The Jello Cook-off

Does boiling water or juice count as cooking? I have decided yes and thus I can keep my blog title.

I grew up in the 70’s eating mac and cheese out of a box, fish sticks, frosted flakes and jello among other dyed and artificially flavored foods. Then I grew up and started reading labels and avoiding chemicals and non-food foods and jello was no longer on the menu.

Here in the heat of summer I miss jello. That cool, fruity, jiggly dessert hits the spot on a hot summer day. Sometimes eating healthy really sucks.

Last year I tried making my own jello with plain gelatin and fruit juice. Not only wasn’t it sweet but it was really bland. And then came “Simply Jello”, jello and pudding with no artificial dyes or flavors. Yeah! And then they stopped making it. Boo!

I decided I needed to try making my own again and searched around for a new recipe. I found I could add some sugar to the basic recipe:

2 cups fruit juice ( I used Old Orchard Mixed Berry condensed juice from the freezer, nothing artificial and no HFCS)

1 envelope of knox unflavored gelatin

3 tbsp sugar ( I found recipes with anywhere from 1 to 5 tbsps)

Put gelatin in 1/4 c of juice and let sit while bringing remaining 1 3/4c juice to a boil. Remove from heat and stir in gelatin and sugar. Pour into container(s), let cool a bit and then refrigerate until firm. I will say mine took a little longer to firm up then the boxed version.

I had my son and his friend make a box of regular cherry jello. Then we conducted a blind taste test and all three of us preferred my homemade jello by a landslide! Apparently a bit of sugar makes a big difference!

So there is my less unhealthy summer treat tip.

(Can you tell the difference between the jellos in the picture? I didn’t think so. Mine is on the left.)

Flash Fiction: Waiting

This week’s theme for Carrot Ranch’s 99 word flash fiction is about having to wait. I am in the throes of waiting. Waiting to go on our vacation, waiting to have my surgery, waiting for relief from some horrendous hot flashes. Then I’ll be waiting for school to start and my training for the census bureau. So, yes, I have plenty of material to work with for the theme of waiting.

But this week I wanted to focus on the word fiction in my writing. I wanted to make something completely up. I wanted the wait to be a positive experience. So that is where I went with the prompt!

“Mental Health Day”

At the beginning of the year Jennifer impulsively penciled in a mental health day on her calendar. Now the day was here and she wanted a spontaneous adventure.  

She drove two hours west and found a small town on the coast. She sat outdoors at a quaint café, opened the menu, closed her eyes and lightly ran her finger over the plastic sheet. Strawberry and cream cheese crepe appeared under her finger.  Perfect!

She sat back, the sun warming her face, noticing an Artist Co-Op across the road.  Stop two she thought as she waited patiently for her crepe.

Joy List: Summer Solstice Style

Here it is, the longest day of the year. I like to celebrate the solstice because it means now the days will start to get shorter, a good thing for me as I am not a fan of the desert sun. Let the slow creep to autumn begin!

But I still find small ways to enjoy summer:

  • The soft evening sunlight on and through the trees during my end of day swim.
  • Tangy Lemon Italian Ice. Hits the spot in the heat (and during a hot flash).
  • Listening to Cubs baseball on the radio.
  • Finding a glue pen which works great. So much better than the glue sticks which dry out crazy fast here or gummed up Elmer’s glue bottles.
  • Two really good random picks from the library in a row. The first was “The Clockmaker’s Daughter” by Kate Morton and then I read the “Long Drive Home” by Will Allison. A short, intense, thought provoking read with a great last sentence.
  • Painting my toenails hot pink.
  • Finally fixing my bedside lamp. The switch has been wonky for months. The lamp is more than 20 years old and I think the switch was getting stripped. I finally took it apart, bought a new socket and swapped it out….all by myself. Didn’t need a Youtube video or any help finding the right socket at Ace. The hardest part was getting the socket in and out, wiring was easy-peasy!
  • Working on getting caught up organizing my digital photos, a lovely trip down memory lane.

Welcome Summer!

