Category Archives: Household Tips

Things that may help me cook, clean, or otherwise manage my household.

Another Swing of the Magic Wand

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I teased you earlier this week when I told you that I had learned another use for vinegar.  I’m telling you, the stuff is a must have for any household.

My newest reason for loving vinegar is that I took my boys, including our nephew, berry picking.   Christopher has been berry picking many times.  Even his Majesty went a few times last year (although he didn’t so much PICK berries, as much as he did EAT berries).  However, unbeknownst to me, my nephew, who physically lives–and has grown up in– the middle of farm land in the midwest, has never gone berry picking.  Furthermore, he has a limited understanding that food comes from farms… a fact which actually rendered me momentarily speechless.

Have no fear, we’re breaking him in.  And taking him berry picking for the first time was even more fun than it would have been on an ordinary visit.

Except for one thing…

We picked a lot of berries..

8 pounds of strawberries and 2 lbs of blackberries to be exact.  They were having so much fun, and were so intent on picking “good” berries, that I didn’t have the heart to tell them to stop…

That is, until it dawned on me that I only had $31 in small bills, and that unless the farm could change a large bill on a day when we were the only people there picking produce, we were going to have to perform some manual labor if I didn’t put an end to things soon.

So, 10 lbs and $28 worth of berries later, we headed home, the kids with purple and red fingers, and myself wondering how we were going to keep all of these berries in edible condition long enough to polish them all off.

And then, I remembered this pin, which links to a great blog post by FoodLush, about how to use a vinegar rinse to keep berries from molding. It was really quite simple.

Combine 1 part vinegar to 10 parts water in a bowl or in your sink.  I did 1/2 cup vinegar and 5 cups water.  Then add your berries, a little at a time, and gently swish them around.

I did less blackberries at a time, because they’re more delicate than strawberries, and I didn’t want to damage them when I was swirling them around in their vinegar bath.  I changed the water out after every few batches.

After you dip them in vinegar, drain them, and  put them in the fridge.  You can rinse them with plain water afterwards, but I tasted them directly from the vinegar bath and didn’t notice a taste difference, so you don’t have to.

Or just start eating them.  Preferably with homemade whipped cream, made in 2 minutes in your “OMG-howdidIeverlivewithoutyou” Kitchen Aid Mixer.

I can’t speak for the blackberries, as we ate those the same day that we picked them, but I can tell you that 5 days later, the strawberries that were left were still nice and firm and perfectly delicious in homemade strawberry ice cream.  Ooh baby! Summer is here!

So yeah, like I said.  Vinegar is magic.  Why don’t you give it a try?

Vinegar is Better than a Magic Wand

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I love having a clean home.  One of my favorite things to do in the morning is come down the stairs and take in the sight of  my lovely, clean, home before my children wake up and take the opportunity to redecorate it with their toys and shoes and books.

But the chemicals commonly used for cleaning freak me out.  Even with gloves on, the fumes make me nervous.  Luckily for me, a friend introduced me to cleaning with vinegar a few years ago, and I’ve been sold ever since.  I use it to wipe down counters, sinks, windows (mix it with water and a few drops of old fashioned blue dawn dish soap, and it will keep it from streaking), woodwork, you name it.  I still clean with the heavy stuff, too, but my every day cleaning, for the most part, is done with vinegar.

Over the years, though, I’ve been enlightened to the many used for vinegar outside of cleaning.  You can put it in your pets drinking water to help their coat shine.  You can use it to ease the pain out of wasps and jellyfish stings (but not bee stings, use baking soda for that), and to sooth a sunburn.  It is a good deodorizer for trash cans and diaper pails.  It is a good hair conditioner, and skin toner.  It is an excellent disinfectant for cutting boards and dishes.  Remember that movie, My Big Fat Greek Wedding, where the father keeps telling everyone to use Windex to cure all of their aches and pains?  I am getting pretty close to telling everyone to put use vinegar to cure their problems in every realm.  And if it doesn’t work, no love lost, because it’s about $3 a gallon.  No joke.

