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Did You Know You Can Make Wine at Home?

September 25, 2017
You Can Make Wine at Home

Did you know you make wine at home? And for a fraction of the cost of the box wine you’ve been choking down? I’ve been sitting on this information for several months now. I’ve meant to share it with you, but damn it’s been a busy summer. 

I started making wine this summer and it’s some of the most fun I’ve had in a long time. I caught on bit on Kare11 back in the spring. The hook was “if you can open a bag, you can make wine”. 

I can open a bag!

Winemaking has changed a lot since my parents attempted in back in the late 70s. I really don’t know what they did, where they got the grapes or if they had to stomp them. All I know is that in the early 80s my brother and a couple of his friends found that jug of wine that had been sitting in the basement, forgotten, and proceeded to drink it. 

It was nasty, that’s all I remember. Though that didn’t stop anyone from drinking it.

You Can Make Wine at Home

Now, it’s so much easier to make decent wine and you don’t have to stomp the grapes yourself. It’s not quite as easy as opening a bag (and the bag can be a little challenging to open, I have to use a huge ass wrench to get the cap off), but it’s a pretty uncomplicated process.

I wasn’t sure how the whole process would work so I started small. My first batch of wine was only one gallon. I did this because I figured if I screwed it up I wouldn’t be out that much. It’s hard to screw it up and it’s just as easy to make 6 gallons of wine (that’s 30 bottles!) as it is to make 1 gallon (about 5 bottles). If you like wine, just take the plunge and start with 6 gallon wine kits. You’ll thank me later, I promise.

I started with Master Vintner’s Small Batch Chardonnay. I’m not a huge fan of Chardonnay, but I can’t stand Moscato and they didn’t have a small batch of Sauvignon Blanc. So Chardonnay it was. The nice thing about these wine recipe kits is that they can be completed and ready to drink in about 5 weeks.

The directions were a little complicated, but only because I hadn’t made wine before, and they included really crappy directions. I later learned this was a mistake they were aware of and had corrected, I must have gotten an older kit. No big deal, there are plenty of YouTube videos you can watch to learn how to make wine.

Before you can crack open that bag of juice and start fermenting it, you’re going to need some equipment. Master Vintner sells complete wine making kits, these are a great way to start because you have all that you need (hopefully, I had a kit that was missing a few key items but the store was happy to provide them to me free of charge). The kits contain the carboy in your choice of plastic or glass, cleaning solution, sanitizing solution, the grape juice, yeast, wine thief, hydrometer and everything else I’m forgetting. 

Glass or Plastic?

6 gallons of liquid is heavy, the glass carboy weighs about 15 pounds when it is empty. Filled, you’re looking at about 60 pounds that you’re going to have to haul around. That’s like lifting a 10 year old. If you’ve got the upper body strength, then go for it. If not, stick with the plastic. The downside of the plastic is that it can get scratched and bacteria get settle into the scratches. You’ll be replacing your plastic sooner and more frequently than glass, something to keep in mind. You won’t mind because that means you get to go to the brewery supply store.

I live in the land of craft brew and micro brews. Every male in this state over the age of 21 is making their own beer. Some with more success than others. If you’re a single woman you’ll love the brewing supply stores. I don’t know if it’s because they don’t see a lot of straight single women in these places or if they just think we’re awesome because we like to make alcohol too, but I get asked out every time I go to one of these stores. It’s better than online dating.

My first gallon of Chardonnay didn’t turn out that well. I racked it wrong and got all kinds of sediment in the bottom of the bottle. It tasted fine, and I drank it, but it looked like crap. I didn’t have an auto siphon so I got all the gunk in it. The Fermtech Auto-Siphon is a lifesaver. For $11 it’s well worth it. 

1 Gallon of 6 Gallons?

It’s just as easy to make 6 gallons of wine as it is to make one gallon of wine, so you may as well make 6, you’re going to drink it anyway. You’ll also save a lot of money. If you make one gallon your wine ends up costing about $5 per bottle (including the bottles and corks). If you make 6 gallons it’s about $2.25 per bottle (Including bottles and corks). When you’re talking about 30 bottles of wine, that’s a significant savings. How do they compare to the wine you’d buy in the liquor store? So much better. The $2.25 bottle of wine you just made will taste as good or better than a $10 – $15 bottle of wine. Let it age a few months and you’ll have an even better bottle.

 

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It’s Prime Day!!!

July 10, 2017

It’s Prime Day, that’s just like Christmas in July, or Hanukkah, or Kwanzaa or having your birthday in July if you normally don’t have a birthday in July. Prime Day is an awesome way to get amazing deals on all the things you want. Amazon offers huge discounts on all the cool stuff, the kinky stuff, the toys we want for our pets, and on the stuff we need

The deal is, you have to be a Prime member to get the deals. Sign up for your Amazon Prime 30-Day Free Trial now!! That’s right, you can try it free for 30 days and if you don’t like it you can quit and never pay a dime!! Already have Prime but want to give it as a gift to someone else? You can Give the Gift of Amazon Prime too!

