Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas from Skymall

We flew to New England for Christmas, amusing ourselves along the way with the Skymall magazine and some of its over-the-top items. Enjoy

The Keep your distance bug vacuum, $59.95
"Flies, bees, spiders, and other insects are suctioned by a 22,400 rpm motor, sending the insect through a one-way valve in the extension tube to an electric grid in the handle that instantly kills the pest"

And for a superb promotional video, we recommend checking the Skymall website here. "bye bye bug"

The brobdingnagian sports chair, $149.95

"Capable of accommodating a brobdingnagian, this is the portable chair that elevates your physical stature at any outdoor event. The lofty seat elevates feet well above the ground, where they’re free to dangle and sway instead of merely floundering in dirt or sand."

Finally! freedom from floundering. And for a mere $149.95

The hypnotic illumicube, $99.95

"This clear acrylic cube is filled with 64 multi-colored LEDs that systematically illuminate in 500,000 different combinations, producing a mesmerizing light show."

When all your other gadgets fail to satisfy, mesmerize yourself!

The indoor dog restroom, $99.95

"Ideal for high rise-dwelling dogs, when owners aren't home, or even just for times of harsh weather, this ingenious system uses a mat made of antimicrobial, porous artificial turf that gives off an organic scent to attract dogs, so they can be taught quickly that it is an acceptable spot for relieving themselves."

Antimicrobial + alluring organic scent: perfect, just perfect!

Box of Applause or Laughter, $24.95

"Craving a little recognition? Someone who gets your jokes? Open the Box of Applause and be greeted with the sounds of cheering and clapping from a very enthusiastic crowd. Or open the Box of Laughter to hear uproarious guffaws. Close your eyes and imagine yourself accepting that Oscar, Nobel, or Best Comedy Emmy"

Laughter and applause!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Backyard Living: Persimmons!

For us, living simply means making do and finding ways to be creative with what you already have.  We've found that in the end, we are doing so much more than just "making do", we are living a life full of abundance and satisfaction.  Here is one example involving persimmons!

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On my personal blog, I've blogged about my persimmon pecan pie and my persimmon cookies - but I hinted that we'd been doing a lot more with our persimmons than had been revealed. I've been taking pictures of our persimmon experiments for about 2 months now - but I was waiting for our Barry & Christy blog to get up and running before sharing. During that time we've also been perfecting our experiments :)

We've really enjoyed learning about and using the fuyu persimmons from our tree. And believe me, the tree is quite large and was quite laden with a bountiful harvest. We were determined to use them as much as we could. We really wanted to practice our simple living principle of using what is at hand first before buying something else - in this case, food! So we set out with great aims to experiment and creatively incorporate persimmons into our daily lives.

We read on the internet that fuyu persimmons should be eaten like apples. So we decided to cook them down like applesauce! Imagine our surprise when they began to smell and taste like sweet squash! So that's how the pumpkin/persimmon pie idea was born.

We began using the persimmons when they looked like this. However, we found out later that these are still not ripe. They tasted decent and cooked down great, but their prime comes when they turn a deep, almost reddish orange.

Like this:

Making sauce in our food strainer.

My first pie experiment. This one had tangerine slices in it! It was very yummy!

Cranberry - persimmon mixture

A mini version of our persimmon cranberry pecan pie

Making a persimmon cranberry crumble for potluck.

Our initial aim was to can all this sauce that we were making but our internet searches didn't turn up much information. I did find a few places that said that persimmons couldn't be canned because their pH was too high. Canned goods should have a pH lower than 4.6 to ensure that botulism won't grow. But we've also read in canning books that you can lower the pH of foods to a safe canning level by adding lemon juice or a powdered ascorbic acid that doesn't have a taste.

We wanted to can the sauce but because of our uncertainty, the first few batches of sauce that we made were either made into pies, cookies, or crumbles, or frozen in ziplock bags. But we hadn't given up on the canning idea quite yet. I was able to get some saliva pH testers at the health food store that went down to 4.5. We knew that if we could get it down to 4.5 with lemon juice and powdered acid, than things should be fine. The initial reading was about a 5.75. By adding a good deal of lemon juice (which we think enhances the flavor), we were able to lower it to about a 5. Then we added some Fruit Fresh, which is usualy used for keeping sliced fruit from turning brown. But it's first and second ingredients were citric acid and ascorbic acid so we figured it would work. It did! The pH came all the way down to a 4.5! Because of all the added lemon juice and the citric acid from the Fruit Fresh, it did have a bit more tang to it then I would have wished. I think next time I would go out and buy some ascorbic acid, which isn't supposed to have a taste.

So then we canned that batch - which made 3 quart jars full. I am still not certain of the validity of our approach because I've also read cautionary information about canning sauces that are too dense - such as pumpkin butter. This sauce is also quite dense and may not have heated up to the right temperature. So even though the pH has been lowered, I'm not sure I recommend others trying this method yet. I would have felt better about things had we pressure canned them but we don't have a pressure canner at this point.

Here are the cookies! And the cans of persimmon sauce behind them.

While you may not have your own persimmon tree in the backyard, the principle of this blog can still be applied in your daily life.  Whether it involves food, appliances, clothing, or any other item, using what you have on hand before buying something new is a sure-fire way to cut down on expenses, stuff, and stress.