It seems that I’m always learning new ways to use vinegar, and this month was no exception.  Our ten year old nephew has been staying with us for a few weeks, and he’s not accustomed to removing his shoes when he comes in from playing.  He’s getting better about it, but for a week or so, my carpet got more shoe traffic than it has in the entire time we’ve lived here.  Thankfully, I remembered this pin, about using a vinegar solution to clean stains from carpets (even old, set in stains).  I took photos of my carpet, but you can’t really appreciate the spots in the pictures, so trust me, they were there.  Just dusky, dirty little spots from shoe tread.  Enough to drive me crazy, though.

The source blog, Lizzie Writes, spilled an entire bottle of salad dressing on her carpet, and this is what she used to clean her carpet.   Her results were so amazing, be sure to check them out.

So, I got to work with this magic carpet cleaning regimen.  All you need to do is sprinkle your stains with baking soda or corn starch, and let it set for a few minutes (If you are treating a new stain, blog up what you can first with a white cloth; I used a clean cloth diaper pre-fold, which is another awesome thing to have around the house).   I just poured the baking soda and rubbed it into the carpet, hoping to absorb any oils in the stains.

While you are letting that set on your stain, you can get to work mixing vinegar, original blue dawn dish soap, and water (my favorite multipurpose solution, by the way).

I keep this solution in a spray bottle lying around the house, but the concentration mentioned in the source blog was rather specific, so I mixed a new batch just for this.  You’ll mix 2 cups warm water, 1 tablespoon Dawn, and 1 tablespoon white vinegar.

I just mixed mine in a regular old kitchen bowl.  It’s nontoxic, so no worries.

I then vacuumed up the baking soda, and marked the concerning areas with glass beads (because that’s what I had handy).  That helped me to remember what areas I needed to treat, since they weren’t glaringly obvious.

Then I dipped a white cloth (diaper) in the vinegar/soap mixture, and applied the solution to the stained areas, blotting up all of the excess liquid with a dry cloth. Then I covered them with another dry white cloth, so that no one (the cat) would step on it overnight, and I went to bed.

The next morning, I assessed the dry carpet, and I gotta tell you, this simple solution really does work.  I’d post a picture, but you won’t be able to tell the difference in it, but I promise you, it was magical. I poured the leftover solution from the bowl into a generic plastic bottle, and put it with my cleaning solutions to have on hand in the future.

And I needed it within the week, when my (grown up) little brother passed out bowls of blackberry cobbler to the kids in the living room (shame, shame; he doesn’t have children yet, but one day, he’ll learn), and the morning after he left, I noticed a dime sized purple stain on the cream carpeting.

I wish I’d taken a photo, but I panicked and went straight for my magic solution, not expecting much, but still, ever hopeful.  I even skipped the baking soda step, and just doused it in the solution, and it erased all hints of that cobbler with very little elbow grease at all.

So if you have a hopeless looking stain on your carpet, give this solution a try.  The ingredients are cheap, you may even have them in your house already, and you won’t have to worry about your kids playing on the floor while it’s drying because it’s nontoxic.

And that’s not all I’ve learned about vinegar this month!  Stay tuned! But in the meantime, do you have a natural cleaning tip that you can pass along?

Why Didn’t I Think of That?! Pantry Storage Idea

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Zip Lock bags, rubber bands, twist ties, mason jars, recycled sour cream containers… I have used all of these, and more, to help me store opened bags of dry good in the pantry.  But then, this idea made me palm slap myself and wonder, “Why didn’t I think of that?!”

The pin is a user upload on Pinterest… those can really be a pain in the butt, because there’s no way to tell who the original source is.  I did a few google image searches to see if I could locate it, but I struck out, so, if you know where it came from, send me the link, and I’ll be sure to include it.

Basically, you need an empty plastic pop or water bottle, and your open bag, in this case, an open bag of peanut butter and chocolate chips.

Cut the top off of your bottle.  Or, have your husband do it.  He’s good with knives.

I had him cut just above the label.

Then, wash and dry the top of the bottle, remove the top, and pull the open end of the bag through the narrow end of the bottle.

Fold the open end of the bag down and replace your cap.  Know that it is not going to thread as well as it does when it goes directly on the plastic bottle.  After all, it is going over the plastic bag, and you may have to pull the open portion of the bag down a bit to make sure it’s not too bulky to allow the top to seal, but with a little pressure as you turn, it should seal the bag for storage.

That’s it.  Stick the sealed bag back in your pantry until you are ready to use it again, and toss the leftover part of the cut bottle in the recycling bin.

