Wednesday, August 17, 2016

My Current "Go To" Breakfast: Watchagot Frittata

As much as I hate phrases like "go to" or "close of business" or, goddess forbid, "COB" ...
this is indeed my "go to" breakfast.  I make it many days of the week.  In the microwave or on the stove or in the solar cooker.  In the solar cooker it has to be lunch or supper.

I call it:  Watchagot Frittata

Here's the recipe:
1-2 eggs, beaten up a bit

The "Stuff" is where the magic happens.

This morning the Stuff was a banana and a tablespoon of baking cocoa powder.  I mashed the banana up well, mixed in the cocoa, added the eggs straight from the shells and beat them in.  Then greased a bowl and poured this in. I put a lid on it, mostly to keep the crap from the top of the work microwave from dripping into the food while it cooked (I do wipe the microwave out, but the other 20+ people who use it do not wipe it out).  I pushed the "1 min" button.  After a minute it's only partly cooked so I mix it up a bit and put it in for another minute.  It looked pretty done but the bottom we still wet (gross) so I flipped it over and 20 more seconds.   It's somewhere between an omlette and a brownie.

I did this in the solar cooker this weekend with an added bit of baking soda and vinegar and it was even more cake like.

Other Stuff options:

Banana with a sprinkle of cinnamon and nutmeg.  Tastes more or less like banana bread but has the consistency of the center of french toast.

Chopped spinach or other greens (even dark green lettuces work well).  OK in microwave, good in a frying pan.  If you use kale or chard it's best to pre-cook a bit or used left overs.  Spinach is flimsy enough to cook right in the eggs.  Add spices if you like or it's nice topped with salsa.

Onion and greens, or garlic and greens.  Microwave or frying pan work.

Left over baked or boiled potatoes chopped and thrown in the egg.  THAT is really good.  The potatoes fry nicely in a pan, it's doable in the microwave but not nearly as good.

All of these except the banana based ones are really nice if you throw in a diced avocado.  The best spices for that are anything hot-peppery and/or cuminy.  Stuff you would put in stereotypical Mexican food.

Left over rice, quinoa, other grain.  Quinoa gets crunchy.  This is good in a frying pan, I haven't tried it in the microwave.

I find that 1 big egg can take up to 1 cups of Stuff, more if it is flimsy like spinach or precooked kale leaves.  So far, everything has been good.  Left over taco bar fixin's were especially nice, tomatoes on top after it was cooked, the rest mixed in.

I'm toying with the idea of hard fruits like apples and pears.  I think soft fruits like cherries and berries and plums would be too wet.  Might work with a tablespoon or more of flour, or even with crumbled stale bread for a bread pudding or cobble-esque effect.

Leftover pasta with not too much sloppy sauce works.  

It looks like anything that isn't terribly wet will work.  I've had some luck adding a bit of flour to soak up the soggy and mixing in an egg or 2.

FYI:  If you are cooking with a real stove, go with a metal frying pan with a metal handle, not toxic non-stick crap either, and you won't have to flip it.  You can brown the top under the broiler as long as you remember to preheat the broiler when you start frying the Watchagot Frittata.

This is an excellent way to use up leftovers without stretching them too much and ending up with even more leftovers.  This cuts food waste which is very fashionable.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Calling BS on "Health Report" from CNN

So, this is an actual headline today:

Meat-eaters may have a higher risk of death, but plants are the answer

Updated 11:16 AM ET, Mon August 1, 2016

 Yeah.  I hate to break it to you but no matter what you eat, do think, believe, feel, try, don't try, etc etc etc, your risk of death remains 100%.   You are going to die.  We are all going to die.  Everything dies.

How do "they" get away with such headlines?  I know the authors of the study meant a lower risk of death in a specific timeframe but that info does not appear in the title or the article presented here.  Why not?  Who writes this stuff?  Who is Jaqueline Howard?
Of course it's not just J. Howard.  It's a common theme in our nation's health news reporting.  What will increase or decrease your risk of death.

NOTHING.  The risk of death is always 100%.  Your risk of death in the next 10 minutes, 1 day, 1 year may be something other than 100%, no doubt lower, but overall, it is 100%.  You are going to die.

