Sunday, November 30, 2008

Convection Cooking and Rampant Consumerism.

Convection Cooking. It wasn't sufficient that I have a slow-cooker, a microwave oven, a solar oven, a charcoal grill, a frydaddy, Foreman Grill, conventional stove with oven and one-burner camping-type gas thing. I didn't have a toaster, and can't use the broiler in the conventional stove because it isn't vented.

Enter:
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It toasts, broils, bakes, and bakes convection style.

I tried it out for the first time yesterday. My first test was using a bread recipe from Crunchy Chicken Cooks. I've been experimenting with whole wheat bread recipes for a few years now and I just can't seem to get a recipe with LIFT. This recipe was no exception.

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The loaf on the left was baked in my conventional oven and the loaf on the right using the convection feature on the new toaster/broiler/oven. Adjustments to the recipe are necessary for going from conventional to convection, so I lowered the temperature to 350 and set the time for 30 minutes. Insertion of a digital thermometer indicated that the internal temperature hadn't gone over 188 degrees, so I kept it in for another 10 minutes which put the temp at 204. The internal temp on the loaf in the conventional oven was 206. Both were done, and tasty, but didn't get much over 2 inches high even. It happens every time. My dough rises to double, I separate it, it rises some more, but it never gets that oven shoot that others get. I always add gluten flour and dough enhancer, but I STILL don't get the oven bounce. Just a few more pounds of flour to use before I start milling my own, so if freshness is the problem, it'll soon be rectified. You can see how the loaf baked in the convection oven got a better color.

The toaster/broiler/convection oven came with a broiler pan and drip pan that I used to bake tilapia last night. I didn't use the broiler setting ... just the broiler pan. Also ordered a few more pans with drip racks because these things are the perfect size for the solar oven, as well. Baking meats in the solar oven required a balancing act of meat placed above the pan with hopes that it wouldn't drip grease into the oven chamber.

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I convection baked last night's supper of asparagus, sweet potato casserole, and tilapia, learning that a 25 degree reduction in temperature with no reduction in time is just right for my convection oven. Didn't think to take a photo until half-way through eating it, but it was delicious.

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Attempts to minimize compost scraps created have been unsuccessful. Yesterday's plate looked pretty much like most days.

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It's all being tossed into

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next Spring's first garden plot, and will be plowed under as soon as I find some agricultural molasses to toss all over it first. You can see some arugula that decided to grow, as well an onion, perhaps. Arugula grows really well here. Too bad Em doesn't like it.

It's the time of year when I reorganize, reline, reinventory all my cabinets. I do pretty well until I get to the data entry part. I HATE data entry. I HATE data entry.

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Now that Em's off work for the winter season, he can help me poke some drainage holes in my potato apartment complex:

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The lid's only on to keep rain from filling it up before we use it. I've got both russet and red potatoes working on sprouts right now. I have sweet potatoes working on roots and leaves, too, but it's a bit too cold for them this time of year.

I have more things to be delivered this week from my rampant consumerism. Most involve cooking/baking (I'll be trying my hand at homemade pizza soon), but a few things have to do with gardening, as well.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Decisions, Decisions.

Thanksgiving is coming up next week. Happy Thanksgiving, BTW.

I asked Em what he wanted to do this year for Thanksgiving and he said, "Nothing." I'd gone to Chicago for Thanksgiving the past two years, but decided not to travel this year. Maybe he ate at his sister-in-laws the past two years; I don't really know, but his niece asked if I was going to cook because her mom might not feel like cooking this year. That was my thought when I asked Em what he wanted to do this year, so I asked him again just to be sure I'd heard him right the first time. He wants to eat at Luby's this year.

Charities get more donations during this holiday season than any other time of year. They're much like the retail stores in that regard. We had three boxes of non-perishable food and sundries to take over to Mission Arlington, but I'd never donated anything perishable. Kroger had turkeys on sale for $.39/lb., so we got a big one and took it over with the other stuff this week. Just because we're not having Thanksgiving this year doesn't mean we can't help someone else have one.

Some folks (in the name of environmentalism or even prevention of cruelty to animals) refuse to buy "factory grown" animals for consumption. Mission Arlington figures it needs about 5,000 turkeys to feed over 18,000 people who need help this Thanksgiving. These people aren't worried about how the turkeys lived their lives; they're busy trying to just stay alive themselves. So, I got to thinking about how we make decisions like, "Is it more important to me that many people eat a satisfactory meal produced using cruel methods that pollute the environment or that few people eat an excellent meal produced using humane methods that don't pollute?

