Sicker 'n a dog. Back soon.


75 Years

A Date which will Live in Infamy
More photos at link.


My Day at the Mechanic's

I've been at mechanics all day. All. Day. I left at 8:30 this morning and have been dealing with mechanics until give or take 4 pm.

I think we're getting closer to winning the war of the cars.

First: The Jaguar, also known as The Grinch who Spent All the Christmas Money on Itself.

It's not the fuel pump. (YAY!!!)
It's not the vacuum lines. They're pristine.
But the check engine light keeps coming on and as soon as I go over 2500-3000 RPM, the car tries to dump me into limp mode.
I hate having a bright red sports car I have to drive like I'm 90 years old. Try going up a hill without going over 2500 RPM. Semis pass me on uphills.

My mechanic cleared the codes and the history. Car ran like a dream. He decided to see if he could get the codes to come on for him (they only seem to come on when I'm driving.)

There's your first clue.

THIS TIME, I rode shotgun while he put the car through its paces. Every other time he's tested the car, I haven't been along. Beautiful car. Ran like a champ. 5000 RPM with no problems. THIS is the car I bought.

I dropped him off to pick up the Durango from Danny's work and I drove the Jaguar back to the shop. Within 2 miles, the light was back on and it was throwing fits.


He ran the codes again. Flight Data Recorder only. Called Jaguar in Louisville. Flight data?!? WHA?!? It's a car, not a plane. Jaguar/Louisville says: Something is wrong, car is trying to black box the problem. Car is not telling us WHAT is wrong. Not helpful. Arrange to bring it back on Thursday and leave it so my mechanic can fine-tooth-comb it for 4 or 5 hours and try to discover what the **** is going on with that **** Jaguar! (He said he wouldn't charge me to find the problem. I love my mechanic.)

Cleared the codes.  I head home. To say I'm bummed is the understatement of the century. 8 hours at mechanic's and I'm where I started.

Bah. Humbug.

Now, when my mechanic clears the codes and the history, my heater/ac resets and shuts off. When I turn it back on after he has reset the codes, it always reads 24C. I change it to F, set it at 70, hit the direction and recirc buttons and off I go. It is usually the first thing I do after I buckle in and start the car.

This time, I didn't do that. I never turned it on. There's your second clue.

I was half-way home before I realized I hadn't reset my heater...and the check engine light hadn't come on, either. (I noticed when I managed to pass a gravel truck on an uphill without any problem.) Called my mechanic. No, he never resets the heater when he is test driving the Jaguar. He tells me to pull over, shut the car off, and restart it with the heater going.

First time I hit 3000 RPM with the heater going, the check engine light lit up like a Christmas tree and the car started trying to go into limp mode. (I also noticed when I turn on my defrosters, my radio fuzzes out.)

Somehow, running the heater makes my car stop working. YAY!!!!

(((Okay, that sounded psychotic, but at least now we have a place to start looking for the problem!!!)))

Things are looking up.

On to The Durango.

Sigh. I spent the morning having the airbag recall fixed at the dealer (No, I DON'T want to buy a new truck!! Have you seen the prices on those things?!), then handed it over to our mechanic. The mechanic thinks the repeated codes may be caused by a evap controller switch getting the wrong voltage (I'm calling it the wrong name but that's what it is.) He suggested letting him run more tests before we go dumping more money into it.

I'm good with that.

So that is where we are:
Durango's check engine light is on. It will go back to the shop after the New Year.
Jaguar's check engine light is on. It goes into the shop Thursday for a week.

I can deal with that. Life is good.


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.


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.


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.


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?


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:


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.


Happy Thanksgiving!!!

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


'Twas the night before Thanksgiving...

...and I've spent most of the day getting ready for the yearly "Big Eat."

On the menu this year: The free turkey from Danny's work, mashed potatoes, gravy, herb stuffing made from the frozen remains of bread I made last month, corn on the cob, green beans, and cranberry and fruit jello (apples, celery, jarred mandarin oranges, nuts, raw cranberries pulsed in the blender, and two packages of raspberry kosher jello.  My grandmother always made this instead of cranberry sauce, so it just isn't Thanksgiving without it.) Pumpkin pie for dessert.

