Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Necessary

So, I'm here on the computer checking my email and the 3 year old trots by me on the way to the bathroom:
"I gotta go pee-peeeee.....!!!"
As this happens many times a day, I don't pay much mind and continue my search for a ruffler for my sewing machine on the Sears website.
But then I hear what can only be described as a "liquidy" sound and so I slowly lean forward to get a full view of the bathroom happenings.
And there she is - her skirt hiked up over her knees squatting over a "Country Crock" container she's pulled out of her tub toys basket.  The liquidy sound is the faint echo inside that large brown container.
Fascinated, I continue watching as she straightens up, daintily steps over the bucket, smooths her dress (because dresses are all she wears nowadays) and carefully pours the contents into the "big girl potty."  She then places the Shedd's Spread container neatly next to the toilet and trips on out of the bathroom, on her way to a tea party with her stuffed animals and her big sister.

Friday, September 3, 2010

A Recipe For the Birds

Someone asked me the other day to share my recipe for suet cakes, and was only too glad to oblige! 

Now, technically, suet cakes are made from rendered beef fat that theoretically can be purchased at a butcher or sometimes found in the meat department of the grocery store.  But in Real Life I've found that when I am able to find suet, the birds don't care for it as much as what I make myself.  Pre-made, pre-packaged suet cakes  can be purchased at the dollar store for - guess what - a dollar each, or you can make them very frugally at home with leftovers. 

For us, making our own suet cakes involves my best parenting skills, some homeschooling lessons and satisfies a portion of our entertainment budget - birdwatching.

For starters, begin to collect the following:
  • "edges" off of PB&Js (<---parenting skills!)
  • freebie bran cereal that gives everyone tummy aches if they eat it (coupons!)
  • stale cheerios (coupons again!)
  • forgotten fruit including skins and cores
  • lumpy grits
  • spilled oatmeal
  • stale bread
  • heels of bread - but only after you've made enough bread crumbs
  • raisins that get spilled in the pantry and are too dirty to eat
  • stale cookies
  • peanuts that the 3 year old sucked the salt off of and tried to put back in the jar (!)
  • mushy blueberries that no one will eat
  • etc., etc.

Store these items in the freezer.  I use a bread bag and just dump the stuff in as it collects, tie it off loosely and replace it in the same spot every time so I know what it is. 

See?  Bird stuff on the right, hot dog buns on the left.
Next, getcha some shortening.  Not the all vegetable kind, either.  You're going for the artery busting stuff - Manteca - the animal byproduct, gross-out staple of the Southern Pantry. 
Mmmm, mmmm! 
Seriously, though, the birds need fat to convert to energy so they can fly.  Have YOU ever tried to fly?  Its tiring stuff.  You need manteca.  Well, THEY need it.  YOU need Omega-3s, but that's another topic.

Melt that stuff down.  Scoop out a couple cups of it and put it on the stove top, stirring, watching carefully, because it will burn.  And start a BIG hot fire.  I know these things.

Then, get out one of your jars of $1 or less peanut butter - from a good Kroger sale where you stocked up on 22 jars of it or from where you found it at the Dollar Tree.  Scoop out a cup or so of that, too and put it in the pot to melt along with the shortening.  Yummo!

Now, why I don't have a picture of this next step is beyond me.  But I think you can figure it out without the visuals.
  • Dump the aforesaid bread-bag-full-of-scraps into a giant metal or glass bowl.  If you want to keep the squirrels and chipmunks away, add a generous few dashes of cayenne pepper.  No harm to the birds, but mammals don't like it.
  • Pour the peanut butter/shortening mix over top of the scraps.
  • Mix with a spatula very well so that all of the scraps are covered.  Beware: its hot.  If you're using this as a homeschooling lesson, let the kids know to stir carefully so they don't burn themselves. 
  • If you need more shortening and peanut butter, go for it.  I use a ratio of about 3:1 with shortening and PB.  You just want the PB there for the taste mostly.
  • Pat it all out nicely into a cake pan:

Slice and serve!

Store the unused portion in the freezer.  Again, it would be a good idea to label the container.  You don't want Daddy-o getting his hopes up for a freezer pie and then having them horribly dashed when he takes a bite of that gross stuff.

Oh, and if you look really carefully in the picture above you'll see a blue snowflake-looking sequin where the cake slice was removed.  That's from where I swept up something - probably cheerios - off the floor and just dumped it in....!

Now, go take that chunk-o-suet-cake and put it in your suet feeder that is hung alongside your other bird feeders and watch the show.  You'll enjoy woodpeckers, various sparrows, tufted titmice, nuthatches, and even cardinals.

Here's a little downy woodpecker....
...all of 5 minutes after I put the suet into the feeder!
Homeschooling lessons:  Identify birds using a field guide or the Internet and talk about the varieties of birds and animals that God created for our enjoyment.  Discuss which birds prefer seeds, which prefer suet, which are foragers on the ground under the feeders.  Of course, in making the suet cakes there are dozens of lessons on food, measuring, heat, solids vs. liquids, etc.

Enjoy the birds!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Ice Breaker

Do you remember this scenario from grade school?:

"Now we are going to go around the circle and say our names with a word that describes us, a word that begins with the first letter of our name.  I'll start:  "Hello, I'm 'Clever Catherine' you....."

The above was usually smarmily voiced by a fun-loving Sunday School or Youth Group leader who most surely had only the best intentions in mind and was supernaturally able to ignore the eye-rolling and nervous seat-shifting that went on around the group. 

I HATE that game.  Or icebreaker.  Whatever.  I DESPISE it so much that to this day when I take a class, a workshop or attend a reunion, I quake inwardly that the leader will attempt to pull that nonsense. 

WhyeveronEarth? you wonder.

Well, think about it.  How many adjectives come to your mind that are begin with the letter "H"?


(*maybe if I weren't so daggone hungry I wouldn't be so daggone heavy...but I digress)

Ya think I'm gonna' let any of those rip in a room full of my peers?  "Helpful Heidi"?  I'd be someone's slave for months.  That's just begging for trouble.

And WHAT common adjective, pray tell, is omitted from that list?

That would be the adjective that I selected, by default, Each And Every Time the bottle spun my way attention of the room was shifted my way, that being:


And the worst of it is, that I can't help it that I smile so much so that when I did say (shudder) "HAPPY HEIDI" that everyone - snarky eighth graders included - would practice their eye rolling skills some more and nod their heads because it just made so much sense; certainly that girl who smiles all the time is always happy. 

Indeed, however, I am NOT always happy.  Not now and certainly not then as a snarky kid, but more often:

Homicidal (I actually WISH I had thought of that in 8th grade...)

What triggered this diatribe?  Like most other things in my life these days, it was the dreaded "Mommy Guilt."  You see, almost 6 years ago I had the clever idea to give my eldest daughter a name that begins with the same initial as does mine.  And as I was ironing one of her dresses I had a terrible shock that she will face that same humiliation that was mine all those years ago. 

I can see it now: 
"now, little girl, its your turn...."
"Hello, I'm hard-core Hannah!"
I'm going to have to buy her a thesaurus.