What do you get with Prime? All kinds of great things, but mostly you get the opportunity to do a little drunk online shopping without much guilt the next morning because on Prime Day, everything is discounted.

Here’s what you get with Prime – free shipping on everything you order. Not just that but usually two day free shipping. You can also get free same day shipping in eligible zip codes. Prime Now offers FREE two hour delivery for things you just have to have right now – you know like this and this. You also get Amazon Restaurants – they’ll bring the food to you!, Prime Video – unlimited streaming of movies and videos, Prime Music – unlimited streaming of millions of songs, Prime Photos – unlimited photo storage. Got a Kindle? You get stuff for that too!  And, there’s so much more! You can see all of what you get with Prime here

So what are some great things to get on Prime Day? 

If you don’t have one already get an Instant Pot. You won’t regret it, I promise. Go get one now, you’ll thank me. 

Books:

the princess saves herself in this one

Adulthood is a Myth: A Sarah’s Scribbles Collection

Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End

You Are a Badass at Making Money: Master the Mindset of Wealth

You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life

Get Your Sh*t Together: How to Stop Worrying About What You Should Do So You Can Finish What You Need to Do and Start Doing What You Want to Do (A No F*cks Given Guide)

The Big Life: Embrace the Mess, Work Your Side Hustle, Find a Monumental Relationship, and Become the Badass Babe You Were Meant to Be

The Warrior Goddess Way: Claiming the Woman You Are Destined to Be

The Secret Life of Fat: The Science Behind the Body’s Least Understood Organ and What It Means for You

Beauty:

The Lux Puff

100% Natural Arabica Coffee Scrub

Flat Top Kabuki Brush

Bath Bombs Gift Set

For the Home:

Amazon Echo – Black

Wood Grain Essential Oil Diffuser

Smart Plug Outlets

Amcrest Full-HD Video Security System

And that’s just a sample of the fun stuff you can shop for late at night after a few too many glasses of wine. I’m speaking theoretically, of course. I’ve never been so irresponsible. 

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Wizard World Comic Con – Minneapolis – Ticket Giveaway!

May 1, 2017
Wizard World Comic Con Minneapolis

Wizard World Comic Con is this weekend at the Minneapolis Convention Center!

When: May 5th – 7th, 2017
Where: Minneapolis Convention Center
1301 2nd Ave S
Minneapolis, MN 55403

Get your geek on and see Peter Capaldi and Jenna Coleman of Doctor Who, Nichelle Nichols from the original Star Trek, John Barrowman of Arrow and Torchwood and – sound the trumpets – Charlie Sheen from Platoon, Two and Half Men and the most epic, tiger blood meltdown of all times!!!

Oh, and my personal favorites – Micky Dolenz and Peter Tork from the Monkees. Seriously this is a 1st grade dream come true!

And I have two pairs of tickets to giveaway!!!

Sheen and Capaldi will attend Saturday and Sunday, May 6-7; Barrowman and Nichols are scheduled for all three days; Coleman will appear on Saturday only.

Wizard World Comic Con Minneapolis will also feature non-stop live entertainment throughout extended evening hours, Kick off the Con and After Parties, gaming, exclusive Q&A sessions with top celebrities, movie screenings hosted by stars and directors and more.

Other celebrities scheduled to attend Wizard World Comic Con Minneapolis include the “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” trio of James Marsters, Charisma Carpenter and Nicholas Brendon (“Buffy the Vampire Slayer”), Barry Bostwick (Rocky Horror Picture Show, “Spin City”), Marina Sirtis (“Star Trek: The Next Generation”), and Gregg Sulkin (“Wizards of Waverly Place,” “Pretty Little Liars”).

Wizard World is the home of the most creative comics artists and writers on the planet. Artist Alley in Minneapolis will feature Guy Gilchrist (“Muppets,” “The Pink Panther”), Jordan Gibson (“Howard the Duck,” “Where is Jake Ellis?”), Phil Ortiz (“The Simpsons,” “Muppet Babies”), Danny Fingeroth (“Spider-Man,” “Iron Man”), Victor Dandridge (“The Samaritan,” “Origins Unknown”), Jim Mehsling (“Star Wars” fan films, “Into the Void”), Bob Camp (“Ren and Stimpy,” “G.I. Joe”), Clinton Hobart (licensed Disney fine artist), Victor Dandridge (“The Samaritan”) and many others.

Win Tickets!!

I’ve got two pair of tickets to give away.