Flash Fiction: Many Hands

My surgery is just over a month away. I keep telling myself not to start stressing over it yet, to wait until the week of my hysterectomy. But…I have never had surgery before. The only time I have been in the hospital was to have my son and that was in Montana. A much smaller, friendlier city than where I am now.

Despite my admonishments to myself, once in awhile I start to wonder exactly what it is going to be like. I have to be there at 5:30am and I picture myself shivering with cold and fatigue and wandering around lost in a huge hospital. I have a terrible sense of direction under the best of circumstances and it would be foolish to think I am just going to waltz in the correct door and find my way without any issues. That isn’t how my life goes.

Oddly enough in my imagination I never get past the point of trying to find the admissions desk. I suppose wondering about the rest of the day will come later.

Today I am writing out my fears in this week’s flash fiction challenge from Carrot Ranch. The theme is about the works of many hands. There will be many people involved in my surgery, the list has already begun with the scheduling and insurance work done. I am thinking I want to try and keep count of people the day of. I am curious as to how many people I will actually interact with that day. It may also be a good distraction from my fears.

All that said, I hope this tale remains fictional! I had to make it a two-parter, my worries couldn’t be contained in a mere 99 words. I needed to see it through to the end, couldn’t leave myself stranded in an empty hallway.

“First Time Surgery”

PART I

First I couldn’t find the right entrance:

Emergency?  No.

Staff Only?  No.

A kindly passerby asks if I need help.

Yes.

The admission’s clerk hands over a stack of paperwork.  

“Take the elevators on your left to the 4thfloor and follow the blue signs.”

I turn around and take the elevators to the right (that are now on my left.)

Fourth floor, I see only orange and yellow signs.

I stand in the middle of the hallway bewildered.

Lost again. No help in sight. I shiver.

How many people does it take to help me find outpatient surgery?

PART II

A young woman touches my arm.  Do you need help?

Yes.

Go down this hall to the end, take a right and go across the walkway and follow the blue signs.

I see blue and green signs.  What color was I supposed to follow?

I am panicking, flustered, aware of the ticking clock.

A man in scrubs stops.  All my fears come bubbling out.

I cry and babble.  He takes my arm and leads me to the check-in desk.

A nurse looks up and nods to the man in scrubs and hands me a tissue, “You’ll be fine ma’am”.

Good Things Thursday

Just a quick post today, we have a few errands to run and then the triple digit heat will send us into the pool!

I am learning to let go of expectations (especially in regards to my son) and so many things are making me happy this week! I am, for a change, living in the moment.

I am enjoying the return of “The Good Witch” in addition to watching “Poirot” and the last few episodes of “A Place to Call Home” (but why is Olivia letting Matthew push her around?).

My son and I have just about finished re-doing his room. We painted a wall, ordered cool outlet covers and light switch plates and put up a spacious wall of cubbies. We took everything out and cleaned the carpet. His new bed is delivered and the under storage is plentiful and works great. Now we just have to clear out the closet.

A few weeks ago I got a call about the Census Bureau job but the training date was only 4 days after my surgery so I didn’t think I could go. They said they would put my name back in the pool for the second wave of hiring and I got a call this week, this time with a training date in August so I said yes!

Thanksgiving in June. I figure if you can have Christmas in July that would translate to Thanksgiving in June. I made turkey tenderloins, cranberry sauce (I always freeze a bag or two of cranberries) and a sweet potato pie that turned out quite tasty. (I tried a new recipe that had maple syrup in it and whipped egg whites to make it light.)

To help add a feeling of cool to the post!

I am a bit of a weather geek and one of my sorrows is how boring the weather tends to be here. Aside from the occasional large monsoon thunderstorm (mostly in August) there isn’t much that happens here weatherwise. But this year we had snow in February and an actual spring!

Typically we are swimming by mid-May on a regular basis and June is hot, dry, cloudless and still. This year we had vast temperature swings, wind and bits of rain, enough with all the pollen to turn our pool green. My husband spent a week trying to clear it up and we finally gave up and called in the pros. Three days later the pool was clear, just in time for the triple digit heat.

