Amanda Hopper Writes

A writer's tale of living and working in the country.

Month: March 2013

Pioneerification: Homemade Vegetable Stock

What do you do with all of your vegetable scraps when preparing dinner?
Hopefully you have vegetable scraps…
If dinner were left up to Oldest Son, vegetables would be illegal in all 50 states.
Unfortunately for him, in this house the you get what you get and don’t throw a fit rule is strictly enforced.
So we eat vegetables. Combine that truth with the fact that I happen to be cheap resourceful.. the result is home-made vegetable stock.
First things first, you must have a storage container to hold vegetable scraps in the freezer. I personally recommend reusing plastic ice cream containers. If you don’t have any, I guess you will have to break down and buy one. Don’t forget to eat all the ice cream first.
It’s for a good cause *wink, wink*.

 Every time you trim or peel a veggie, toss the pieces into the bucket. The containers pictured below have red bell peppers, sweet potatoes, carrots, russet potatoes, kale, green onions, white onions, red onions, asparagus, broccoli, and mushroom stems.

When you can’t stuff any more stuff in the buckets, grab a stockpot and dump the frozen scraps inside. Add a couple garlic cloves and a tablespoon of whole peppercorns before covering everything with water.

Flip the burner on high and bring to a boil, then simmer for 1 hour. After your hour is up and the kitchen is filled with fantasic smells, turn the burner off, put a lid on the pot and let the vegetable bubble bath cool for a few hours.
After you have done some laundry, endured homework and finally beat the beach volley level of Angry Birds Rio during soccer practice, pour the mixture through a strainer into a very large bowl. Grab some Ball Freezer Jars and ladle the amber goodness up to the freeze line. This will give you about 2 cups per jar and the recipe usually yields about 6 jars.

 Slap some labels on, pop the jars in the freezer and the next time a recipe calls for chicken or beef broth, use your wholesome veggie stock instead!

Family Rules

Have you noticed that every family has their own set of rules? Unwritten, unspoken guidelines that members of the family obey at all times. Here at the Funny Farm, ours are pretty simple:

  • Take your shoes off when entering the house.
  • Library books must always be returned to the shelf at the stair landing.
  • Chew with your mouth closed. 
  •  Never leave a good pecan to rot.
  • Turn off the tower when a storm is closin’ in.
  • Fill all bathtubs and sinks with water when Daddy says he’s gonna do some plumbin’ work.

That last one is a punishable offense if left undone.
As soon as the words, “Don’t use the water for a bit, I’m gonna work on something, ” are spoken, a stampede of footsteps can be heard bolting to bathrooms all over the house.
Nothing needs to be said…everyone knows. Daddy’s plumbing projects don’t always go as planned. And setbacks mean no running water, possibly for days. 
So last weekend, when Hubs proclaimed that he was going to install the new water softener, we all knew what to do. A look passed between the kids and I before water faucets turned on all over the house. A race to see if we could secure enough before he drained the pipes.

Youngest’s handiwork. And his toys. Cause what little boy can resist a tub full of water?

 I adore Hubs for his can-do attitude. He is much braver than I, always willing to teach himself how to save a buck do something new.
Thankfully, the water softener is now installed and working like a champ. We were only without water for four hours. I must say, Hubs is getting faster at his DIY. Maybe someday soon we won’t even have to avoid clear liquids during projects…

Only a teensie-weensie leakage.      
TA-DA!

What are some of your family’s rules? Share in the comment section!

Sabotage

I am sick of being sick.
Illness has been in my house almost constantly since the beginning of December. Unbelievable, really, since I am well known as a sanitizing Nazi.
Shoes get left at the door. Backpacks get washed or Lysol-ed frequently. Screams of, “Did you wash your hands?” hit every child as he walks out of the bathroom. And I carry hand sanitizer in the car to be used as soon as anyone enters.
Not the little travel bottle either… the commercial size.

My floor and hand-held steamers wouldn’t fit in the picture. Overkill? Not in my house.

So imagine my frustration when every week, some member of the household wakes up with a fever that lasts at least four days. We have had the pre-flu, the real flu, the post flu, and sinus infections. I am sure that my photo is on some sort of government list for the length of time I have been buying Mucinex D.
“No, Officer, I’m not a meth-maker. I just have kids.”
Kids who, I now believe, are sabotaging our ability to get well.
At first, I thought it was sweet when Middle Son would offer to take food and drink to the sick person in solitary confinement. It even brought a tear to my eye when he would hug them with worry on his face. I would always feel so sorry for him when he woke up the next Monday morning with a fever. 
Then it hit me.
That little bugger was trying to get sick!
‘Cause sick in our house means a week stuck in the playroom with a cabinet full of Wii games and unlimited access to cartoons on Netflix.
When I say it “hit” me, I mean I watched dumbstruck as Youngest stared down at the 99.5 on the thermometer, smiled and said, “Yes!” Then ran up the stairs yelling, “Sam, it worked!”
At that moment, it came flooding back to me: all the times Middle and Youngest accidentally drank out of a contaminated glass, or whoops covered up with a sick person’s blanket or oh no finished an infected, half-eaten grilled cheese.
What is a mom to do?
Do they sell those Hazmat showers to lay people? Would it be wrong to make everyone scrub down before they entered your house?
Hubby could probably plumb for it in the entryway. He’s handy like that.
I’ll ask him as soon as he his fever goes away.

Book Review: “The Secret of the Crystal Dragon”

Secret of the Crystal Dragon
by Paula Blais Gorgas (Dragonfly Publishing, March 2013)
Twelve-year-old Myra Goodfellow barely remembers the bedtime stories her grandmother told about shape-shifting dragon people from the world of Kasan. But the memories come flooding back when a baby dragon hatches from the abandoned egg she finds in the woods of rural Oklahoma. Myra and neighbor Aiden discover that the stories are true when the two unintentionally dream-travel to the politically divided planet. Trapped on an alien world, the pair must unearth deeply buried secrets to save the baby dragon from the clutches of the Red World Society and find their way home again.
Secret of the Crystal Dragon draws the reader in by expertly weaving Kasan into Earth’s history and keeps them turning the pages to find the truth behind Myra’s unique ability to mind-talk with the baby dragon. The 12-year-old main character is authentic with her quick judgements and sarcasm. Still recovering from her parents divorce, she struggles to trust her own heart while Aiden gives her the courage to trust others. With each new hurdle they face, the story hints that Myra and Aiden may be more important to the futures of Kasan and Earth than they could ever imagine.
Middle grade to adult readers will enjoy loosing themselves in dream-travel and dragon shadows. While the end of the book answers some of the reader’s questions, Secret of the Crystal Dragon is the first installment of the Guardians of the Blue Planet series and future books hold the promise of revealing more about the girl who is only beginning to discover her destiny.
The book is available in paperbackand Kindle Edition e-book.
Official Synopsis:
Guardians of the Blue Planet (Book I): While visiting her father in rural Oklahoma, twelve-year-old Myra Goodfellow finds a baby dragon from Kasan, the home planet of the Guardian Dragons of Earth. When she and Aiden (the boy next door) accidentally “dream travel” to Kasan, they must protect the baby dragon from the Red World Society, a secret alien group determined to rule both Kasan and Earth.
Cover art property of  Paula Blais Gorgas and Dragonfly Publishing.