Saturday, June 11, 2011

More Randomness...


So, just for sh*ts and grins, I've been watching old episodes of the A&E TV Series "Hoarders." I find the show positively fascinating. In part, because I'm driven by that same morbid curiosity that makes you slow down and gawk at car-wrecks, but [mostly] because certain members of my family could be featured on that show!

I'm not going to "air dirty laundry" however (I'd need a totally separate / completely anonymous blog for that!). I will say that it's definitely not as bad as *the worst* of the Hoarders episodes (no vermin or bug infestations), but when mom's house was put on the market, we filled TWO 15x25 foot storage lockers (We're talking to-the-ceiling-without-an-inch-to-spare) (I *wish* I was exaggerating!) with "stuff."

And that's all I'm gonna say about THAT!

Anyway, I find the show fascinating. Especially all the different "stories" about how people got to that state. And I can definitely relate to the "resistance" that some of the folks exhibit when it's time to "Let Go" of their stuff (Oops - I said I wasn't gonna share Family Dramas!)

Actually, I sometimes find myself with "too much stuff" as well. I'm definitely not a compulsive shopper (I practically hyperventilate at the thought of setting foot in a shopping mall!). I do a fair amount of online shopping, however...

I do have my Tacky Tiki Fetish (although nearly all Tikis are proudly displayed outside during the summer months!). And, in preparation for my studio, I have accumulated a veritable buttload of "stuff" that will go into the studio. Much of it has set-up temporary housekeeping in the living room - much to hubbie's dismay! And - truth be told - ALL of the stuff that I accumulate *is* put to use (Not stashed in the garage/closet in it's original packaging with price-tags still attached!).

Although - in the interest of full-disclosure - I do rent a small (9x10) storage locker for a lot of "Personal Crap" that I have had for years. If you've been to my Home-Page and read about my Liveaboard Daze (back in the 90's when I moved to a boat), you'll see "how" I ended up with a storage locker (Made perfect sense - at the time!). Over the years, I have purged a lot of stuff and my current locker is significantly smaller than what I started-out with. And there definitely *is* room to walk-around in there! But I would like to continue with Reviewing and Tossing a lot of the stuff. Some of it is valuable (I suspect my extensive model-horse collection from the 60's-70's would fetch a fair price from collectors); Some has no monetary-value but is irreplaceable (to me! Ask me about my "Sock-Parrot!"); But much of it is just old "crap" and needs to go (I just need to set my mind to it and find the time to deal with it)! So, yeah, I guess there's a *teeny* bit of "Hoarder" in me, too! (But, to be fair, we *have* used my storage locker for "Seasonal" storage as well - so it's not a *complete* waste!)

Annnnywaaaayyyy: The fact of the matter is: Our house is just too small (appx 1200 SF 2BR 1BA). And, having been built in the 70's, closet space is minimal - at best. And - believe it or not - we use the garage to store *vehicles!* So, yeah, things tend to get a bit cluttered around here. But I definitely don't have a problem with getting rid of stuff - other than being too lazy to haul it over to Goodwill!

Anyway, the upside to watching "Hoarders" is that, invariably, I get a sudden and overwhelming "Urge to Purge!" This week, the Trash Bin had a bit more crap, than usual. Ditto the Recycling Bin! And I've started a new Goodwill Box, as well (Now if I could just get off my lazy duff and deliver it *to* Goodwill!!!)...

Part of the impetus for all of this is that my college buddy, D, is coming to visit next week and I do want the house to look presentable - not that she cares! But it's funny how having house-guests kinda forces you to re-evaluate! Our place most-definitely isn't *dirty* (we have a maid to take care of the yukko-scrubbing) (June Cleaver, I ain't!), it's just cluttered and somewhat disorganized. And yes, it's almost entirely my doing! (And it drives hubbie nuts, I'm sure! Yet he puts up with it - bless his Super-Organized/Uber-Methodical/Engineer heart!)

So that's the latest, there.

I have been moving more of my Ceramic Supplies out to the Tiki Shack/Studio (Yay!). I have a horizontal storage bin (like what you'd use to hide trash cans, lawnmower kinda stuff) out at the side of the house - the "original" home of all my Ceramic Supplies. I was gonna move it to the back-garden - next to the Studio. But I found the logistics somewhat daunting. First I've got to empty it. Then I've got to move it. Then I've got to figure out how to get it *into* the back garden (it's too big to fit through the pergola and too heavy/unwieldy to lift over the fence, and too much of a pain-in-the-@$$ to disassemble, etc.).

I ended up buying a duplicate horizontal bin and assembling it back there! And that's actually better. I can relocate my Ceramic Supplies in a more organized fashion (and at my leisure!). And, once the old bin is empty - we can use it to store "yard stuff" (especially the lounge-chairs - over winter).

Okay, enough rambling about disorganization!

Studio Update:

The Tiki Shack is coming along. No, I *still* haven't painted the kiln corner and it looks like the giant toe-stubber (kiln) will *still* be in the living room when D visits (Oh, well!). I did receive my baby-wheel, and I purchased a Kiddie Table @ IKEA, along with a stool. Luckily, the wheel-table *does* fit under my slab roller. And all the stuff that has gone into The Shack is still visible, neat and organized (Yay!!!). I have a few more pieces, in the works, and hope to do a bona-fide "Artsy" update one of these days!

