Sunday Confessional: An I Have No Patience Edition

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Heather says:

Lately I’ve been wanting to talk more about managing technology in the home, but life just hasn’t been cooperating. I don’t mean just a we’re really busy with life kind of busy. No, I mean life hasn’t been cooperating to the point that my friends find the frustration highly amusing.

popcorn_stephen_colbert

 

I take many things for granted in my life. Internet connectivity is high on that list. I assume that if I pay for a service, the company that receives that money will provide that service, with occasional interruptions being forgiven, because things happen. I get that.

I used to have a theory that if I wanted to know someone’s true character spend some time in heavy traffic. Now I know to also include spend time with unreliable internet when there is work to be done. (We are fine, it was my temper that got short. An aside for you Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett fans, Crowley must have many minions working in customer service for ISPs).

From June 19 – July 3, we had an issue with our internet service provider that for all practical purposes took us offline. Sure we could reach the Internet for 90 seconds or so, but if one dared get excited and have thoughts of being productive, the gremlin in our line would gleefully spike the signal terminating our connection.

I should note that we also don’t have cable, we just stream our TV.

And? We have four children home on summer break. “[Mom], is the wifi working” times four children times two weeks gets more than a little obnoxious.

The issue turned out to be a combination punch of a fried modem (replaced, but with an apparently defective modem which Netgear replaced after one, very long phone call), several customer service errors in scheduling appointments, and an intermittent problem with the signal from our ISP.

Friday, the internet magically appeared, with no changes made by us or our ISP. The technicians that came out yesterday were as stumped as we were. Hopefully this is the end of the ridiculousness.

Tips from the Technology Trenches:

Remember a couple of weeks ago when I talked about Amazon Family Library and Bookbub? Ebooks saved our sanity these mostly offline weeks. We have mostly used Kindle Apps  for ebooks, but I finally splurged and bought a Paperwhite. It’s as nice as the reviews claim, small enough for one handed reading and it works great in direct sunlight.

The great internet outage of ’15 brought not only a new modem into our home, but also a new router. I read a lot of reviews and settled on a Netgear Nighthawk AC 1900 . With the aforementioned four children and a plethora of devices and computers around the house, the ability to control who has access to the wifi at any given time is a big deal. It’s one thing to say screen time is over, but it’s absolutely delightful to shut that access off with a couple of taps.  I know it’s theoretically possible to control access via a router’s administrative tools, but the Netgear Genie App makes it idiot proof.

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NetworkGenie

I know just enough to be dangerous when it comes to home networking. This app keeps me from getting myself in trouble.

Finally, a Pro-Tip from the Should be Obvious, but We All Make Mistakes File:

If you can buy your own modem outright, do so. Even if the modem only lasts a year, you’ll end up saving money. Renting a modem from your ISP generally runs between $7 – $12 a month. A decent modem costs about $70.00. The modem that got fried was a rental that had not been replaced since 2009. Do a little math. . .

Ouch.

What’s been less than perfect for you the last few weeks?

Butternut Squash, Poblano, and Bacon Skillet

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Heather says

I admit it, I fell off the menu planning wagon last week, the produce piled up, and around time to make dinner I stared into the depths of the refrigerator trying to pair flavors.

Finally I turned to Google and found an Emeril Lagasse recipe that looked like a good starting place. The following is my interpretation. This butternut and poblano skillet works well as a main dish, with only a few strips of bacon. I served the recipe over rice, but I could see serving this over sauteed spinach or kale. The kids and I agreed that if there had been leftovers, they would have been fantastic for breakfast with a fried egg.

If you’re avoiding carbs, keep looking, but if you’re gluten free, you’re safe with this recipe.

Bacon Butternut Poblano Skillet

 

: Butternut Squash, Poblano Pepper and Bacon Skillet

  • 1 medium butternut squash, peeled and diced
  • 1 TBSP olive oil
  • 1 onion, sliced thinly
  • 4 strips bacon
  • 4 poblano peppers
  • 1 tsp chili powder*
  • 1/2 tsp salt

 *If you need gluten free, be sure to check the brand you use.

  • Make sure your skillet is oven safe has a lid, you’ll need it in the second half. If your skillet isn’t oven safe, use a baking sheet to broil the peppers.
  • Check that your oven’s rack a few inches from the broiler and turn the broiler on high.
  • Wash your poblano peppers, dry them, place them in your skillet and drizzle them with the olive oil. Turn the peppers so they are coated with the oil. Broil the peppers until the skin begins to blister, turn them and do the same for the other side.
  • Remove the peppers from the oven and place them in a plastic bag or small container and zip or close tightly. (The steam will make the skin loosen). Set aside to cool. Turn off the broiler, you’re done with the oven.
  • Cook the bacon over low – medium heat until done, but still tender. The goal isn’t to have crispy bacon that crumbles into dust, but to have tender, flavorful pieces in your finished dish.
  • While the bacon is cooking peel and dice your butternut squash. You’ll want cubes that are smaller than 1/2″ on each side to ensure they cook fully.
  • Set the bacon aside on paper towels.
  • Drain all but a thin coating of bacon grease from the skillet.
  • Return the skillet to the stove, turn the heat to medium-high and add the sliced onion. Cook until the onion just begins to soften and add the butternut squash, chili powder, and salt. Stir to ensure everything is coated evenly and cover tightly.
  • Stir occasionally for the next 15 minutes or until the squash is tender. (Use a wooden spoon to scrape up the browned bits from the pan and to prevent scorching)
  • While the squash is cooking remove the peppers from their container and peel the tough outer layer. Remove the stems and seeds and slice into strips.
  • Chop your bacon.
  • When the squash is tender, stir in the bacon and peppers. Cook for an additional 2 – 3 minutes to let the flavors combine and serve.

