Saturday, October 31, 2020

Spooky Social Distancing with My Pod

Let me start with this adorable granddaughter posing in late October with the hanging basket I put in my bicycle basket every spring. This year's growth is stupendous and has survived at least one if not two frosts already. In the spirit of total honesty, she did not like the bell bottoms or the hair ribbon and discarded them as soon as I took the photo. 

I started hosting Spooky Suppers for my family decades ago.  I was much younger and had a lot more energy. I seem to remember the first year after we built our garage I invited the whole neighborhood (like 30 kids) to supper before our city's trick or treat. We turned the playhouse into a haunted house and served spooky food. These were the days before digital cameras or phones with cameras. I probably didn't even have film in the camera we did have, so no pictures. Every once in a while I come across the flyer I hand drew and had photocopied. 
My youngest grandson turned two years old the Saturday before Halloween and his parents hosted immediate family for a special party. My talented daughter-in-law really outdid herself with all the spooky food. This guacamole was delicious as well as a big hit with the five and seven year olds! 
I contributed some spider deviled eggs which took me a ridiculous amount of time to make. Between the broken arm in March and previous hand issues, I think I need to rethink some of the things I used to do and try lower my expectations of myself. 
She made this nifty pasta salad by adding some food coloring to cooked pasta and cutting the jack o lanterns out of cucumbers. This idea is a keeper!
These adorable spiders are premade peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with licorice legs. So cute! The kids loved them, while the adults ate mummy hotdogs and chili. 
She even made and decorated these cupcakes all by herself!!! - while working full time as a virtual first grade teacher with 60 students and parenting three children aged 6 and under. She is wonder woman. 
The party guests were grandparents, parents, and the grandchildren in our "pod", the local kids for whom I provide daycare. I was going for "hippy" but look more like "Carol Bascom". 
My other daughter-in-law (I am doubly blessed) hosted the pod for dinner on Halloween night. I saw something similar to this pie on King Arthur Flour's Instagram (I think). Again, with total honesty, I used readymade pie crust, instead of making my own. 
I used the scraps of pie crust to make these mummy tarts. The recipe was definitely from King Arthur Flour. 
After the trauma of spider deviled eggs, I added some red food coloring and made pumpkins. I did try to find green onions for more realistic stems, but they seem to be the new shortage? I went to two grocery stores (don't tell my husband) and ended up with green olives. 
My youngest daughter made this delicious taco dip. She did make a black olive spider. 
She even arranged the cheese slices as a pumpkin face. 

Somehow I did not get any photos of the rest of the food - sandwiches, vegetables including these new bite sized mini cucumbers which I am in love with (WHY can't I go shopping?) and a layered pumpkin cake which was amazing. 

And here are my out-of-town grandchildren who I miss terribly. They dressed as Corona Virus and the CDC. Their parents are both healthcare workers and, trust me, would dress them as CDC workers 24/7 if they could. 

Their neighborhood held a safe trick or treat by placing tables in driveways with treats spread out. Children came and chose a treat from the table. 

My son's neighborhood was overly creative with tubes from windows dropping candy and one house where they tied plastic soldiers with parachutes to the candy bars and blew them off the roof with a leaf blower. 

Some people kept the kids home and had candy hunts (like Easter Egg hunts). My  goddaughter did this by hiding the candy, turning off the lights and giving her children flashlights to search.  

We decided to skip the treating this year. We were not comfortable with groups of people visiting our porch. 

Happy Halloween!!!! 

Thursday, October 1, 2020

Pandemic Pantry

I know a lot of people have relaxed their isolation as this pandemic continues on. I read my pretesting results online following my surgery in March and the chest x-ray was a little worse than expected. We care for our young grandchildren and I don't want to infect them or be down again myself. Our tiny county had been averaging 0-3 cases per day, maybe 10 per week. This week we have had 17 cases on Monday and 16 cases on Tuesday. 