If you’d like to win a pair of tickets (plus 2 kids 10 and under!!) simply leave a comment telling me who of all the guests you’d like to see. For extra chances to win follow me on Twitter, follow me on Instagram, and follow me on Facebook.

Hope to see you there!!

 

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Let’s Talk about 13 Reasons Why

April 28, 2017
Let's talk about 13 reasons why

By now you’ve heard all the hype about the Netflix series, so let’s talk about 13 Reasons Why, shall we? This is about my 5th attempt at writing about the show, and it probably won’t be my last. 

Before we go any further **** Major Spoiler Alert**** don’t read anymore if you haven’t seen it and don’t want to know what happens.

13 Reasons Why is a Netflix series based on the Jay Asher book of the same name. It covers the themes most high schoolers, and many middle schoolers face every day – including bullying, rape and suicide. It’s graphic and the internet is losing its collective shit over it. Schools are sending notes home about it, every single newscast has covered it and you can’t surf the web without finding blog posts just like this one defending it or criticizing it. Paris Jackson is one of many people telling people not to watch it. I’m here to tell you, if you have kids, you should definitely watch it if for no other reason to understand what kids go through on a regular basis. 

While I have some issues with the series, I think it is always a good thing to talk about the stuff that scares us. Bullying, rape and suicide as well as teen drug and alcohol use, is scary stuff, but if we want to help kids navigate these complicated thing we’re going to need to have a dialog. 13 Reasons Why gets that dialog started.

Suicide is Never Painless

You can read a much better synopsis here, but in a nutshell the story is about a Clay Jensen, a shy high schooler who is given a shoebox of numbered cassette tapes created by Hannah Baker, a friend of Clay’s who recently killed herself. Each tape details one of the 13 reasons why she killed herself and those responsible have listened to the tapes and have been instructed to pass them along to the next person on the tape, which is why Clay has them. According to Hannah, he is partly responsible for her suicide.

Clay is responsible for her death in that he didn’t come out and tell her how he felt about her. His is one of the lesser reasons why she killed herself, though it torments Clay that he didn’t do more. Other people on the tape have teased her, bullied her, humiliated her, stabbed her in the back, and finally raped her. She even includes her guidance counselor who suggests she move on after she tells him about the rape, instead of going to the authorities and having the little snot arrested. 

It is then – when the counselor lets her down – that she comes up with the plan to create the tapes and then kill herself by getting into the bathtub and slitting her wrists – depicted rather graphically in the show.

I should mention, I have not read the book. I understand it has a different flavor to it, and I suspect it doesn’t come off as flippantly as it does in the series. I loved them, but the series felt like a too long After School Special. 

Aside from how it ends – with Hannah killing herself – there is nothing in this series that I, and many of my friends, didn’t experience at that age. What happened to Jessica – raped while passed out drunk, and Hannah – overpowered and raped, is actually quite common. Now we call it date rape, but when I was growing up it was called being in the wrong place at the wrong time or asking for it. We’ve come a long way, because we’ve been willing to talk about it. So let’s keep talking about it because clearly it’s still happening.

Teenage Wasteland

I thought the depiction of teenage life was incredibly accurate. Kids drink, they take drugs, they have sex, and they do a lot of stupid things – all while parents and teachers look the other way because they don’t want to dig too deep. My book, Minnesota Nice, is about all of these issues (I’m working on publishing soon, stay tuned for more info about that).

I also thought the depiction of the aftermath of her death – how her parents react and how the kids deal with it – was pretty well done. I didn’t see any glorifying of suicide. 

My issue is with Hannah’s storyline. She’s depressed and yet she is still motivated enough to create these 13 tapes. I get that they’re a device to move the plot along, it just seemed heavy handed to me. Plenty of teenagers kill themselves each day, most do so quietly because they already feel as though they don’t matter and that no one cares. Hannah obviously thought enough people would care to listen to the tapes. Hers was the sort of suicide most teens have fantasized about – getting even, even if it means getting dead. 

Trigger Warning

Since the show has come out, many teens, teachers and parents are worried that the show is triggering and therefore shouldn’t have been made. I can’t even begin to understand that kind of reasoning. If something is triggering then it absolutely needs to be discussed. Possibly with a professional, but certainly with a parent or trusted teacher. 

I lost three friends to suicide when I was a teenager. It’s an absolutely horrible thing to experience. And yes, cluster suicides are a thing, which is why we need to bring suicide out into the light. Thinking about suicide shouldn’t be taboo – because I promise you every single teenager (and more and more middle schoolers) have thought about their own suicide. I would hazard a guess that every human that lives and breathes has at one time or another contemplated taking their own life. And yet, we make the thought of it something to be ashamed of. 

When asked on most pediatrician questionnaires if they’ve considered suicide before, most teens will lie because they fear being pushed into therapy or the psych ward for thinking about something that is actually pretty normal. I know I have. 

