Fried Mac and Cheese on a Stick

17 Aug
fried mac and cheese

The finished product, fried and on a stick

Okay, friends. I’m posting my STATE FAIR WEEK celebration-makings in a meal-type order. You’ve probably already seen my DIY Fried Pickles, which of course were the appetizer. (Of course.)

So, after you try the pickles and walk around a lot and perhaps take a spin on the Ferris wheel and maybe brave the line to see the butter cow, which puts you in a dairy mood, you might find yourself kind of hungry again. So, what do you eat?

Macaroni and cheese on a stick. It’s the second course of our State Fair Extravaganza!

Challenge: DIY Mac and Cheese on a Stick

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DIY Fried Pickles

16 Aug
fried pickles

Huzzah for fried pickles!

It’s that time: IOWA STATE FAIR WEEK!

Whoot! And to celebrate (well, to celebrate in a way OTHER than actually going to the fair, which I sadly may not have a chance to do this year), I made a veritable litany of fried and on-a-stick foods, DIY versions of what’s sold at the fair. My waistline may never forgive me, but my taste buds  just sent me a dozen roses. Yay.

So really, to get the best feel for this, let’s pretend we’re at the state fair. You with me? You just got here, you’ve seen the super-huge bull and your favorite breed of horse (or chicken, if you’re Rob) and now you’re walking along, counting the number of fanny packs you see, and your nose detects the scent of something… tangy, yes, it’s tangy and also definitely fried. It smells delicious. You wander over to the vendor’s stand and find out that it’s fried pickles! Let the eating begin.

Challenge: DIY Fried Pickles

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State Fair Week is Nigh

9 Aug
crowd at the state fair

I'm evidently not the only one who loves the Iowa State Fair! (Photo courtesy of the Iowa State Fair)

Dear and Lovely Readers,

First, an apology. I have been somewhat remiss in my blogging duties of late, largely because my life has become consumed with real estate issues (buying a house and moving into it, and renting out our existing house). The bad news? I’m missing DIY or Buy analysis posts. (It’s hard to type when you’re covered in paint.) The good news? I have DOZENS of posts-in-the-making. So, please forgive me and bear with me.

And to reward your patience (and give myself a much-needed mental break), I’ve deemed next week STATE FAIR WEEK on this here blog! Yes, the Iowa State Fair begins on Thursday and runs through August 21st, and it is one of my favorite things about Iowa. There’s the world’s largest pig (which is a wonder, but also makes me a little sad, because they always look so hot and uncomfortable) and the horse stables, and the giant cow fashioned entirely out of butter, and the photography displays, and the cake-making competitions, and the concerts and the midway and, oh, the food.

corn dog stand

The Ultimate Fair Indulgence: Hot dogs, wrapped in corn batter and fried. (Photo courtesy of the Iowa State Fair)

THE FOOD. State Fair food. I love State Fair Food. So, we’re totally making it.

Grandma Vi gave Rob and I a mini-fryer not too long ago. This little gadget hasn’t been excessively used, but that’s about to change. Because State Fair Week is all about the frying, baby. I’m going to attempt to make, at home:

  • Fried Pickles (not on a stick)
  • Corn Dogs (on a stick)
  • Fried Twinkies (maybe on a stick)
  • Mac & Cheese On a Stick (on a stick)

It will be fried. It will be a grand homage to our beloved State Fair. And it will not have any of my traditional analysis. Because, let’s be realistic: This stuff is terrible for you no matter where/when you get it, it’s always more expensive at the fair, and I won’t be able to do a straight side-by-side taste comparison. (Unless I can figure out a way to smuggle my own mac ’n’ cheese on a stick into the fair, which isn’t entirely outside the realm of possibility.)

Anyway, the regular stuff will pick back up with the Aug. 23rd post – I promise. But I’m going to take a week to indulge in epic amounts of food experimentation and goofiness. Please join me! And, if you have any special I-want-to-see-it-made requests, let me know in the comments. I’m easily swayed.

(Super thanks to the Iowa State Fair for the lovely photos.)

Tuesday Challenge: Window Screen Repair

26 Jul

spline roller

(This is a Phifer spline roller, available at Lowes.)

If this post had a subtitle it would be: Or, Should You Buy Those Little Tools That Won’t Get Used After This One Project Is Over?

In case you’re wondering, a spline roller is just such a tool. A cheap tool with one use and one use only: To put spline into place as you repair a window screen. Now, I have been alive for 29 years, and this is the first time I’ve ever had use for a spline roller (or a window screen replacement tutorial). If this is the start of a trend, I won’t need a spline roller again until… 2040.

So here’s the story: Casa Glazebrook is on a get-things-done-around-the-house tear. And one of the things that we got done recently was replacing a broken screen on the door of our screened-in porch. And that required spline, a piece of thick rubber string, to be carefully placed. The spline is what holds the screen on the door, using the super-awesome magic of friction. (Also known as “being wedged into place really, really tight.”)