How far do I want to take environmentalism?

With that thought still in my mind, I found myself following some links which led to Affluent People Living Sustainably, who were having their November Carnival. I'd never been to one of their virtual carnivals before, although I've visited carnivals of frugality as well as carnivals of green. While poking around at the various blogs who entered the APLS carnival, I ran across


Mon, at Global Homestead describes it as eco-apathy vs. eco-anxiety. She, too, had questions about how far she wanted to take environmentalism, as depicted in her entry for the APLS Carnival.

Every decision has consequences and it's up to us to decide which consequences best allow us sleep at night. Somewhere between eco-apathy and eco-anxiety strikes me as a good place to be.

No. 1 came over today. We visited for a while and then drove to Target to buy her a humidifier and us new bed pillows. No. 2 had the frog humidifier which prompted me to buy the frog for us at Target last year, so we knew Target would have them. They did, although the price this year was $35.00, and also had elephants, penguins, and dragons. No. 1 chose the elephant and I got not just two pillows for our bed, but strawberries, asparagus, and potatoes. I felt guilty buying food there, as I have two grocery stores within walking distance of home that won't be able to prosper if I start buying groceries at big box stores. But, we were right there in the store and these 3 items were either more expensive or not available in my local groceries. It's good to feel guilty sometimes. It's an emotion that lets us know we're somewhere in the middle of the extremes of boycotting the big box stores and apathy for buying locally.

After Target, we stopped at Home Depot. I bought a window box planter for spinach and lettuce this winter as well as a 32 gallon rolling garbage can which will become a potato apartment house this winter. I don't understand why potatoes cost so much these days, but as easy as they are to grow UP, might as well start some right away.

Shopping complete, we came back to the house to have a boggle and chat for a few hours. It's been too long since we'd done that, and it felt good. She'll be spending Thanksgiving volunteering at the shelter where she's doing her internship.

What are your plans for Thanksgiving?

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Peggy Sue No. 1 gets Married...next year.

May 29, 2009 seems to be the date. Details to follow as they become real.

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Best wishes to them both!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Saturday, November 08, 2008

More Solar Baking Experiments.

It's cool enough to bake indoors now, but today (and tomorrow) are totally clear days, so I continued the experiments in solar cooking. It's been evident that the solar oven lends itself easily to things like roasts, stews, casseroles, but we really like meals that don't combine all the flavors so much while cooking.

As I may have mentioned previously, the swinging shelf in the Sun Oven is both limited size-wise and tends to be a bit unstable when accommodating heavy items. Those two limitations have restricted my solar oven use to mainly two cooking pans with infrequent use of a few other light pans.

Today's experiments were a bit different. Since everything pretty much seems to take 2 hours to bake in the solar oven (at least early in the day), I started off at 8:30am baking some of the sweet potatoes harvested last week. My goal was to peel, mash them with some brown sugar & pecans, then bake them again.

The day was so accommodating weather-wise, that after I baked the sweet potatoes I baked red potatoes and a couple of red apples. I'll make potato salad from these tomorrow.

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I'd had success previously with making a spicy breaded chicken in the solar oven, so prepared that dish again for today after preparing the sweet potatoes in a heavy glass casserole dish.

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I peeled and chopped one of the baked apples to go into a spinach/arugula/cheddar side dish to be baked in another heavy casserole dish. I was pleased that even a klutz like me could arrange the two casserole dishes on the swinging tray without toppling it all.

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By the time Em got home from his grandson's football game and a few errands, the before-work meal was ready and I hadn't used any energy but the sun.

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It's Been An Amazing Week in Politics, One I Won't Soon Forget.



Just the beginning of the rebirth of America.

Repower America.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Wear Sunscreen.

I've always loved reading this, but had never before seen it turned into a video. h/t to Jenny Mae.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween!

I love Halloween. What other day of the year can you be anything you want to be? I'm gonna miss Ekans and #1 sharing the stoop with me to accept the neighborhood ghouls, ghosts, and goblins, though.

We get over a hundred trick-or-treaters, but I'm not sure how many over 100. We typically offered chocolate snack bars of verious kinds, including the kinds WE liked. This year, we're both 10 lbs overweight, so I bought one bag of 300 dum dums. Not something we're interested in eating, dum dum pops are pretty ecologically friendly. The sticks are cardboard, the pops are basically just sugar and corn syrup, and the wrapper is waxed paper. The price is right, as well ($8.00).

