Monday, October 29, 2007

Mouse in the (Lake) House

Okay, the 2nd half of the summer my parents started talking about discovering mice in the Lake House. Before they left for Vegas, they captured 6 mice, 2 of which were captured the day before they left when we were up there.

So they take off on Sunday morning, we stick around do some cleaning, go to the store to buy more rodent traps, and begin setting up for my Girl's Weekend Up North. We go up the next weekend to keep setting up for my Girl's weekend and check traps...nothing! I'm thinking fabulous, they are all gone. But on the safe side, we set up a few more traps before heading out.

My Girl's weekend comes and voila, one dead mouse! Of course we thought that Miss Outdoors Mindy would manage it, but noooooo, and Alisa comes to the rescue and disposes of the mouse, trap and all. Mindy had no problem sleeping in that room since the dead mouse was gone. So when the weekend is over, additional traps are set and we leave.

3 weeks go by and Richard runs up north to check the traps and the roof leaking issue since big storms went thru the area. Nothing trapped but the little buggers ate all the goodies off the traps, tripped one, but nothing caught, and left little black reminders of their ability to thumb their nose at our attempt to terminate those little @#^&#@*!

Richard resets the traps and we all go up this weekend to get the roof project started and bring the arsenal! We have stick'em traps, Victory snap traps (since the cheapies weren't doing the job, went for the high rent versions), and the D-con Blood thickener Food yummies....peanut butter flavor of course, since they OBVIOUSLY love peanut butter.

If I only thought about taking a picture to was so funny, I laughed all the way home. I look back on the kitchen and it was like a mine field...5 D-con pellet things, 2 snap traps, 2 stick 'em traps spread out all over the kitchen floor. The floor in my parents room looked very similar. So if the little buggers outwit us this time, then I'm open for all suggestions.

Expiry Date

So, since I have rediscovered baking and cooking after so long (re: post on Zucchini), I started wondering if spices & herbs have expiration dates. I am a stickler to expiration dates! I looked at my Spice cupboard and realized I NEVER have cleaned it out in the 13 years I've lived here...just added to it...what really was in there?

New task: Attack the Spice Cupboard!
So I empty everything out. How much stuff can fit in one cupboard! Outside of the expired baking powder (Zucchini bread turned out fine) and the expired corn meal (stock requirement when married to a Southerner...when did I make Corn Bread last?), I found that none of the Spices have expiration dates. So does that mean if it's not all clumped together and petrified, it's still good? And if it was petrified, can you chip it off and still use it? Aren't most spices dried, ground up does that mean they last forever?

Questions like these is when I miss terribly Ask by which is totally useless...that's another blog in itself. So I start my discovery process by researching McCormick & French's...the main two brands of spices & herbs in my cupboard.

So at McCormick's site, I found this insightful information:


Shelf Life

ground spices

2-3 years

whole spices

3-4 years

seasoning blends

1-2 years


1-3 years


4 years, except pure vanilla, which lasts indefinitely

And at French's, I found this "nondescript" information:
How can I tell how old a spice product is?
To determine the year and month when a spice was packaged, look for a series of black numbers and letters printed on the bottom or side or the spice container. This is not the UPC code and it is usually printed directly on the container, not the label. On dry packet mixes, the numbers and letters are pressed or indented into the edge of the package. The first number indicates the year of the decade. For example, if the first number is 3, this means the product was packaged in 2003. The second letter refers to the month. "A" stands for January, "B" stands for February, "C" is for March, and so on. So, if an item was packaged in March of 2004, the code would begin with 4C. (Other numbers and letters will follow, but the first two digits indicate when the product was packaged).

What is the shelf life of most spices?

We strongly recommend replacement by the Best if Used by Date (available on some products), due to diminished flavor and visual characteristics. Spices have a long storage life -- up to 2 to 5 years, depending on the spice and whether it is in whole or ground form. A rule of thumb is that whole spices (peppercorns, whole cloves, cinnamon sticks, etc.) have the longest life, while ground spices and herbs in general are more fragile. The recommended shelf lives of some of our other products are as follows:
  • Pure and Imitation Extracts 4-6 years
  • Dromedary Box Mixes 1 year
  • Durkee Lemon Pie Filling 18 months
  • Durkee Coconut 1 year
  • Famous Sauce 1 year
  • Dec A Cake icings and gels 1 year
  • Dec A Cake sprinkles 2 years
  • Durkee or French's Sauce and Gravy dry mixes 18 months
  • Tone's Soup Base 6 months (after opening).


