The fridge door

 

Rough day yesterday. 

 

And it just got rougher when kiddo came home from down the street with grandma at 8pm, and still hadn’t eaten.

 

 

So I went to the fridge, and was reaching into the back for some ham, when my hand instead hit sticky.

 

Syrup. Covering everything on the top shelf. When I’d just taken the shelves out and totally washed them and the entire inside of the fridge about a week ago.

 

Very not happy with kiddo… and of course, this had apparently been there since breakfast, and was now requiring more than just wiping to remove.

 

 

But nowhere near over yet. 

 

As when I had the door opened all of the way to get to the mess, the door suddenly fell off. Just like that… dropped down onto the floor.

 

 

This fridge is not even 3 years old yet. It had been a middle of the line kenemore model, picking only because it was the single fridge I could find in any of the major appliance selling stores that would fit under the low 1950’s build cabinets in this house. And it only fits under by less than a quarter inch. Previous owners just had their fridge in the middle of the floor space blocking cabinets. 

 

So far, one shelf has had the plastic parts holding the glass to the metal frame totally break apart, another shelf has the plastic cracked, and the plastic frame on one side of the upper drawer bent or twisted and will no longer hold the drawer. 

 

And now this. And we really aren’t that hard on this thing…. plus, there’s only two of us. How in the world would this thing stay in one piece with a large active family?

 

 

So anyway, I had a big problem on my hands. First I propped the door back into place, and asked kiddo to get the cats gathered out of my way because the fridge door broke off. So what does she do? She walks directly into the kitchen and pulls on the fridge door. GRRR. So this time instead of just dropping straight down, it not only drops but the top flies over flat… making everything start flying out of the door. Sigh. So I grabbed a dishpan that happened to have been sitting nearby and relocated door contents into that and the lower shelf.

 

So now that the door was totally away from the area, I could see a few parts on the floor. Great. So I flip the door on its side to reassemble the hinge… and come to find out that it didn’t just come undone. The entire port thing where the hinge goes into the door had stripped out of the door itself! 

 

 

Really not good. 

 

Propped the door back into place, again… debated throwing everything into a laundry basket to take to my moms, but knew hers wouldn’t have enough space to have it all fit. Did I mention yet I just went shopping today?

 

Ended up running down to her house to grab her cooler. Which I couldn’t find. And hadn’t grabbed my phone. So had to come back, call her to find out where it was, and then run back down to get it… trying to avoid extra talk with the chatty neighbor who was watering her flowers. Got most of contents of the fridge part into her big cooler and my little one… tossed a few random bags of frozen veggies in to act as ice.

 

 

Back to checking out the door… I remembered that the hinges are reversible. So that you can put them on the left, with the handles on the right, and the door opens right, or put them on the right, with handles on the left, and the doors open left.

 

And so this becomes the plan… as the port thing wasn’t used for the handles, so it wouldnt matter if it were missing if the hinge was on the other side.

 

First stop: tools. And my vice grips are mysteriously missing. As is the phillips version of the screwdriver size I need. I come up with a cheap flathead one in right size that will make do, and a set of pliers.

 

I got nowhere with the set of pliers for the bolts. So I end up in the garage, digging through a household stuff box.. finally find a cheap bike repair kit that has a thin wrench thing in the right size… and in the same box find the charger for my drill. Grab drill, get it charging, get back to fridge.

 

Got bolts loose, eventually. Got first set of screws loose without too much trouble. Got handle moved to other side with no real issues. But things were going too smoothly.

 

 

Next set of screws, the ones that held the top hinge, wouldn’t budge. At all. Grabbed drill off charger, and couldn’t find the right screw bit in the set. Sigh. 

 

Back down to moms to her shed, borrow a bit from her drill. Can’t get the padlock to go back on right in the dark, and motion lights from garage refused to kick on. Finally get it wrestled back on.

 

Get back to the fridge, and the screws still aren’t giving. Even on the slowest speed and with the best pressure I could get it, the drill just tries to jump and attempt to round the screws. Not good.