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Harvested sweet potatoes this week. They grow DOWN, with the largest being at the top of the mound and size receding as I dug deeper. I've been told that other types of potatoes grow UP, but I killed mine this year, so can only assume that's true. I'll definitely grow sweet potatoes again next Spring, starting SEVERAL mounds with plants I've started indoors.

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That was a nice treat for Halloween.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

No. 1, Phi Alpha Honor Society, Iota Omega Chapter.

Last night, No. 1 was inducted into the Phi Alpha Honor Society. UTA's campus holds the Iota Omega Chapter. It's specific to students in the Social Work Program. She was allowed two guests, choosing Dave and me. Em was at work.

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Her phone rang on the drive over to UTA and it turned out that we were right behind the caller on the road, so followed her to a parking space.

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Here she is, along with Dave, before the function, which reminded me much of the Senior Tea at my High School, where we invited our moms to share coffee/tea/snacks at a table with other seniors and their families.

The whole thing lasted only an hour or so with the inductees lining up much like in a graduation ceremony to receive their awards and medals. No. 1 was first.

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Group photo op came at the end, but I didn't get worthy pictures.

Congratulations No. 1; I'm very proud of you!

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Eleventh Hour.

[removed because I got tired of it playing automatically]

Monday, October 06, 2008

FINALLY!

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It got so hot so fast this year that the tomatoes never had a chance to fruit. Spent the whole summer just trying to keep them alive for fall, and we've finally had nights cool enough to set fruit on one.

This week's experiments shouldn't be discussed. Made two loaves of bread (using the in-house oven because I was baking something else outside) and it wasn't until after the bread dough did nothing on first rise that I noticed I hadn't added the sugar and yeast. D'OH! Normally, the yeast is the first ingredient, so my brain on automatic pilot must have assumed it was already in there. So, I beat the yeast/sugar mix into the dough and set it outside to rise again. The loaves didn't do a great rise, and one loaf even burned on the bottom! I've never had that happen before. Scraped off the burnt part and it was a very tasty accompaniment to tuna salad, so good recipe, faulty operator.

Rain today ... another FINALLY! Still haven't gotten the garden plot started, but I'll try to find time for that this week. Just getting around to updating my grocery file ... you know the one ... where you document how much you paid for various foods so you'll know how much food SHOULD cost. I HATE data entry ... I HATE data entry. With the economy tanking, I figure this file is more important now than ever. Bought a few New York strip steaks on sale last week and then sent Em to get more when I realized that the price was the same we paid in 2006. Might not see THAT price for a while.

Movie day today and then tomorrow evening a debate party at the home of someone I've not yet met. Sounds like she wants us to talk about the bill Congress passed recently while we're all together. ????

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Healthy Eating With Quinoa (keen-wah) and more solar oven experiments.

Started experimenting with quinoa this week after reading how the over-60 crowd doesn't tend to get enough protein in their diet. I've been buying quinoa in very small quantities for a while, but I never really made the attempt to add it to our diet in a big way prior to this week.

"Quinoa was of great nutritional importance in pre-Columbian Andean civilizations, being secondary only to the potato, and followed in third place by maize. In contemporary times this crop has come to be highly appreciated for its nutritional value, as its protein content is very high (12%–18%), making it a healthy choice for vegetarians and vegans. Unlike wheat or rice (which are low in lysine), quinoa contains a balanced set of essential amino acids for humans, making it an unusually complete protein source.[5] It is a good source of dietary fiber and phosphorus and is high in magnesium and iron. Quinoa is gluten free and considered easy to digest."
Wikipedia on Quinoa.

Made a variation of Quinoa and Black Beans for lunch one day this week as a test to see if Em liked it. I added cayenne, among a bunch of other things based on what I had on hand, and Em likes anything with a little kick to it. A few days later, I made a variation of Shrimp and Quinoa again adding cayenne and substituting cilantro for parsley. We liked the big flavors. This morning, I made myself a breakfast of quinoa, crushed almonds, homemade yogurt, and dried apple. VERY tasty, so I'm sure quinoa will now play a larger role in our diet.

The most I've used for a meal has been 1/2 cup dry seeds for a main course and even going back for seconds, we had a little leftover. For breakfast, I used 1/4 cup.