See what I mean? Why didn’t I think of that?

Any handy household or storage tips that you’ve pinned lately?  Share some great ideas!

Venturing Into Natural Remedies

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I built a career working in healthcare.  Belief in Western Medicine pays the bills in my house, built the foundation of a good portion of my social circle, and occupies a huge percentage of my long term memory.   I believe in it like I believe in God, which is to say that I’m absolutely and unabashedly sure of its worth and importance in my life, even though there is still much that I don’t know or understand. But, just because I value and believe strongly in Western Medicine doesn’t mean that I don’t also appreciate other approaches towards health and wellness.  In fact, over the past few years, I have tried several homeopathic and herbal remedies with my own family, mostly with the help of my good friend Patty.  She’s steadily becoming my homeopathy guru.

When His Majesty was born, Patty  was one of the first visitors to come to our home.  She’s kind of the matriarch of our social group, the Don of our Mommy Mafia if you will, and she’s got to lay eyes on any newbies ASAP, give her approval, and read them a beautiful story that tugs on your super hormonal postpartum heart strings, and makes you fight back tears.   Anyway, during this visit, she gave me some breastfeeding support, and informed me that my breast milk would cure just about any problem his Majesty might have.  Diaper rash.  Pink eye.  Nasal congestion.  Eczema.   Now, honestly… she’s a little crunchier than I am, and I thought she was a little nuts for a minute there.  But Patty has a handful of children, and years more experience with infants (and with lactating, for that matter) then I ever will, so, when His Majesty woke up with a gunky eye on the day before his newborn photos would be taken, I squirted him in the eye with breast milk.  My husband, the wise man that he is, believes so much in the wisdom of my Patty that he even helped me get my aim right.

His eye was better- I’m talking completely cleared up- in 12 hours.

A few months later, when His Majesty started to become more mobile, and thus, began to bump his head into things, Patty recommended that I buy Arnica.  Do you know what Arnica is? I had never heard of it, but Arnica is magic.  It’s magic.  There’s no other way to describe it. You know how kids will bump their heads into things, and get those goose egg bruises?  Or when your toddler breaks away from your grasp and makes a run for freedom, thus running face first into the crystal clear, streak free, floor to ceiling glass windows at the Apple Store?  Oh, that’s just my nutty kid?  Well, either way, I have personally watched as bumps and bruises fade away in mere minutes following the application or ingestion of Arnica.  And, it must feel better, too, because His Majesty will ask for demand it by name (“Hurt head.  Need Arnica!”).

After His Majesty’s breathing problems earlier this month, I mentioned to Patty that he definitely seemed to have an environmental component to his symptoms.  In fact, after a few hours outside (we have had the warmest winter, it’s been unreal), he required a nebulized albuterol breathing treatment, and another one that evening before bed.    Breathing problems are obviously concerning, even with the proper equipment and an effective medication, and the nebulizer treatments are not only time consuming to administer, but they are also not without side effects (notedly, restlessness and irritability, which are particularly unpleasant in not-yet-completely-verbal toddler). Given that, Patty offered to let me try some of her homemade Elderberry Syrup, explaining to me that it can help ease the symptoms of not only environmental allergies, but also of the cold and flu viruses, and also works to improve mood, and boost immunity. She sells it for $8 a pint, which is far cheaper than the elderberry syrup that you’ll find at the store, plus hers is made with superior ingredients.

Given the solid history of following Patty’s advice, what do you think I said?  I’m not stupid, I took her up on the offer.

Elderberry Syrup from South of the Fork. Isn't it pretty?

After a few doses of Patty’s Elderberry Syrup, His Majesty was noticeably less stuffy, and on the 5th day, even after a full morning of outside play, he did not show any respiratory symptom at all.

