Saturday, January 9, 2016

Comparison of Cheap Motels in Moscow, Idaho

So, sometimes I spend the night in town because I'm lazy or tired or it's icy or whatever.  It's in the budget.  The total cost so far has been less than rent each month.  We'll see if it lasts.

It has allowed me to sample 3 of the cheap motels in Moscow, Idaho.

The Royal Motor Inn
Well, it's turning into a boutique motel/hotel so it won't be cheap for that long.  In fact for no apparent reason the rate was raised on the rooms even those that haven't been upgraded by the new owners.  It is now nearly 70$/night, making it no cheaper than the other two options.

Close to downtown.  In fact, it's right downtown.
You can walk to the movies, restaurants, everything but the laundromat.
Cheap. 70$ or under
Has a fridge and microwave

No in room coffee
The light switches INSIDE the tub/shower surround seem unsafe
I could see a gap all the way around the door and the wind through said gap made it hard to keep the room remotely warm
The window blinds fall off at random causing the resident to be exposed
It's right downtown, by the bars and the highway so it's loud.
Wifi said to exist, but I have yet to successfully find/use it

It has had weekly and monthly rates but I've been told by the new management that as of March 2015 that will end.  We'll see.

The Palouse Inn (but now it's changing to a Motel 6)

Cheap. 70$ or just under.
Mediocre wifi
Off the main drag so it's quiet.
Pool, though it's outside and I've never used it so I can't speak to the quality of the pool
Guest laundry
If you eat fast food, it's right next to the motel
Coffee in the room
Continental Breakfast (don't know if this will continue as Motel 6 takes over)

Chilly rooms take forever to warm up
The laundry room was mostly out of service when I needed it
Staff varies widely in their level of competence
Rooms have parts missing, like the toilet handle
No tub
Too few outlets means that there are too many cords plugged into those that exist.

Idaho Inn
This place was rented as studio apartments so each room has a kitchenette

Good wifi
Cheap. 70$ or just under
Continental breakfast
Close to my storage unit (not a "pro" for everyone)
Lots of closet space
Iron and ironing board

RIGHT on the RR tracks so if you are upset by trains going by, that could be a challenge.  Personally I don't even hear them
Hard to get a room that doesn't require going up or down steps from the parking lot.
Wear and tear not always repaired (e.g. the black mold behind the toilet)
The fridge wasn't on when I arrived
NO literature in the room...don't know the check in/out time

Friday, December 11, 2015

Living Without a Proper Kitchen: Adventures in Microwave Cookery and Office Pantry-ing.

Living without a proper kitchen and it being winter therefore DARK by the time I get home and when I leave home, I'm not cooking much at my place.
I end up cooking at work.  We have a microwave.  So I'm learning to microwave cook.  I'm not a big fan of radiating food, but one works with what one has.  I tried to avoid it for a while but that meant the only hot meals I got some weeks were when I went to a restaurant.  That is not frugal and not terribly healthy.

I am buying organic/natural soups when possible to have a bit of a pantry stock rather than buying a meal at a time.  This is helping me get back on frugal track.

I have in the pantry (meaning a file drawer and a small portion of the work fridge) at the moment:

Almond milk (they are selling it at the Dollar Store right now...good brand, nonGMO, not sugary)
Cereal (don't normally eat this but it is organic, high fiber, no added sugar, and was 99cent for 8 servings at the Grocery Outlet)
Organic peanut butter
Natural almond butter
Chia fruit spread (like jam, but made with chia seeds instead of pectin, found on cheap sale)
Protein bars for emergency food needs
A few hazelnuts and almonds
Soup, canned and boxed, mostly organic
Salsa (mostly used as salad dressing and on eggs)
Miso paste
Coffee (pre-ground)
Tea bags and loose tea
Rolled oats, organic
A few spices
Mustard (my homemade stock because I didn't want the jars to freeze/thaw at home)
Green chilies (because they make crappy soup edible)
Fake cheese (found on sale, a rare buy)

I just finished the salad greens or I'd have that too.
Also will bring in a few zevia sodas to battle the mid-afternoon sugar cravings as needed.

So it's a serious stock of food.  I could live in the office for a couple of weeks and not lose much weight given the calorie stores.

