Wednesday, January 28, 2009


Freezing Rain. Both yesterday AND today, but today is so bad that cars didn't drive by until almost 10am and neighbors took at least the morning off from work. The world outside looks like it's been varnished, shining brightly. We're hunkered in and grateful that we have all the food/drink we need.

Never got around to making the Apple Bacon Tomato soup the other day, so made it yesterday along with a few days' worth of dinner. Spent most of the day preparing dishes that all baked at the same time in the conventional oven.

In an unusual schedule aberrance, we'd grocery shopped Sunday morning. I had my lists ready for both Albertson's and Kroger to take advantage of an Albertson's 3-day sale just to learn that our Albertson's is shutting down and that none of the sale prices would be honored at this store. They'd done their best, but with Kroger half a block away and both Walmart and Super Target a short drive away, they simply couldn't compete here anymore. It was very sad. I told the produce department manager that I'd had no notice, and he said, "We didn't have much, either." On the short drive there, I'd remarked on how I found the Walmart television commercials very persuasive. One can both save money and lose weight by just shopping at Walmart. Meh. So, despite our best efforts to starve them out, it looks like Walmart 1 local stores 0.

My allergies seem to be getting worse. Every day I feel like there's something in my eyes and they itch ferociously. I'd blame something in the house, but I had the problem at West Wendover, as well. My generic benadryl equivalence minitabs don't seem to be working anymore. I've probably developed a tolerance from taking them so often. Cursing the thought, I might need to seek help from a medical doctor.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Home Again.

We're back from a REALLY fun, CHEAP trip to West Wendover, Nevada.

Video - More than you ever wanted to know about West Wendover. We went there to game and because it's such a great place at such a great price.

It was in late 2007 that Em, for the first time, booked us to West Wendover, and on that trip where I noticed the comraderie of people who travel there. The place is so desolate that if you run into people with whom you waited in line to get onto the airplane, you feel like you've run into your best friends. Heh. THIS year was no different from the last time we went in that regard, and Em's no shrinking violet when it comes to meeting people: How do you think he met ME?

We had a great 3-4 days playing around in the northern end of Nevada, but didn't much like the process of flying/driving to Dallas Love Field.

'twas the first time we'd driven together to Love Field, parked in the long-term parking (and there's a whole 'nuther post about how the parking lot has so many "this way ONLY" signs that we had to "go illegal" to get out somewhere in my future).

Most telling thing on our return, however, is how we got home to find our smoke alarms screeching.

We had NO idea what to do. NO. idea.. We tried turning off the circuit breakers. That turned off all the lights in the house, triggered the security alarm in the house, and didn't do a damn thing to stop the smoke alarms from screeching all over to ears that were already sensitive due to that whole airplane pressure thing.

I called 911 to see if they could give us some tips on how to disable the smoke alarms because if you come home from a fairly tense ride in traffic on I-35 trying to find your way home from Dallas Love Field, you need all the help you can get. The dispatcher sympathized, but suggested that she needed to send someone out. It took 15 minutes or so, but 4 firemen came ... in their firetruck ... to see what they could do to check it all out. <-- We're good!

Smoke alarms, apparently, have a shelf-life of about 10 years. Our house is 12 years or so old, so the smoke alarms might simply need new batteries,
we need new smoke alarms. It's been 12 or so years (coinciding with the manufacturers' warranty).

We're not much for fine dining experiences and had even brought some foodstuffs along from home for breakfasts, but we did enjoy a wonderful dinner of chicken cordon bleu at The Rainbow Steak House. We usually split one entree on the rare occasions when we go out to dinner (more because the servings are way too big for one of us than to save money, although the money saving is nice, too), but we had a buy one get one free coupon. For $29.00 (which included over $7.00 in tip for the server) we got two huge meals of THE BEST tasting food. WOW! We took an entire dreaded styrofoam box of leftovers back to our room and ate EVERYTHING for breakfast in the morning, and it tasted just as good then as it had the night before. Of course, we ran into some people we'd talked to in line at the airport and ... two of them didn't take their leftovers because they thought the food would go bad overnight without refrigeration and/or would need reheating. I wonder how much food waste is due to fear of getting sick.