 

Go back to attempting with my cheap screwdriver… and end up bending the metal of the screwdriver. Sigh.

 

And now all three of the cats are back loose and in my way. 

 

I propped the door back into place, and in doing so discovered that changing one door is also going to require me changing the freezer door, as they share one part. Sigh. 

 

Consider just taping the door closed and leaving it to deal with in the morning, as it’s now almost 11pm. Discover that both rolls of duct tape are now missing from my toolbox as well. I’ve got to move that thing to a less reachable location. Kiddo offers me scotch tape.

 

 

Decide that since she’s up anyway, I’m going to be that bad parent who drags their kid out shopping when its nearly midnight, and run to walmart to replace the missing screwdriver. End up getting one that has the six different options, mainly because with my luck, I’d have grabbed the wrong size if I just grabbed one. Also grabbed a bag of ice for the coolers, in case luck continued.

 

Run through mcdonalds drive through to get the kid the dinner I was trying to make before the syrup before the door… though she’d grabbed some cheese and crackers out of the food stacks earlier in the mess.

 

Get home to attack again, and with a decent quality screwdriver the screws come right out.

 

 

Get the lower hinge reassembled… though one piece fits super loose and I’m not sure its supposed to. Have I mentioned yet I have no instructions for this, and my internet has been acting up the past few days?

 

Figure out that to reassemble the upper hinge, I have to have the lower freezer hinge ready to be reassembled as well. Which I hadn’t even removed yet. Remove that, which requires first removing the top one… so trying to work fast as the freezer is now standing wide open. Get the door handle switched, get the lower hinge ready so I can get the upper fridge hinge ready. 

 

Get fridge door back on and opening. 

 

Get bottom freezer hinge on. Get top one mostly on… and it refuses to line up right. Sigh. 

 

Shove previously useless pliers between the fridge door and freezer door to try to get it in right position… and finally works. 

 

 

130 in the morning now. 5 and half hours after I’d started. But its finally done and fixed. (Though I do have one random spare screw, and am missing one plastic peg that fits into one of the unused handle holes.)

 

Kiddo is still awake, as I’ve been too busy to notice really and force her to go to bed.

 

 

She comes into the kitchen, and in that attitude tone tells me “you put it back on backwards.”

 

Yes, she is still alive…. but only because my arms hurt from repeated door lifting.

Yogurt, the making of

Ok.. the long overdue post.. that disappeared on me twice as a draft for some reason. Grrr…

Anyway… yogurt, homemade, without a special yogurt maker machine.

 

You need:

1 gallon of milk (roughly 16 cups), any random supermarket milk works fine

1 cup powdered milk (only needed if you use lowfat or 2% milk vs whole, and only then for taste)

1 container supermarket yogurt (see notes below), or 1 cup of previously made yogurt, preferably room temp

all
(yes, you get pics. maybe not the most exciting pics in the world, but hey… its not really that visually exciting of a process)


kitchen stuff:

candy thermometer

large pot or pan(5 quart or bigger)

heat safe container (mason jars work great, casserole pans, even a glass bowl)

oven or thermos or towels (this makes more sense later)

 

 

Ok, first off, I almost always cut this in half… the measurements are all an even 1, so easily reduced as needed. It keeps for about 10 days to 2 weeks, roughly the same expiration as your milk normally if you are using freshly purchased milk.

