Monday, December 19, 2011

I Gave New Meaning to "A Mess of Beans"

Anyone who knows me well, knows that I like to experiment in the kitchen.  I love combining different flavors, modifying recipes and trying new things.  Some of my best dishes were created on impulse or by accident.  And some have ended up as inedible disasters!
My husband, James, doesn't talk much about my cooking--at least not in my presence.  However, if I ever make something he doesn't like or something that's "not quite right", he will, in a gentle manner, let me know.  And just as in most other aspects of life, you learn some of your most valuable lessons in the kitchen by making big mistakes.
One of my biggest blunders in the kitchen happened when Jaxson was a baby.  James was working for a construction company and we would take lunch to him every day so he could enjoy time with his little boy on his lunch break.  I would usually pack a lunch consisting of left overs from our meal the night before.  I'm known to get a little creative with left overs too.  That way, you don't feel like you are eating the same thing over and over again. 
On that day, I had some left over roast and pinto beans in the fridge.  So I decided to chop up some of the roast, add barbecue sauce and make barbecue sandwiches.  There were several times I had either heard the phrase or seen in magazines or on menus "barbecue beans".  So I added some barbecue sauce to the beans, as well.  I packed up our lunch "fixins", filled up the tea jug and we were off!
After we arrived at James' work site, he hopped in the car and quickly wolfed down a sandwich.  The beans were still a little hot from heating them up, so he opened up the lid to let them cool off while he played with Jaxson.  All of a sudden, I picked up a rather strong menthol-ey scent. 
I asked James, "Do you have a cold?"
He looked at me rather oddly and said, "No.  I feel fine."
Then he took his first bite of beans.  He stopped chewing, looked up at me with a furrowed brow and spit the beans back into his spoon. 
He had a rather twisted expression on his face when he asked me, "Did you put Vicks in these beans?"
Then we both started laughing!  To this day, I don't know what caused it, but some sort of chemical process occurred by mixing pinto beans with barbecue sauce that made them smell and taste like Vicks Vapo Rub.  Perhaps it was the flavor of barbecue sauce or maybe it had reacted with the small amount of baking soda I added to the beans to reduce the "gaseous" after effects of the beans.  Who knows?  But I can assure of this, I have never and will never add barbecue sauce to pinto beans EVER again!  I won't add baking soda either!
A lot of memories can be made through food--good AND not so good.  We always have a good laugh any time I ask James what he wants for supper and he replies, "I don't care, just not any Vicks n' Beans!"
Much Love & Happy Cooking!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Treasure Box

Some were hand-written.  Some, she typed.  A few of the really good ones bear stains from being frequently used--so long ago.
My sister Marci, who left us too soon at the unripened age of 30 in 1987, loved to cook and sew.  She was creative--and she was fun-loving.  One of my most precious mementos of her is her recipe box. It is one of the few tangible connections to her I have.  How I love going through those recipes!  I can almost feel her sitting next to me at the table, with her curled inward left hand holding the marker over the index card, precisely printing out the letters of each ingredient and instruction.
After she was gone, it took me a while to be able to open the box. It was almost too painful to look inside.  But a few years ago, I was needing a recipe for Spiced Tea Mix.  You know--the kind you mix up, put in jars decorated with pretty ribbon and give as Christmas gifts.  I knew Marci had a recipe for that.  So I found the recipe box in the back of my kitchen cabinet.  I took a deep breath and opened the lid.  And there it was--the very first recipe I pulled from the box was Spiced Tea Mix! 
I smiled.  Just like so many other times before, I felt her presence.  As I was thumbing through the recipes, I found one that actually made me laugh out loud.  It is the one in the middle of the picture above; homemade Cranberry Wine. 
I have often wondered if Marci ever made a jug of that wine.  I suspect she did--and I suspect she enjoyed it!  I included the recipe in my cookbook, page 5 to be exact, along with several more of her wonderful dishes. 
I now refer to her recipe box as my treasure box.  And I do treasure it!  I hope if you decide to make your own jug of Cranberry Hooch, you will feel the presence of a fun-loving angel on your shoulder. And don't forget to let me know how it turns out.  Better yet, invite me over and I'll share a glass with you!
Much Love & Happy Brewing!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Lasting Impressions