It Gets Better, Promise

Life is scary, people are mean, and bad things happen, but that doesn’t mean it won’t get better. It usually always gets better. And that’s the point of the series, to show how wasteful suicide is. Hannah was a smart, funny, caring, and loving young woman. She had everything to look forward to in her future, she just couldn’t see past what she was experiencing to believe it would ever get better. We need to impress upon our kids that the pressure cooker that is middle school and high school gets better. If they can just hang in there (with professional help) they will be okay. Life is always a struggle, and for some it is much worse than for others. Life is not fair, but it does get better. The more we talk about these things the less damage they can do. 

I grew up reading books like The Bell Jar, Go Ask Alice and other rather dark tales about teens descent into the abyss. Teenage years can suck for a lot of people, they did for me and many of my friends. Having those books, seeing the After School Specials, helped me feel less alone. Because if people are writing about these topics and they’re making movies and TV shows about these heavy subjects, it means someone else has experienced these shitty things and managed to not only survive, but somehow thrive.

Let’s keep talking about Thirteen Reasons Why.

 

 

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If You Want to be a Badass with Money, You Need this Book

April 27, 2017
If You Want to be a Badass with money, You Need this Book

If you want to be a badass with money, you need this book by Jen Sincero. By now you’ve heard of the book You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life also by Jen. It’s bright yellow and stares back at you from most best seller lists – for the past several years. It’s tough to miss. If you haven’t read it you should – if you want to be a badass in all things. It’s a fantastic read and even better audio book (Try Audible and Get Two Free Audiobooks – look at me saving you money, too!) as it is read by the author. Jen Sincero is funny, witty, goofy, charming and she has some great ideas. I highly recommend it. 

I know, I’m always telling you to buy these books I haven’t even finished yet, but I can’t help it because I don’t want you to miss out on these inspiring books. I’m pumped up and I want you to be pumped up!

If You Want to be a Badass With Money, You Need this Book

Now Jen has come out with a new book – You Are a Badass at Making Money: Master the Mindset of Wealth. Even if you hate money, don’t want to make more of it and never want to have enough of it, you’ll still love and benefit from this book. 

Jen takes all the excuse we make about money and shreds them – in a really funny way. 

No matter where you are in life – a happy and secure corporate position or you’re a freelancer trying to beat the odds and actually make money – this book has some great tips for mastering the elusive and almighty dollar. 

It’s even got some great ideas about becoming more fulfilled, creative, motivated, inspired and satisfied. If you like the self-help genre and are looking for a great read, this is the book for you. If you’ve already read it you can find some other great life-changing books here

 

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Compliment Freely

April 25, 2017
compliment freely

Do you compliment freely? Which do you do more often – compliment or criticize? The consensus seems to be that we are in a hand basket on our way to hell. It doesn’t matter where you look, people jump on each other for saying or doing anything, even with the best of intentions. 

Here are just a few recent examples of companies and people that were taken to task for doing or saying the wrong thing:

  • Shea Moisture – For including white women in their latest ad campaign.
  • Pepsi – For suggesting that Kendall Jenner and Pepsi can end racism, among other issues.
  • Anything Sean Spicer says.
  • Everything President Trump says or does including breathing.

I’m not passing judgment on any of these examples or their respective backlash, but I do think we’d all do ourselves a huge favor if instead of jumping on the outrage bandwagon, we used our energy to compliment rather than criticize.

If You Can’t Say Anything Nice…

My grandmother always said – “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all”. She didn’t always follow her own advice, but that’s a discussion for another time.

Have you ever received a compliment from a stranger and it seemed to instantly change your mood for the better? Not only does a compliment instantly make the receiver happy, but it also greatly boosts that person’s confidence.

Imagine a child trying to learn how to play a piece on the piano and a member of the family yells at them to stop making that racket. Will the child look forward to piano practice or will they dread it and eventually give up? 

Learning anything new is difficult, in fact to master something it is suggested it takes at least 10k hours. That’s a lot of sucking at something until you “get” it.

And in those 10k hours of sucking at something, there’s an abundance of people willing to tell you how much you suck.

We Become what we Believe

When I was around 18 years old I picked up my brother from the University of Minnesota. It was late in the afternoon and I had my parents new beagle puppy in the car with me. I think I had taken the puppy to get shots. I only remember the puppy being in the car because it was then that we discovered he had motion sickness. Anyway, I rarely drove with my brother. If we were going somewhere together he was going to drive. However, it was late in the afternoon, the campus was busy and I didn’t want to park so pretty much I agreed to arrive at a specific place at a specific time and he jumped in the car while it was basically still moving. There wasn’t time to switch drivers.

As we were crossing the bridge another car swerved over, obviously I was in his blind spot, and would have hit us if I hadn’t reacted quickly and swerved out of his way. 