Friday was Em's first day back to work for this season, and I made a potroast in the sun oven for his before-work meal.

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Friday was the first non-cloudy day of the weekSUPPOSED to be the first non-cloudy day of the week. I left the roast out for 3.5 hours because the sun kept going behind a huge rain-type-cloud. I'd scheduled a loaf of bread for Friday, as well, but had to use a different baking method because the roast was in the casserole dish that I use for bread baking.

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I'd purchased some new gadgets this past week while ordering dough enhancer. Here's one of them:

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I used it to slice the bread after it cooled and would have told everyone to save their money - It was THAT difficult to use, requiring holding the sides, the back, AND the loaf while simultaneously trying to cut the bread. Turns out I'd put it together incorrectly and Em could see where I went wrong, so I corrected my error and it's now extremely solid. :-)

Baked the bread for several hours, but it wasn't quite done with the sun hiding behind those clouds all afternoon. The bottom pie crust on that frozen pie I made last week wasn't quite done, either, for the same reason. Both problems were corrected with a short time in the house oven.

My flour is quite old, but I'm trying to use it all up (at least the whole wheat) before I start grinding my own wheat. Should only be a week or two of baking bread at least once/week before that happens.

Did you know you could take your own picture while baking?

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Here's another TV ad that's almost ready for prime-time:

Sunday, September 21, 2008

More Solar Cooking Experiments and some miscellaneous.

We're experiencing a bit of a summer redux this week, so it's too hot to bake indoors. Today's experiments include cornish game hens followed by a frozen Sara Lee Dutch Apple Pie.

Got the hens ready by 10am.
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Stopped for lunch at noon (liversausage sandwich on home-made bread) with fruit. Em teased me again for taking a picture of my food.
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Took the roast out at 1:30pm.
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Put the pie in at 1:40pm.
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It wasn't done until 5pm, having spent the good part of 2 hours just defrosting.
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Everything looks really tasty and I can barely wait for our dinner hour. Shorter days are already noticeable, so I'll need to start earlier in the day to get the day's cooking done before sunset.

In the miscellaneous department, I've added a link to the sidebar for The American Chemistry Council. Not gonna keep the link permanently, but right now they're offering a quiz that we can all take where for every correct answer they'll donate water cleaning chemicals to some towns in Africa. It's like "Free Rice" in that regard, but unlike "Free Rice", they stop donating after spending something like $200,000 on this water cleanliness (and the link gets deleted).

Also in the misc dept, I'm growing particularly fond of extolling videos created by nobody in particular when I think they're well done AND agree with their message. Here's the latest:


True Leader from iocomposer on Vimeo.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Miscellaneous.

The weather's been beautiful lately, but we still haven't been out to get the garden going. We took advantage of Em's last few weeks off before the fall racing season starts and drove to Louisiana for some gaming. Caught colds while there and have been nursing them for over a week. Just when it seems like they're gone, we start sneezing and start the cycle all over again.

The solar oven experiments have continued, however. I had a huge mess one evening from some country ribs I'd left to bake while we went to a movie. Every other rib turned out to be almost total fat and while I'd thought to raise the ribs above fat that would bake off, the pan I chose wasn't so deep as to not overflow. No more pig fat in the solar oven! That was so disgusting that I'd say something like, "No more pig fat AT ALL", except we like pork on occasion and I'd just be lying.

The oven cleaned up easily enough and the next day I baked wheat/oatmeal bread, moving on to try a new meatloaf recipe the following day.

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No way the solar oven would get to 400 degrees, so (as usual), I just increased the time. Seems like most everything gets done in 2 hours in the solar oven. It's not for meals needed ASAP, but it's great for retired people, as the food won't burn if you forget about it. The worst that can happen is that it'll dry out.

My favorite thrift store sent an Email about another 50% off clothing sale, so Em and I drove over there yesterday. Now that school's back in session, with the demands placed on her by her internship program, No. 1 is too busy to shop. We wear the same size now, though, so have started clothes sharing. I tried on some jeans she would have absolutely loved, but they were a little too small. We're at that size now where the 8s are too small, but the 10s are too big. I did find a neat pair of jeans in size 9, but, overall, the thrift store tends to carry the even sizes over the odd.