 

The process:

  • Pour milk into pan, and heat to between 180 and 200 degrees, stirring constantly so it doesn’t scorch.
    You don’t want it boiling, but just under that. Some recipes said to hold it there for 10 minutes… I don’t… haven’t noticed a difference.
    200
  • If you are using powdered milk, add to the still hot milk and stir to dissolve.
  • Cool the milk back down to between 110 and 120 degrees.
    This is critical so that you don’t kill the cultures. I’m pretty sure one of my batches died because I was watching the large 125 line on my thermometer instead and got impatient. Another batch cooled a bit too far to just below 100, and it still set up, it just took longer. So err on the side of too cool. 
    You can just let it sit off the heat and stir, or let the pan float in a sink of cold water, or dump milk into a pitcher and put in fridge… whatever works for you.
    mix
  • Mix the starter yogurt with about a cup of the warm milk, and stir until smooth, then add into the pan of milk and stir well.
  • Pour into your containers, cover with lids or foil. (On mason jars I set the lids on, but leave the rings off for this part or they get hard to open later.) I usually fill them half full so I can add things to it in the same jar, but you can fill all the way.
    oven
    (half batch pictured)

 

  • Keep them undisturbed and warm (around 100 degrees) until yogurt is firm. 
    This is where there is a lot of variation on strategy between recipes. I go with having the oven preheated to 150 or 200, turning it off before putting them in, and having it done in 3-5 hours. Do not forget to turn it off, another batch died that way… but you can turn it on for a few minutes here and there to speed things up as long as you keep it low (open the oven door for a minute if you space out and let it get up to the full 150 or 200 again)   

    Some people recommend putting it into a large thermos, which I didn’t have and wouldn’t want to get thick yogurt out of anyways. Others say to wrap your container in warm towels and leave it, some then go further and put that into a cooler or turned off oven. Those usually need left overnight to finish. Some use crockpots on the lowest setting and with lid propped open a bit.
    whey

  • Yogurt is done when its mostly firm, though it will set up a bit more in the fridge. You can leave it sit longer if you want more tart yogurt.
    The liquid you may or may not have isn’t water, its whey… which is supposed to have lots of calcium and protein and nutrients and whatnot. Some say you should drink it, but even though it looks like lemonade, it smells like cottage cheese. You can also apparently make ricotta cheese out of it. We’ve just been using it to boil rice or pasta in.
  • Note: Store bought yogurt usually has some sweeteners, even in plain. So you are pretty much going to have to add something sweet, even if its just honey, unless you really like tart tasting yogurt. We usually use stevia, about 2 packets per cup of yogurt as a base, then more depending on what its being used for.

 

Important notes about texture and starter yogurt:

If your yogurt is too runny for your taste, you can place a coffee filter (or cheesecloth) into a strainer or colander above a bowl and let the yogurt drain some of the whey off, which will thicken it up pretty quickly.

It usually takes about half an hour per quart of sitting in the strainer in a bowl in the fridge, but if you leave it too long (like 3 hours or more), it will turn into yogurt cheese with a texture like cream cheese…. a different goal entirely, but not something we liked in any of the recipes we found for it.


For starter yogurt, you can use anything that says live cultures on the container, which every one I looked at in the store here did. (Some listed it in the ingredients). You can even use something that is flavored, as it will be diluted enough to not matter, but you might want to avoid ones with chunks of fruit, or stir through it with a fork first to remove most of them

The yogurt you start with makes a big difference in the texture, and a bit of difference in the flavor.

 

I used greek yogurt in the batch pictured, which has a lot of whey when its done, but tends to be thicker and has more of a tart, distinctively yogurt-y taste to it.

Yoplait normally has almost no whey at all at first, but when you stir it tends to be a lot more runny from the extra whey still incorporated, and tends to seep more why out as it sits in the fridge to be used. But it does have a more neutral flavor, and a more smooth texture.

Since the runny can be fixed a lot easier than the tart taste, we’ve usually been sticking with the yoplait and letting it drain. 

Dannon ended up about like the yoplait, but a bit less neutral flavor. Have also heard that it can sometimes have somewhat weak strains if you are using your fresh yogurt to make new yogurt repeatedly, and you may have to boost with store bought more often, but we haven’t used it enough to test this personally.

Contrast

By chance, (well, actually by location), my errands ended up taking me directly from aldi’s to whole foods.

Dramatic contrast.

But kinda got me thinking a bit.

