common. At Wal-Mart, they have a sink that is wheelchair accessible. However, the height is also the perfect height for my 3 year old. She can wash and dry her hands all by herself. And at Whole Foods, there is a stool installed that can be raised and lowered for the person's desired height.

You see, at other places, when I am required to lift my daughter up to help her wash her hands, it is a bit awkward. I roll up our sleeves, re-situate my shoulder bag that serves as my purse, and lift her up over the sink. After shifting my grip from 2 hands to 1, I use my free hand to turn on the water and find the right temperature. While keeping my balance, I then tell my daughter to quickly put her hand under the dispenser so that when I give it two quick pumps, the soap will drop perfectly in her hand. Then, just as my back starts to ache, I loosen my grip, and she instinctively jumps down. I hear her cowboy boots slam against the tile floor. Finally, we get ready for one more lift so that her hands are high enough to reach the sensor on the hand dryer.

Ok, I know, this isn't completely terrible, but it is an inconvenience. However, for grandparents, it can be a much more difficult. I would bet that a lot of grandparents have the preschoolers skip the sink challenge.

So, back to my original plea... Please! Put stools in public bathrooms!

Out of all the public restrooms we have been to, only a handful of them catered to children. There was one airport that had a stool built in to the wall similar to Whole Foods, and one restaurant had a bench in the restroom that I pulled over to the sink and let my child use it as a stool. The mom behind me followed suit with her daughter, too. However, most of the time we simply use antibacterial soap and walk out the door. So, if at the very last, if you don't want to install a stool, maybe a sanitize dispenser at a spot low enough for a child or at a wheelchair accessible height would also suffice.

Ok, rant over, hoping that soon we will see some more hand washing accessibility for all!

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Why I'm NOT Doing Elf on the Shelf

Now that my daughter is in pre-school, every friend, family, and co-worker asks me the same question...

 "Are you doing Elf on the Shelf?!"

 Each person that asks me has wide eyes and excitement in their voice. Each person assumes I will say,


and we can share with each other the adventures that [Insert your Elf on the Shelf's name here] Buddy/Elfie/Charlie/Jingle/Fred/Jack/Snowflake/Max/Jolly/Rob will be going on over the next month. However, when I tell them,

"No, not this year.",

their faces sadden and it is as if I had sucked out all of the joy for the holiday season.

Let me explain.

1.  My daughter has never asked for Elf on the Shelf, so what she doesn't know won't hurt her.
2.  It looks like a lot of work. I see all of my friends post on Facebook and Pinterest each morning the trouble the Elf got into the night before. Whether it is a joy ride with Barbie, a marshmallow fight with G.I. Joe, hang gliding from the ceiling, or getting flour all over the kitchen after making cookies. I prefer lounging on the couch vegging in front of Hulu all night over making sure the Elf doesn't get into too much trouble.
3.  It is kind of pricey. When I looked up the price on-line for an Elf on the Shelf, it was more than $30 for the intro kit.

After I give my reasons for why I'm not doing Elf on the Shelf, the next thing I hear is,

"But my kids are on their best behavior all month long. I can get them to do whatever I want while the Elf is watching."

Suddenly, I am the one that is wide-eyed and full of excitement.

"What? Best behavior? All month? Can get them to do anything? Like go to bed on time?  Or get dressed on time each morning?"

But wait, before I am committed to the Elf on the Shelf, I ask,

"What happens if I forget about the Elf one night?"

With a consoling gesture, the parents nod,

"Oh, that happens, and you will be surprised with how many excuses you can come up with."

Ok, maybe I have had a change of heart. Maybe we will bite the bullet and start it this year. I imagine there will be a few nights where Elf will fall asleep on the couch watching Hulu, but Elf just might have a few adventures after all.

Ganz Santa's Little Helper
Are you doing Elf the Shelf this year?