Got a few long-sleeved shirts for winter, the above-mentioned jeans, a pair of slacks, a few pair of bigger shorts, a few short-sleeved shirts, and a replacement casino purse. I don't usually carry a purse, but appreciate a small over-the-shoulder number when we go gaming. No. 1 had leant me one of hers a few years back, but it broke up recently. The thrift-store was crazy busy; we couldn't even find a parking space in the lot.

After the thrift store, we stopped at Fiesta Mart. Fiesta has better prices on produce than our local stores, better prices on their own brands of some items, and carries some things (like andouille) that our local stores don't. Stocked up on some staples and bought lots of fresh fruit. Seems like the old $1.00 is now $1.29.

Like many others, we've been closely following this year's presidential election and even participating on occasion. Time's come to step up that participation, making more phone calls and knocking on doors. While the selection of Palin brought some much-needed life to the McCain campaign, the women energized seem to be from the Republican base. No. 1 works with some of these women in her internship program. "They think it's wonderful that the Vice Presidential candidate doesn't believe in birth control (I'm not so sure she doesn't) and think that a Downs Syndrome baby is SO MUCH MORE SPECIAL than a normal baby." No. 1 can Imagine the strain on the social system if this ideology trickles down to the poor and homeless.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Drill, Drill, Drill (by Eve Ensler, the American playwright, performer, feminist and activist best known for 'The Vagina Monologues')

I am having Sarah Palin nightmares. I dreamt last night that she was a member of a club where they rode snowmobiles and wore the claws of drowned and starved polar bears around their necks. I have a particular thing for Polar Bears. Maybe it's their snowy whiteness or their bigness or the fact that they live in the arctic or that I have never seen one in person or touched one. Maybe it is the fact that they live so comfortably on ice. Whatever it is, I need the polar bears.

I don't like raging at women. I am a Feminist and have spent my life trying to build community, help empower women and stop violence against them. It is hard to write about Sarah Palin. This is why the Sarah Palin choice was all the more insidious and cynical. The people who made this choice count on the goodness and solidarity of Feminists.

But everything Sarah Palin believes in and practices is antithetical to Feminism which for me is part of one story -- connected to saving the earth, ending racism, empowering women, giving young girls options, opening our minds, deepening tolerance, and ending violence and war.

I believe that the McCain/Palin ticket is one of the most dangerous choices of my lifetime, and should this country chose those candidates the fall-out may be so great, the destruction so vast in so many areas that America may never recover. But what is equally disturbing is the impact that duo would have on the rest of the world. Unfortunately, this is not a joke. In my lifetime I have seen the clownish, the inept, the bizarre be elected to the presidency with regularity.

Sarah Palin does not believe in evolution. I take this as a metaphor. In her world and the world of Fundamentalists nothing changes or gets better or evolves. She does not believe in global warming. The melting of the arctic, the storms that are destroying our cities, the pollution and rise of cancers, are all part of God's plan. She is fighting to take the polar bears off the endangered species list. The earth, in Palin's view, is here to be taken and plundered. The wolves and the bears are here to be shot and plundered. The oil is here to be taken and plundered. Iraq is here to be taken and plundered. As she said herself of the Iraqi war, 'It was a task from God.'

Sarah Palin does not believe in abortion. She does not believe women who are raped and incested and ripped open against their will should have a right to determine whether they have their rapist's baby or not.

She obviously does not believe in sex education or birth control. I imagine her daughter was practicing abstinence and we know how many babies that makes.

Sarah Palin does not much believe in thinking. From what I gather she has tried to ban books from the library, has a tendency to dispense with people who think independently. She cannot tolerate an environment of ambiguity and difference. This is a woman who could and might very well be the next president of the United States. She would govern one of the most diverse populations on the earth.

Sarah believes in guns. She has her own custom Austrian hunting rifle. She has been known to kill 40 caribou at a clip. She has shot hundreds of wolves from the air.

Sarah believes in God. That is of course her right, her private right. But when God and Guns come together in the public sector, when war is declared in God's name, when the rights of women are denied in his name, that is the end of separation of church and state and the undoing of everything America has ever tried to be.

I write to my sisters. I write because I believe we hold this election in our hands. This vote is a vote that will determine the future not just of the U.S., but of the planet. It will determine whether we create policies to save the earth or make it forever uninhabitable for humans. It will determine whether we move towards dialogue and diplomacy in the world or whether we escalate violence through invasion, undermining and attack. It will determine whether we go for oil, strip mining, coal burning or invest our money in alternatives that will free us from dependency and destruction. It will determine if money gets spent on education and healthcare or whether we build more and more methods of killing. It will determine whether America is a free open tolerant society or a closed place of fear, fundamentalism and aggression.