Some meals are cold sandwiches, cereal, etc.
Main sandwiches are pbj and tuna salad which I make with my mustard instead of mayonnaise (saves buying mayonnaise and tastes better anyway).
But, I like a hot meal.  Hence eggs.  You can make OK scrambled eggs with stuff in them in the microwave.  They are a bit rubbery, but edible especially with salsa on them. I'm going to try the 2-eggs-1-banana recipe that works in a frying pan.  With the cinnamon and nutmeg from the spice stash it should be edible.

Plenty of microwaved soups.  Boring but edible.  Better when I've got an avocado to slice into them.  Those are also good in the eggs and help correct the rubbery texture.

It's fairly simple eating but not bad at all.  Other than salads and greens, I end up not eating many veggies other than things like beet soup, squash soup, and the bits in chunky soups.  I think I should work on that.  Maybe add sweet potatoes.  Or mixed veggies with a can of diced organic tomatoes and call that soup or stew...if I threw in a can of tuna it would taste awful but be very healthy.

I'm also trying to brew water kefir in the office as I have no stable-temperature area at my house for fermenting.  We'll see.  It seems to be going slowly so I'm getting impatient.

Solar cooking in the summer was one type of "limiting factor" or "learning opportunity" so I'm looking at this the same way.
I've also cooked a bit on the wood stove I use for heat and the little butane burner.  More on that anon.

Friday, December 4, 2015

10 Frugal Air Travel Tips

For the first time in YEARS I'm traveling for the holidays.   Flying. Through Minneapolis.  My mantra will be "at least it's not Chicago."  Sometimes you do these things.

Anyway.  I saw on my favorite frugal website, The Dollar Stretcher, an article titled "10 Things to Make Travel Easier" and was stunned that it was basically 10 things to BUY to make a flight or road trip more pleasant.  Uh...hello people..frugal!  NOT!  Don't buy stuff.  Repurpose and/or think ahead.

So here are 10 things I've done to make travel easier/frugaler:

1) Bring a refillable water bottle.  Buying water is for punks (nothing against punks).  I have 2 stainless steel water bottles.  I take one of them.  Bring it through security empty (because no liquids) and fill it up at a drinking fountain.  Many airport drinking fountains now have a water bottle filling station like this:
IMG_5142 filling up water bottle
If you don't have a refillable bottle for the love of all that is thrifty DO NOT BUY least not retail.  I used to travel with an enamelware cup carabinered to my backpack.  That works too though you really must take it off the carabiner to use it.  You can use an old pop bottle, the left over bottle from your purchased water.  You COULD use a mason jar but traveling with a glass jar is not the world's best idea.  Anyway, you get the picture.  Bring something to drink out of.  Then don't buy drinks.  Use the vessel you brought.

2)  Pack in a single carry on item.  EVEN if there is a free checked bag, you are going to have to wait for that and it's weight and hassle you don't need.  You can also bring a personal item like a purse, brief case, or laptop in bag on most flights.  Do check ahead.  I have a purse that goes totally flat and can jam inside my single carry on bag.  I usually carry on the backpack I use all day every day for everything.  To achieve this plan ahead and pack light.  No, even lighter.  I wear the bulkiest items which is a pain for about 2 minutes during security screening when I take off my coat, my giant sweater or hoodie, and lace up boots, revealing a hefty turtleneck or long sleeve tee-shirt, thick wool socks, and a belt.  The belt of course must come off.   Sure, the first layer gets a bit sweaty but you can take off the coat and sweater once on the plane if you must.  I usually just open up that tiny vent fan thingy in the ceiling and hope for the best.  I do remove the coat. 
In winter I usually pack, in addition to what I'm wearing 2 pairs of wool socks, jammy pants (hopefully something tatty that I want to throw out or put in the ragbag anyway...these will be abandoned at the destination), 4 pairs of undies, a bra (again, pack or wear undies and bras you want to throw out anyway, avoid the painful wedgie makers though or you'll ruin your trip), a few long sleeve t-shirts, a thin button down shirt, one more heavy overshirt like a sweatshirt or sweater.  All the clothes more or less go together and it's cheaper to grab an item at a thriftstore if an unanticipated need comes up, than to check a bag.  And of course, I pack toiletries, just a toothbrush, any meds I might be on or need like immodium, a comb, and a hairbrush.  When is the last time  you were somewhere without the possibility of getting shampoo and soap and toothpaste on arrival? Liquids are a hassle and waste space.  In the summer my clothes are usually thinner and I can sometimes jam in a pair of shoes so I can switch off.  If you pack shoes, fill them with the socks, undies and bras before putting them in.  Leave no airspace in anything.   A carry on, like nature, abhors a void.
This trip, I will want my laptop so I'll need to cram that in .  I may end up taking the carry on I got from  Rick Steve's website  rather than my backpack. Easier to get the laptop in with that one.

