Saturday, May 24, 2008

A penny a penny splurged

I am so cheap with money that I squeak. Really. And this desire to "save a penny" trickles down into most areas of my life. Somewhere along the line, I came to realize I could cook certain foods--or very nearly cook them--in a thermos. The germ of the idea probably came from a Mennonite book on frugal living that a friend gave me in the early 1980s. At any rate, we have a fancy coffee carafe-thermosy thing that R bought a long time ago that will keep boiling water steaming hot even after 12 hours. So I use it regularly to cook beans and whole grains with a minimum amount of energy. I boil the beans (or the grains) for 2 minutes on the stove and then put the contents of the pan into the carafe. It really works quite well; for example, pinto beans and great northern beans will be completely cooked within about 6 hours on the just the energy used to get the water boiling for 2 minutes.

The only problem is getting the beans and the boiling water to actually go into the carafe and not down the drain (I do have sense enough to place the carafe in the sink.) The shoulder of the wide-mouth funnel that I use for canning is a bit too wide and it does not sit firmly in the opening of the carafe. So if I accidently bump it while I am transferring the beans and boiling water then not everything ends up where it belongs. The next largest funnel I have is a bit too small: although it does sit firmly in the opening of the carafe, the beans jam up in the spout and must be poked through.

Now R has a square-shaped funnel with just the right-sized opening that is designed for adding oil to engines. This funnel would work fairly well, but we would need another one for me. So off we went to Big Name store to find one. And it cost $3.97. I didn't want to pay $3.97 for the funnel. So we wander on down the aisle, and there, low and behold, is another funnel for 97 cents that would "almost work." The first of inch of the spout is the perfect size to fit in the carafe and pass the beans, but then it tapers too much to permit the beans to pass. So R picks it up and looks at it for a minute and says, "you know, I could get the hack saw just cut it off about "here" - would that work?." Oh yes, you betcha it would.

So, we bought it, and he sawed off the end, and it works perfectly. Yea!!! And I saved $3.00. Count' em folks, 3 big ones. Which partly makes up for blowing $14 on this fellow at our town's equivalent of an upscale gift store...

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Have My Senses Taken Leave?

It is becoming harder and harder for me to multi-task, which I define rather conservatively as trying to think about more than one thing at the same time. And there has been a lot to think about in the past couple of weeks:
  • My mother has had some very serious – indeed life-threatening – health problems that have caused great stress and strain on my family in Los Angeles. She got a compression fracture in her spine when she fell at home. She went to the hospital, they sent her home. She deteriorated and ended up back in the hospital. She had surgery. She was discharged to a nursing home, they neglected her and she could have died; she had to go back to the hospital. She begged them not to send her back the nursing home, so they sent home and the family tried to care for her there. And there is this on-going inner debate as all this is unfolding: do I drop everything and rush to LA to be there and help the rest of the family take care of her? Do I stay put and continue to plan our vacation there at the end of June? What do I do?
  • Then there is some new stress associated with my work. I very nearly stopped getting any work at all from one of the publishers. I had no idea why, so I sent an e-mail to the production editor supervisor. She, bless her heart, went above and beyond the call of duty and sussed out the problem. And now I know why. An attempt to be funny in an e-mail I sent to a production editor backfired and had the opposite affect. Instead of being seen as the warm, good-natured, funny person that I am (really I am!!), I became an nasty-tempered unpleasant whiner who complains. This spread like a poison amongst the other production editors and no one wanted to work with me. The supervisor is trying to mend the situation. I was urged to read the book How to Win Friends and Influence People to improve my communication skills, which I am doing. I sent an apology to the PEs, which was surprisingly hard to compose without it sounding like I was blaming them for misinterpreting my e-mail. So now I have to wait and see how this is going to turn out.
  • Finally, my main journal has been shifted to another vendor – I have been shifted too, fortunately – but I have to learn a new interface and new procedures to follow. The new issue manager is great, but I miss my "old boss," and I am sorry that I won't be working with her very much anymore.
Which all leads to two recent things I did within a very short period of time that amused me, but also scared me quite a bit. We were in the kitchen putting away the dishes and talking about “stuff,” and I started to put the cast iron skillet in the refrigerator. As soon as I opened the refrigerator door I realized I had made a mistake, and I laughed about it and put it away in the oven where it belongs, but it still upset me very much. We saw the movie Away From Her recently, and the wife, who is showing symptoms of Alzheimer disease, does something very similar. Lord, have mercy. Then a few nights later, I filled my glass with ice and picked up the 2-liter bottle of Vernors ale (which according Wikipedia “shares the title of America's oldest soft drink with Hires Root Beer”) and started pouring it over the bowl of popcorn sitting next to the glass. By doing this, I did not create a new taste sensation. The soggy popcorn ended up in the trash, and I had to start over. But, it did give me something to giggle about for several days.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Flying gumdrop...

A flash of orange caught my eye as I was pounding away on the computer keyboard, and I looked up and saw this fellow land on the bird feeder outside the window. It just took my breath way. I was very excited: I haven't seen a Baltimore Oriole at the house for several years now. So I scurried and found the oriole feeder, which is so old its color has nearly faded away, and replaced the hummingbird feeder (they didn't care, orange works fine for them too). I cut a slice of orange and put it on the bird feeder. And sure enough, within a few minutes he was back. He ate some orange and then landed on the oriole feeder and R showed up with the camera. To paraphrase an e-mail a friend sent in response to a picture I sent her of the oriole... "how important it is to stop and notice the signs of new life around or else we miss it, for sure. Thanks for sending this cheerful little orange gumdrop." Amen. Sarah Ban Breathnach, the author of Simple Abundance, writes about the importance letting our eyes "drink in the beauty that surrounds you" as we journey on the path to find order and balance in our lives. Amen to that too.