Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Jalapeno Hell

Today's Public Service Announcement is brought to you by The Learning Things the Hard Way Corporation:

For the past couple weeks, I've been wanting to make a savory dish using Mango, which is currently in season. I was thinking about a chicken entree utilizing mango in some way. I started collecting recipes long before I ever started cooking. I remembered an early recipe for Mango Salsa that I had hand-written in my first cookbook binder. (I don't know the original source for this recipe, however I did a web search and it seems to be from here.)

It seemed perfect. I scanned the ingredient list:

Red bell pepper
Red wine vinegar
Lime juice
Jalapeno pepper (optional)

I remember looking at the word "optional" when reading. For a split second I considered not using the jalapeno, then I thought, "Nah, I've been liking hot things more as I get older. Plus, I'm a real tough broad and I can handle it."

When I was cutting the infamous jalapeno--uh, sans gloves--I felt pretty brave, thinking only of how the hot pepper would taste. I didn't realize that I would actually be able to feel its heat before the darn thing even got to my mouth. For maybe 1 second I had a mental flash of my mother warning me once to never touch the seeds of a pepper and to use gloves/ utensils when handling one. Then, in the next instant, I told myself that my mother was talking about a scotch bonnet pepper and not a jalapeno. I chortled ignorantly to myself and continued touching that OPTIONAL jalapeno, blissfully unaware of the agony I would feel in the next half hour or so.

It was soon after I had assembled my salsa and refrigerated it for my coveted chicken dinner, that I felt a tingling, burning sensation under my nails. Hmmm. Did I have a splinter under there? Impossible. How could I have splinters under all my nails? Then the tips of my fingers started to burn too. Was it from using cleaning products earlier in the day? No, I didn't use anything I haven't used a million times before. Slowly it began to dawn on was that demonic pepper!

I searched the Web for trusted internet remedies and found a host of people on a website who are as dumb as I am. I'm just grateful that it was only one pepper that I touched. (One person chopped up 40 of them for canning--gloveless. I think she had to go to the hospital for her burns). And I'm also glad that I didn't touch my face, eyes, nose, etc. like a lot of my other fellow dopes.

This recipe is pretty good but it's not exactly worth third-degree burns.

So, here is my advice: 1. Always wear gloves when handling a Jalapeno. 2. Always listen to your mother and when in doubt, call her for clarification. 3. Making a Baking Soda Paste with water seems to provide the most relief for a Jalapeno burn, not that I know from experience or anything...

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Blue

My neighbors are prepping their house for their at-home wedding in a couple weeks; I must have weddings on the brain. This week it seems like I've been subconsciously adhering to the wedding tradition of something old, new, borrowed, and blue.

I decided I wanted to make a baby hat for P. because her NEW son was born just a couple weeks ago and I can't wait to meet him in person.

Here is an OLD pattern for a BLUE baby hat for Baby M.

The yarn is so incredibly soft, like the softest terry cloth you've ever felt. It has an interesting texture to it. I received a skein of it as a gift at christmas time and I've been waiting for somebody to have a boy so I could make a hat out of it. The hat is for next year. It runs large, so hopefully Baby M will have a big head too like Little C., my husband, and me.

I also decided to try my hand at baking something NEW this week because my OLD college friend is coming to visit K's newest baby and we needed something sweet to munch on. I decided to BORROW this recipe for blondies (or congo bars) from Bakerella.

I had a taste yesterday and they are real diet-killers, let me tell you.

On my actual wedding day, by the way, I did adhere to this wedding tradition (I'm sure most brides do). The old and borrowed was my mother's earrings, the new was the dress/ shoes, and the blue was underwear. I was thinking of wearing a blue garter, however, it was about 99 degrees in July and I can only imagine having had to fuss with a sweaty, itchy garter constantly digging into my leg. Maybe that would've made for some interesting pictures though?

Thursday, May 13, 2010

My What a Big Head You Have!

I like to call this sweater "The Ego Sweater." If your head is too big, just unfasten the shoulder buttons and Voila! An easy fit.