I am also a little concerned about remarks concerning the election, even from people in my own small town.  I decided a 3-6 month supply of food would allow us to remain home for an extended period. I am taking into account that we are still able to shop curbside in the meantime, which we very much appreciate. 

When our five children all left home within a two year period, I was left with two huge pantry cupboards which eventually contained expired can goods as well as a wall of home canned fruits and vegetables. We made it through my canning supply, and had to ditch a lot of grocery items. When I redesigned my kitchen, I moved out the two pantry cupboards and replaced them with a much, much smaller upper pantry cabinet. We were free to shop as many times a week for items we needed for a recipe. And to be honest, we also ate out a little too often, too. 

A million years ago when my children were young, I watched a program on Christian television called "A Family Raised on Sunshine" with Beverly Nye. She was an LDS lady who shared child raising and  homemaking tips. I remember that she said that most LDS families had 12 months of food in reserve. I started googling and came up with a list. 

I have an "empty" room. It is actually the drywalled for my future utility room. There is a series of events that need to happen to move the washer and dryer into it, including a vent or something for the dryer. We started the project 10 years ago when we renovated the kitchen. My mother, than father passed away right after the drywall and I was using it as a storage locker for boxes for several years. And as the boxes moved out, other items had trickled in. With all the preschoolers back during the school year, we are on hold again until May. 

I had a lot of fancy storage ideas, but Menards had these nifty shelves that hold 800 lbs per shelf and they also require masks for pickup. They were on sale for a little over fifty dollars each. 

I have been purchasing extra canned goods during my "field trips" which is what we call our curbside pickup days. I ended up with a pile of boxes and bags and did not want to end up pitching outdated items again, just like the old days. 

My first step was to empty EVERY cabinet, bag and box. Because I am old, I am writing the expiration dates on every item in large print with a thick sharpie marker.  

I printed inventory sheets I found on line at this link. I updated them with a menu plan and then updated amounts with what our family will specifically use. I have lots of canned meats on the shelves, but I also ordered a quarter of beef and some chickens and they are due to come up at the end of October. (we ordered a freezer in March, it arrived in late July so I had to wait until then to order the meat).

After the shelves were assembled, I took each individual category into the pantry and stacked them with the oldest date to the back of the row, trying to group like items together. 
I was very glad I ordered two sets of shelves. 

Items dated 2020 are in the pantry cupboard in the kitchen. Hopefully I will use them before the date on the item. I am also storing baking items in the cupboard. We have a pullout pantry by the refrigerator and that is storing spices, more condiments, and baby food. 

I had a collection of large 2 quart canning jars and I am transferring pastas and grains into the jars. I also have some nice plastic cannisters with screw on lids that come from Aldi that I am using to store pasta, grains and cereal. 

I pray that life will return to normal soon. Hopefully I will be using my pantry for everyday meals and empty it by May so that we can turn it into a utility room (the old utility room is slated to be my new half bath, which will allow for renovation to make the full bath handicap accessible).  There will be pantry shelves or cupboards, but not this substantial. I hope. 

I hope that we can return to restaurants safely LOL. We have a new winery on the outskirts of town where we used to buy Christmas trees when our children were young. They have a chef (locally born and raised) who has posted the most amazing meals through out the summer. My dream is to sit on the patio next summer as soon as they open (the weather will be perfect and no bugs). I will be ordering appetizers for lunch and work my way through the menu until dinner and then order the specials for a week's worth of leftovers by the time I leave.  We had eaten at Red Lobster two days before I fell, three weeks before my state shut down.  I think back on that meal and wish I had ordered dessert! I would like to thank Dominos for our first at-home "meal". We ordered pizza, chicken wings, salads and subs delivered to a table on our porch in May and enjoyed a weekend of treats. Now that we are doing curbside grocery pick up in a neighboring, larger city; we have been using up our Christmas gift cards for curbside restaurant pick up once a month when we get groceries.  I recommend the meatloaf lunch at Cracker Barrel which can be delivered to your trunk and can be reheated in the carryout container. 

Miss Merry