Preparation time: 20 minute(s)

Cooking time: 30 minute(s)

Number of servings (yield): 4

Enjoy.

Emergency Preparedness Refresher

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Heather says

This is my dad’s neighborhood. No one got hurt, but it took me a couple of days to finally reach him to hear this first hand. The cell towers near their home were damaged and without power and only cordless phones, I couldn’t reach them via their landline.

Tornado Damage

They are able to stay in their home despite most of the roof being gone and all of the upstairs windows. They have a generator, so the contents of their refrigerator and freezer are safe. It’ll be an uncomfortable few days until power is restored, but the damage wasn’t widespread which means they can easily buy more water if they need to. They are lucky.

Now they are dealing with the unpleasant task of dealing with their insurance company and trying to find people to hire to help with the cleanup and repair.

Emergencies happen, are you ready?

Emergency preparedness isn’t just for hardcore survivalist types.

Sit down with your family and create a plan.

Make sure every family member knows where they should be or go in case of severe weather.

Does everyone in the house know where to go if there is a fire? Pick a nearby rally or rendezvous point that everyone knows so you can quickly get an accurate headcount.

Create an emergency pantry with at least 72 hours worth of food, more if you live in a rural area, if you’re not on the same power substation as a critical community service, your power restoration is low priority.

The Home-Ec 101 Annual Hurricane Season Reminder is a good place to start if you’ve never thought about what to have on hand for emergencies.

Remember there are many kinds of minor emergencies that can snowball quickly.

Do you have school age children that ride a bus or walk home?

Talk to them about what to do if you are ever not home when they arrive. Talk to your neighbors, figure out who they can talk to and who will just call child protective services. Carefully teach your children who they can trust.

Flat tires and dead cellphone batteries happen at the worst of times. Kids leave backpacks at school and on the bus. (Heck, my kids have left their sleeping siblings on the bus. That was a fun afternoon. . .)

Do you have teens who can drive? Do they know where to go if you’re not together and they can’t get home? Keep an actual, paper map with directions and alternate routes in the glove box.  Aside: When I was trying to get ready to get to Seattle after I received news about my sister, I got lost in a neighborhood I’ve driven through for many years. Shock can make thinking clearly very difficult. Keep the plans simple.

Getting everyone safely through an emergency should be your number one priority. It would also be nice if once everything has calmed down if you didn’t have to pay for all of the damage out of pocket. Make sure your insurance is in order. Check your insurance plans, even if you rent. Remember, a property owner’s insurance covers their property –the structure– not yours –the contents.

How to Use Bleach Safely

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Heather says:

I received a concerning email, yesterday, that made me realize it was time to send this post out again as a reminder.

This is the first in our series on household chemicals.

Over the past few years, I have gotten the impression that many people are using chlorine bleach¹ in an unsafe manner. Chlorine bleach aka sodium hypochlorite is a powerful disinfectant and is one of only a few widely available, inexpensive sanitizing agents. It is so powerful in fact that it should only be used in fairly low concentrations.

How to Use Bleach Safely

 

Chlorine bleach should always be used in a well-ventilated area.

If your eyes are watering. You are using too much bleach. If your skin is peeling: A) you should have worn gloves and B) you are using too much bleach. If you use hot, rather than warm water, chlorine gas can be released and this isn’t recommended. Never mix bleach with other household chemicals such as ammonia or vinegar, both can cause dangerous chemical reactions.

There is a difference between clean, sanitary, and sterile

Don’t waste the power of your bleach on cleaning; reduce your use and save it only for sanitizing.

Chlorine bleach works both as a cleaning and a disinfecting agent. However many less corrosive and dangerous household items also work as highly effective cleaning agents: hot water, scrub brushes, and dish detergents are but a few examples.

Chlorine bleach is a highly effective sanitizing agent, but it needs to be used properly. Repeat after me:

Clean, rinse, sanitize.

When sanitizing food preparation areas: counters, tables, sinks, knives, and cutting boards. All surfaces should be washed to remove organic materials (food bits) and rinsed. It is only at this point that the items should be sanitized with a bleach solution of approximately 200ppm. This is about 1 TBSP of chlorine bleach per gallon of water. Did you catch that? Let me repeat it.

The proper dilution of chlorine bleach for sanitizing food preparation surfaces is 200ppm or 1 TBSP per gallon of warm water.

Get yourself a spray bottle and mix up a batch whenever you’re going to need sanitizing agent. Be aware that chlorine evaporates so only mix a small amount at a time. If you’re making 1 quart of sanitizing solution estimate ¾ teaspoon per quart, and that will get you in the neighborhood of 200 ppm. Just rinse after use.