  • Spices and herbs will lose their color, taste and aroma over time.
  • To preserve peak flavor and color, store spices and herbs in a cool, dry place, away from exposure to bright light, heat, moisture or oxygen.
  • If possible, avoid storing spices and herbs too close to the stove, oven, dishwasher or refrigerator, where rising steam or heat can come into contact with them. Heat depreciates flavor; dampness may cause caking or clumping in the ground products.
  • Store herbs and spices in airtight containers, such as glass jars, plastic containers or tins, to protect against moisture and preserve oils that give spices rich flavor and aroma.
  • Be sure to close containers tightly after each use.

According to Type

  • The type of spice or herbs and their storage conditions determine their shelf life.
  • Whole herbs and spices last longer than their ground counterparts. For spices, such as nutmeg or allspice, the protective outer shell helps to prevent exposure to oxygen, thereby extending its freshness.
  • Refrigerate red-colored spices, such as chili powder, cayenne pepper and paprika to prevent loss of color and flavor. This is especially recommended in hot climates to guard against infestation.
  • Refrigerate or freeze oil-rich seeds, such as poppy and sesame to prevent them from getting rancid

Now, I found both sights helpful with various items...McCormicks had the better, when to TOSS list, but French's had a great how to use list (

But, reading on the history of spices, did the people in the "Good Ol' Days" really toss their spices out--or use them up--by the expiry date, or is it only recommend due to loss of flavor. And if the TOSS date is accurate...would my Zucchini bread have a more "enriched" flavor if I didn't use 10 year old kids aren't sick! And Vanilla extract...what does it really mean: indefinite I save the HUGE bottle I have from Mexico forever?

And looking at the French's information...if my label starts with a 5, should I get realistic and say that it was 1995 when I purchased it, not 2005.

Is this encouragement to TOSS, their way to have you purchase more? And if my recipe only calls for 1/2 teaspoon of they really think I'll use my whole can up in 2-3 years...maybe if I used it everyday!!!

So, as I continue my research, I tossed what I knew was bad, then separated the baking spices and cooking spices, alphabetized them and stuck them back in the out of course. So now I'm feeling a little like Julia Roberts in "Sleeping with the Enemy"....but I can at least find what I need now.

I know in the end, I will follow my expiry date paranoia and toss my spices too.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Day of Zucchini

So I venture off to Rochester's Downtown Farmer's Market....for the first time since I've lived here (13 years) to see what they have. Lo' and behold 6 BIG zucchini's for $2 (3 for $1). I'll take 'em! My plan was to make zucchini bread & oatmeal zucchini cookies for Andrew's school's Fall Arts Festival, baked goods section.

Well, I get started to realize I do not have a Zucchini Bread recipe, nor is my mom at home to pull out the best zucchini bread recipe ever from her files....reminder to self -- copy all of mom's recipes.... so I go to one of my frequented sites...All do my search. Well, they had a few listed, but I went with one called "Mom's Zucchini Bread". How could I go wrong?!

I pull out all my bowls and buy all the ingredients needed (yes the cupboards were bare), and get started on peeling and shredding my zucchini. I look down to realize I am using Pampered Chef's peeler and shredder and reflect on how many years ago I purchased them...I was prego with Andrew...and thought about if I had ever used the peeler before...probably but then again most of my meals in the past couple years were made at Dream Dinners. I do know I hadn't used the shredder since April/May 1999. I was very pregnant with Andrew, hosting an all day scrapbooking crop at my house, and I sliced my finger on the super sharp shredder that I was using for the FIRST time that day. I had to leave for the Emergency room to see if I needed stitches, which fortunately not, but I did get a tetanus shot that I still remember today and fear the next two years when I'm due for another one. Afterwards, I put the shredder in the back of the cupboard...obviously not be used again for over 8 years.