The more that I think about it, the more instances of effective homeopathy I can recall. My “work husband” suffered terrible arthritis in his knees that was successfully managed for several years with glucosamine chondroitin, thereby avoiding steroid injections and hefty doses of NSAIDS, which can be hard on the gut.  Fish oil is now a staple recommendation in the  promotion of a healthy heart.  We have long known the benefit of B Vitamins in providing energy and aiding the metabolism (you know those “12 hour energy shots?  That’s what those are.  Take a B vitamin at night and try to go to sleep, and see if you don’t believe me…).  Ginger is useful in treating nausea (perhaps that is why your mother used to give you Ginger Ale when you were sick as a child).  Fenugreek can be used to aid in lactation, lower cholesterol and stabilize blood sugar.  I knew another man through work who, following a terminal cancer diagnosis with the grim prognosis of mere months to live, actually lived for several years, a blessing he attributed to “magic shiitake mushrooms“.  I bet if you really thought about it, you’d be able to come up with several instances of homeopathy at work in your friends and family.

Natural remedies and Western Medicine are not as far apart as you might think.  Aspirin, the “miracle drug”, was originally derived from the bark of the willow tree.  Antibiotics were first discovered in mold.  Warfarin, a popular anticoagulant, is based on a chemical naturally found in clover.  Digoxin, a powerful cardiac drug, is derived from the Foxglove plant.  Modern medicine is often based on some compound that is found naturally.   Science often takes its inspiration straight from God.  It is my belief that the two can not be wholly separated.

I’m not saying that they will work for everyone or for every problem, and herbs and homeopathic remedies can have their own side effects, especially if you go rogue and make up your own regimens without knowing what you’re doing.  Know that I’m not making any medical or treatment recommendations, PERIOD, that’s what you need to see your own health care provider for.  But I am saying that if you are at your wits end about what to do about a certain condition or ailment, don’t discount asking your provider about alternative therapies that may be available.

I should add an extra caution to you that because many natural remedies and herbal preparations are not held to a standard manufacturing quality or recipe, you should be cautious of where you get your products, especially if you don’t have a Patty in your life.  As with most things, cheaper isn’t always better, and if you are seeking herbal remedies, find yourself a trusted provider.  Just like Western Medicine, when you’re looking for advice on health, wellness, or disease, you should find a someone that you are comfortable with, someone that knows their stuff.  Don’t just head to any local vitamin place and pick up elderberry syrup, simply because it’s the closest store to your home that happens to sell it.  Actually talk to the staff, and find out where they get their products.  Then do your research, and come back and ask more questions. You should do this when it comes to your healthcare anyway, regardless of whether you are seeking alternative medicine or not.  It’s YOUR health. It’s YOUR body.  It’s in YOUR best interest.  No one should be expected to look out for you more than you look out for yourself.

Do you have any homeopathic or home remedies that you swear by?  Anything that your mom or grandparent passed along to you that perhaps you don’t completely understand, but you know it to be effective?  If we don’t pass these things along, they disappear when we do…

Fluffy Cupcakes? Serious Research

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I have been wanting to try out this tip, from Kelly Neil, but I haven’t had a reason to bake a full batch of cupcakes until this week.

There’s a play date in the house– Holla!

O.Em.Gee.  The things you say when you are a real adult and you’ve stopped caring about what the cool kids might think of you.  Love it.

Anyway, play dates = lots o’ kiddies and moms coming over to hang out, and what’s better than playing and chatting than playing and chatting AND eating?

Enter the opportunity to bake cupcakes.  And try another recipe that I’ll give feedback on soon.  Promise.

Anyway, the cupcakes.

The recipe is complicated.  About as complicated as opening a box and reading a few sentences.

Yes, I used boxed mixes, and I’m not ashamed.  Anyway, I followed the directions on the box. Then I set up my experiment: Two identical cupcake trays, lined with identical cupcake liners.  The mix ended up making 18 cupcakes, so I set up my trays to each have 9 cupcakes. I wanted to have as few variables in this process as possible.

For my control tray, I continued following the directions on the box.  I filled the cups 2/3 of the way and baked them at 350 degrees for 21 minutes (the recommended time was 18-22 minutes). Here’s what they looked like when they were done baking.

For my test (variable) tray, I followed the tip on Kelly Neil’s blog.  I filled the cups 3/4 of the way, and although I preheated the oven to 350, I turned the oven down to 325 once I put the cupcakes in, and increased the baking time to 25 minutes. Here’s what the test batch looked like when it was done baking.

And here’s what they look like side by side.

<----Control Variable--->

<--- Control Variable--->

And the view from above:

<--- Control Variable --->

What do you think?

