Posts made in August, 2010

Preparing for Zombies

Posted by on Aug 23, 2010 in House Stuff, Preparedness | 1 comment

Preparing for Zombies

Yes, we are insular enough to think that everyone is interested in the status of our basement. It’s been what I like to call an “absorbing state” in our household for past two years, collecting junk and clutter and anything that doesn’t seem to fit upstairs. There is actually a lot of usable space down there, and it’s time we put it to good use.

Over the past month we’ve managed to clean the entire basement, remove and/or reorganize everything, and accumulate extra good stuff in the process. We now have the humble beginnings of a food pantry/storage as well as an emergency station. All thanks to a massive 4 door storage cabinet we found at the UW Surplus Store for $40! (Seriously, you can get great deals at the UW Surplus Store for your household, they’re open to the public every Tues from noon till 6pm)

Supply Cabinet

At over 6 feet tall by 4 feet wide, this monolith took over 2 hours to get it to it's final position.

We’ve got grains for days.

Grains for days

My good friend and coworker Dan, is moving to New York and sold most of his stuff. I was enamored with his explosion proof chemical storage locker from the moment I first saw it. Now it’s ours. It’s a bit comforting to be able to seal away those nasty chemicals that you hate to have, but keep because they actually do come in handy at times.

Chemical Toilet

Chemical Toilet

Our workbench continues to accrue tools and organizational hooks. Just picked up a jigsaw and circular table saw at yard sales this weekend.


This is where all the magic happens

Next on our list for downstairs is painting! Everything! Time to figure out some colors… Hopefully everything will be finished in time for the Chili Cook Off.

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Our kitchen is famous

Posted by on Aug 20, 2010 in House Stuff | 3 comments

Ugly, but famous:

If you have any suggestions for our kitchen, put ‘em in the comments!

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Pies in a Jar

Posted by on Aug 18, 2010 in Cooking / Baking, How-To | 1 comment

Pies in a Jar

In my last post I talked about how this post about pies in jars was meaningless in light of my uncle’s passing.  But I really like pie, and Randy did, too.  And then I realized something that stopped me in my tracks – the first time I ever tried making pies in jars was when Randy came over to install my dishwasher.  While he worked, I baked, and I sent him home with his own jar of pie.  He was one of my first taste-testers, so this post makes sense after all.

I taught my sister-in-law how to make pies in a jar a couple of weeks ago.  What I love most about these little beauties is that you can freeze them in their single-serving jars, and the next time you’re craving a piece of pie, you can just whip one out, bake it, and in no time you’ve got freshly baked pie!

Baker's apprentice.

Some of my favorite childhood memories are of making blackberry pie with my mom.  In the memory that stands out most in my mind, I am six years old.  My mom and I had just spent all day picking blackberries in White Center, and baked ourselves a gorgeous pie.  We left the pie cooling in the kitchen while we walked to the store for vanilla ice cream.  When we came back, our dog Max had knocked the pie to the ground and all but eaten the entire thing.

This recipe is for blackberry pie, but you can sub-in any type of berry.

Make sure you get the half-pint, wide-mouth jars. The traditional ones just aren't as cute.

6 – half-pint, wide-mouth canning jars

Pie crust (double-batch)
2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup shortening

Pie filling
4 cups blackberries
1/2 cup sugar
3 tablespoons tapioca balls (not pudding)
1/4 teaspoon of lemon juice
2 tablespoons butter

1. Make one batch of crust by mixing half of each ingredient (1 1/4 cups flour, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 cup shortening) in a food processor with the pastry attachment.  Mix until dough resembles coarse crumbs, then gather into a ball.

2. Press dough into the sides of each jar.  I don’t put any crust on the bottom to create a nice filling-to-crust ratio.

3. Mix all of the filling ingredients except the butter in a mixing bowl. Divide the contents evenly between the 6 jars. Make sure the filling isn’t mounded over the top of the jar, so that the lid will fit back on. Put a small pat of butter on the top of each jar.

4. Create another batch of dough using the remaining ingredients. Roll the dough out on a clean, floured countertop with a floured rolling bin. I like to do a lattice top, but you can also use the jar lid to cut out a round top, just be sure to cut slits for steam vents.

5. Add the seal and jar lid and freeze.

When you’re ready to bake the pies, remove the lid and seal, put them on a cookie sheet to catch any filling that bubbles over and bake at 350F for 30 minutes or until the crust is golden brown. Try to let the pies defrost for a bit before baking if you can. If you simply can’t wait, you’re supposed to be able to put the jars in the oven directly from the freezer without them cracking.

Pies in a jar make a great gift. You can even add a colorful piece of fabric or paper in between the seal and lid.

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Posted by on Aug 13, 2010 in Family | 6 comments


My uncle Randy passed away last weekend.  He was the youngest of 7 siblings, an avid mountain biker and hiker, and the hardest working person I’ve ever met in my life.  He died unexpectedly at home at the age of 40.

When my other uncle called to tell me the news, my brain just could not compute.  Even still, I have to repeatedly remind myself of what has happened, to re-realize everything again and again.  Calling my dad to deliver the awful news was quite possibly the worst thing I’ve had to do in my life – I don’t think my heart has ever pounded that hard before.

From that moment on, the significance of everything changed.  The blog entry I was so excited to write (about making pies in jars, of all things) now seems ridiculous.  The everyday concerns of work and home were instantly unimportant.  But the woven basket collecting mail by the front door, a gift from Randy’s road-trip across the U.S., is now sacred.  My dishwasher, installed by Randy a few months ago, is a shrine with its hand-fitted pipes under the sink and perfectly crafted piece of wood filling in the small gap on the right-hand side.  Randy was a master craftsman down to the tiniest detail, and with each new discovery I suddenly remember what has happened all over again.

A few years ago I sent out an email to introduce my new cat Goa to my family and friends.  Randy wrote back:

Very cute kitty Jennifer. Remember, you don’t own a cat. That cat owns you!!

Also, someday that kitty will get old and start to drool. She’ll drool on your couch, your bed and any important papers you have laying around….well mine does anyway :)

When are you going to have a get together at your new place?


About a year ago, Goa started drooling. She usually does it when she is very happy and content, often while she’s purring or kneading.  Now every morning she climbs onto my chest while I’m still in bed and begins kneading me with her little paws.  What used to be annoying is now my first reminder of the day, and so the two of us just lie there, drooling and crying.

They say memorials are for the living, and in this case I believe that to be true.  If Randy were still here, he would be the first to crack a joke.  He was always quick with a come-back, followed by his mischievous laugh.  But now, we’re just left dumbfounded without him, unsure of how to go on, or what comes next.

We miss you, Randy.

Randy and his dog Jack, my dad, and brothers Adam and Zach.

I made this video with photos collected by family and friends for my uncle’s memorial service tomorrow. (I realize its kind of sticking off the template, but I didn’t want to make it any smaller.)

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Ray and Jen 3.0

Posted by on Aug 7, 2010 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Welcome to our new site! Please excuse the mess while we tidy up.

Ok, let’s try this again…

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