Perhaps be a decent human while you are alive.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Used Car Buying By ... Me

Obviously these are just my thoughts.  Not actual financial advice and non-binding (unlike my underwear today which are highly binding).
For many years I drove heavily used cars.  And I drove them into the ground.  I was so proud when I drove an 800$ pick up for 2 or 3 years, then drove it to the dealer to trade in (push pull or drag sale going 500$ for it!  Take that dealer!), and they crushed it into a cube.  Not even worth parts.  I probably spent 500$ on oil which ran directly out the bottom, but still, I made that puppy last.
I think it was a 1972 Ford.  Not sure.  There was an early 80s 3/4 ton van (ugh).  A 1984ish Datsun (NOT Nissan so whatever year they switched the name, that was it) 200SX.  It was junk but my dog and I were adorable driving that thing around.  Including cross country.  Then a mid-1990s Toyota Corolla, obviously.  That one paid for much of itself when it got hit with major hail.  Every body panel had dents, but the glass survived.  The insurance guy asked which garage to write the check to...uh NO, that check goes to the bank to pay of the car.  Woot woot!  
And finally, the 6000$ 1992 (or was it 1994?) Subaru Legacy Wagon.  I think it was '94.  Anyway.  I almost made money on that one.  It drove and drove and drove and drove.  Never even a timing belt.  A few brake issues etc, but nothing like a transmission or other major repair.  Hence, the current Subaru.  Much less used than the others when I got it, though showing age now as I put 30,000 miles a year on it. 
So, I've learned a bit about buying a used car over the years.
My own hope when buying a used car is to get 10,000 miles per 1000$ of car price (a dime a mile).  If I can double that I'm SUPER happy but that only happened once.  So with my current car, I paid 17000 bucks, and planned for 170000 miles...I've gotten 135000 so far with regular maintenance, no big repairs.  I try for the same money game with major repairs like with my old Corolla I needed a new transmission (thanks to crap work at a jiffy lube...I've never been back to a jiffy lube...they drained the transmission and didn't refill it...bastards).  I paid 1300 for a new tranny and had to plan for at least another 13,000 miles.  I got it but I was running on 3 cylinders by the end times and only making 25mph up hill so sometimes it was a struggle to get the cars to last.  You make compromises when you're kind of poor.  Doing that let me save cash for future car purchases.  Now I try to put about 25cents per mile driving into savings.  That goes toward repairs and the next car.  50cents per mile would be better, but isn't workable this year. 
Other car buying advice from my experiences over the years (meaning mistakes I have made):

1) Call and insurance company like Geico or even a few of them, and get an estimate on a couple of pretend car purchases BEFORE you pick a car.  I didn't realize when I got the pick up that the insurance and registration would be much higher than a car of the same value.  Oops...  And that truck was a piece of SHIT.  Big mistake.  An 800$ truck is not worth having.   But, I made it last.
2)  PAY CASH FOR A USED CAR if you can possibly do it. Insurance and interest on the loan are BIG.  If you have a car loan you have to buy comprehensive insurance rather than just liability.   Comprehensive (which will pay off the loan, NOT buy you a new car) costs a ton more.  For example, I have comprehensive right now and it's about time to drop it because the car isn't worth so much anymore.  My current 6 month premium is 440$ish.  Without comprehensive and the other "luxury" coverages (rental car etc), my 6 month premium would be 170$ish.  If you have a loan, the comprehensive is NOT optional.
3) Always take it to a mechanic before you buy it.  Get a full list of what repairs it needs and what the timeline will be.  Never just trust the dealer.  Dealers are there to sell you cars, not make your life better.  The law seems to be "buyer beware" and even if they say it has a warranty, whatever broke or whyever I wanted to take a car back was somehow excluded from the warranty and I had no time/money to sue or fight.  Most used car dealers know that.
4) I try to focus on the mechanical soundness of the vehicle and safety.  I've never worried about color or style (obviously). Once I got a cute car, but that was because it was the cheapest car for sale in town when I was desperate. With super limited funds it wasn't practical to buy the cuter car.  This is why old men have awesome cars.  They are the old men who waited to buy the cute car until they could afford it.  the ones who bought a cute car when they couldn't afford it are still driving the remains of that first car, which now looks like crap while they stand by the side of the road on their flip phone with the hood up and one wheel off.
5) Never tell a dealer how much money you have to spend or let them run a credit check before you settle on a price for the car you decide to buy.  They will use all information against you and they do car dealing all day, every day.  We normal humans just buy cars once in a while.They are better at this than us.
6) Start by looking at the cheapest crappiest car on the lot and slowly work your way up to your limit.  They might come down 10% on price on these cheap cars.  If you look at a car you would love but can't afford, you'll just be sad about what you can afford and may end up over spending.  Better to underspend and be able to  have money for a bit of joy in life than to have a shiny car you can't afford to put gas in or insure properly.
7) If possible, keep back 500$ for the first repair, which it will need because it is a used car.  If you luck out and it doesn't need a repair, then you're 500$ ahead on the next car purchase.
8) Test drive a few models before you start to really shop so you know what you're comfortable in.  That way you can make a faster deal when the time comes...but don't test drive a shiny new pick up because that will make everything else seem like crap.  Test drive cars you could actually afford.  I learned this from those "say yes to the dress" shows.  Once the bride tries on that 10,000$ dress, she blows her $2000 budget.  I now apply this to my car buying and it has helped.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