3) Bring a snack with you!  Seriously.  I like to carry nuts, jerky, whole fruit, and/or a boiled egg.  Jam those in the carry on.  You can do it!  You freed up all that space by stuffing the underpants in your shoes.  Nuts to not take up much room.   Also nice to mix dried fruit into the nuts.  A bit of that and some water from your bottle and you will save time, money and potential stomach distress (which will save carrying that extra pair of undies for when the airport food makes you poop your pants).  On my last flight I had locally made jerky and the other suckers in economy class were super jealous. 

4)  Use that giant sweater or hoodie you are wearing as your neck pillow.  You do not need to buy or lug around a neck pillow.  Or any stupid pillow.  Just roll up an article of clothing and brace your neck/head with it, or stuff the hood of the hoodie you are at that moment wearing under the side of your head and nap on it.

5)  Always pee an extra time before you get on the plane.  When they announce preboarding, which you won't be doing because you bought the cheap ticket, head to the turlets and pee again.  Not having go get up and flail your way through the overcrowded economy class cabin simplifies your life.  If you must you must, but do what you can to avoid it.

6) Keep your entertainment item SMALL if you must bring one.  If  you are incapable of occupying your mind without outside stimulation, bring something small.  A magazine (that you can throw out once you've read it), a book from a tiny free library to return to a different tiny free library at your destination, an ipod.  I don't know how many times I've watched people drag out enormous tomes to read or multiple items of electronics.  Meanwhile, there I am playing solitaire on my ipod, or even more likely, looking out the window or people-watching (and obviously judging) the others on the flight. 

7) Be kind to ALL airport and airline staff.  I always thank the janitors if they are cleaning an airport bathroom.  I've been a janitor.  It was like I was invisible.  People completely ignored me.  Weird.  I truly appreciate a clean airport toilet so I thank them.  Same with the flight attendants.  If you want your free cola with a gobbit of spittle or a dose of anger, by all means be a high maintenance twat.  But when it's time to put someone in the vacant exit aisle, they are going to go with the nice one, not the persnickety whiner.  Also, why make someone's day crappy?  Just no point to it.  Life is easier if you are polite.

8) At each layover, and you bought the cheap ticket so there will be at least 1, walk around.  Since you packed light, you can do this.  Get a drink.  Have a pee.  Get the  blood out of your legs before you get back in the fetal position in your economy seat.  You won't be quite as exhausted upon arrival.

9) Put your tiny carry on under the seat in front of you if at all possible.  This saves time on the way into and out of the seat.  You're more likely to catch that bad connection that saved you 100$ on the ticket.  You can jam your toes under it for a while, then rest your feet on it for a while during the flight.   You can have your coat in your lap or use it as a pillow once the flight is in the air.  Maybe practice taking it off and putting it on in the confined space of an airline seat.  Punching your seatmate in the face while getting comfy is not a way to have a pleasant trip.

10) Pee again and fill your water bottle before you leave the airport.  The taxi/bus/train/friend taking you to your final destination may get waylaid along the route in construction, a traffic jam, who knows.  If you have a full water bottle and an empty bladder, this situation won't be nearly as trying.  Hopefully you also still have a wee bit of jerky or a few nuts to share.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Making Soup

Always thrifty and usually delicious!

I had a person ask me about making broth.  He may have been thinking bone broth but I decided to go with how I make brothy soup.

Here it is:

How to make brothy soup.

You don’t have to boil bones forever to get broth.  You can, but there are other ways.  Pretty much when you boil anything you get broth.  The issue is whether it is delicious.