Well, the cupcakes cooked at the lower temperature (the variable) were lighter, and indeed, they were larger, but that makes sense: they were 3/4 full as opposed to 2/3 full.  They were also a *touch* higher, but nothing amazing.  However, they were lighter in color, which I liked, and, a big squishier to the touch.

I let them sit overnight, unfrosted, using another trick that I found.  This trick was from Baked Bree, which is a great cooking blog with lots of pin worthy stuff.  Did you know that if you set a piece of bread on your baked goods if you leave them out at night, they’ll stay moist?

I’m here to tell you, it works.  Pretty awesome. When I woke up, the slices of bread were hard and stale, but the cupcakes were just as moist and springy as when they came out of the oven.  This is a keeper.  If you bake cakes the night before, and want to leave them out to cool before you decorate them the next day, just toss a piece of bread on it.  Thank you Baked Bree!

So then I frosted them.  Using the tutorial from Kristen at Decorate This.  Are you looking to pin some baking inspiration and tutorials?  Check out what Kristen has to say.  Good stuff.  Her tutorial on icing cupcakes was really easy to follow.  I used an open star tip– mainly because I only own an open star tip and a plan round tip, and I just happened to grab the open star first.  I did my best to do what Kristen told me to do, and even with my very limited skill set, they looked alright.  I’m sure with a little more practice, I’ll get better.  I guess that gives me added incentive to host more play dates!

<---Control Variable --->

<--- Control Variable --->

For the finishing touch, I added some sprinkles and some edible decorations (there’s not enough sugar in them as is, right?) and my cupcakes ended up looking like this.   It was not as easy to tell which ones were which by the time they were frosted and decorated.

<— Control                          Variable —>

But, obviously, when it comes to food, appearances aren’t everything.  So, I taste tested them.  Took one for the team (technically, TWO for the team…), in the interest of science, of course. I ate one cupcake from the control group, and one cupcake from the variable group. And then I ate another one, using random selection, just to be sure (Three for the team?)… Well, really I ate that last one because I couldn’t fit them all on the serving platter.

The cupcakes were sweet, moist, delicious cakey goodness.  In my case (i.e., when using boxed mixes instead of a yummy homemade cupcake recipe like the amazing Kelly Neil),  it didn’t matter if they were baked at 325 for 25 minutes or 350 for 22 minutes, they were just really good.  And pretty, if I do say so myself.  Which means, well, just do what you want.  If you want to bake them at 350, go for it.  If you want to bake them at 325 for a few more minutes, knock it out.

People are still going to eat them.  For sure. The kids at the play date liked them, my kids liked them, my husband will eat anything with sugar in it, so he liked them, I pawned two off on Christopher’s friends, and at the end of the day, we didn’t have any remaining to tempt me in all of their cupcake-y glory.

So there you have it.  My Scientific Analysis of Cupcakes.  Probably more science than you cared to think about when baking cupcakes from a boxed mix!

Do you have any great baking tips to pass along?  Anything that you’ve pinned and haven’t tried out yet?

Handy Home Medication Tip

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It was bound to happen, eventually.

We would have to go to our family doctor for a “Sick Visit”.  And I would get the chance to use this brilliant medication administration tracking tactic.  How’s that for practical, easy, and absolutely useful?

Unknown user upload to Pinterest

My family does pretty well in avoiding these types of visits.  Which is not to say we avoid illness entirely, however, we have been fortunate enough to keep our illnesses to mild febrile viruses, coughs, colds, and allergy flare ups every year when the tree pollen drops.  Which reminds me, oh baby, with as warm as it’s been this winter, be warned that it’s going to be a tough allergy season, followed by a contender for the worst year for insects in recent memory.  Yippee. Get yourself some zyrtec or some local honey, whichever way your pendulum swings, maybe even get both, because Hons, odds are that someone in your house is going to need it. But back to my story.

We get sick here and there, but until this week, His Majesty has NEVER, and I do mean NEVER been in for a sick visit.  Not since he was born, almost two years ago.  No ear infections.  No episodes of stomach virus. No lingering fevers, and, in fact, he’s only had one fever, period, a year ago.  Both of my sons have been very healthy, praise God, with the exception of some pretty nasty allergies in Christopher, but that’s minor as far as I’m concerned.  I can’t remember the last time any of us had symptoms significant enough to warrant a visit to the doctor… However, in this house, we have a pretty high threshold for illness.  You have to really be sick for us to say that you are.  “Sick” is practically a four letter word in our house (and it’s definitely not my favorite one).