The Importance of a Wee Break

Some lovely friends needed farm sitting!  YEAY!  They get a break and I get a break.  They have land as well, but with a "real" house that is a work in progress.  They also have livestock.

While they are off, actually about 30 min drive from my place, I'm up here, 90+ min from my place, sitting at their place.  They are camping and I get to be in a house with plumbing (plumbing with parts missing, see above "work in progress"). We all get a break.

Caring for livestock, sheep, horses, dogs, chickens, and cats, just for a weekend reminds me that livestock are a lifestyle choice.  Fence, shelter, feed, water, and minding.  I think for me the "minding" component would be the toughest.  I like to travel.  I like to know that if I need/want to stay elsewhere for the night, I can.  The bees will be fine.

While I'm enjoying their house, I also get to really see what I"m missing in my home.  I'm missing having a proper kitchen.  I don't mean one with ALL the modcons, but a stove I can just turn on and cook in more than one pan would be super.  I almost have that.  I've actually used the fridge a bit, but just for fun...cold brew and some overnight oats. Convenient but not important to me (but I must say...those oats were fine, more on them later).

I'm also having a netflix binge and will be glad to get away from TV when I leave.  It's fun for a while, but I don't want/need to watch every episode of "Chopped" in a row.  I did see some inspiring documentaries, but again, I can get those from the library if I want to watch them when I'm not here. 

Getting away also let me rethink my next cabin plan. I got too tied to one idea that was making the whole plan less comfortable.  On the drive, and knowing I didn't have any work tasks with me, I was able to think back through my varied plans and go back to the best one.  The one that I drew and thought "I would love to come home to that."  It shows off the kitchen, keeps the main entry as its own event.  It makes it slightly harder to put a summer kitchen in, but not much.  The overworked recent plan madeit awkward to enter the house every time.  So, back to the other one and let my personal architect (hi Jon!) work his magic with the summer kitchen.  The older plan also makes room for the solar equipment (batteries, inverter, etc) in a utility area rather than intruding on the living room . Those need to be in a closet, batteries preferable outside so they are fully vented. The inverter makes noise and clicks and has a light.  I'm in love with the dark.  The electronic lights at the farm sitting situation, as few as there are, still impinge on the dark.  I want DARK. 

I'm glad these friends have what they like and are making it more so.  And weall respect each others' choices about what we like.  None of us would impose the choices on another of us. (same with my other friend who has a new home: Hi Ange!!!).  Her home is different and perfect for her.  What we both have in common is that we come home and say "I can't believe I get to live here."  Yeay us.