I'd like to say that it was an easy pattern to knit, but for me it was quite a challenge. Little C. has been kind of a challenge as of late too (typical one year old behavior), so I guess it is fitting that this sweater is for him. The name of this sweater is also fitting for the little man because he literally has a large head (90th percentile!) and he comes from people with big heads (his father and me). When I was about 6 months pregnant and very nervous about what labor would entail, my husband and I took a child birth class. I don't remember most of what our instructor taught us, but I do remember that she was telling us about crowning, etc., and told us that the baby's head size was inherited from the father. She went around the room, noted my husband's head size, then looked at me and said, "I'm so sorry." Everyone laughed, but I had an icy wave of fear go right through me. Thanks, lady!

I also thought this name was appropriate because Little C. has certainly shown that he has a very healthy ego lately. He crawls frantically around the house screaming, "ME, ME, ME, ME...!" Initially worrying that I had a pint-sized Narcissus on my hands--I envisioned Little C. falling in love with his own reflection in the baby pool out back--it finally occurred to me that "ME" is short for "Mom-ME".  So he's obsessed with me, not himself. Suddenly that screaming went from obnoxious to endearing. As you can see, it's pretty easy to inflate my ego.

The original pattern is called "Chaos" which should have been warning enough, right? I used the pattern only as a guide and didn't make any of the haphazard cables; I have enough chaos in my life as it is. I really only knitted this because I have always liked the button shoulder design, but didn't know how to make it. This pattern was pretty frustrating for me and even though I'm basically happy with the end result I would never use it again (bulkiness of the body, too much seaming, something strange about the arms).  Still, it was a good learning experience. I don't think I ever realized how much engineering goes into constructing a garment. I don't know what skills are needed for this (logic? quantitative reasoning?) but it is not my strong suit. So, even though the pattern left much to be desired, in my opinion, I did come away with a better understanding of how all the parts fit together. I'm thinking of taking this knowledge back to my favorite sweater pattern and see if I can make button holes along the raglan seam.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Drawstring Bags

One of my favorite books when I was a kid was My Side of the Mountain. It's about a little boy who packs up some things one day and heads off into the woods on a mountain. There he makes himself a shelter out of a large, hollowed out tree, lives off the land, and encounters a number of dangerous adventures before his family joins him. I loved this book when I was growing up. I thought it was so cool how the character would eat plants and seeds and bathe in a nearby stream using the soft and soapy moss on rocks as a loofah. He made himself a fireplace inside his tree using clay from the riverbed and even made himself some clothes out of a deer carcass he found. All in a day's work, right?

I so admired this book as a nine year old, that I could totally envision myself "living off the land." This is completely incongruous with who I am, however. I have been camping once in my life, and as much as I like the idea of it, the reality was a little too real for me to handle (I wound up sleeping in the car instead of the tent). I also hate most insects, as I stated before, and I'm sure the little boy's hollowed-out tree was full of them. These romantic notions have not disappeared since I entered adulthood either. I don't daydream about living off the land any more though. Now I seem to dream about living on the beach in Maui, spending my days surfing in the ocean. Again, a completely ridiculous fantasy; I have never been to Hawaii, do not know how to surf, am skin-cancer prone, and am terrified of becoming a shark-attack victim. (Even though I know the odds are extremely slim of being attacked by a shark, I'm pretty convinced that it would happen to me. I also always think that I'm going to win the Lottery whenever I buy a ticket. So I'm not just a negative thinker!)

What do these drawstring bags have to do with any of this? Well, if I was nine years old again, these little drawstring bags would be perfect to wrap up all the supplies I would need to make my trek to a mountain and start my life living off the land. I'd open one up, throw in an extra pair of underwear--feeling very proud of my young self for thinking to pack such a practical item, an apple, maybe a few slices of American cheese, and definitely my favorite Barbie.

I'd cinch up my bag, maybe attach it to a sturdy branch that I'd rest jauntily on my shoulder and off I'd go.

Since I'm not nine, I've been using these drawstring bags to contain my knitting and crochet works in progress. They are so much nicer than the plastic shopping bags I'd been using before. The drawstring bags are fast and easy to make, and they were a great way to use up extra fabric I had.  It's amazing how much more organized I feel. Even my husband remarked, "That's so much better than having it [my knitting] all over the place."  The drawstring pattern is for a "shoe bag" to be used when travelling, but it could be used for a variety of different things in addition to organizing WIPs.

I stuck with three bags, although I really could have easily made three more and probably will in the future. I might not be using my bags to head into the mountains, but if I ever stop knitting/ crocheting maybe I could use these bags to pack shoes in my suitcase as I head to Maui. Shark-infested waters be damned!
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