"Our moments of inspiration are not lost though we have no particular poem to show for them' for those experiences have left an indelible impression, and we are ever and anon reminded of them." Henry David Thoreau
People often ask me where I learned to cook or how I came up with some of my recipes.  Well, my palate was not exposed to very many exotic flavors when I was young.  In fact, if we truly are what we eat, then while growing up, I was a Baked Chicken and Turnip Greens! But that would drastically change as I ventured out into the world!
We are all products of our particular experiences and food is a visceral experience for me. My passion for creating original and unique combinations of flavors and textures has become my greatest creative outlet and has been a continually evolving process.  Creating a new dish is an undertaking that involves all of the senses; visual, taste, texture, aroma.  Did I leave one out?  Yes, the clink and clatter of dishes in a diner, the sizzle of meat hitting a hot grill, the bubbling of champagne being poured into a flute...even sounds become a nostalgic inspiration.  Just like hearing a song on the radio can transport you to a certain place in time, certain foods have the same effect for me.  I have so many memories of certain dining experiences that remain vivid in my mind and have indeed left an indelible impression.
One of the first culinary events that impacted me in a big way happened my senior year in High School, 1984, while I was on a school sponsored trip to Dallas, Texas with my FHA Chapter.  My Home Economics teacher, Sheila, accompanied us on that trip.  She was such a wonderfully interesting person.  I wanted to be just like her!  I don't think she had any idea what an impression she made upon me at the time, but I hadn't been around many people like her.  After all, I was a "Baked Chicken"...she was a "Spicy Honey Mustard Glazed Chicken Cooked In A Smoker".
Sheila was so pretty.  She had beautifully highlighted hair that was perfectly feathered, just like Farrah Fawcett's.  I remember being so impressed with her as a young woman.  She knew how to do everything.  She could cook, sew, decorate...she was so stylish. 
While we were in Dallas, we went to eat at TGI Fridays.  That may not sound too adventurous to most, but keep in mind I was a small town girl from Meadow, Texas.  Dallas was "the big city"!  When it came time to order, Sheila talked me into ordering the Chicken with Marsala Wine Mushroom Sauce, Fettucini Alfredo and Steamed Veggies.  I had hesitated to order this because it was made with wine.  I was raised in the Church of Christ and my parents had me believing that the Devil himself would pop out like a Genie if I ever uncorked a bottle of wine.  Sheila assured me that all of the alcohol content was cooked out of the sauce, so I took a chance and ordered it.  I'm so glad I did!  I can still remember how wonderful that meal was.  And Viola!  I left my Baked Chicken days behind!
Since then, I have been on a mission to overwhelm my tastebuds.  Although I have not traveled as much as I would have liked, I have made several trips to Santa Fe, NM and have experienced cuisines from all over the world in "the city different".  I have taken a few cooking lessons there and honed my palate in the process.  Also, I found that you just never know when misadventure will turn into fortune.  During my single days, I dated men who came from backgrounds that were in stark contrast to mine.  I came away from the relationships not only a little bit wiser, but with some good recipes in hand, to boot!  I pocketed culinary treasures such as Pasta Carbonara and Bolognese Sauce from Italy, Chimichurri Sauce from Argentina, Garlic & White Wine Poached Escargot via a French-Canadian, Corned Beef & Cabbage from a Scotsman, Black Forest Cake from the mother of a man who grew up as an air force brat in Germany.  Some of those recipes were good enough to almost make the failed relationships worth surviving.  I became somewhat of a culinary pirate. ;-) In the process, I have traveled the world through my kitchen.
You will find some of these recipes in my cookbook.  Others, you may have to garner a visit to my dinner table to experience.  By all means, give yourself the gift of savoring different tastes.  Don't spend your existence being a Baked Chicken!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Just "KISS" It and Make It Better