My husband and I are both health care providers (HCPs) (Well, I was, until I retired in favor of my encore career as a Domestic Engineer, but he still practices).  The first “rule” of being a HCP is “He who diagnoses and treats himself has a fool for a patient”, and that rule trickles on down to your family as well.  If you choose to ignore this rule, one of two things may occur at your fault.  One, you’ll think a complaint is nothing, but in reality, it will be something serious, and then your family will be mad at you and think you are a quack, or two, you will think you/your loved one have a terrible, rare and usually fatal, illness, when in reality, they’ll be fine, after which they’ll discredit your advice when it’s logical and appropriate, say, for instance, when you tell them to stop smoking around their asthmatic kids.

A friend of mine, who happens to be a Pulmonologist, once took it upon himself to suture the facial laceration of his young son, sparing his family a certain multiple hour block of time at our favored University Medical Center.  His wife, who is normally a calm and composed woman, was understandably somewhat displeased, and by his account, the ensuing fight was of legendary proportions.  I’ve seen the scar.  It’s not too shabby, for a pulmonologist, which is not to say that it was a top notch job, but to say that compared to the chest tubes I’ve painstakingly watched him sew in, it was a work of art.  I’m teasing, but the point is, the guy is an excellent lung doctor, but he’s not a plastic surgeon,  and sewing up a kids’ facial lacerations should best be left to the real experts.

That being said, I have started IVs for hydration on myself, my husband and our kids, hanging the fluid bags from the ceiling fans, I’ve forced fluids and deep breathing for fevers that I wave off as being due to a simple virus, and I occasionally do phone diagnosis and make treatment plans for my Grandmother, and always with favorable results. We joke with friends that in our house, with two HCPs, the kids need have a bleeding wound that won’t stop with 30 minutes of firm pressure, a compound fracture, or a massive head injury in order to see the inside of an Emergency Room.  We work(ed) in hospitals.  We don’t like to see them in our free time, and if we CAN manage it at home, we often times WILL manage it at home.  It’s cleaner that way.  Lawd, have you SEEN the inside of a hospital, or an ER for that matter?  Filthy, and what you see when you work there, ugh, it defies logic.  If you weren’t sick when you got there, you’ll probably be sick when you leave.  And while we’re talking about Emergency Rooms, let me take this opportunity to give you some Life Changing Knowledge.

ERs are for serious medical and sudden problems only, folks.  Not for the back ache that’s been going on for 2 weeks, and could best be managed by your primary care physician or a referral to a specialist.  Not your ingrown toenail.  Not because your chief complaint is that you might be pregnant. Leave the ERs for people who need them, y’all.  People who could be having heart attacks, or strokes. People with breathing difficulties. People who have had traumatic injuries, falls, or amputations.  Victims of sudden violence.  Car accident survivors.  Not your cranky kid at 2 AM during an ice storm, who could have easily seen the pediatrician yesterday for her fever, if only you had taken the day off of work to take her in.  And we wonder why health care costs are in the stratosphere. If everyone with non emergencies went to their primary care provider, instead of clogging up the ER, staff would be available to treat REAL emergencies.  It’s good karma.  You’ll appreciate that if ever the day or night should ever arise where you or your loved one has a REAL emergency.

Ok, ok, so my story.  The other day, His Majesty wasn’t acting like himself.  He had a snotty, runny nose.  He had a little bit of a cough.  None of that concerned me.  But, he hardly ate any of his breakfast.  The boys an eater, so I figured he was feeling lousy.  I listened to his lungs.  They sounded junky, so I started making him drink extra water, and having him cough for me at frequent intervals.  He was extra whiney, and didn’t seem to be interested in playing all morning.He picked at his lunch, but then got horribly upset when I took him down from his highchair.  Naturally, he started crying, and in true temper tantrum form, he was inconsolable for about 10 minutes; But this is when the story shifted.  When he stopped crying, he was out of breath, and hot and sweaty.  Not too big of a deal by itself, since he did throw quite the fit, but he just couldn’t seem to slow down his breathing afterwards, and he was still sweating.  I listened to his lungs again, and while they were junky, but unchanged, his little heart was just banging away in his chest, crazy rapidly.  I sat him down and tried to keep him calm, and after a few minutes on my lap, I heard it, first with my ears, and then with my stethoscope.