Bleach and stainless steel are not good playmates. However dilute bleach solutions are still usable. Rinse the surface after sanitizing to avoid the corrosive effects.

Allow the 200ppm bleach solution to sit on the surface for at least a full minute to give the bleach time to work. With a 200ppm dilution rinsing is not necessary and it’s actually best to allow most surfaces to air dry rather than re-contaminating with a towel.

Chlorine bleach is an effective sanitizing agent outside of the kitchen.

When sanitizing other surfaces, such as in the bathroom, bleach may be used in a 500ppm dilution.

A 500ppm dilution is 2½ tablespoons of 5.25% chlorine bleach per 1 gallon of warm water.

While bleach is a cleaning agent, milder methods are highly recommended. Save the bleach for the final, sanitizing step, just as you would in the kitchen.

If you weren’t aware, urine evaporates leaving behind ammonium salts. Always clean and rinse any area that may have urine: near toilets, cat boxes, dog kennels, etc before sanitizing.

How to use chlorine bleach in the laundry

When bleaching a load of whites, use 3/4 cup of liquid bleach in a standard washer and those with high efficiency washers should consult their appliance manuals or call the manufacturer. Typically the amount of bleach per load in a high efficiency washer is equivalent to the maximum fill line of the bleach dispenser, but check to be sure.

When pre-soaking laundry bleach safe fabrics, first  remove as much soil as possible, then use 1/4 cup per gallon of warm water. Anything stronger can damage the fabric.

So for the TL:DR crowd here’s the quick summary:

  • Clean, rinse, sanitize, wait 1 – 5 minutes. Rinse again if it’s stainless steel
  • Food prep surfaces require a 200ppm or 1 TBSP chlorine bleach per gallon of warm water.
  • Other surfaces may use a 500ppm dilution or 2½ TBSP chlorine bleach per gallon of warm water.
  • Laundry pre-soaks 1/4 cup per gallon or 3/4 cup for a full load in a standard, top loading washer.

Send your questions to helpme@home-ec101.com

¹♪♫Let’s talk about bleach baby, let’s talk about you and me. Let’s talk about all the good things and all the bad things bleach may be. ♪♫ Yeah, I woke up with a song in my head.

References:

guide to chemical cleaners

Click this picture to read more about household chemicals.

Menu Monday #35

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Heather says:

It’s. Hot.

We’re having record setting temperatures which means we pretty much do our best imitation of lizards by the neighborhood pool in the afternoons. We tried walking around Target once to just enjoy their cooler AC, but that ended up fairly expensive, so we won’t be doing that any more. (Nothing was truly an impulse buy, it was just all of the little we’ve been meaning to gets added up)

The good news is the spaghetti squash will keep a little longer in the refrigerator. I’m hoping until after this heatwave breaks.

 

I made this year’s first Tomato Pie. I’m still finessing the gluten free crust. Well, to be more accurate I’m finessing how to get the gluten-free crust from the pastry mat to the pie.  Hopefully we’ll have a morning or evening cool enough to turn the oven on to make a more photogenic tomato pie. Looking at the forecast though, it’s an if wishes were horses dream.

I’m trying to be a little better about turning off my computer when I’m “off” work. I’m not good at that, but last week helped a bit with perspective.

We’ll see if it sticks.

If you are just getting started with menu planning, feel free to ask questions, I love playing virtual Iron Chef. If you have a couple of items you are comfortable cooking, I can help you come up with a more varied menu based on that skillset.

Send me a challenge: helpme@home-ec101.com and put Menu Help in the subject line. It could be fun. . . I will need to know if you have any allergies you’re adjusting for and any strong aversions. I’m not going to try to make you like cilantro if it tastes like soap, but I might nudge you a little if you tell me all vegetables are evil.

Menu Plan Monday

What are you cooking? Have you been affected by this heat or are you in a region still hoping for summer to show up?

Do you need a printable menu planner?

  • Monday – Grilled Eggplant over Wilted Spinach Salad – I won’t be candying the bacon, but the dressing remains the same.
  • Tueseday – Stuffed Poblanos, I’ll stuff a couple of bell peppers for the fussier two, refried beans
  • Wednesday – Andouille Sausage, Peppers, and Onions over Dirty Rice – putting a Cajun spin on the normally Italian fare – the sausage and vegetables will be done on the grill.
  • Thursday – Lentil Burgers – hoping to get the wheat free version on the site this week – and grilled vegetables
  • Friday – Oven Fried Monkfish (or grilled if it’s too hot), cabbage slaw, Chipotle Sour Cream, and tortillas
  • Saturday – Grilled Shrimp with Cilantro Garlic Sauce Salads-oh we’ll be kidless however did you guess
  • Peppered Pork Tenderloin with Sun-dried tomatoes and goat cheese over salad

 

This post is linked up at OrgJunkie.com for Menu Plan Monday. The link-up host, Laura, is also the author of the book Clutter Rehab: 101 Tips and Tricks to Become an Organization Junkie and Love It!