I executed the move flawlessly. I know this because my brother actually said I did some great driving. 

He was impressed.

It was luck. Thankfully, there was just enough room on the other side of me to swerve – there was no one in the other lane. 

I don’t mean to minimize my skills behind the wheel, but I had several accidents under my belt. It was luck combined with keeping a cool head – something I was not known for.

Because my brother, about the only person in my life who I looked up to, said I was a good driver, I believed it. In fact, since that time I have only been in two other accidents. Neither of which were my fault. 

I am confident when I drive and consider myself a very good driver. Of course, I’ve probably done 10k hours worth of driving since that moment on the bridge with the sick puppy in the back seat.  Make no mistake, there is no doubt in my mind that being told by someone I thought highly of that I was a good driver helped to make me a good driver. 

We Believe what we Become

On the other hand, my brother used to call me “Post Toasties”. To this day I don’t know why he nick named me after a breakfast cereal. I only know it wasn’t a good nick name. It was not a term of endearment. I know this because he and his friends all laughed whenever he called me “Post Toasties”. They may have been laughing because that’s what big brothers and their friends do when teasing little sisters. However, I was a child and didn’t understand that sometimes kids do things without thinking too much about why they are doing them.

In my mind it was simply another way for him to call me “fat”, without my parents finding out. I jumped to that conclusion all by myself. It fit perfectly with what I had been told my grandmother, children at school and was seeing in the teen magazines I was devouring along with the Twinkies and PopTarts. I take full responsibility for the eating disorder I cultivated during those years, and I doubt a compliment would have been enough to prevent it from taking root, but it might have given me pause if someone had given me one.

Compliment Freely

Words we choose carry so much power. We can either uplift or we can tear down. Lately it seems, all we do is tear each other down.

Instead of criticizing try to compliment. If that isn’t possible – and let’s face it, it isn’t always possible – just remember you don’t have to say anything. 

Compliment freely. You could be the difference between someone’s success or failure. A few small words can make all the difference in the world. So choose them wisely. 

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Thanks President Trump

April 3, 2017
record albums from the 80s

Thanks President Trump. Because of you, I’ve successfully tuned out. Since 9/11 I’ve been plugged into the news. It’s either been on in the background or I’ve checked multiple sites throughout the day to see what’s going on. I read all the news sites, and spent a fair amount of time on opinion pieces. I clicked on the fake news and the click bait and I could get lost in the comments for hours at a time. 

Since Trump won the election, I’ve stopped all that nonsense.

It took me 16 years to figure out that reading, listening, learning, researching and having an opinion, didn’t make a damn bit of difference and it was causing me anxiety I wasn’t even aware I was experiencing. 

Think of that frog in the pot of boiling water.

After the election, and especially after the inauguration, I unplugged. I couldn’t listen to the vitriol, the mean spiritedness and the panic, anymore. People were freaking out. Either I was going to freak out with them or I was going to let go and let the elected people do their job. 

At first I was pissed off. I loved all the time I spent online on Facebook, Buzzfeed, and the news sites, and I was resentful that it had become such a horrible place to be. But unplugging had benefits I wasn’t expecting.

With all that free time I started socializing again. Like in person. I met up with friends – in real life – and did things like get some coffee or meet over drinks and laugh and laugh. I took a pottery class, a wood working class and best of all – I started listening to music again.

I even started listening to vinyl records again. 

I’m in heaven not only listening to great music on vinyl, but also finding it. Locating vinyl records isn’t an easy thing in 2017. You can’t go to Musicland or Sam Goody and pick up the latest album like you could in the 80s or 90s. Today, if you want vinyl, you have to go to a used record store to find your favorite new and classic artists. 

My weekends are spent hunting down albums from my youth – Elton John’s Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, The Cars iconic album – The Cars, Back in Black by AC/DC, and my most beloved of all -Damn the Torpedoes by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. I’m still looking for Zenyatta Mondatta by The Police, Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon, and Van Halen’s Women and Children First, among others. I haven’t had this much fun in a long time.

I’d forgotten how wonderful albums on a turntable sound, and I’m hoping my daughter discovers some of these artists and learns the joy of breaking the seal on an album for the first time and then pouring over the sleeve for the lyrics to each song. I’m hoping she learns to listen to an album cover to cover – they way they were meant to be experienced.

So thank you President Trump for helping me let go of the things I have absolutely no control over and rediscovering music. 

Now can you do something about reviving the record store?