Wheezing, when he exhaled, like a little whistle.  I didn’t like that. Not one bit.  I pulled him into the bathroom with me and turned the shower on hot.  I left a message at our doctor’s office, which was closed for lunch, and I texted my husband. We sat there for a few minutes, my normally crazy active, maniac little toddler quietly on my lap.  I listened to his lungs again, and the wheeze was about the same, so we hung out in the steamed up bathroom for a bit longer.

I figured that since we were going to be there for a bit, I’d change him into his pajamas, so that he could be more comfortable.  I laid him on the floor and talked to him softly as I stripped him down, and then, I asked him a silly question, just to hopefully make him smile.

He smiled, and then answered me, two words at a time, unable to complete a sentence without taking a breath.  And these are toddler sentences I’m talking about, folks, he wasn’t reading a sentence out of a document from The Library of Congress.

I started to sweat, and not just because it was hot as blazes in that bathroom.

And then, I saw something else that made me start to move quickly.  It was dim in the bathroom, as the blinds were closed and the lights were off, but I though to myself “Is he sucking in his neck muscles when he breaths?  Is he retracting his chest muscles?”  I turned on the lights at the same time that I hollered for Christopher to gather up the diaper bag, and I listened to the baby’s lungs again, while my eyes adjusted to the additional light and confirmed that yes, yes indeed, he was struggling to breathe.

I haven’t moved that fast in a while, and hope not to do so again.

I gathered the kids up and hopped in the car.  The doctor’s office is on the way to the Emergency Room, so I figured that if they didn’t answer, I’d keep going and head to the ER.  15 minutes to the doctor, 25 minutes to the ER. He wasn’t sick enough for an ambulance ride, not by a long shot.  But kids change condition quickly sometimes, and sometimes minutes are just too much time.

Fortunately, the doctor’s office called me back a few miles down the road, we got in to be seen right away, and after a nebulized albuterol treatment, a take home nebulizer, and a few prescriptions, we were on our way back home, and hopefully towards improved wellness as well.  He’s doing much better now, and I am glad that I remembered this medication administration tracking idea.  I normally keep a regular old notepad of any medications that we administer or take, and I highly recommend it so that you can remember what you’ve taken and when, but I like this idea better for short term prescriptions, since it allows you to keep track of everything right there on the bottle/package, and check off the doses as you give them.  Just write down the day, and check off or note the time that you administered a dose (I just applied white label stickers to the nebulizer box, which I can reapply if I should need a new surface to write on later). I told you that this was a great idea.

Whew, that’s saying a lot for a post that is about such a little tip! Enough about me, tell me about you! Have you and your family managed to avoid sick visits? What is your secret to staying well and avoiding the doctor? Or, on the other side of the spectrum, have you had a spell where you and your family have been battling illnesses back to back?

A Watched Pot

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I love to cook.  Well, let me rephrase that. I like to cook, but what I really love to do is to feed people the food that I prepare.  It’s a familial trait.  My maternal grandmother will try to feed you within moments of you walking in her door.  If you decline, she will phrase the question in a different way a moment later, testing your willpower.  If you decline again, she simply will start preparing food or getting food out of the refrigerator and placing it in front of you.  It’s a losing battle.  How do you say no to woman who drives a sports car, spanks everyone in the family at poker, bowls on a night league because she “doesn’t want to bowl with all of the old people” who join the day leagues, and, for her 80th birthday, chose to get her first tattoo?  You don’t.  You just don’t, ok?

My paternal grandfather was the same way, only he’d actually go so far as to shove food right in your face, in this adorable and loving manner than no one with a heart could dare refuse.  As a young teenager, I became somewhat of a vegetarian, stubbornly sticking to the claim for more than 5 years (mostly because I didn’t understand nutrition, and thought meat had too many calories in it, but also because it irritated my parents) before my sweet grandpa broke me down with his constant pleas for me to sample whatever amazing meal he was cooking up at the time. This was long before I knew how to (or rather, even cared to) cook anything that didn’t require simply reheating, so he was not misguided in his belief that I was eating rather poorly, and today, 15 years later, I’m a meat lover.  But food, food is love in my family, and someone allowing you to feed them is a wonderful blessing.  I am fiercely protective of my space in the kitchen.  I don’t like help while I prepare food unless I ask for it. My meals are a small gift to my family, and one of my favorite things about hosting out of town guests is that I get to feed them.  So, I guess you can say that feeding people is a passion of mine.