My husband, James, and I have shared several memorable moments...a lot of them quite humorous.  I can actually boast that I can even manage to make my husband laugh when I am asleep.  On one particular night about five years ago when I was pregnant with Jaxson, James was awakened by the sound of me talking in my sleep. 
Now before that occasion, I was never aware of the fact that I talked in my sleep.  I had spent the majority of my adult life as a single person.  So finding out that I talked in my sleep either proved or disproved my theory about most single people; they never talk in their sleep, because no one is there to hear it (similar to the tree falling in the woods theory). Since, in fact, no one was there to hear me except for my cat, I don't believe I talked in my sleep when I was single.  This phenomenon surely did not occur until I was married...and had to be a rare occasion, at that.
However, on that night, James was roused from his sleep by my mumbling and then he heard me loudly and quite clearly say the words, "KISS It!"  Then I rolled over and resumed my silent slumber. 
The next morning, he told me what happened.  He was quite intrigued about what...or whom...I had been dreaming about. Was I telling someone off?  Was I flirting with someone? Just what had provoked my wise-crack?  I didn't have a clue!  I didn't remember dreaming about anything...or anyone...at all.  That's one of the strange things about pregnancy; progesterone can really create some havok between restful zzzzzz's!  While I was pregnant, I dreamed about everything from nursing kittens to all my teeth falling out.  But God only knows who or what I was telling to "KISS It" that particular night.
I may not have recalled whom or what I was speaking to, but I did have some idea why I had said those choice words.  The word, KISS, just happens to be one of my favorite mantras.  Those who have worked with me have more than likely heard me say it on more than one occasion.
You see, one of my biggest pet peeves is when someone takes a situation and employs every possible measure to make it more complex than it needs to be.  I have known people that over-think, over-do, over-work and over-stress just about everything they do.  I think these kind of people must thrive on drama and getting lost in unnecessary details. 
Not me!  The older I get, the more I appreciate the theory of "less being more" and enjoy having a less complicated life.  And although I was born a Type A personality, it has become my aspiration to morph into a Type B! I made the conscious choice to SIMPLIFY my life...or OUR life, as I should say, because it did take my husband and I being on the same page with this philosophy to make it work!
Having more material possessions did not make me happier...it just gave me more things to take care of, more things to clean, more things to organize, more things to get rid of!  Having debt gave me more worries and stress.  I had to work harder to pay off the debt.  I had to spend too much energy running on the hampster wheel keeping track of the bills and paying them.  In most cases, the only thing I had to show for my debt was a monthly statement. Even the most experienced world travelers will tell you; you will travel easier and further if you have a lighter load in your backpack! I plan to enjoy the rest of my journey.
So should you ever hear me utter the words, "KISS It!"...just keep in mind I am attempting to apply my life philosophy to a particular situation.  If you haven't figured out what my mantra stands for, then I will share it with you, "Keep It Simple, Stupid!"
I try to apply this philosophy to just about every aspect of my daily life.  If there is a simpler, easier, quicker way that requires less time or energy to get something done, that's the way I want to do it!  Whenever I have approached the task of coming up with a new recipe...or even writing a cookbook...I have sealed it with a big KISS!
However, my sister, Lori, has her own philosophy that, "you can't fix stupid"...but that's a whole other story. ;-) Have a blessed day and if you find yourself in a stressful situation, try to "KISS It!" and make it better!

Monday, October 24, 2011

~How To Order My Cookbook, 'Cooking With The Carpenter's Wife'~

*The cookbooks are $24.95 each.

*If you are in the Meadow area, I can deliver locally or you can pick up at my house. Just message me or call 806-539-0362 to place your order.
*If you are distant, you can mail check/money order for $24.95 + $4.00 shipping/handling to:
Karen Rodgers
403 N Renfro
Meadow, TX 79345
Be sure to include at note with the address you want your cookbook shipped to. If you order more than one copy, shipping/handling is $4.00 for the first cookbook, $2.00 per book thereafter.
If you would like to order online or prefer to pay with credit card or PayPal, please visit my listing on Amazon at the attached link...


http://www.amazon.com/Cooking-Carpenters-Karen-Curtis-Rodgers/dp/0615544185/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1318973243&sr=8-1

Thank you for your interest in Cooking With The Carpenter's Wife!

Much Love & Happy Cooking!!!
Karen Curtis Rodgers

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

I Didn't ALWAYS Know How to Cook...