Blogging Dumb Shit I Do Food Recipes Things I Really Like

Corned Beef and Cabbage – InstantPot vs Crockpot

March 13, 2017
corned beef and cabbage instantpot vs crockpot

This week’s smackdown is Corned Beef and Cabbage – InstantPot vs Crockpot. I love my InstantPot, I also love my Crockpot. Both are essential kitchen tools for any level of cook. My father gave me a Crockpot when I moved into my first apartment. It was a tiny little thing, big enough to make some dip in I suppose, but I made tiny little chilis and soups in it. It had no settings, you just plugged it in and it was going. The lid was plastic and has long been chewed up by one of the many pups over the years. My father got me lots of Crockpots, I’m not really sure why, but I have several, and I love each and every one of them. The one I use most however, is the one that belonged to my father. 

My dad died before InstantPot was a thing, however I am sure he would have taken to it like a fish to water. He loved using the pressure cooker, loved to explain how the stovetop version worked and was practically giddy whenever sharing the story of his mother blowing one up in the kitchen when he was a child. 

I also love Corned Beef and Cabbage. I love the saltiness of the beef, the sort of soggy yet firm texture of the cabbage. Growing up we always had it on St. Patrick’s Day and it was one of my favorite meals, even if it stank up the house.

Mostly, I love how easy the meal is to prepare. The problem with Corned Beef and Cabbage in the Crockpot (and I really don’t know any other method to prepare it) is that it takes a fair amount of forethought. You can’t just throw together a corned beef and cabbage on the fly, you need 5 or 6 hours. 

I figured there must be a faster way, and the InstantPot seemed like a surefire way to achieve a quick corned beef and cabbage. I Googled around for recipes, actually just cooking settings, and only found ones that were actually rather complicated. In all of the InstantPot recipes for corned beef and cabbage that I found it was always a two step process — cook the corned beef first, remove it from the pot, cook the cabbage.

Sure, we’re down from 6 hours to about an hour, I just really wanted something as easy as my Instant Pot Shrimp Alfredo recipe or my Cheesy Smoked Sausage Hotdish recipe. Both of those recipes take less than twenty minutes to prepare and cook, I was hoping for something similar.

And I never found it so I thought I’d just wing it. And then I though why not do a smackdown between the two? So I did. I prepared two meals using the same recipe.

Corned Beef and Cabbage – InstantPot vs Crockpot

1 Corned beef – rinsed and fat side down (I don’t know if this makes a difference)

1 Cabbage – cut into wedges and placed in vessel

1 Spice packet – many people throw these away and make their own, but that seems silly to me. Throw that packet it!

4 Carrots – sliced

I skipped the potatoes, actually, I never put potatoes in my corned beef and cabbage, is that really something people do?

I added all ingredients to each cooker and set their respective settings. For the InstantPot I set it for 55 minutes on high pressure and I used the slow release method. For the Crockpot I set it on high for 6 hours and forgot about it.

*I stopped taking photos of food inside the InstantPot, it doesn’t look appealing and serves no purpose. 

The Results

Corned Beef

Both tasted great, and they tasted the same. Both were tender and juicy. I couldn’t tell any difference between the two except for color. The InstantPot corned beef was darker. That could have just been a variation of the beef, and no reflection on the cooking. I used two different brands of beef and one had noticeably more fat. It did not change the way it tasted.

Cabbage

The cabbage also came out about the same in each vessel. This actually surprised me. I figured with 55 minutes of cooking at high pressure I might just end up with mush. That didn’t happen. The cabbage pretty much kept it’s shape. The cabbage was also a little darker in the InstantPot. 

Carrots

Here’s where there was a noticeable difference. The carrots in the InstantPot were pretty mushy. They didn’t disintegrate but they were working hard to hold their shape. The carrots from the Crockpot were actually still firm, yet tender. They also retained their individual flavor, whereas the carrots in the InstantPot just tasted like the cabbage. 

While I love the ease of making corned beef and cabbage in the InstantPot, it isn’t something I’ll probably do in the future unless I’m pressed for time. There’s something about a crockpot full of corned beef and cabbage, stinking up the house, that really makes it special.

Speaking of stinking up the house – the InstantPot was no less stinky, it just didn’t go on for so long. However, the silicon ring inside the lid of the InstantPot soaked up all those flavors. This is quite common for anything you make in the InstantPot, so it might be handy to have several on hand. 

All in all, either way works great, the InstantPot version is perfect if you have a hankering for corned beef and cabbage while driving home after a long day at work. While the Crockpot is probably better if this is a Saturday or Sunday meal extravaganza.

If you’ve had success with corned beef and cabbage in the InstantPot, I’d love to hear about it, please share in the comments.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

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Best Valentine’s Day Gifts – Ever!

February 8, 2017
Best Valentine's Day Gifts - Ever!

If you’re looking for ideas for the best Valentine’s Day gifts – ever, then you’re in luck. I’ve been writing about Valentine’s Day gifts for as long as I’ve had a blog and I know all there is to successful gift giving for this blasted holiday. 

Click here to learn about the Top 5 Worst Valentine’s Day Presents? Or click here for past Best Valentine’s Day Presents.