So, the "work in progress" bit.  The place I'm farm sitting is an old unarchitected home.  My friends are redoing itasthey go.  Mostly it's great, but the adhoc bathrooms need updating.  So the old homestead house now has a beautiful bath with a repainted clawfoot tub, wood tongue and groove paneling on the walls, a toto toilet (low flush, easy on the septic), and some lovely primitive benches for the soaps and towels and whatnot.  The sink isn't in yet, but the tiles are placed to be grouted into a mosaic.  Very pretty.  They found towel racks, a light fixture, and toilet paper holder made of pipe.  Looks perfect and clean and goes with the house.

I think they will appreciate my future kitchen made of old table leaves and iron shelf supports and enamelware table portions.  They like eclectic and interesting too.

Monday, June 13, 2016

If You Love Something...Set It Free

So, I was with some young people this weekend who were graduating from college and moving out of their college apartment.  Said apartment was partly furnished with things I used to own.  I fobbed the things off on them (couch, dining table and chairs, dishes, appliances, etc) when I moved out of the Plummer single-wide.  The couch I had bought (through the mail, cheap), the rest were gifts either new or pawned off on me when I set up housekeeping decades ago.

Let's trace the life of the table and chairs. 
When I was 8, my family bought a house and contents from a distant relative who'd either died or gone to the home to wait to die. 
Among the contents was a table with 4 chairs.  It was covered in ugly paint but super sturdy.  Eventually I moved out to go to college.  At some point during my thorough college career, this table and chairs came to live with me, paint stripped off.  I think it was when I was in grad school so about 1989.  I've had it until then and used it a TON.  Eventually put varnish on it (sorry Mom!  I used it without varnish for a while).  Moved it hither and yon, back and forth across the country multiple times.  All the while acquiring more dining sets.  Now that I'm smallify-ing my life, it was time for the table to find a new home.  When a young friend was getting his apartment with a girlfriend I thought "BINGO!" and helped him move, bringing along the couch and table/chairs, various plates, dishes, appliances, and etc that I no longer needed.  Don't worry...I still have several tables so if anyone else is starting up, I can donate more.

They've used it for a few years.  It's showing its age.  A leg is cracked, the chairs need to be reglued.  BUT, still a good solid oak set.  They could not move it or the couch with them. The couch was pretty well shot (cheap, mail-order, flat-pack so lasting 12 years was really good anyway).  The couch cushions were all that was left.  These went in the day they were no longer in the dumpster and we saw one a few blocks from the apartment. It had gone rogue. Perhaps trying to find the couch cushion mating area or the  burial grounds.  We don't know.

Anyway, on Sunday morning, it was the final push in the move so we set the table out by the dumpsters.  Within an hour it and the chairs were gone.  They'd found a new home and I'm sure whomever found them will enjoy them and pass on whatever portions are left when he/she is done with them or moves on.

This to me is one of the joys of a college town/neighborhood.  Things don't often go to waste.  They move on.   As we were hauling the mattress out one of the young people suggested we put it near the median where they got it.  Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Repeat.

They did move some of the art, the good blankets, and the favorite bugs bunny waffle iron.  I was honored that some of my cast offs and gifts were among the things worthy of being kept and differently honored that some of the things were passed on.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Dear Women, You Are Flawed. Love, Fashion Media / Society

Have narrow shoulders?  Here's how to look like you have broad shoulders.
Have broad shoulders?  Here's how to look like you have narrow shoulders.
Big butt? "Minimize" it.
Flat butt?  Add padding!
Big boobs?  Crush them hide them.
Tiny boobs?  Add padding!
Big thighs?  Hide them.
Small thighs? Add padding.

and on and on.

I keep wondering if these hints are like shampoo:  lather, rinse, repeat.
Do you make your wide shoulders look narrow, then add shoulder pads to broaden them up?
Then you decide you have a flat butt and add padding, which you can now minimize under your spanx.  Athletic thighs? Hide them so well they look like small thighs, then add padding.  Then hide the padding.   Then add more padding.

Eventually we'll all be wearing 3 alternating layers of padding and spandex.  Crush it in.  Push it out.  Crush it in.  Push it out.

What if we LIKE our narrow/broad shoulders?  Big/flat butt?  Big/tiny boobs?  Big/small thighs?  What if we have SOMETHING ELSE TO DO than worry about what society says we should look like and what crap media say we should do to meet that crap expectation?  Like say school, jobs, reading, staring into space?