I grew up in the company of several good cooks; my grandmother, my mother, my aunts, my sisters, my friends' moms, all the little church ladies and fabulous women of the community.  You would have thought I would have known how to cook by the time I graduated from High School.  WRONG! 
I was much too busy to worry about culinary responsibilities.  There was always basketball practice & games, boys, bonfires, boys, track meets, boys, football games, boys, Saturday nights spent cruising other area towns, boys...all the requisites for growing up and being socially acceptable in a West Texas small town.  Cooking was literally the last thing on my mind.  It didn't even make the list of life skills I thought were necessary for succeeding.  Besides, at the time, my main goal in life was to someday become the ex-wife of a multi-millionaire and live happily ever after.  And I never heard of a man who would have chosen Betty Crocker over Raquel Welch!  So there ya go...such were my priorities.  Little did I know that my life would not evolve in quite the same direction which I envisioned.
In spite of being an active member of 4H and a State Level member of the Future Homemakers of America, I started my adult life with very minimal cooking skills.  Thanks to my Home Economics teacher, I did at least know how to cut up a chicken and bake a pound cake (even though it always turned out dough-ey in the middle).  But even I knew boiled poultry & soggy strawberry shortcake was not the quickest way to a man's heart.
Enter Shannon...one of my dearest lifelong friends and roomate in our first apartment after we moved out of our parents' houses.  Unlike me, Shannon had somehow managed to pay attention to Home Cooking 101 while growing up.  She came up with the bright idea for us to cook dinner for a couple of guys we knew...to, ummmm, impress them...I guess?  The Menu?  Well...what any good Texas girl would cook for a man; chicken fried steak, cream gravy, mashed potatoes and green beans!
Okay.  I had to admit it, "Shannon, I don't know how to make chicken fried steak."
Shannon replied, "No problem, you can work on the gravy,"
Starting to realize I was in way over my head, I confessed, "Shannon, I don't know how to make cream gravy."
In her usual, colorful verbage, Shannon looked at me with a rather annoyed look on her face and said something along these lines, "What the ****?  Don't you know how to make ****?  What the **** did your momma ever teach you? *** Bless!  Can you at least boil the ******* potatoes?"
Embarrassed and more than a little intimidated, I answered, "****, yeah!"
So I set forth to the task at hand.  Boil potatoes.  I could do that! I could do that? Um, yeah.
About ten minutes into my endeavor, Shannon looked over at the products of my labor.  She quickly broke into a hearty laugh and called me every word that you cannot find in a Thesaurus that has the same meaning as ******* idiot!
I did exactly as she told me...."get a saucepan, put the potatoes in, bring it to a boil, cook for about 15-20 minutes."  I guess she should have been a tad bit more descriptive, because she obviously forgot to tell me to peel & cut the potatoes before putting them in the boiling water.  It might have taken quite a while to boil 3 whole russett potatoes!
Hey, it wasn't my fault!  At least I tried!  I might not have started out right, but I finished well!
Oh...and the guy I was cooking for...he didn't show up.  Yep, that's right...I got stood up!  But Shannon, Tricia, Jeff, Chad & I had a really good meal that night.  And not only did I eventually become a pretty decent cook that, on given occasion, could quite possibly contend with Betty Crocker, there have been certain moments in my life that I might have even given Raquel Welch a run for her money!  His loss! 
And the best part...I still stay in touch with all of the people who were at that table...that night...and they are people I am proud to call my lifetime friends.  We should get together again sometime...I'll make the mashed potatoes!

Monday, October 17, 2011

How "THE Pie" Got It's Name

Ask any of my good friends about what their favorite thing is that I have cooked for them and most of them will reply, "THE pie".  That pie recipe is at the top of the list for my favorite original recipes, for several reasons. 
I developed the recipe while making it for my grandfather.  Incorporated in the recipe were some of his favorite things; apples, cranberries, port wine and walnuts.  I remembered being a young child and my Grandan showing me how he could peel an apple in a single ribbon using his pocket knife.  It's always those little personal details that end up being my biggest sources of inspiration. 
The first time I made "THE pie" for my grandfather, I was complimented by his request for a second helping.  However, my biggest reward came when my grandfather, a man of few words, patted me on the back and voiced his critique, "that's some good pie, Punkin." 
That was all the validation required to make "THE Pie" my one of signature dishes.  Any time I was invited to a dinner at a friend's house or wanted to make a dish for any special occasion, I usually went with "THE Pie"...and it quickly became the most requested. 
But there was one problem...I could not think of what to call "THE pie".  It was too much of a mouthful to call it "Apple, Cranberry, Port Wine & Walnut Pie".  Friends would usually recall it as "THE" or "THAT" pie, while smiling with their eyes closed and making a "mmmmm" sound.  This pleasurable concoction attained a most prodigious degree of fame amongst my family and friends, but what in the heck was I going to call it?
The answer came on a ski trip with the Texas Twisters in 1994.  We accompanied about 1200 other members of the Texas Ski Council on a week long vacation in Snowmass Village at Aspen, Colorado.  On the second night there, we had a pot luck supper.  I decided to bake several of "THE pies" as my contribution to the gathering. 
As I was baking eight pies in double ovens, the kitchen in our condo got a little too warm.  So I opened up the kitchen window and the scent of baking pies began to waft through the mountain air.  It didn't take long before people started coming to our door...people from my ski club and others who were literally from all over the world.  At the end of the evening, I fondly recall three of the ski club members arguing over the last piece of pie!  People often complimented my cooking, but I had never had anyone fight over it!
About 5 years after that trip, I ran into a man at another Texas Ski Council function.  He approached me and asked, "are you the one who made those pies in Snomass?" 
When I answered him, he broadly grinned and offered, "Name your price, lady. I'll pay you whatever you ask if you will just give me the recipe for 'THAT' pie!" 
Of course, I told him I would give him the recipe for free, as long as he promised to share it with someone he loved.
Then he described his memory of "THE pie".  He explained, "There's been many a night I have sat alone, closed my eyes and thought about 'THAT' pie!  It was like wishing for the company of an old lover."
AND that is how "THE pie" finally got it's name.  You can find "Old Lovers Pie" on page 34 of my cookbook, Cooking With The Carpenter's Wife!  I hope you enjoy "THE pie" every bit as much as the people who have had it before you!