If the polar bears don't move you to go and do everything in your power to get Obama elected then consider the chant that filled the hall after Palin spoke at the RNC, 'Drill Drill Drill.' I think of teeth when I think of drills. I think of rape. I think of destruction. I think of domination. I think of military exercises that force mindless repetition, emptying the brain of analysis, doubt, ambiguity or dissent. I think of pain.

Do we want a future of drilling? More holes in the ozone, in the floor of the sea, more holes in our thinking, in the trust between nations and peoples, more holes in the fabric of this precious thing we call life?

Eve Ensler September 5, 2008 Update: Thank you, Anonymous; I appreciate the fact-checking.

However, "From what I gather she has tried to ban books from the library" is not to suggest that there was any truth to the list of books purportedly intended as targets that showed up on the internet one day. It's only to suggest that she approached the Wasilla librarian asking how to go about banning books and the librarian told her she wouldn't ban ANY books. Then, the librarian was fired for not supporting her, but the town complained and rallied to the defense of the librarian who was rehired.

I've not found anything about the particular gun she shoots, but the wolf kills don't look like urban legends to me.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

WOO-HOO!

First day since May that we've been able to open the front door and windows in the afternoon to get a cross-breeze. It's still 84 inside, but with a tiny breeze from the outside and overhead fans it's tolerable even with the high humidity.

We've had RAIN this week! That's something else we haven't much of since maybe May and my head's abuzz with thoughts of what I should do outside now that I can finally play in the dirt. I need another sweet-potato circle, so I'll get that done, but I'm thinking the other things will be transplanting the fruit bushes we planted on the sides of the house last year, moving them to the back. They've not done well at all in their current location, so a transplant is a last-ditch effort at trying to get something from all the money I paid for them last fall.

We only have a few days to get this done before I leave for Illinois on Friday. By the time I return the ground will be rock-solid again, I imagine.

We have a political meeting to attend today, so we're gonna start on the transplanting tomorrow and hopefully finish it all by end of Thursday. We'll also hack at the borders of the rectangular bed, as grasses have started to encroach on that this summer. Not sure if I'll put the top layer of wet newspaper on it yet or wait. Think I'll wait.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Touching.



Today is Em's last day at the race track until the fall season. I'm making dinner of Tbone steaks, baked potatoes and frozen veggies. In some sense it's celebratory, yet in another sense it's maudlin. Put the spuds in the solar oven because it's 107F outside today. The pics look like potatoes EVERYWHERE, as the reflectors do their job.

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Saturday, July 26, 2008

More Cooking Experiments.

Lately I've been doing some "Spring" cleaning, not "kill yourself doing it" cleaning, but fitting in something each day ... maybe reorganize/reinventory a cabinet, wash windows, blinds, carpets, etc. Today I didn't feel like fitting in a cleaning job so baked cookies and made yogurt instead.

Have had instructions published by Mary Hunt in Everyday Cheapskate saved to an Email "cooking" folder for quite a while now. It's a cookie recipe which uses boxed cake mix. For a long time (it seemed), we could buy cake mixes on sale using manufacturer coupons for maybe $.25, so we have quite an array of flavors/types in the baking cabinet. Because we're such a small family and I don't want us to go overboard on sweets, I measured half the box cake (enough for 1 dozen cookies) and saved the rest for another time. Half of Mary's "recipe" called for 1 egg and 1/6cup oil to be mixed with the cake powder and 3 oz of something like chocolate chips, nuts, etc. I chose Devil's Food for the mix and walnuts for the something.

Brought the solar oven inside to clean it of a spill made when the too-heavy glass casserole dish chosen for the BBQ chicken flipped off the "swing", shined it up and put it in the backyard this time on the patio table. The sun was pretty high in the sky and the oven quickly got to 350F. I have an almost unnoticeable little blister on my thumb because the glass pie plate I chose for a pan was (again) heavy enough to cause the swing to tip and I wasn't yet wearing my asbestos. The temp went to 325F after opening the door, tipping the plate, etc., so I modified Mary's 9-10 minutes at 350 to 15-17 at 325. I made two batches of 6, using a metal pie plate for the 2nd batch.

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Em loves cookies, so I had one before he got home from work.