The saddest thing I heard of late had to do with "resting bitch face."  I was talking to a younger woman, late 20s, maybe early 30s.  Anyway, a career woman with a kid and husband and home and life.  STILL she was concerned about her "resting bitch face" and told me she was "working on it."  WTF?????  WHY????  Who applied this label and why on earth would anyone worry about it?   She apparently believes that she can't even just relax without making sure her appearance, right down to her facial expression, is pleasing to some undefined audience.  Will this anonymous, probably nonexistent, audience eventually let her know that she's done it...she's conquered her resting facial expression?  Of course, if one must constantly pay attention to that sort of thing, one is not resting.  Society has convinced her to harass herself at all times to .....  to what?  No one cares.  There are no consequences for having "resting bitch face." 

And what about men who have "resting ass face"? Shouldn't they try to have a pleasant expression just in case someone, say ME, happens to glace over at them while they are resting, and think "That is not an acceptable expression, he's probably an asshole"?

This sort of thing gives me  active bitch face. 

Thursday, May 26, 2016


I'll try to stop with the bee puns, but it's just so easy (see..I didn't say "bee-asy" and I totally could have).

I have an invertebrate ecologist friend...well, his wife and I are on the radio together, and so I know him.  It's not like we hang out on Saturday nights.  Is that what friends do?  I don't know.  Can't be bothered with humans.  Too much fun with the bees.

ANYWAY (any-bee?), he came up and took some boudoir photos of the bees while I was feeding them and inspecting the hives a few weeks back.  Here are some highlights in no particular order:

 Using the hive tool (like a tiny flat crowbar) to remove a frame.  I think you can click on the photos for biggification, but I'm not sure and in trying to check that out, only some of them biggified. 

The frame.  The bees are doing a good job!

 Another Frame.  Another good job.  The black bit where the bees aren't is the foundation that is already in the frame.  It is plastic (sigh...I would like to avoid plastic but decided not to complicate my life the first year so just take it and say thank you and learn to work without foundation in the future) with a layer of beeswax on it.  The wax is imprinted with hexagons to inspire the bees to build comb.  Or to make sure they don't screw it up.

Taking out another frame.  Like my bee ensemble?  I went with just the pith helmet (which is hard plastic and doesn't fit that well) and a net veil (which is strange and exposes the back of my neck sometimes but I'll get used to wearing it), a light t-shirt (which I have swapped out for a white button down shirt (from thrift, obviously).  That shirt works better because it is huge and I can put it on over whatever else I'm wearing, and I can turn up the collar and button it tight, with my pony tail or braid inside the collar.  This is a bit gaggy, but means the veil stays down over the collar.  With the old system of t-shirt and veil, I had one bee get up inside the mesh by my face.  I chased her out but clearly she was not amused, neither was I.

The bees!  And you can see the frame feeder.  It is the black bit I'm pulling out. Fill  1/2 to 3/4 full of 1:1 sugar water until the bees have enough real nectar to survive.  Since this is a totally new hive, both hives, with no comb built upon arrival, the advice is to feed lots. Next year when the bees have the left over comb from this year, they may not need to be fed so much for so long. 

Another frame.  Nice shot Tim!  (Photographer: Tim Hatten of Invertebrate Ecology).  Shows the burr comb...those lumps.  At least I hope it's burr comb and not new queen cells.  I'd hate to have a coup my first season of bee keeping. 

And let's close with a nice close up of the bees.

No, how about a view of the beeyard as the closing shot:
Bee with more finger!  (Sorry Tim, couldn't help myself).  You can also see the gallon jug (heh heh...I said "jug") with the sugar water feed, and the yellow hive tool I forgot to pick up.  Thank goodness it's yellow or it would be lost by now.  The bees face east for the morning sun to wake them up.  I stacked those cinder blocks myself.  One of my more successful construction projects.  If you ignore how the one hive lists to one side.  You can see one of my apple trees in the background...just below the finger.  The flowers are on hawthorns.  Bees seem to love hawthorns.

Thank you VERY MUCH to Tim and his Mrs. for coming up for the photo shoot.  Nice to have a professional bugman in one's circle of acquaintances.