Saturday, November 27, 2010

DAMN IT! and Possibly a New Project

So, tried to go camping this weekend.

I had made it to Missoula on wintery but not bad roads. I turned the phone on to check messages after fueling up and Jeanne called. She'd been in the ditch! Crap. And was headed home. Fortunately she and Sadie (the dog) were fine and claim to continue to be fine. But I don't blame her.
On my way out of Plummer 2 different people warned me a of a 'big storm' headed this way...8-11 inches of snow...yada Sunday. I figured I'd be headed home MONDAY so a storm that is over SUNDAY is just about right and also the weather stations I checked all said regular winter stuff, 1-2 inches of snow and warmer temps.

But, when it came to deciding whether to winter camp alone (albeit in a cabin with a stove) I figure IF the storm did materialize, I'd be 4000 feet higher up and alone within 1 mile of where they stop keeping a road open and what if I fell on the way to the crapper and broke an ankle. I'd end up in some crap movie of the week. The kind I hate. You know. Where someone takes a stupid risk and ends up getting hurt and other people, tax payers generally, have to spend a bunch of money helping the idiot out (e.g. the family who drove on back roads in the winter because the interstate and main highways were CLOSED and ended up lost and stuck. So they LEFT THEIR VEHICLE (apparently having never read or heard anything about winter safety). The woman and a nursing baby get stuffing in a snow cave by the husband as he walks around like a moron looking for help. They hadn't packed food, blankets etc. STILL he was heralded as a hero after they were rescued at great effort and expense and much emotional trauma to themselves and their families. What I thought was, "what an asshole" and that the wife was as stupid as him for agreeing to go. I just hoped stupid skipped a generation and the kid turned out alright. Same with the guy in the movie now. He goes hiking alone in back country and tells no one where he's going. Again. Has he not read or heard ANYTHING about safety? Days later he ends up cutting his arm of with a pen knife and he's heralded as a hero. No. Stupid. Possibly with a high pain threshold but it was that or die of thirst while contemplating his own stupidity. Why would I go see a movie. I did NOT want to be in a movie like that. If I ever head out to do something terminally stupid yet manage to survive, the polite thing to do is to not mention it.

So, I turned around and headed home. I thought of getting a hotel for a night but if that supposed storm was happening, I'd be stranded at a hotel, with the hamster (no hamster sitters available) waiting out a storm and watching a very expensive organic chicken thaw and go bad (I would rather watch it rot than try to cook it in the microwave and then throw it out...though possibly I could have made a passable soup in the coffeemaker...2 cups at a time).

I spent about 9 hours on the road to get to my own trailer. On the upside, if I fall down here on the way to the crapper and break and ankle, the cats will tear through the floor and eat me before I have to face the shame of a movie of the week.

The good news was I decided to pretend I was camping for at least 24 hours. I unplugged the phone, turned off the cell, left the computer and TV off and just relaxed and read books. I spoke to no one for a full 24 hours. It was lovely. I made the meal I had planned for the cabin which, while delicious, is not as fun to cook on a regular stove as the woodstove and since I doesn't take as much effort, I didn't appreciate it as much. Still, roast organic chicken with herbs de provence and giant cloves of garlic roasted in my dutch oven, wild rice, cherry pie from the last of the home canned cherries (Sally: hope the trees are back in service soon! I'm also on the final jar of cherry jam from 2007), sourdough rolls, and I started pumpkin soup but honestly I was too full to eat it so it's waiting in the fridge and may get moved to the freezer. The only disappointment was making broth out of the chicken carcass (after stripping it of all recognizable meat for soup or something). I put it back in the dutch oven since that is where the delicious spices, roasted garlics, and pan crusties were. I simmered it for a bit and checked it. It smells amazing, but the dutch oven turned it black. I've made broth in iron pans before and it's been dark, but this looks like gun metal. Smells great, probably high in iron, but ugly. It's in the fridge in a container while I try to think of something that won't be made inedible by the color. Maybe something with black beans as the main ingredient since that will be black anyway. I was going to put some in the pumpkin soup and save the rest for chicken noodle soup. But black chicken noodle soup and god knows what color pumpkin soup...ick. Any suggestions?
Anyway, some animal will enjoy the skin and bones that are going out in the trash. I'd like to compost them but I know something would just dig them out of there too.