Garden Update:

Garden is growing like mad - now that the days are *finally* warming up! The tomato plants are threatening to take over! Pics coming...


And lastly, I was feeling "Domestic" this afternoon. One of the last Farm-Share deliveries included RHUBARB. Yummmmmm!!! I *love* Strawberry Rhubarb Jam (and you just can't buy it ANYWHERE around here) (And I'd be in trouble if I could because I really can't tolerate all that sugar :::sigh:::).

One of the (many) cool things about living here in Silicon Valley is that we're really close to a lot of the farming areas. Watsonville cranks out about a zillion pounds of cherries and strawberries every year and it's not at all unusual to find migrant farm-workers standing out on the street-corners - here in Suburbia - selling flats of whatever is in season. Guess what?! Strawberries are in season! So it was really quite easy to acquire all the necessary ingredients for Strawberry Rhubarb jam!

*More* than enough for 2 batches of jam *and* shortcakes!
(That's my Mom's Big-@$$ Mixing Bowl)

Last year, I tried one of the (many) recipes I found, online, for making Sugar-Free Rhubarb Jam, using Sugar-Free Strawberry Jello. It was waaaaaay too sweet for my tastes.

Today, I Googled again and just couldn't find anything satisfactory so I figured I'd "adapt" a sugary recipe and smush in some fresh strawberries and, basically, make up my own damned recipe! So here it is:

"QT's [mostly] Sugar-Free Strawberry Rhubarb Freezer Jam"

2 lbs fresh rhubarb. Cut into 1/2" pieces
4 cups strawberries, sliced and smushed
2 packages No-Cook, Freezer-Jam Pectin
3 cups granulated Splenda (+/-)
1 Tbs Lemon Juice (optional)
sprinkling of sugar (I'd say no more than 1/4 cup).

I made the jam in two batches.

2 lbs of rhubarb will yield just-shy of 4 cups of fruit - after it's cooked down. So batch #1 was probably 50/50 rhubarb and strawberries. Batch #2 was definitely more strawberries and much sweeter (hence the addition of Lemon Juice).

Slice up the rhubarb and put it in a bowl. Sprinkle a tiny dusting of real sugar on top and toss it together (the real sugar seems to help start the rhubarb "sweating"). Then sprinkle 1 cup of Splenda on top and toss it all together again. Let it "set" for about an hour so the rhubarb starts releasing it's juice. One of the recipes I'd read suggested leaving it overnight (and that might improve the overall tartness - but I wasn't that patient!).

Glistening Rhubarb (after sprinkling sugar and Splenda on it)

While the rhubarb is juicifying (I'd rather just call it "sweating!"), clean and top the strawberries. Slice them up in a bowl until you have appx 4 cups. Then sprinkle a little "real" sugar on top to get them juicifying as well. The strawberries don't have to sweat for that long, though.

Once the rhubarb started sweating, I went back and stirred it around a few more times. Then I dumped it all into a large saucepan and heated it up on low. I think low and slow is best - to facilitate releasing the juice. Eventually, the juice started to exceed the rhubarb chunks and began to boil. I kept the heat very low and stirred frequently. It all turned into a lumpy mash after about 20 minutes or so. I taste-tested it and determined that the sweetness-to-tartness quotient was just about perfect! The texture was mostly mushy with a few small (soft) chunks of rhubarb.

Yep! Perfect!
(This is the texture when it's time to take it off the stove)

Remove from the stove and let it start to cool. While the rhubarb was cooling, I started mashing the strawberries to get 'em softer. I did not add a significant amt of sugar, nor did I add Splenda to the strawberries.

Once the rhubarb mash was warm (meaning it wouldn't burn if I stuck my finger in it), I dumped the strawberries into the pot and stirred everything together.

In a separate clean bowl, I mixed 1 pkg Pectin and 1 cup of granulated Splenda. Then I added 4 cups of the Strawberry-Rhubarb mixture into the Pectin/Splenda mixture. Stirred it thoroughly for 3 minutes. Then poured the jam into 8 oz plastic freezer-jam jars, using a canning funnel. Make sure you leave appx 1/4" of space on the top because the jam will expand when it freezes.

Then I went to make the 2nd batch and quickly realized that I didn't have 4 cups of fruit left in the pot! So I quickly sliced and mashed more strawberries, and mixed 'em in with the rest of the fruit until I had 4 cups. Unfortunately, I don't have exact measurements - "Oh well!"

Anyway, I did the same thing with batch #2 (mixing Pectin/Splenda, adding fruit, mixing, etc.). I did determine that batch #2 was sweeter than I wanted, so I added a tablespoon of lemon juice to 'tarten' it up a bit!

End Result: I got 10 x 8oz jars of Freezer Jam, I did mark the jars with the different batch #'s so I can taste-test 'em later.

Yum! 1st taste test (after an hour in the fridge). Batch #1 is Perfecto-mundo!
Texture, tartness and sweetness are *just* right!
Now I wish we had some warm sourdough to serve it on!

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