Finally tried another attempt at yogurt making also. We like our yogurt firm (custard-style) and my first attempt never gelled AT ALL. This time, I shotgunned it, using EVERY tip I've found online for firm yogurt: Boil it first, Add 1T of cornstarch in boil step, Add 1T of gelatin in boil step (for flavor and gelling attributes), Add 5T of nonfat dry milk after milk reaches room temperature (when you add the yogurt starter), Cook for 24 hours. So, I'll try some Monday morning.

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Can't say I understand how I can measure 7 jars of milk and include 6oz of yogurt starter, dry milk, etc. and end up with only 6 full jars of yogurt, but I only got 6 jars the first time, as well. ???

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Experiments in Solar Cooking.

Despite my declaration that I wouldn't be trying this, I bought a Sun Solar Oven this past month. My garden was super-sucking because it's been too damn hot to do anything in it and I decided that the sun should be put to use. So, I bought the thing and, after it arrived, EVERY day was cloudy... until yesterday.

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Billed as "partly cloudy", I saw few clouds in the morning so took the pot full of brown rice and frozen mixed vegetables that I'd put together about a week ago and had to keep in the frig until a sunny day and figured out how to get the process going. It took 2 hours to get the rice and veggies cooked. Meanwhile, back at the ranch, I thought, "Why not try baking bread? It's why I wanted the thing, afterall." So, I whipped up a half wheat/half white loaf recipe I'd enjoyed for making buns. Let the solar oven pretty much do the second rise, so left the bread in the oven about 2.5 hours. Wasn't sure if it's done all the way through, but it LOOKED like bread. Still thinking positively, I decided to bake the night's chicken. It was pretty late in the day already (almost 4pm), but there was still sun!

EVERYTHING turned out pretty good. The bread was perfect, as was the rice & vegetable mix. The chicken was done faster than I'd expected.

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I mixed the chicken in with the rice & vegetables and put it out again to heat up. That dried out the chicken a bit, but it was still good for a first-time experiment.

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Sunday, July 20, 2008

Energy Independence Within 10 Years.

Al Gore's "challenge"

Also interesting: T. Boone Pickens' Plan, which gets discussed pretty regularly here lately on Texas television.

It's as exciting (to ME) to think about people getting involved in the environment as it is exciting (to ME) to think about people getting involved in politics again.

Since it's a nobrainer, I'll categorize it using #3's "brain" category.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Honeybees and Squash in DownTown Detroit: The Return of Mother Nature

Today in downtown Detroit, on land reclaimed by the city, local inhabitants are growing grapes, asparagus, currants, and gooseberries. And they’re raising honeybees in an attempt to create the first twenty-first century green sustainable city in America.


How cool is that? Who Knew?

In other coolness, my dental checkup revealed ... ZERO cavities!!!

Sunday, July 06, 2008

2008 Gardening, etc.

Purchased a few tomato plants and one pepper (jalapeno) from Home Depot this year and good thing I did, because all the tomatoes and peppers (save one which I forgot to photo in its dwarfedness) died. The weather got way too hot here way too soon, so the tomatoes and peppers were planted in pots on the patio because I still hadn't had the deep rain I'd needed to carve out a bed in the lawn, and it's my intention to carve out a number of beds from the lawn this year, keeping the bed along the fenceline mostly for herbs and more permanent things.

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After carving out the rectangle (which turned out to be 5.5' x 10'), I lined the sides and bottom with wet newsprint.

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I then took the bag of dried weeds shown on the patio with the tomatoes, along with everything on the two piles I'd made in the back of garden refuse, kitchen waste, etc., along with the humps of now dried up sod/soil, along with clippings from the lawn and dumped it all into the lined hole.

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Killed a little grass letting the dug clumps lay in the sun for a week or two on it, but my goal was not to save the grass, but begin the Food Not Lawns transition period in time to engage in the discussion this month at Crunchy Chicken's Bookclub. My goal wasn't even to start a garden, now that I think about it. Summer is not the best time to garden here in North Texas. I guess my goal was to see how hodgepodge I could throw this thing together working with the stuff I have and a timetable of my choosing.

I still haven't planted anything in the carved out garden and probably won't for a few more weeks. I'm gonna let the sun bake the living daylights out of the stuff that's in there for a while, toss more stuff on it, soak a newspaper "icing" for it and THEN plant stuff in it.
New, as well, this year is a first sweet potato bed. It's a circle that we AGAIN cut out of the lawn in the back and holds the FIRST of what we hope to be many circular sweet potato beds. Sweet potatoes LOVE heat and we have a LOT of heat here.
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Made that bed about 12" deep instead of the 6 of the more "general" garden area, but both go another 6 UPWARD. The sweet potato bed is actually a HILL about 4' wide in each direction to accommodate the sweet potato vines (which are edible, BTW).