Much Love & Happy Cooking, Y'all!!!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

My Cookbook Is Available For Purchase!!! YeeeeeHawwwww!!!

My cookbook, Cooking With The Carpenter's Wife, has been published and is now available for purchase.  I deliver locally and can ship anywhere!  You can contact me here, on my Facebook page (The Carpenter's Wife) or it can be ordered through Amazon...just follow the link:

http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=Cooking+With+The+Carpenter%27s+Wife&x=12&y=28

Much Love & Happy Cooking, Y'all!!!!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Confessions of a Middle Aged Stay-At-Home Mom

These days, it is so easy to become confused with all the parenting advice you get from magazines and other people.   Every parent I know takes pride in sharing examples of their parental prowess.  So I thought I might add to the confusion by letting everyone know what has worked for me.  I have a feeling there are a few of you parents out there who might agree with my philosophy...even if you don't want to admit it.

*Enjoy the simple things in life.  It's okay to be lazy and be a homebody some days.  It creates so much more appreciation and excitement when we do actually get out of the house to do something fun.
*Don't make your bed every day.  It is a proven scientific fact that bed bugs are more apt to thrive in dark, covered areas.  Let your sheets breathe.  If you have company, close the bedroom door.
*Playing video games help develop eye hand coordination and problem solving skills.
*If your child watches less than 2 hours of TV a day, you aren't doing enough cooking, cleaning or laundry.
*Spending $1.27 on a Hot Wheels car at the grocery store is a great investment.  It cuts down on your shopping time by keeping your child entertained and prevents melt-downs...yours & the child's.
*If you wait to "give-in" until your child asks for a toy 3 or 4 times, it builds your child's negotiating skills and gives them self-confidence in knowing they can win an argument. 
*Realize, as a parent, you can't always say "no".  Pick your battles, people...it cuts down on all the drama.
*Never wake a sleeping child.  Even if they want to nap for 3 hours and then stay awake until midnight, it will give them more quality time to spend with Daddy since he is at work all day.  (Mom's...use this extra time in the evenings while they are supervised by their fathers to take a long, luxurious bath.  Heck, even shave your legs...your husband will appreciate this.)
*It's okay to let your child have a Happy Meal every once in a while.  They work well for bribery purposes and familiarize your children with chicken nuggets & processed meats for those times that you only have time & energy for microwavable meals.
*Your child does not have to be able to spell, read & write by the time they enter Pre-K.  You don't want your child to get bored in school.  Besides, you want to make sure your teachers earn their pay.
*As a stay-at-home Mom, it is perfectly fine to wear the same yoga pants or sweats several days in a row.  It cuts down on laundry and thus, is good for the environment.
*It is also quite acceptable to go a couple of days without make-up and wear your hair pulled back in a pony-tail.  That way, your husband will think you are so much more attractive when you actually do fix yourself up!  It really helps increase the "Wow" factor! ;-)
*I occasionally slip and say a four letter word in front of my child.  However, I would rather he hear it from me first than to hear it from one of his friends.
*I teach my child how to fight.  (Don't get your feathers ruffled...that's not near as bad as it sounds)  He knows not to ever start a fight, but Mommy teaches him Martial Arts so he knows how to FINISH a fight.
*It's okay to pick up something you have dropped on the floor and eat it.  In these hard economic times, it's not okay to waste food.  Plus, it will help build your child's immunity.
*Candy is okay and can even be nutritious.  After all, corn syrup is made from a vegetable and chocolate contains flavonoids and antioxidants.  Plus, milk chocolate (if eaten in mass quantities) can comprise a serving of dairy.
*There is nothing wrong with watching the same Disney, Dreamworks or Pixar movie over and over and over, again and again and again.  Not only is this a good exercise in memorization skills, most of these films have positive life lessons. Although, with the exception of The Incredibles & Shrek, it is difficult to find any of these movies that portray traditional family units.
*If you are planning a long road trip or your child is having difficulty establishing a regular sleeping routine, one word....Benadryl.  Okay, actually two words...Children's Benadryl.
*Point to the bubble security cameras in Walmart and grocery stores and explain that they are "Santa Cams" that are wired directly to the North Pole.  Encourage your child to wave & smile at them.  Use this technique and milk it for all it's worth for as long as you  possibly can!