SO: I had all that lovely quiet time and I read a book. "Julie and Julia", like the movie. It's better than the movie! Most books are. This is more a memoir of one year, the one when the author turns 30, when she needs a new creative outlet. I think lots of people do this sort of thing, and now many put it on the web (e.g. No Impact Man, New Dress A Day, etc). Then I wondered what makes a few of these blogs take off and most just sit in the abyss. For Ms. Julie Powell (author of Julie and Julia) is that she's a funny writer and seems to be pretty honest, admitting the not so flattering bits (like meltdowns over failed eggs). No Impact Man was also pretty honest, or at least appeared so, but less funny. Both of these also talk quite a bit about how the projects they've chosen change their relationships with others and the rest of their lives. For New Dress A Day, she's gotten some fame, but hasn't talked much in the blog about specific folks. She is however a very amusing chatty-style writer.

My blog will never take off since it is an open ended project, I'm not documenting in the detail, and it is funny only intermittently. Oh well. Better keep the day job.

SO: I wanted a new project. But not for a year. I like projects and the book reminded me of that. I'm going to see how long I can go without getting groceries. The pantry list keeps reminding me of how much food I have in this house. To get ready for the thanksgiving cabin trip that never was, I needed to buy a small bag of noodles for the soup (which now won't happen), a few potatoes and an onion. I have lots of dry onion but I wanted to make potato soup (which I did Thursday night when I got home). It's easy and pretty much cooks itself so seemed a good thing to have the first night at the cabin. It was also good when I got home after the 9 hour drive to know where. It made me realize again that I have a TON of food in this house.
There are still 4 squash and now a box of quince (like an apple) in the root-cellar/front-bedroom along with some garlic. There were 5 squash but one went off and had to go in the compost. I think it froze.
ANYWAY: Given the nice variety of food and spices and oils and fats and whatnot, I'm going to see how long I can easily go without grocery shopping. I often do that at the beginning of winter and thought of it with the pantry inventory so now is the time. If people show up with elk jerky or invite me to lunch, obviously I'll accept. I'm not trying to set up some strange nazi rules that will limit my already limited social life. Just see how long that amount of food lasts in my regular life and see what I run out of first.

It was funny that as I left for the cabin, I thought of throwing in a bag of beans, bunch of rice, and some spices so that if we got stuck we'd be fine for a week. We'd stink ourselves out of the cabin, but we'd be fine. Oh well. Next time.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Well, That WASN'T Frugal!

So today I'm like totally at the radio show.
We (Sally P, Jill M, and I) start out in the production room and then 10 minutes before Peace Radio starts or so, we head into the studio, where the magic happens (or not). As usual, I wen tin early and used the wifi and got info for my movie reviews and something I wanted to report on. I had the report and another web page for the show pulled up on the laptop. When we move to the studio, I just unplug the computer from the wall outlet in one room and replug it in in the other. Well, apparently between production room and studio...separated by a thin wall, a trojan hit my computer. And I don't mean the condom.
A fake "disk scan" window popped up. The graphic was sort of "off" from the Windows defrag icon and the font was a bit off and "scanned" was spelled "scaned"....hmmm. And then, I got a warning that my hard drive was corrupted so I better click the open window and allow the defrag and that a hard drive couldn't be found and that I had no RAM. Hmmm...I checked the task manager thingy and all was well, but there was too much activity for the programs I had open. So I shut it off...and it wouldn't shut down. That's not good.
I tried again. Then I forced a shut down.