What is not my passion, however, is paying attention to little details.  Like boiling pots of noodles.  You know that old saying “A watched pot never boils”? Well, that’s pretty much my excuse for why I don’t watch a boiling pot.  Even when there is something boiling in said pot, which has in the past, reaped pretty cruddy results. For instance, in my quest to make His Majesty’s baby food, I ignored boiling water that was steaming carrots on no less than three separate occasions, each time resulting in a similar scorched outcome that had to be tossed out, and a pot that needed some serious scrubbing (and don’t even get me started on the smell– yuck!). Likewise, when Christopher was a baby, I once forgot about boiling bottles until the stench of burned plastic sparked my brain to remember that I had something on the stove.  I’m nothing if not consistent in my neglect of boiling pots.  Most of the time though, I at least remain in the room with pot boiling, and I’m learning to set timers.  I’m improving,  but often times, even when I am standing right there, I get busy making another part of the meal and the pot over boils, making a big mess on the stove.  So, when I saw this on Pinterest, I had to try it.

How have I not heard this tip before? There’s so much for me to learn in this life, I’m telling you.  The source, LeAna at A Small Snippet,  says that a wooden spoon will prevent a pot of water from boiling over.  Really, something that simple.  She even included a helpful tip in the comments section that says to place the spoon on the pot before it starts to boil, so I’m glad I read through them before I took this tip for a test drive, but other than that fact, I expected it to be a pretty simple experiment.

You take your wooden spoon     

and you place it over your pot.  Like this:    

Then you boil your water, and you wait.

And wait.

And… wait.

And this is when I realized that while a watched pot does in fact eventually boil, it does not, and in fact, stubbornly WILL NOT, boil over.  I attempted this experiment 3 times, back to back. Once with an pot of just water. Then I boiled water and made noodles.  And then, when that didn’t work, I boiled a pot of water with a few tablespoons of cornstarch in it. On NONE of those occasions, with me standing by, camera in hand ready to test this tip, did the pot even come close to boiling over.  Talk about an anomaly.  And no, that doesn’t mean the experiment proves that a wooden spoon will keep a pot from boiling over.  It just means that yours truly couldn’t get the darn pot to even come close enough to boiling over to test the effectiveness of this method.  You want to talk about frustrating?!

After that 3rd attempt, I gave up with the physical potion of this “study”.  But I certainly didn’t give up thinking about why it should work.  You see, the wooden spoon trick might not be magic, but it definitely can be explained by science.

Yep, that’s right, as with the majority of cooking, it all boils down (haha!) to science.  And pretty basic science, which is another reason that I am shaking my head at myself for not thinking of this basic idea years ago. As water boils, the cooler water goes to the bottom of the pan to be heated up, as the hot water simultaneously rises to the top (think about basements being cooler than attics, since heat rises and cold falls).  As the hot (boiling) water rises to the top of the pot and possibly threatens to boil over, it will first come in contact with the wooden spoon.   Wood is not a good heat conductor, so the spoon stays cooler than the boiling water, even though it is being bathed in the steam as it sits atop the pot.  When the boiling water touches the spoon, there is a small heat transfer that cools the water at the top of the pan just enough to push it back down again, preventing it from boiling over.  It won’t work forever, because eventually all of the water will still reach the same temperature, but it will give you that extra few seconds for your eyes and brain to communicate so that you can turn the heat on your pot down, give it a stir, whatever, hopefully preventing any actual messes.  (Or, just stare at the pot expectedly.  If you’re me, it will boil perfectly, and never come close to boiling over.  What the heck, go figure…)

I figure that I lost nothing by attempting this little experiment, because at the very least, my curiosity and stubborn nature will have me keeping an eye on my boiling pots when I prepare meals in the future, testing both the spoon and my newfound superstition that a watched pot will not boil over.  And if that diligent attention alone works to prevent me from having to use a razor blade to clean my stove in the future, well, I guess the end result is all the same.