Feel free to use some of these tips with your own children...or do your own thing.  Bottom line...no parenting advice is right 100% of the time.  One thing I know to be an absolute truth...no two children are the same and what works for one child may not work for another.  So what works for one parent, may not work for another.  We all do our best, with what we are given, each and every day.  We love, we hope, we pray and we do what ever it takes to raise our children into successful, healthy, happy adults that are normal...whatever your definition of normal may be.  And in the event we fall short or fail, then I'm sure our children will grow up and resent us and hold us accountable for their failures or inadequacies.  After all, that is a basically inherent human trait that has occurred generation after generation since the dawn of time.  I suppose it is our responsibility not to break the cycle.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Simple Inspiration


She survived the Great Depression.  During that time, she managed to successfully raise six children.  She gave birth to one child in a tent and birthed another in a dug-out.  She hand-picked cotton out of sharp, prickly bowls until her fingers bled.  She lovingly massaged and bandaged her husband's sore arms; swollen from long, hard days of milking cows.  She was a best friend and confidant to all three of her daughters.  She patiently waited for all three of her sons to return home after military service.  She mourned the loss of one child.  She would walk several miles to visit her sister who was battling tuberculosis in a sanitarium.  She saved the life of her nephew.  She even managed to raise a rock star.
I never heard her say an unkind word about anyone.  Her demeanor was always kind.  She gardened, gleaned, preserved and canned.  She made special treats like popcorn balls and peanut patties for her grandchildren at Halloween.  She loved us unselfishly and equally. Her life was not simple by any means, yet she remained uncomplicated.  I never heard her complain.  She was reserved; not overly affectionate, but an ever gentle spirit that was a testament to her lovely name, Violet. 
The lady I speak of was my Mamaw Curtis.  My grandmother helped raise me.  The simple kitchen you see pictured above belonged to her.  She had no pantry, no dishwasher, not much counter or cabinet space...or floor space, for that matter.  But somehow, some of the most wonderful meals came out of that little kitchen.  One of my few regrets is that I didn't get her recipes before she left us.  I have spent the past several years trying to replicate her stew, fried chicken and pork chops.  In the process, I discovered the most important lesson a cook can learn...and I firmly believe it is something my Mamaw knew.  Every dish tastes better if the first ingredient is Love. 
Cooking and sharing good food with people I care about has become my passion.  I owe a lot of that to my grandmother.  Even though she has not been by my side, she has definitely been with me in spirit; guiding and inspiring me.  From cooking to the way I parent, she continues to influence my daily life.  I love her.  I miss her.  I'm proud to be her granddaughter.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Resume of a Stay At Home Mom

9/12/2011

Dear Madam or Sir;
I have a history of being an active member of the work-force for nearly 24 years prior to becoming a stay at home mom 4 and a half years ago.  However, instead of boring you with the details of my years of practice as an office nurse, medical office administrator, insurance coordinator & reimbursement specialist, dietician, nutritional counselor, sales associate and retail manager, I thought it might be more relevant to detail my experience of the most recent years I have spent as a homemaker. 
Please note the resume attached below.  My vast experience should qualify me for just about any position you have available.  My salary requirements are non-existent...ooops, I mean negotiable.  Please do not hestitate to contact me should you require further information or references.  Although I have been out of the professional loop for eons, I'm sure there are several other Moms who can validate my skills.
Sincerely,
Karen Rodgers, Chief Mom in Charge

RESUME:

KAREN CURTIS RODGERS

Domestic Engineer & Household Goddess~ April, 2007 to Present

            Food Services/Nutritionist:  Planning & preparation of well balanced, healthy & economical meals.  Includes services as both Chef and short order cook & provider of desirable snacks & appropriate drinks in the event of sudden onset of munchies.