After the show I called Pam who recommended I take out the battery for a while to force the computer off and a restart. I did and more of the nonsense. I did manage to download a fresh antivirus freeware program and do a scan. This took over an hour. Then I did a scan and sure enough, trojan. That is now quarantined along with another suspicious program. I did a real defrag and another scan and so far, knock on wood, things are going OK.

Must remember to back everything up! Not clever. AND to make the "restore" disk like the computer has been trying to make me do for MONTHS. Okay... YEARS. If this goes bad before I get it backed up I'm going to have to pay for data recovery or lose my Europe photos and blog backups and all sorts of very important the black bean sweet potato chili recipe that I can find on the internet.

Anyway, I'm staying in Moscow tonight because I have an appointment tomorrow morning and we're expecting CRAP weather. First major winter driving of the year. That's not a time to be on the road. And it was already freezing rain by 4pm today. It's good to have a job. It may not seem frugal to take a hotel room for 50$ when I could drive the two ways for 20, and yet frugality is about spending money where there is value. The amount of stress this is saving me is HUGE.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Iowa Highlight Part 2

A few more photos from the MaidRite.
You can see Sher's technique of leaving the sandwich wrapped for tidiness. And Pam's balls-out-all-unwrapped-ultramessy method.

They had the chocolate pie, which is not visible in this photo. I was just shooting the classic pie display cabinet.

And below are a couple of photos of the decor and clientele.

And now for the rest of the show:
The pixie cut gal came up to us and asked if we'd tried their homemade ketchup. We said "no." She pulls a ketchup squeezy thing (see above photo) out from other the counter, whacks it down hard and a stream of ketchup shoots out at Pam! But it was really red yard stuffed in the bottle. Pam nearly jumped out of her skin.

One Iowa Highlight

I'm just back from Iowa. Called in "sick" to work today. More tired than sick and having caffeine withdrawal headache thanks Sher and her coffee guzzling friends (e.g. Diane Finley).

ANYWAY. I thought I'd report on one small highlight of the Iowa Trip. The sidetrip to Galena was great and all, as was going to Clayton with Gram. But we're starting with the simple joys: a good sandwich.

Mom, Pam and I went to MaidRite. I don't remember ever going before but Sher had.
It's a chain serving loose meat sandwiches with a side of entertainment.

There's a lovely view of the the rain.

And this is the classic prep table. Formerly, the meat was cooking in one side while served out of the other. There is a metal divider in the middle. BUT the bastard health and safety people said "oooo can't have uncooked meat touching cooked meat because someone with a weak system might get the poops."
So now,

the meat is cooked in different location (it might just be at the other end of the long counter but we don't know) then brought out in a metal tub (much like you would find silverware in after washing it but that's probably a coincidence) and dumped in the MaidRite steam table bin. The ingredients appear to be hamburger and chopped onion.

It is scooped onto the buns on, options include tomato, lettuce, onion. Ketchup and mustard provided. the white space in the bottom of the photo is the counter you sit at. No fancy booths or tables here. All counter seating at this location. AND there were 5 people working behind the counter. Two women of a certain age, shown above, a young guy who took our order, a young woman who probably doesn't work there anymore, and one old woman who had aquanet-helmet-hair. Everyone but the young guy had a butt two axe handles wide so the prep space was a bit crowded at hip-high.

Here's the older woman snacking on a raw sweet potato fry. Pam got those. They were DELICIOUS. Pam's were cooked of course. It was pretty clear that they were home sliced and frozen in a ziplock. I got the regular fries and having made the odd batch of fries during the 3 years (or was it eternity?) that I worked at McDonald's, can attest that to get fries from actual potatoes (not the mush formed into sticks that most fast food joints use) you have to have the oil/lard about 2 degrees below the temperature at which it bursts into flame.