Em had a delicious asparagus soup at the Steak House that he let me taste, and the weather today is cold and dreary, so I'm making some soups. I'm not much of a soup person, but Em likes soup and I can appreciate the thought of hot soup on cold, dreary days like this one. Tomorrow's soup will be Apple-Bacon-Tomato Soup, and I'm baking two acorn squash right now, that had already turned from green to orange waiting for me to cook them, in my little oven for today's Acorn Squash Soup. I'm also making a beef stir-fry this afternoon, and will make a pizza tomorrow afternoon, so we'll have a few choices of what to eat when we get hungry the next few days. Soups, chilis, casseroles, stews, gumbos are also great places to hide supplements from people who might not think they would like some things just because they've got a health-food reputation. Not mentioning any names, of course.

Back to that fear of getting sick when it comes to food waste thought, I brought hard-boiled eggs to West Wendover as part of breakfast. I wasn't worried at all about them staying cool enough to not spoil, although we all joked about how the elevator could double as a refrigerator as cold as it was in there for some reason. I don't worry about how long I keep stuff in the freezer, using a bag of homemade chicken broth for the squash soup that had been in the freezer since August, 2005, and pretty much ignore expiration dates on pantry foodstuffs. We haven't gotten sick yet, although (heh) I suppose it could be that we've grown immune to food poisoning from constant exposure. [Don't tell Em I said that.] :-)

We've got a lot of catching up to do online this coming week. We missed the inauguration and all that, but want to catch the Youtubes of it all. We need to research whether we REALLY need to replace the smoke alarms because Em's not convinced it isn't a case of old (unused) batteries, and I still haven't fully recovered the PC as I want it to be, which is not to be confused with the mess it had become. That's the positive side of failure ... letting go of what was to embrace a new start.

There's dead-tree reading, as well, as I began reading The Namesake on the plane back and forth. No. 1 had leant me that book to amuse myself on the long train ride to Chicago that I was to take last August before a flight presented itself that was quite affordable. I met a woman on the plane who had taken that train ride to Chicago from Dallas and could only describe it as "interesting". The train was 5 hours late and it seemed to her that the Amtrak people didn't seem to care or keep track of things like what track the train might take, and other things that resulted in huge delays. She wouldn't describe the ride as a negative experience, but I sensed that it wasn't one of the more positive experiences in quite an extensive history of experiences under her belt. We'll still do it, of course, after my birthday sometime this year as a test. At 62, I'll qualify for the senior discount on trains both in the US and Canada.

No. 1 saw the movie starring Kal Penn. It could be interesting to see how the book is filmed after I finish the read. Looking at it from an environmental point of view, comparing just water used each day in the US to water used each day in Calcutta, India could definitely reflect how spoiled we are.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Happy Martin's Birthday!

As usual, there are a number of things to discuss today.

Exercise: We joined the local YMCA.

We've enjoyed it so far, although I'm having a hard time getting shoes to fit correctly. I started out wearing my tai-kwon-do shoes and switched to a very expensive walking shoe which started to hurt my feet, so I got some Scholl inserts to tighten up the fit, which lifted my feet enough to rub the heel on the back of the top creating a blister. Now, I'm back to the tai-kwon-do shoes, which aren't all that comfortable for walking, and I'm doing 20 minutes on the tread-mill before using the other machines and then doing walks around the gym for a cool-down. Shoe problems aside, we both feel stronger after an hour here a few times/week.

Juice: Em drinks a fair amount of juice (or juice-like products), or he DID until I started interfering with that process for reasons of too much plastic waste and high fructose corn syrup/artificial ingredients. It was a gradual process, going first from liter bottles of lemonade or punch to frozen cans of juice and re-using containers from other juice-type purchases. I bought 4 64-oz glass carafes from Target this past week. They're unavailable in brick and mortar stores, so they were shipped in big boxes full of packaged air to prevent breakage. They're quite heavy once full, but I feel good to finally toss (for the last time) the plastic alternatives. Note the comparison.

I've been drinking more juice, myself, lately: vegetable juice, grapefruit juice, and a pomegranate/ blueberry blend from Old Orchard. I'm not really interested in juicing my own fruits and vegetables, though, and No. 2 had bought me a juicer a while back that I've never used. Em took that juicer to UPS this morning. We'd placed the unopened box in one of those big boxes with some of that packaged air to ensure it would travel safely. UPS wanted $112.00 to ship it, so Em brought it back home. ????? We'll figure out how to get it to No. 2 next week after we remove some of the excessive packaging.