We had a thunderstorm one night, very odd this time of year, but exhilarating. And we seem to get clouds and overcast skies for part of each day, very atypical. The forecast is for a late monsoon season this year. I don’t believe it.

My local library branch has bookcases in the front of the library that display new books and recently returned books, staff picks and then some sort of themed display. (Right now it is kid’s books designed to get them to read over the summer.) I love browsing these displays and stumbling on a happy surprise. Last trip I found “The Clockmaker’s Daughter” by Kate Morton. I love books that show different periods in time and at the end find out how everyone connects! Looks like that is Morton’s theme and I am looking forward to reading more of her works.

Realizing that the only way to keep my son off the computer is to get him out of the house in the afternoons. I have several adventures planned for the next two weeks, most involving lunch and a visit to various places. Today we are going to Target to get a few items for his room, the library and finally Trader Joe’s for those tiny ice cream cones.

Happy Almost Summer!

And don’t forget Flag Day tomorrow!

Flash Fiction: A Big Splash

This week’s 99 word flash fiction entry for Carrot Ranch.

“The Dream”

Jan worked on her novel off and on for years, decades. Long off periods: moves, jobs, babies, cancer. But she never totally gave up. She wrote and edited, wrote and edited some more.  On her 65thbirthday she decided it was finished. 

Jan left the book sitting on her desk, printed and bound by the local UPS store.  Her granddaughter found it, read it and self-published it on Kindle. Turns out it made a big splash in the mystery genre.  Meryl Streep played her heroine in the movie adaptation.

If only Jan had lived to see her wonderful success.

P.S. Maybe this is my dream. That means I have 13 more years to finish my novel. Whew, plenty of time yet. 🙃

‘Good Things’ Thursday

This seemed like a good week to do a Good Things post. On the hormonal rollercoaster I am in the bumpy, everything irritates me section. So I am going to redirect my thoughts in a positive direction.

  • We are making decent progress on my son’s room. We are clearing it out, painting a wall (today in fact) and getting some new furniture. The goal is to be done by the end of the month.
  • The baseboard project is a success! Every day my son and I spend about 5 minutes with a container of wipes and pick a section of baseboards to clean. We are also doing door frames and light switches and doors. Should be done in about two weeks I think.
  • I started pumpkin plants from seeds and they are growing like crazy. I always feel this need to grow my own pumpkin for Halloween. I accomplished this once in Montana. I should have waited until July to start them but I didn’t really think they would grow well.

Will this flower soon be a pumpkin?

  • We started on our sketchbooks for the Brooklyn Sketchbook Project, what fun!

My first page!

  • Homemade cookies.
  • “Poirot” and “A Place to Call Home” on Acorn tv.
  • Cubs baseball on the radio.

A bonus photo….can you guess what this is?

Shedded rattlesnake skin.

Flash Fiction (Strawberries and Mint)

I almost skipped this week’s Carrot Ranch flash fiction challenge. Strawberries and mint? I thought I had nothing to say on that subject. And then an image of a door slamming and a teenager walking in came to mind, and the story wrote itself.

One of the things I love about these weekly challenges is the opportunity to practice different aspects of writing. I am a newbie so I need practice in many areas. Last week in “Pining for Ice” I made an extra effort to show, not tell. This week I found myself practicing dialog. And I feel I need to point out that the title seems integral to the story.

“SAID NO CHILD EVER”

“Mom, there’s nothing to eat.”
 
“Sure there is.”
 
“I can’t find any chips, mac and cheese or lunch meat.”
 
“Try the garden.”
 
“The garden?”
 
“You know, that thing I am always weeding and watering.”
 
“But that’s just vegetables!”
 
“So?  You like vegetables.”
 
 Door slams.
 
“What did you find?”
 
“Spinach and strawberries and green onions!  I’m gonna make that salad you made last week. Where’s the recipe for the dressing?”
 
“This cookbook.”
 
“This is so good, do you want some?  I made extra.”
 
“Thanks. What’s that in your water?”
 
“Mint.  Quite refreshing in this heat.  Want some for your water?