            Inventory Control:  Procurement, management & organization of all household & personal items including groceries, toiletries, clothing, toys, cooking supplies, cleaning supplies, furniture & decorative items.  Management & allocation of all consignment items & donations to charitable organizations.

            Environmental Specialist:  All janitorial & custodial services including dusting, sweeping, mopping, washing dishes, cleaning & sanitizing all bathroom & kitchen surfaces. Complete laundry service for clothing & linens. Disposal of all household waste.  

            Event Planner/Social Coordinator:  Scheduling of all extra-curricular activities such as playgroup, sporting classes & events, museum & Science Spectrum excursions, festivals, playground visits and birthday parties.  Provide appropriate refreshments and transportation to and from all events.

            Psychologist/Life Coach:  Family mediation & interpersonal communications guidance with emphasis on manners, politeness & sharing.  Provide positive reinforcement with utilization of the “do unto others, never give up, not how you win but how you play the game, there is no I in team, early bird catches the worm” philosophy.

            Theological Instructor:  Religious & moral instruction detailing biblical history, i.e.:  Adam & Eve, Moses, Noah & the Ark, Jonah & the Whale, 5 Fishes & 2 Loaves of Bread, Zaccheus the Wee Little Man, Daniel in the Lion’s Den, God, Jesus & Satan.  Additional experience as a volunteer at Thursday School teaching above lessons, doing crafts, singing songs, preparing snacks, playground duty & potty assistance.

            Language & Speech Therapist:  Teaching primary language, proper annunciation & usage to young humans.

            Residential Entertainment Specialist:  Adept in navigating remote to Boomerang, Nickelodeon, Sprout and PBS channels.  Librarian responsible for organization of Disney, DreamWorks & Pixar dvd’s and X-Box 360, Nintendo & Wii gaming discs & systems.  Adept in game system applications and assisting young children in initiating games and developing problem solving skills by attaining more points, coins, tokens, etc.

            Exterminator:  Adept in maintaining control of all indoor pests such as bugs, spiders & mice, spraying outdoors for ants, planting peanut pellets for gophers & snake-away pellets in flower beds.  (Assistance is required for disposal of said pests)

            Barber:  Adult & youth male haircuts using scissors or trimmers. 

            Interior Decorator:  Purchasing & placement of all residential interior d├ęcor.

            Relocation Specialist:  Negotiating and completing FSBO residential sales contracts including communications with mortgage agents, inspectors, title clerks & insurance agents.  Scheduling moving services including trucks, trailers, pick-up & delivery of storage containers and arranging disconnect & assumption of utility services.  Packing & labeling of all household contents.

            CFO/Accounting:  Accounts receivable, accounts payable, preparation of tax documents, profit/loss reporting, budgeting.

            Nurse:  Assessment & treatment of bumps, bruises, scrapes, ant & mosquito bites, runny noses, coughs, fever, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.  Special training in containment and clean-up of hazardous bodily fluids such as snot, pee, spit-up, throw-up & poop. Proficient in ability to “kiss and make it better”.

            Travel Agent:  Ability to schedule & book air, hotel, rental car, event/activity tickets in a frugal manner utilizing Expedia, Travelocity & Priceline discounts & promotions.

            Art Director/Gallery Curator: Provide art instruction with practical application for youth.  Responsible for displaying completed art projects on refrigerator or appropriate wall space.

            Coach:  Instruct & participate in outdoor activities such as shooting hoops, playing catch, bump-set-spike, and water balloon toss & snorkeling in kiddie pool.

            Gopher:  Purchasing & delivering materials & supplies (including Dairy Queen Blizzards & MooLatte’s) to my husband’s work-site.

            Landscape Services:  Mowing grass, weeding, planting shrubbery & flowers.  Adept in laying flagstone patios.

            Associate of Retail Sales:  Organizing, hanging, doing data entry & printing labels and tagging all clothing, toys & baby gear for bi-yearly consignment sale.

            Pet Services:  Feeding, watering & entertaining 17 year old cat.  Poop-scooping & changing litter box.  Getting cat into pet carrier for transport or vet appointments.  Cleaning up occasional hair-balls.

            Guest Services:  Assuring the house is clean, in order and there are fresh linens for all guests.  Stocking fridge & pantry for company.  Maintaining polite & courteous demeanor, no matter who the guest may be, including extended-stay services provided to in-laws.