In other news, #1 and I went to Thrifttown for their July 4 50% off clothing sale on Friday while Em worked the weekend from hell at the Racetrack. She got some nice things while I played dressing-room "helper".

Been looking into another video game since I won my current game. It's nice and (sometimes) fun to go back under other user names to play the current game, but I miss the struggle of figuring out how the game works, and for an old girl it's THAT stuff that grows the new gray matter, NOT the frustration of breaking through the chains once you know how.

My northern California cousin and her husband will be breakfasting with us here this month on their way through town. We're really excited about seeing them again.

It was time to take out the garbage. Good Riddance to Bad Garbage.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Fruit Farming, Thrift Store Shopping, and Greenwashing.

The peach trees we'd planted last fall fruited this Spring and FINALLY, just this week, the fruit ripened enough to eat.

Only one of the two trees fruited. I don't know why. It doesn't look like it takes two trees to make peaches, but if the Eastern tree wants to pretend to be the dad, I'm not gonna argue.

11 peaches showed up one day on the Western tree, not very big by peach standards, but these trees are only 3-4' tall.

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Realizing that I'd have competition for peaches from insects, funguses, and critters, I made some little "coats" from some knee-highs on sale at Walgreens for close to nothing.

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Trying to close with twist-ties resulted in the loss of two peaches, so I just accepted that I couldn't close the coats at the stem.

As they changed color from green to "peach", we wondered how we'd know when they were ripe. Southern peaches tend to ripen by end of June, early July, I read on the internet, but this week the first peach fell off the branch to the ground. It was undamaged, so I checked the others and picked one that looked just as ripe. We ate both mid-day and they tasted just like peaches ... GOOD! The NEXT day, however, birds found the peaches. I found one on the ground with peck-marks and two on the tree with peck-marks, so picked the two, picked UP the one on the ground, and set out bird-chasers in the form of CDs hung to the tree:

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The CDs catch the light of the sun and mirror all kinds of bright lights and reflections at the birds, scaring them away. I noticed yesterday, though, that the neighborhood squirrel was in the yard snooping around. I'd not seen him/her venture off the top of the back fence previously, and I DO NOT want him in my yard messing with my gardening, so I'll be looking for ideas on cheap, sticky stuff to keep him/her away from my treasures.

After I'd hung the CDs, I noticed black insects apparently trying to mate on the bark of the trees. Who knew peaches had peach borers? I checked the trunk and neither tree had been affected by the larva, so these adults had come from other trees in the neighborhood, kindof like the other insects that somehow find my plants in their travels.

My other fruit choices have had problems of a different magnitude. The strawberries had simply dried out too much by the time I planted them, so I'll need to replace them. The raspberries are off to a VERY slow start on the West side of the house, not suffering from any apparent insect damage, but a nitrogen deficiency which I just this week resolved by pouring my pee on them. (I'm really trying to go "organic" in my growing experience.) The blackberries looked to suffer from spider mites, but never recovered through my organic "cure", so I cut them down to the ground and they came back. The blueberries looked to suffer from red spot fungus, calcium deficiency, and maybe spider mites, but they're looking better this week, too after spraying with dish soap, milk, and cornmeal juice. Both the crepe myrtle and rose bush out front suffered from either powdery mildew or black spot funguses from all the rain we had in Spring, so I made a cornmeal juice concoction that seems to be helping.

In other news, some people are taking advantage of people who want to live more environmentally friendly by greenwashing them.

The thrift store had a 30% off sale yesterday, so I asked Em to take me before he went to work and after I had him take me to our local groceries for the weekly shopping/stockpiling. I spent $47.00, but got the most FUN clothing! Two pair of capris (one with all those pockets up the legs), 3 short-sleeved shirts, 2 long-sleeved shirts, a most delightful pair of soft pjs, two hats and another glass pantry container. With 30% off, I headed for the "better clothing" aisle, elitist that I am. No. 1 stopped by yesterday for a boggle and tried to go home with my "pocket" capris.

For those of you (family members) who have participated in forwarding the smear Emails about Barack Obama, there's a new website to address your fears.