As you can see, most of the cooking equipment appears to be original to the building. I like that. Very frugal. The three of us had 3 sandwiches, 2 versions of fries, a brownie and a piece of pie. The total was under 20$...and it came with a SHOW! The chick with the pixie cut threw our sandwiches to each of us from the prep table. The sandwiches come wrapped in paper which you sent on the counter. You also get a spoon as the loose meat tends to fall out. Sher used her paper as a sandwich diaper and managed to eat very tidily. Pam and I struggled and ended up eating most of the sandwich meat with the spoon.

I'll have to continue this in another entry as I'm on dial up and it's too hard to add more photos to this entry.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Exciting Garden Development

WORMS! Not in my composter (that's in the house...well trailer...not the garden). In the actual raised bed. This is exciting because it means that the garden is settling in and functioning well. I was planting a few garlic bulbs before I left for the Iowa trip today (it was that or compost them) and a HUGE night crawler was curled up in the garden. It was in the newer portion which has a carboard barrier between it and the ground. I don't know if it came in over the side or up through the bottom. Doesn't really matter.
If the worm has friends and family living in there, it means less work for me and that is always good. I won't need to dig up as much this fall. I'll just let them do their thing aerating and digesting things in the dirt. Woohoo! I like to be lazy. As long as they don't eat the garlic, walking onions, herbs, or kale that I'm still growing in there. I don't think they would.

Are Jeggings the Mark of the Beast?

Disclaimer: I know that as a product of the 1980s when jeans were worn so tight as to account for the dramatic rise in cesarean sections (pretty sure we deformed our pelvii) I'm on thin ice and in "pot-kettle-black" realms in criticizing the attire of the young.

Still though, pretty sure jeggings are the mark of the beast. In my on going quest for non-spandex pants I'm confronted by the spector of 19% spandex! Jesus. My swimsuit (an industrial age appropriate Lands End model that never gets worn because I prefer the Idaho Bikini (cut offs and a t-shirt)) doesn't have that much! Jeggings. The Rosemary's Baby of jeans and leggings that are all the rage now. I can only assume this means they are going out of style elsewhere in the country and being shipped to north Idaho as part of the move toward the final fashion graveyard...Ross Dress For Less (where I got my last pair of first-hand jeans).

I've even tried to pay retail for non-stretchy pants now. If nothing turns up, and I don't suddenly drop a stone (that's british talk for 14 pounds) and fit back into my skinny clothes, I'm going to have to try custom made jeans. There's a website where you put in your measurements, they go over the interwebs to India, and jeans appear in your mailbox some weeks later. It's 50$. I could normally get 20 pairs of jeans for that. But, if I hate them all and won't wear them, then it's not frugal to buy 20 pairs of jeans or jeggings. And really, on what planet would anyone want to see me in jeggings?

I was just manning a booth at a career fair at a high school. The jeggins were rampant. Even the boys were wearing jeans with stretch. While I'm all for clothing equality, I wish they'd gone for tube tops. Less obscene. They were wearing girl jeans with stretch and given that they did not have girl figures, it looked like each and everyone of them had dropped a load in their britches. I asked my teen-expert (an actual teen boy) what the deal was and whether they knew it looked like they'd poo'ed their drawers (after all, in the 1980s, we knew of the camel toe but we saw it as a necessary evil). He said that it might be ironic. Sort of a metaphoric dump on the establishment.

Does each pair of jeggings come with a free tube of gynelotromin because seriously, you're going to get an infection. Things need to breathe and that has got to chafe.

OK. I will try to make this my final pants rant. Either that or add it as a label for posts.

On the upside, I still have 2 pairs of pants that I can wear to work so it's not a total emergency yet. Maybe the thrift stores in Iowa will have a better selection of non-stretchy pants.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Pantry Inventory: Results

Well, I must say, knowing what I have has helped. This is not a surprised to anyone.
I've already included a few things in meals that I forgot I had and started using up the items that were just a bit left in a package and consolidated a few other containers. Not bad. And I'm remembering to drink tea.

This is definitely a step in a frugal direction. The "use it up" part of frugality.