Enough digressing, I shred up two of the big zucchini's realizing I have A LOT of zucchini, more than the recipe (that makes 2 loafs) requires. So I put the apron over my head, tie it back, and start my all day project of making zucchini everything. At the end of the day, I had 8 loafs of bread, 6 mini bundt zucchini breads, and 2 whole zucchini's left...which I grilled up for dinner.

Andrew gets home from school and decides he also wants to send in Rice Krispies Treats. Well of course my mind goes towards the simple, prepackaged, on the shelf at Krogers, ready to go treats that I've purchased many snacks days over. Andrew's mind was of real Grandma makes. Okay, so in the 11 years that I have been a mother, I admit I have NEVER made Rice Krispies Treats at home. So off we go to Krogers in search of I'm not like my mom and have the ingredients already in my pantry. Well, I started to get nervous as I picked up the Rice Krispies boxes and couldn't locate the recipe and all I remember from making them as a kid was marshmellows. Finally on the Super Size box there was the recipe. Doing my Michigan Math, I calculated out how many batches I could make with the Super Size box so I can make them all and leave my cupboard bare of ingredients yet again. 3 batches of RK treats and I have about 1 cup of cereal left, but have a 1.5 bags of marshmellows....humm, I don't think my Michigan Math calculated correctly...really it was buy 4 bags for $4. Good thing my kids like eating marshmellows...they are now bouncing off the walls from all the sugar.

By the way, I tossed the idea of Oatmeal Zucchini cookies. Although they are good, I had my manufacturing system down and didn't want to interrupt production by adding a new mix to the bowl.

Robert the Bruce

Robert the Bruce: He Came, He Saw, He Conquered and led Scotland towards freedom...well my warrior's name was really Tony and he was from Albania and he came, he sawed, and he nailed my new Bruce Hardwood floors....Wood: Ash, Color: Spice.

I have been offline through this whole process as we had the Living Room, Dining Room, and Office floors was a bummer to have to unplug the computer during that time. Well it really was for one day, but it took another 3 days for the motivation to get everything back together in the plug at a time.

But the results were worth it!

Then realization hit and had to put felt on the bottom of all the furniture, that was going back into the rooms...always another task.

The kids liked the openess to practice break dancing...deja vu...wasn't that a dance that came out when I was in my teens...

Now the tasks come to picking out new base boards and getting them primed, painted, and nailed to the wall. As we joke that it will probably take the next 6 all home improvements are, there is always something else needing to be managed at the same life.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

To Paint or Not To Paint

With the first week of "Semi-Retirement" under my belt, it has felt more like a week of holiday--adding in all my "honey-do" items. As I learn my family's schedule, I too will get into the groove of things, as right now I set the alarm to remind me to pick up Andrew from school.

First on my Honey-Do list was to prep and paint the living room. Deadline for completion: 10/07/07. Goal for my project was to transform my living room from Jonquil Yellow to Michigan Sand Dune. Pulling out my Project Management skills, I outlined the steps...remove all fixtures, primer paint the Wall Art drawn by Emily when she was 5, fill all the nail holes, sand all the fillers, paint the ceiling, tape the ceiling, paint the walls, fix all the boo-boos. Once I realized it all doesn't happen in one day (my lofty dreams), I began to recruit my team for help: Emily and Richard (Andrew focused on playing outside in our 87 degree weather).

Richard prepped the walls as I began the tackle of the ceiling. Since I previously painted it Ceiling White 8 years ago, if I missed an area, no one will know....and I'm not pointing it out either. The next day it was time to attack the walls....but wait...I needed to tape the ceiling to give me that perfect edge between wall & ceiling...better call Richard to find out where the painter's tape is...okay all set, but wait...I still needed to sand the filled holes....another call to Richard to find out what sandpaper I should use. I can put together multimillion dollar deals, but lack the knowledge on sandpaper!

Finally all is ready and time to paint the walls...Emily arrived home from school just in time to help. Emily was handed the roller as I conquered the edges. All is clear! But wait...I can still see the bloody yellow! That's okay, we can eat dinner at 8:00pm....and a second coat is applied.
As I approached the final days before project deadline, I recruited Richard's help to fix all the boo-boos between the ceiling & the wall....and voila, the room is more yellow. In the future I will heed my brother's words..."Never paint a room Yellow."

The office will remain Ivory Linen and not get painted :)

Project Painting is a Green light!