Obama Group: We've joined with some "neighbors" to form an Obama Group named Attentive Public. While all North Texans, some in the group live in Dallas, some in Grand Prairie, others in other nearby towns. We've gotten together twice so far, and learned quite a lot from some of the people who represent us in government.

Some in our group are volunteering at the MLK Day celebrations this week, but Em and I will be in West Wendover. We leave tomorrow morning and return Friday evening. I have yet to pack for that, so had better finish here soon.

Food Waste: Crunchy Chicken has a new challenge which involves food waste. We toss too much food waste onto the garden plot when we could (with a little creativity) plan our meals around what's about to go bad. I put that thought to use while cooking supper last night, using some garlic cheese with almonds left over from an Obama Group event as the cheese/garlic in a spinach-stuffed chicken breast recipe. I'm still loving that little convection oven even when I use it as a regular oven. It heats way faster, wasting less energy just coming up to temp.

I'm happy to add this banner to the sidebar, and disappointed to delete the banner for Goods For Girls, as Crunchy has shut down that enterprise.

Food Waste Reduction Challenge - February 2009

In combination with this challenge and the "just coming to temp" thought above, I'll be addressing water waste in a more efficient manner as part of this waste challenge. I'm currently putting a bucket in the shower stall while the water comes to temperature, but still a lot of water goes to waste while getting to temperature. I wish we could redirect the water while it comes to temp for a shower, but I don't know how to do that. I will be looking for a shower head that allows for turn off and on after the water's to temp so I can shampoo my hair without wasting water.

Water used in cooking will also be addressed as part of this water waste challenge. Since I use the saved water almost solely on plants, there's no reason why I shouldn't have a bucket for water used to boil potatoes or pasta or in making hard-boiled eggs. If I can keep it clean enough, there's probably no reason why water used to boil potatoes can't be recycled to boil pasta or eggs and vice-versa, although at some point, I think a lot of starch could accumulate in this water. I wonder if starch is good for plants or at what point the water might become too scummy for words.

My sweet potato starts absolutely love our bathroom window. The west exposure gives them sun to grow while still maintaining privacy in the bathroom. I've just moved the second group of starts to that window today (Can't Believe It's Not Butter).
The parsley, cilantro, spinach, and lettuce seeds continue to grow in a south window, but they don't seem to be trying to break any records. I'm growing these looking for an indoor crop this winter, not as starts for the outside garden.

No. 1 and I tried to get together for an underwear shopping trip this month while she was off school and while the stores had underwear sales. We had no luck with that, as her car had some battery-related problems, which I trust have been resolved as today she starts again on the last semester of her internship at the mission in Fort Worth. School starts tomorrow and I don't expect to see much of her until spring break or her wedding, planning of which has consumed more of my time lately than I'd like ... just in the selection of a hotel for the few out-of-town guests. Hoping to get No. 2 involved with the final decision, as she IS one of the out-of-town guests.

Must pack now; I've put it off until the last possible moment while my mind churned the wardrobe options. It'll definitely be a brown theme this year, as the black theme I chose last trip (two years ago) had me falling down on exiting the plane or any doorwell encountered while wearing my black suede Birks. Those shoes just aren't safe enough for travel.

Happy Martin's birthday to y'all.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

I agree, Ron; It's nuts.

Last year's good guys are this year's bad guys, and last year's bad guys are this year's good guys and if you actually practice democracy but elect this year's bad guys, we'll either bomb you or help someone else bomb you. It's nuts.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Uh-Oh. No. 1 and the Blue guy done got married early.

They still plan on May 29th doing it with the whole celebration aspect involved, but they did it at the courthouse yesterday.

Em and I were invited (Thank you both very much!), and they picked us up half an hour before starting time so I'd have time to "pick over" No. 1. Heh. I DID pick her over, like a chimpanzee.

Some of No. 1's friends were fixin' to meet up at the Courthouse, and some showed up in time for the ceremony while others were stuck in traffic and met up at our house.