And if you’re considering one of those 4 foot bears you need to read Size Matters But A Hunka Love Bear Will Not Get You Laid.

“But Jen, how can you know about something like Valentine’s Day when you’re not involved with anyone and you’ve been divorced twice? Clearly, romance is not your strong suit?”

And you would be right to ponder that conundrum. Except, because I have been in so many bad relationships, I know what not to do for Valentine’s Day. Trust me, you won’t go wrong if you use this handy Valentine’s Day gift buying guide.

Here’s the thing. Most people who actually care about the gifts are either young, madly in love, trying to find love or stay in love. For everyone else, the day is sort of a non holiday. It might be a reason to drink and eat chocolate, but that could just be a Tuesday for most people.

Chocolates and wine are always good gift ideas, you simply can’t go wrong with those – unless your significant other is a diabetic or recovering alcoholic, then probably not a good idea. 

A night out is also a safe bet, usually. I don’t know you partner so ask – some people hate crowds. As far as I am concerned, a night out at a decent restaurant is a wonderful gift because I don’t have to clean, cook or clean up after the meal. And by decent I mean anyplace that serves food. I’m not that picky. The bar has been lowered for decades.

Anyway, getting back to gifts. If you’re looking for something special but won’t break the bank, doesn’t force a commitment neither of you are prepared for and is something your Valentine might actually like — read on.

Best Valentine’s Day Gifts – Ever!

InstantPot

I know, I know, in the past I have scolded you for giving appliances. I still stand by that for the most part, but the InstantPot is different. Whoever you give this to – man, woman, and everyone in between – will love it. You cannot go wrong with an InstantPot. I prefer the Instant Pot IP-DUO60 7-in-1 Multi-Functional Pressure Cooker because it makes yogurt, that’s just cool, but they have a less expensive model, the standard Instant Pot IP-LUX60 V3, and it’s awesome too. While you’re at it, get the Instant Pot Glass Lid you’ll be glad you did. 

InstantPot Cookbooks

Does your love already have an InstantPot? Probably, since everyone has been talking about them for the last couple of years. If that’s the case, you can always get them a couple InstantPot cookbooks. Here are some of my favorites:

The Instant Pot® Electric Pressure Cooker Cookbook: Easy Recipes for Fast & Healthy Meals – This is pretty much the bible of InstantPot cookbooks. It’s a great place to start if you’re new to pressure cooking and it’s got some super easy and wonderfully tasty recipes in it. The French Onion Soup is to die for!

Paleo Cooking With Your Instant Pot: 80 Incredible Gluten- and Grain-Free Recipes Made Twice as Delicious in Half the Time – I just got this one the other day because I’m doing the paleo thing again. It’s got some great recipes that are surprisingly satisfying and really easy to throw together last minute. If you’re doing paleo you’ll want to try this one out. 

Instant Pot Ultimate CookBook – 2nd Edition: The Complete Pressure Cooker Guide – Delicious and Healthy Instant Pot Recipes

Great Food Fast (Best of the Best Presents) Bob Warden’s Ultimate Pressure Cooker Recipes

Other Practical Valentine’s Day Gift ideas

Car Safety Hammer, ARCHEER 6-In-1 Emergency Rescue Kit Car Safety Hammer Seatbelt Cutter Window Breaker Auto Rescue Disaster Escape Tool, Built In Flashlight, Whistle, Magnet&Alarm Lamp

Nothing says I love you like a car hammer/window breaker device. Seriously, this thing belongs in every first aid kit, or at least vehicle safety kit. It cuts the seatbelt, breaks the window and has a built in flashlight, magnet, alarm lamp and might even make coffee. 

How to Traumatize Your Children: 7 Proven Methods to Help You Screw Up Your Kids Deliberately and with Skill – Parents of the world rejoice! Knock Knock’s bestselling How to Traumatize Your Children has been revamped with all-new totally dysfunctional illustrations. This groundbreaking instructional volume teaches you how to give your children the lifelong gifts of mental and emotional damage. Whether you employ the same ruinous techniques your parents used or try out an entirely new approach, you are bound to succeed!

Of course you just can’t go wrong with the Nintendo Entertainment System: NES Classic Edition, probably even better than the InstantPot. 

Roses are always nice. This Red Rose of Passion Bouquet (One Dozen Long Stemmed) – With Vase is sure to please.

And you can’t go wrong with chocolate in a heart shaped by from Godiva Chocolatier

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The Best Instant Pot Chili Recipe

January 29, 2017
The Best Instant Pot Chili Recipe

If you’re looking for the best Instant Pot Chili recipe, then you’ve come to the right place. Disclaimer – this is not an authentic chili, this a chili recipe that your kids, and picky mother, will eat. If you throw it on top of some spaghetti noodles you’d have a pretty decent Cincinnati chili, but that’s weird so…  

I make a killer authentic chili too, but that takes a bit more planning and specific ingredients like a nice cut of beef instead of ground beef. This chili, the best Instant Pot Chili, is something you can make with whatever is in your pantry. It is an incredibly forgiving recipe. I used ground beef but you could use ground turkey, ground chicken, diced chicken or skip the meat completely and make it vegetarian. Whatever floats your boat!