We only really get basic items at aldis… things like eggs, produce, dry pasta (they actually have whole wheat spaghetti and rigatoni now for a buck each), and sometimes the 93% ground turkey. Honestly, because most of the non-name brand processed stuff really hasn’t been that great. (Their spaghetti o’s are in tomato sauce with no seasoning.. their potato and rice mixes taste like only salt was added… pudding wasn’t sweet.. etc)

But it kind of struck me that in some ways, a lot of the whole foods stuff is similar… just usually more intentionally, whether in the name of being healthier or being organic or preventing allergic issues. Google particular products, and it’s frequent to find “this is great, when we do this or that to it”.

But somehow, I’m more tolerant of having to add seasoning to a supposedly pre-seasoned box of quinoa than I am of a bag of supposedly pre-seasoned rice that cost less than 1/4 of the price.

 

Reduced selections (well, all the ones around here are just whole foods, not the markets… i’ve been told those have a lot more options). Customers bringing own bags.

Customers having preconceived notions of the other customers in the store and their wealth.

 

A lot more similar than I’d really noticed I guess… just catered towards totally different segments of the population. Value on natural vs value on thrift.

 

It struck me as a bit more interesting though that I saw a lot more people leaving aldis with fruit and veggies in one trip that I think I’ve ever seen leaving whole foods with something that wasn’t in a box or processed. While not organic, the aldis here had about 5 times the amount of space for fresh produce as the whole foods, which doesn’t even match the local grocery chain’s organic section of produce.

 

I found myself really wanting to ask if whole foods takes food stamps that were being used so much at aldis… just out of curiosity, but, well, I already stick out like a sore thumb being a fat chick in a health foods store, and had a child who was trying to juggle a single organic lemon (that she had begged for to turn into lemonade, which i agreed to buy only to get rid of the thought of the 3 buck organic brownie mix she previously wanted) so I really wasn’t looking to win myself any more odd points for the day.

Aren’t quinoa and zylitol common enough yet to be carried at walmart yet?

This might be a problem…

So on the way to target in the last entry, I drove past the call center where I used to work.

An 800 seat center, usually with people waiting for seats in afternoon and evening. Open till midnight all nights, some till 2 am. Open even on the holidays, even Christmas.

And there was not a single car in the parking lot at 8pm.

None.

 

No signs or anything up, no signs taken down… just nobody there.

Very very odd.

 

So I got home and googled the company. And apparently back in feb and march, they closed one of their 2 texas call centers, laying off more than 400 people, one of their overseas overflow centers laying off more than 600, and 100 from their east coast headquarters.

Not a word about the local center… but i’m not thinking prospects would be good.

 

So i suppose tomorrow i need to call and see if i get an answer and they aren’t open at night now, or if i need to be giving the national headquarters number for my previous employment verification on aps, and finding a new reference as the only numbers i had for my former manager were both at the call center.

 

Either way, I think I’m a bit relieved not to have had the stress I’m sure was involved for those still there.

Bowls and bags

In our house we have some bowls that i’ve nicknamed magic bowls.

They aren’t actually anything special at all… they are cheap gladware type clear bowls with blue lids that I bought 3 for a dollar about a year and a half ago for taking chili and soups to work for lunch. Holds about 4 cups, so gives some space for stirring and such.

But for some reason, these bowls seem to be perfect. I can’t explain it… but things that go into these bowls get eaten. Larger container of fruit gets ignored, baggies with smaller amounts of grapes get ignored… same fruit or leftovers or pudding or whatever in these bowls gets picked up and eaten.

It also happens that the bottom is flat, and the sides not slanted, so that my potato masher works just right in these bowls to mash potatoes or cauliflower or hummus or guacamole or fruit to add to yogurt.

So we use them… a lot. For everything. 

 

So I figured it was time to get more than the  we owned… because they were frequently busy in the fridge holding salad fixings, jello, fruit, and leftovers.

So I got some similar sized at walmart. And it’s not the same. Sloping sides and curves into the bottom kills the mashing use. And the lids don’t work as well. So we very rarely use them.