I must admit, I kind of jumped into this screen-fixing problem in a rather random and unplanned manner. We had screen. And spline. I had time to kill between applications of primer and paint. And I had once (a few years ago) read an article about how to replace a screen, and the article said DIY was totally easy. So I just went ahead and got started. Then, after I had disassembled everything, I decided that maybe a refresher course was in order, and stopped to watch a video, and thus learned about the magic of spline rollers.

Now, I had two options: Stop and go buy a spline roller, or just make something lying around the house work.

I decided to start with option B: Make Something Else Work. Thus was born today’s challenge.

 Challenge: Spline Roller

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Dishwasher Detergent

19 Jul
Dishwasher degergent

The best detergent ever?

We’ve been having this sort of running conversation in our house over the past few weeks:

Rob: Hey, will you add dishwasher detergent to the things-we-need-at-the-store list? We’re almost out.

Me: No way, I’m going to make some! I have the recipe and everything.

Rob: Oh, good idea. Can’t wait to try it.

{time passes}

Rob: Hey, it looks like we’re almost out of dishwasher detergent. Were you going to make some, or should I just buy it?

Me: Oh, I forgot about that. No, don’t buy it – I’ll make it! Totally.

{time passes}

Rob: Um… I think this is the last load we can do here. How about that dishwasher detergent?

Me: Oh, yeah. Detergent. I was going to do that, wasn’t I?

See, the problem is, that I HATE doing the dishes. With a passion. I’m not good at it (mostly because I don’t want to be doing it) and, you know… I don’t want to be doing it. It doesn’t matter if it’s loading our (teeny, tiny, ineffective) dishwasher or hand-washing dishes. So, I try to spend as little time as possible thinking about dishes, and thus, I also don’t spend much time thinking about dishwasher detergent.

Until now.

Last night, I finally broke down and made a batch of dishwasher detergent. And then I (we) actually did a load of dishes! In the dishwasher! And so, now I can write authoratatively about the comparative benefits and drawbacks of dishwasher soap. Yay!

(For what it’s worth, I’ve actually spent a lot of time doing dishes. This division-of-labor things is a new venture in Casa Amanda-and-Rob.)

Challenge: Dishwasher Detergent

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3 Things To Definitely Buy (Not DIY)

12 Jul

Very obviously, I did not make these. But they look delicious!

Oh, I’ve wanted to write this post for a long time. Because as much as I believe that most things are safer/healthier/cheaper/tastier when DIY’d rather than purchased, there are just some things that I just won’t take on myself. For example:

1. Croissants. Have you ever looked at a croissant recipe? Mon dieu, those little pastries are involved. In The Joy of Cooking, the recipe takes up more than a page – and the only ingredients involved are flour, butter, milk, yeast, salt and sugar. The rest of the copy is devoted to explaining how to beat up butter, and knead dough, and refrigerate and fold and roll and refrigerate and fold and roll and refrigerate and fold and roll and refrigerate and bake. Just reading about it makes me tired. So I leave croissants to the professionals.

2. Massage. I’m a firm believer in the benefits of massage. A good, professional massage therapist can help resolve all manner of aliments: headaches, running injuries, backaches, even chronic pain. And a good portion of why they’re so effective is because they use their hands for healing. When someone touches you in a caring way, that alone can help improve your health. For example, studies have shown people who have their hand held by a friend during scary or painful medical procedures experience less pain and fear than those who don’t have a hand to hold. And that’s just one area of study – there are others, of course. And you cannot get that effect yourself. (Unless… [Insert tasteless multiple-personality joke here.]) ANYWAY. Massage is best left to a general Someone Else to get the benefits of touch, and to a massage therapist in particular to get the most effective pain relief.

3. Large-Scale Electrical Work. Last year, Rob and I refinished our basement. Well, we hired someone to help us with parts of it, after we had a very long debate about DIY or buy. It was the electrical re-wiring that needed to happen (including: add 10 lights, 5 new outlets, 3 new switches, a new circuit and a new breaker) that sealed our Buy decision. Because electricity is dangerous when you don’t know what you’re doing, and sometimes even when you do. Small-scale things – putting in a new outlet, for example, or adding a light fixture – are DIY-able if you’re careful. But even when you have a good layman’s understanding of how electrical wiring works, a small mistake could mean immediate electrocution (and possible death!) or, later on, a very destructive fire. (The latter happened in my childhood home, so I speak from experience here.)

Agree? Disagree? What are the three things you absolutely won’t DIY?

(Thanks to ze_nuno for the flickr photo.)

Uses For Failed Peanut Butter

7 Jul

Remember that peanut butter that I made, that was really more like a thick peanut paste? It didn’t go to waste! It works brilliantly well in scotcharoos! (I’m not into chocolate, so these are really just peanut butter Rice Krispie treats.) Just melt it a bit and toss it in. Yum!