I’m listing amounts of ingredients for posterity, use however much you prefer. I love celery and I throw a ton of it in this recipe (it gives the daughter something to do since she has to pick it all out), I also like a lot of garlic and cumin. I eyeball things, rarely measure, and I suspect most of you do the same. 

If you don’t have an Instant Pot yet you can get one here. Seriously, what are you waiting for, get your shit together and get one of these incredible time saving devices! I have the Instant Pot IP-DUO60 7-in-1 Multi-Functional Pressure Cooker, 6Qt/1000W which is about $105, but they make a less expensive version too. The standard Instant Pot IP-LUX60 V3 Programmable Electric Pressure Cooker, 6Qt, 1000W (updated model) is only $79. The only difference between the two is the one I have makes yogurt. The other difference is that the $79 version is back ordered for 2-3 months while the 7 in 1 version is in stock. Wow.

The Best Instant Pot Chili Recipe

What you will need:

1 lb ground beef

3 cups chopped celery

2/3rd cups diced onion (I prefer white onion, but I only had yellow on hand)

4 cans beans (or more or less. I used mild chili beans, kidney beans and pinto beans because that’s what was in the pantry)

2 cans tomato sauce

1 can diced tomato

1 can sweet corn (drained)

Cumin, salt and pepper, chili powder to taste 

5 Hershey’s Kisses (or a small handful of chocolate chips or whatever you have on hand)

Brown the onions and ground beef in the Instant Pot on sauté. Drain fat and return to Instant Pot. Or just use the glass lid for the Instant Pot
to cover and drain. 

Dump all your ingredients into the Instant Pot, give it a stir and set the pressure cooker to Chili, or set it manually for 30 minutes at high pressure. 

Make sure the pressure valve is closed. I really can’t stress how important it is that this is closed. If you leave it open the Instant Pot will not pressurize and you will have just wasted a good 30 minutes, and will need to start over. Don’t ask how I know this.

 

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A Little Song, A Little Dance, A Little Seltzer Down Your Pants

January 28, 2017
A little song a little dance a little seltzer down your pants

This past week Mary Tyler Moore passed away. The first thing that popped into my head, upon learning of her passing, was “A little song, a little dance, a little seltzer down your pants”. That was the phrase from the eulogy of Chuckles the Clown that got Mary giggling during his funeral. If you’ve never seen it, you can see the scene here, it’s hilarious even without the context.

A Little Song, A Little Dance, A Little Seltzer Down Your Pants

I grew up watching The Mary Tyler Moore Show, The Bob Newhart Show, Maude, Rhoda, Carol Burnett and all those other fantastic shows of the 70s. I was young, 9 or 10 but I knew instinctively that the writing on all of these shows was phenomenal. It never occurred to me that I could write for a sitcom, but I learned a lot about timing and telling a joke from these shows.

The Mary Tyler Moore Show was a show my whole family watched together. Do families even do that anymore? With so many ways to consume television I think the experience has been lost.

When I was a kid the TV was commonly referred to as the Boob Tube. Parents, teachers, scholars, doctors, etc… all believed it was rotting the minds of our children. And it probably was. I know I spent a fair amount of time watching TV. From After School Specials, Saturday morning cartoons, and finally the Saturday night lineup on CBS, I probably clocked in a good 25 to 30 hours a week. I’d have logged more if we had another TV. 

Mary as a trail blazing woman didn’t impact me much. Most of the shows back then had strong female characters who didn’t take any bullshit. They were smart and self sufficient and didn’t expect anyone to take care of them. For me, that’s just the way women were. 

I was more impacted by Mary as a Minnesotan and made the trek to the IDS Center when I was about 14. A couple of friends and I took the bus to Minneapolis to hang out and ride the infamous escalator. Yeah, at 14 we just got on a bus to visit another city – unaccompanied by an adult. Do kids do that today?

Because my mother was pretty much confined to the living room couch, or what we eventually called “The Judy Room”, most of my family memories took place in front of the TV. The characters on these shows were family. 

Mary, Mr Grant, Ted, Murray, Rhoda, Bob, Carol, Maude, Archie, Edith, George and Weezie – all of them had an impact on my upbringing, but it was sitting around with my family, sharing the experience of these shows, that will stay with me forever and fondly.

So thank you Mary, and everyone else, for being part of my family.

A little song, a little dance, a little seltzer down your pants!