            Childcare:  In addition to providing full-time care to my own child, I take pride in ensuring that I am well-stocked in freezer pops, Capri Sun, cookies, Pringles, popcorn and juice in the event that any neighborhood children are in need of refreshment.  Plenty of indoor & outdoor toys are always available for use.  I am experienced in whistling for puppies, chasing balls rolling into the street, pulling stickers out of socks, wiping noses and securing Velcro shoe straps.

            Records:  Organizing & filing all business receipts, tax documents & official records.  Sorting & deciphering the junk-mail, magazine, paid bills, flyers & owner’s manuals pile that always accumulates on the kitchen counter.

            Photographer/Historian:  Photographing all of life’s precious moments and keeping chronologically filed digital & real photo albums for viewing.

            Communications/IT:  Ensuring that all desk-top, lap-top, modem, router, phone, printer, web-cam & headphone capabilities are integrated and running in an uninterrupted manner.  Renewing & operating anti-virus programs, updating, defragging & performing system scans frequently. 

            Romance Specialist:  Maintaining marital relationship, enhancing physical appearance and providing romantic interludes for the CEO with no regard to how horrid the earlier day’s events may or may not have been.  Focusing on fostering diplomacy by using marriage appropriate language, such as “Yes, dear, whatever you say”, instead of “Kiss my ***”!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Something Very Special

It is Labor Day weekend of 2011.  Since my husband decided to work in spite of it being a federal holiday, I decided to do some more experimentation in the kitchen. 
I have always had a propensity for combining unusual ingredients.  I take pleasure in creating something new and unexpected...especially if my efforts end up being rewarded with big smiles and "Wow!"'s. And whether it turns out to be a failure or something fabulous, I always end up learning something to take to the next level.
So my chosen adventure to embark upon this weekend was to make jelly.  I have cooked and baked a lot in my life.  But in my entire 45 years, I have never attempted to "can" or make jelly or jam.  My inspiration came from a recent trip to the grocery store when my husband spotted prickly cactus pears in the produce section. 
While growing up in New Mexico, the cactus pears were one of James' favorite natural delicacies.  He described the flavor with the kind of fondness reserved for precious childhood memories as he told me about how he would find them, cut them in half and enjoy slurping the juice from around the seeds until he had a magenta line running down his chin.  I wonder how many times his mom had to soak prickly pear juice out of his shirts. 
I tried to think of what I could do with the bags of cactus pears my husband had picked out at the grocery store.  They were one ingredient that, not only was I unfamiliar with, I had never even heard of how to prepare them. Heck, I had never even tasted a cactus pear.  I didn't have a clue as to what on Earth I could possibly do with them to turn them into something really tasty.  But challenge fuels my creative juices.
Once we got home, I washed them and cut them open.  Of course, James dove right in and offered Jaxson some to try, as well.  As I bit into my piece, I discovered they are filled with small seeds much like a pomegranite, but with a different texture.  So the gears in my head started turning.  Because of the flavor and texture of this exotic, yet humble, fruit, I surmised this would be a perfect ingredient for a jam or jelly.  This would be the perfect excuse to give canning a try! And I had an idea...a very special idea.
So I started my adventure by calling my mom to see if I could borrow her fruit press.  Once I had all the right tools in place, I began peeling and chopping the cactus pears. Jaxson delighted in helping me press the juice out of the fruit.  I took the pear nectar and blended it with the other ingredients; stirring and gently boiling, addding more of this, a little of that...until I thought it was just right. 
I followed my mom's instructions on how to prepare the jars, pour the liquid in, seal the lids, putting the jars in the water bath, etc.  By morning, I just knew I would have achieved perfection.  NOT.  I had hit the nail on the head with the flavor.  The deep rosy magenta color was gorgeous! But it did not gel!  As I moved the jar around gently, the contents inside were quite liquified.
Not one to give up easily, I called my mom again to seek her advice.  She said, "just pour it into a sauce pan, add some more pectin and boil it down."  I followed her instructions...and this time, I got it right! 
Yesterday, as I described my idea for this new recipe to my friend, Melody, she asked me, "How do you come up with this stuff?" And I answered her, "Well, I'm either crazy or brave...or maybe a little bit of both."  But through my culinary adventures, I always manage to come up with something interesting...and life is too short to be boring!  I'm glad I gave it a try.  And in the process, came up with something very special.
My result...Cactus Pear & White Merlot Jelly!  It is now my signature jelly for my brand, Cooking With The Carpenter's Wife. What's so special about it? I took one of my husband's favorite foods, combined it with my favorite wine and it is seasoned with one of my son's favorite spices. It ended up being a good marriage that is a tribute to mine.