So, here’s a basic soup recipe that will have a nice delicious broth:

1)    Dice up an onion.  Smaller than you think you can.  Now dice it even smaller
2)    Chop up a stick of celery (if you used a big onion, use a big celery).  Now chop it smaller.
3)    Chop up a carrot or 2 (if you used a big onion, use a big carrot or two).  Chop it really small.  Then chop it smaller.  (the mix of onion, carrot and celery for soup is called “mirepoix” and pronounced “MEER-uh-pwah”)
4)    Smash some garlic.  As much as you like.
5)    Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a soup pot.  3quarts minimum size so you have room to stir.  If you want more soup, use a bigger pot.
6)    Saute’ the chopped veg and garlic low and slow.  For quite a while.  Like until the veggies are pretty mushy and the onion turns yellow/golden. If you’re in a hurry, fry it hotter.  It will be good but not as umami.
7)    Add water.  About a quart or 2. If you add boiling water, you’ll be happier but cold water will work.
8)    Add a bay leaf and any other herbs/spices you think would be nice.
9)    Add more veggies.  If you’re feeling lazy, use a bag of frozen mixed veg that you have thawed out (unless you forgot to thaw it out, in that case, add it frozen).  If you’re not feeling lazy, use the time while the onion/celery/etc mixture saute’s to clean and chop veggies.  Chop hard veggies smaller than soft veggies.  E.g. potato or sweet potato in a small size will cook in the same time as broccoli tops in a big dice.  If you want to add bok choy or spinach, wait until you are almost ready to serve the soup.  Like the last 10 minutes.
10)    If you want noodles, put those in and cook as long as the package says.  OR you can cook them separately and throw them in at the end or even put them in the bowls and put the soup over them.
11)    Eat.

To use LEFTOVER MEAT in the soup dice it up and throw it in when you put in the other veggies.
To use FRESH MEAT in the soup, chop it up and saute’ it with some oil it in the pan you want to use for the soup.  When it’s cooked, take out the meat and put it in a bowl.  Pour off all but about 2 tablespoons of the oil/grease but DO NOT scrape up any bits stuck to the bottom. Then, start with step 1 and put the meat back in when you are putting in the water and the veggies.  Scrape the crusties off the bottom of the pan as you saute’ the onion/etc and as you stir the soup.

Use any meat.  Use any veggies.  It’s all good.

If you have bones in left over chicken or turkey or whatever, throw the bones and skin in the crockpot. Add water until it is 1 inch below the top edge of the crockpot.  Put in a couple tablespoons of vinegar if you have it (it dissolves some calcium and gelatin out of the bones/skin and makes a richer broth).  If you don’t have it, don’t worry about it.  Let it cook at least overnight or all day.
Skim the scum off a few times when you think of it, but mostly just leave it alone and leave the lid on.

Take out the bones and skin and meat bits.  Pick the meat bits off and throw in a bowl.  Throw out the bones and skin.

If you chill the broth before eating it, you can lift the fat off the top when it hardens.  If you want to use it right way, throw in your veggies, herbs, and whatever else you want (including a saute’d onion mixture and the pan crusties from that) and the meat you picked off the carcass.  Let it all heat through for an hour or two, or for ages.  It will be even better the next day if you have leftover soup and reheat it.
If soup is bland, add a teaspoon of lemon juice or fancy vinegar when you serve it up in a bowl.  It will do wonders.

If you want to make soup in a crockpot and not dirty a pan on the stove frying the veggies, just throw them in the crockpot. It will work.  You can chop them bigger for the crockpot because you’ll be cooking them for ages. Throw in everything but greens/spinach/noodles right at the beginning.  Put those in 30 minutes or so before you are ready to eat.  I prefer not to put raw meat in the crockpot, but other people do it and they don’t die.  It just doesn’t taste as yummy as fried or left over meat. 

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Learning to Make Baskets!

This took me about 7 hours.

I still need to put some buckskin around the top and then voila!  Finished basket.  The social norm in my community is to give away your first item (first harvest, first craft work, first whatever) (not first born though).  I have someone in mind already but am taking orders from family for xmas 2020!!

Friday, October 23, 2015

TV....I REALLY really don't get it

I admit I like the Daily Show, the Nightly Show and Last Week Tonight and I watch them on the internet.  What I don't get anymore is how people pay for TV and just have it on all the time.

This always comes up for me when I"m at a hotel.  There IS a TV so I turn it on.  Then I surf and surf and surf.  And it's all crap. Crap crap crap.  At the moment I'm stuck with "Say Yes to the Dress" as the least offensive thing on.  "Reality" shows are the least "real" things I've seen.  I. Don't. Get. It.

Enough.  Others are welcome to spend money on TV if it brings them joy or they want to or whatever.  But for me, I don't think I'll ever do it again.  I'm going to stick with my no TVchoice and keep watching the occassional DVD movie or TV series from the library.  Free and I have to turn them back in so I don't just sit there staring which I would TOTALLY do if I had TV.