So the next time I was at target, I looked for them. But they were nowhere to be found.

 

So I literally decided to drive the 25 minutes or so to go to the target up by where I used to work… where I knew I had gotten the bowls after work one day… just to go get bowls.

And they had bowls. YAY!

So we are now the proud owners of 12 more of the bowls. 4 of which have already found their way into the fridge just a few hours later, and another of which walked off filled with popcorn.

I really don’t know what our thing is with these bowls… but they seem to somehow be magic. Kinda disturbing really.

 

Anyway, while at target, also found some pretty shopping bags in the dollar section. Which made me happy.

I had some older crocheted bags from when I was in college, but they were huge, and made more sense when I was toting things up 3 flights of stairs to make as few trips as possible. And they don’t keep shape, so they are kinda a mess to work with.

I’d replaced them with some craft store bags… which were pretty. but impractical. handle was attached only at the top… so we had issues almost immediately. And the fabric was too thin to prevent some rips.

So they long since got demoted to toy use… but all of the bags ive seen since then either had the same issues… or were covered in store logos/advertising… or were just plain ugly.

But these.. they had in all sorts of different colors and sizes. We got hot pink, bright turquoise, and bright purple. Very pretty. And the regular sized bags without the zippers or snaps had the handle sewn all the way down the length of the bag.

Only issue is keeping kiddo from commandeering them. She already tried to make off with one of the pink ones.

 

Bowls and bags. Random cheap things making me smile right now.

(And yes, I had to laugh when I noticed that target put all of my shopping bags into a really large plastic bag. )

Tomorrow in a while

And another week goes by.

 

This week has been a bit of a rough one.. trying to avoid falling into a funk.

 

 

I guess mostly its a feeling of restlessness, and anxiousness… that tries to turn into a helpless and hopeless feeling when I let it.

 

 

Kiddo is out of school now. I thought we’d be moved somewhere else by now.

 

 

Then came the letter that in two weeks I’m crossing from regular unemployment to extended. Which really makes no difference other than having to send in a new form… but it means I have 20 weeks left to come up with something.

 

But not really. Because in worst case scenario, that gets me to halloween. The place where I’ve done seasonal call center work during 2 previous years starts the season training classes the first part of October. So I’m almost positive I can easily get on there for a third round if I have to… which would get me to just before Christmas.

 

But still. Just a reminder of how long and drawn out this whole deal is feeling.

 

 

 

But, then the trip I want to go on next summer back to Alaska started taking reservations this week. I ended up unhappily canceling the trip last summer at the start of this whole deal… but I hadn’t counted on how crummy it was going to make me feel to realize I still don’t have things together yet, almost a year later, enough to be planning ahead for much of anything.

 

Then the thought also came to mind that most jobs usually require a year before they grant vacation time. Meaning I’d have about 6 weeks to get something going now to be able to disappear for a week then. And, really, right now that’s feeling extremely unlikely.

 

About the only solution to come to mind would be to take the lowest paying, worst job if I have to here for the next year… fast food, sales… whatever, whether I’d hate it or be awful at it… then plan towards quitting when the time comes next summer, assuming that the job market can only look better a year from now.

 

But… really, the mere thought of another year here, and in the transition mode, makes me feel like crying. And I really don’t think I’d have enough hope and/or faith left after another year to do much but curl up in a defeated ball stuck in the pointlessness.

 

So that’s out.

 

Well it is if I have my say, which I’m not sure I do.

 

 

And to top off the pile, on the heels of the last one, I got to realizing… that by the time the trip comes around, my daughter will be almost 9. Halfway to 18. And I still feel like things have never settled completely down or gotten back where they should be from the whole mess starting before she was born. Even when things were the most stable, there was still the chaos of being on second shift with dealing with daycare, and the realization that the job could only be juggled until she reached school. 

 

 

I guess I’m just feeling a bit weary, and a bit pressured… and a lot like I wish things would hurry up and snap into place, or at the very least become clear enough I have some idea what pieces are involved and vaguely how.