12/2/16

My Car is the Grinch


I spoke too soon about the check engine lights.

Last night, on the way home from daughter's Kung Fu class, the check engine light in my car came on. Again. I pulled into AutoZone, had them run the codes, and proceeded to buy an $80 mass airflow sensor. Early this morning, I drove said car and sensor to the mechanic's. They fixed it, cleared the codes and sent me on my way.

I made it about a mile before the check engine light came back on.

This time, the codes were reading bank 1&2 o2 sensors lean. I happen to know for a fact those sensors are good...which means the lean reading is probably from a faulty fuel pump.

(((This is me beating my head against the wall in time to Adam Sandler's "Ode to My Car".)))

The fuel pump costs $400. It is Christmas time. We be broke. The fuel pump is just gonna have to wait until January. For the foreseeable future, I am car-less.

To take my mind off of our car/money/holiday predicament, I decided to go home and cook. So for today's post, here is my recipe for Turkey (or Chicken) Noodle Soup.

TURKEY (or Chicken) NOODLE SOUP

1 Turkey (or chicken) carcass 
1 onion, quartered
3-4 carrots, peeled, cut in 2" pieces
1/4 celery seed or 2 stalks of celery, cut in 2" pieces
1 tsp dried parsley
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1 TBSP salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 gallon water

Combine all ingredients in large soup pot. Simmer for 1-2 hours until any meat falls off the bones. Cool.

Strain the broth. Separate meat from the bones. Discard bones and veggies. Add meat to broth and bring  back to a simmer. Add:

1 carrot, diced
1 celery stalk, diced

Cook until veggies are soft. Add:

1 bag egg noodles.

Cook until noodles are soft. 
Eat with crackers in front of a cheery fire and forget your (car) problems.

12/1/16

Refrigerator Reflections


It's payday, the cars are running (knock on wood), and I'm up early-ish making the grocery shopping list for the next week. Things have calmed down enough that I think we'll be able to start cooking and eating at home again. I may even be home from the mechanic's long enough to get my house picked up and the laundry done. Okay, so I'm an optimist. Don't judge me.

Where was I going with all that...Oh, I remember! I was looking at my grocery list and realized that most of it is fresh fruits and veggies (and noodles. There is that). The only really refrigerator dependent items on my list are the meat (consisting this week of 2 1/2# of chicken breasts, 12 oz bacon, and a package hot dogs) and the dairy (1/2 gallon of milk, a pint of sour cream, a couple sticks of butter, and one small brick of cheese). Everything else only needs cool storage or is shelf stable. (Leftovers don't count. They're only refrigerated until they feed the pigs, feed the dogs, or turn green and are thrown out.)

So my question is: Why do I need a refrigerator that is taller than I am and three feet wide, kept at 40 some-odd degrees, if all I need it for is about 4# of meat each week and a bit of dairy? Worse than that, I have a chest freezer in the basement also, that is currently keeping a box of powdered milk and some tins of cocoa powder in suspended animation. Most of the time, I store the meat in the freezer until the day I use it anyway, since I have to buy larger packages and portion them out for rationing--WalMart doesn't sell small amounts of meat. So really, I pay to run a full-size refrigerator 24/7 to keep less than $10 worth of dairy cold. The rest of the food is stored in it for convenience sake and from cultural habit.

How does this make sense?

And the funniest thing is that my fridge is full. I have the ultra-mega size mayo, the large-size upside-down ketchup bottle, the jar of mustard, a bottle of maple syrup, a jar of apple butter, three (!) open jars of pickles, two half-empty bottles of salad dressing...you get the idea. Probably the same things that are lurking around in your fridge. Most of them are so chock-full of preservatives and stabilizers, they don't even need refrigeration.

When did we as a culture change from buying small bottles of what we needed for the week to buying huge amounts of food that required unpronounceable chemicals and a refrigerator to keep them "fresh" for months or years? And more importantly, why? Do I really want to eat mayo that I opened four months ago? Or ketchup I bought a year ago? And why do I have two bottles of salad dressing? We hardly ever eat salad! I have no idea how old they are...but they are date stamped to be good until mid-2017 and have been in the fridge at least 6 months already.

Eewww.

As for the fridge keeping fruits/veggies "fresh": If you pick them while they are not ripe, ship them half-way around the world, treat them with gas/chemicals to make them look ripe, and then display them in bins until they sell, will a week or two in a fridge really make much of a difference to their taste or texture? Wouldn't it make more sense to eat what is local/in season and not depend on refrigeration? Or put another way, do we really need raspberries in winter and peas in high summer?


I need to think about our refrigerator addiction. Should I just say No?

11/29/16

An Auspicious Day (plus page 4)

Today, for the first time in over two months, we have two vehicles with no check engine lights on!! Of course, this may change at any time, but for right now, I think we have it licked. Until today, the longest the check engine lights stayed off in either vehicle was 3 days. Most of the time, they came back on before I got home from the mechanic's.

I really hadn't realized how stressful it is not having dependable, running vehicles...and how stressful it is not being able to fix said vehicles, no matter how hard you try. I was very fortunate to go directly from an early/mid-80s car (that I could fix myself--no computers) to a brand-new truck (that I couldn't work on--computers) that has reliably run the last 12 years with only one major repair before now. This year my luck ran out...and I couldn't handle the constant uncertainty of when and if the truck or our new-to-us car (that I can't work on--more computers) would break down again.

Without working vehicles, our lives shuddered to a halt. We haven't been to church since September. I've barely done any food shopping. I've had to cancel appointments. All our focus has been on making sure that Danny made it to work each day...and I failed at that once or twice.

All of which really made me reconsider the effect of the uncertainty of war on a civilian population.

Right now, I have the ability to keep fixing our cars without having to worry about non-available parts. Right now, I can go to the store and be fairly certain that I can buy most if not all of the items on my shopping list. Right now, I know that if I flip the light switch, the electricity will be there to illuminate the room. Right now, I know we have access to clean running hot and cold water. Right now, I know we are (fairly) safe at home.

But what if I couldn't depend on those things? I just about gave in to depression trying to fix those **** cars. I hate to think of myself as some fragile snowflake, but I seriously need to toughen up. If I can't handle the stress of two months of broken cars, how on earth would I handle a broken, struggling country at war?

Thoughts to ponder...

On that note, here is page 4 of the Guinea Gold Newspaper. As ever, click to enbiggen:

11/25/16

More News from the War

Pages 2 and 3, for your viewing pleasure.
I really like the article in the middle of the upper half: "Dewey Predicts Success in Presidential Election". Some things never change.

Page 3:
Europe is being blitzed, the Japanese have everyone worried, people are dying, yet they still find space in the paper for the week's racing results. Priorities, people.
Page 4 on Monday.

Enjoy (if that is the right word) your Black Friday. Our cars ate the Christmas budget, so we're staying home this year; drinking tea, eating leftovers, and working on rehabbing Danny's father's bookcase for the front room (beadboard, wood filler, and paint will make anything look better.) Life is good.

11/24/16

Happy Thanksgiving!!!

I hope everyone out in Bloggerland has a fantastic day!!