Just like ours, the ceremony was short and sweet ... SERIOUSLY. We had the same judge, and she knows how to elicit tears and photo ops.


THAT was the idea of the judge!

This here was more the emotions of the pseudo-dad who'd gone through her teen years and came out the other end very proud of this young woman.


Jo and Ab were at the ceremony, as well. Jo with OC and Ab with LE-uh.


You can catch Ab with Le-uh here, as everyone came back here to play Boggle after the wedding. [Seems like there's a family tradition here that includes Boggle games following wedding ceremonies.] [Note to Self: Include Boggle Games in the May 29th reception plans]

We had a good time together (as usual).


They've got good friends, half of whom didn't have any idea that they were being married this past week.

It's pretty hard to pick out just a few pics to post after filling a digital camera with over 50 pics, so I looked back to see who I might have missed and OC wasn't there, so here he is:

Friday, January 02, 2009

2009. WOW.

I remember working FOREVER for Amoco (once Standard Oil, lately British Petroleum), and my retirement date was 2012. That was SO FAR INTO THE FUTURE that when they asked me whether I wanted my retirement benefits for a little amount every month for the rest of my life (when I quit) or in a big amount every month starting in 2012, I didn't see a decision. "WHOAH" (in retrospect!)

So, now that 2009 is here, I've been reflecting on life and life in 2008. I enjoyed 2008. I love my life, and 2008 was a good year, IMO. Environmentally speaking, we were in our groove throughout 2008, doin' what we wanted to do to make our footprint a little bit smaller while not inconveniencing us too terribly much. SOME things started to bother me, though, and I intend to tackle those things in 2009 if it doesn't inconvenience me too terribly much. I'm really annoyed by how much plastic we use just to throw it away.

I'm not talking about the plastic water bottles we carry with tap water from home in the car that No. 1 got free from the police department at UTA, nor am I talking about the plastic cup that I clip to my belt when we go to the casino where they offer self-serve drinks with only styrofoam cups. I'm talking about the laundry soap/fabric softener that costs only $2.00 for 32 loads and/or the dandruff shampoo that comes in the plastic bottles (without which I have such an itchy head that I've recently started applying sesame oil before shampooing.) The cheap laundry soap (in the plastic bottle) got knocked off the dryer yesterday, fell to the floor, broke the plastic cap which resulted in it poured over the floor, and now stuck to the bottle. Meh. Tide is worse for the environment (maybe), but it comes in a cardboard box that's recyclable (or once was until ...), and there's nothing inherently wrong with doing the laundry with borax and baking soda. It's not like we need the cleaning power required to keep small children presentable anymore.

We might not have all the recyclable centers of 2008 in 2009 due to the recession and people not being able to make enough money to justify the expenses. This means that the 3 Rs need to concentrate more on the reduce part more. So, around here, there'll be fewer products purchased in plastic, same amount of paper used (which isn't really much), possibly MORE water used, and more natural products used.

December, 2008 offered us: a hard-drive crash on the PC (sending us to the library for limited internet sessions and books to read while we were down), my first try at homemade pizza, a stab at fixing our vinyl loveseat (which isn't accepted anywhere as pre-owned), and a fairly drastic haircut once I noticed split ends.


Pizza crust was whole wheat, of course, because I'm on a health kick lately.

I used pizza sauce (generic Kroger), Kroger shredded pizza cheese, a tube sausage from Owens (considered HOT), fried and drained before inclusion, as well as a sliced pepperoni sausage for which I had a coupon and paid very little, AND

vegetables ... bell peppers in green, yellow, and orange, as well as sweet onions and mushrooms plus garlic powder and Italian seasoning.

It all tasted great, despite the burnt look (perhaps due to my coating even the outer crust with all the sauces and stuff).

I miss the hair.
But, (as we've noticed through the years), it'll grow back.

Em got me a Sudoku desk calendar for 2009. Based on the quickness of correct answer, I'm guessing (for now) that it starts out with a 1-star difficulty level. Hopefully, it will work its way up to something more difficult throughout the year. We discussed recently how it was during a trip to West Wendover a few years ago that I asked a young man sitting in the waiting area about the puzzle he was working and now I work many/day. We're off to West Wendover again later this month.

Any thoughts on 60 being the new 40? I intend to treat our future(s) as though we have another 40 years.