What to Do with Rice. And What Not to Do with Rice.

Years ago we visited a museum–I’m pretty sure that it was the Liberty Science Center in Jersey City–and J was completely mesmerized by a rice play area. We had a whole museum to see, and all she wanted to do was play in the dried rice. So one Christmas, I made a rice play box for her.

It’s a plastic box that’s 1 foot, 4 inches wide by 1 foot, 10 inches long. I scrounged up some cups and other items, and I bought two 20-pound bags of white rice. My friends think I’m crazy because obviously it requires vacuuming, but both girls still enjoy playing in it occasionally. I think it’s a great idea for little kids as long as they’re beyond the put-everything-in-their-mouth stage. And even if they eat some, a few grains would be alright.

Anyway, what I got wrong is that I really only needed one 20-pound bag of rice. So I’ve been slowly working through the other bag of rice. For a long time. And occasionally I use it for other purposes, like when I used it to prop up my Thankful Tree.

Grandma sent a baggy full of paperwhite bulbs home with us from Kansas City. I’ve never forced paperwhites before, so I was a bit intimidated, not least because the term is so disturbingly aggressive. I read directions that told me to nestle the bulbs in stones and to make sure that the bottoms of the bulbs were in water. The directions also said that¬† the entire bulbs should not be submerged because they would begin to rot.¬† Ugh, I hate being responsible for a living thing’s well-being. Two kids, a cat, and the houseplants I already have are plenty! And in case you’re wondering, Cute W is refreshingly self-sufficient compared with most husbands.

So. . . okay. I had no nice stones for my bulbs. And I didn’t have a clear pot of any kind to guide me on the crucial water level questions. So instead, I put the bulbs into a lovely pot, and I almost completely filled the box with white rice. Because I have a supply, you see. Then I made my best guess with the water.

Days later, I had no idea how the paperwhite thing might be going, except that suddenly there was a smell. I feared that the bulbs were rotting, so I tried to pour out some of the extra water. And, oh, what a stink! A stinky, bad stink! Kind of like a cross between bad cheese and toe cheese. It turns out that the bulbs were fine, but the rice was evolving into something Profoundly Horrible.

So I sucked it up and bought some vase-filling stones at Target. But I still had the water level issue, so I looked at the pretty clear vases there, too. This was available, but I ended up buying this Pyrex set instead.

They’re definitely sprouting, but I’m still waiting to see if the paperwhites make it. Wish them luck.

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