Except for the turkey, all the rest of the food was readily available with rationing. But this is the end of my eggs. The chickens had better get their act together and lay some eggs before Christmas dinner or they will be the featured dish.

For after dinner, we picked up a board game to play while we digest our food: "The 1893 World's Fair". Daughter has been studying the fair, so I thought it would be fun to play while learning. Then we plan to watch "Christmas Story."

While we're busy eating, etc., tomorrow, here is page one of the newspaper for your enjoyment:

(Click to enbiggen. The articles are fascinating. Pages 2-4 coming up.)


Our Great Adventure (Warning: Picture Heavy)

Did you get Friday's hint?

That ENORMOUS hotel is the The Greenbrier Inn, located at White Sulphur Springs in beautiful West Virginia. I'll tell you more about it...and it's famous Cold War bunker...here soon! But first: The Rest of Our Trip!

The WV School of Osteopathic Medicine in Lewisburg, WV, runs a state-of-the-art medical simulation lab. Ever since Danny started his job of developing the Sim Lab at our local Medical College (pretty much from scratch), he has heard glowing reports of WVSOMs lab. So he made an appointment to visit and tour their lab.

Business trip!!! Expense account!! And just down the street from the Greenbrier, a visit to which has been on my bucket list since forever! Clear the calendars, I'm a-tagging along on this one!!

Note: One advantage to rationing clothing. It makes it VERY easy to pack.

One of the doctors at the school recommended the General Lewis Inn (more way cool pictures at link) in Lewisburg, as well as recommending the French Goat restaurant just down the street from the Inn. As much as I'd love to stay at the Greenbrier, even I had to admit the prices were a bit in the stratosphere. Not exactly expense account material. So we stayed here:

 The far section behind the tree dates to 1834. The rest was built in 1928.
I am so glad the doctor recommended this Inn. If you are ever in the White Sulphur Springs area and want an absolutely fantastic Historic Inn to stay at, that won't break the bank, The General Lewis is the place to be.
Our room was the upstairs left, the one with the window open.
 Once we were all checked in and Danny had gone on his tour of WVSOMs Sim Lab (and I had hit the local antique stores...and made a FANTASTIC find, which I will be sharing here!!), we decided to walk to dinner...and promptly got lost.
An example of Lewisburg's fire hydrant art. Lewisburg reminds me of the best parts of Asheville, NC, without the pretension.
Google Maps had us walking in circles (okay, it was really 10% Google Maps and 90% operator error. I'm not a homing pigeon. Don't judge me.) We stopped to take a picture of a cool log cabin that looked like it was still being lived in and ask directions.
 Log cabin being photobombed by Stephen, temporarily known as David, because I'm old and deaf. I'm blaming his Virginia Beach accent. That's my story, I'm sticking to it.
Turned out Stephen is the chef at the French Goat and as luck would have it, could give us very good directions to the restaurant...which was just beside the log cabin. (Okay, so I'm deaf and blind. It happens.)
Stephen introducing us to Marcel, the very polite French Goat. Marcel's girlfriend, Margot, hangs out on a wall in the bar. 
After an absolutely amazing meal (I mean amazing: I'll be dreaming about (and trying to imitate) the meal I ate there for a long time!) we wandered back to the General Lewis.
Danny being all handsome in our room.
 The canopy bed. Sweet dreams were had by all.
  The next day: The Greenbrier Inn!!!!
I took SCADS of pictures. The decor is larger than life.
The concierge took our picture. Danny being handsome, me being me.
 The Greenbrier reminded me of Disneyland, writ large. I felt all Japanese, snapping pictures of everything I could see. I'll spare you most of them, (visit the Greenbrier website for much better pictures than mine) but I have to share this one:
Greenbrier employees building the Children's Present Tree. They were actively arranging presents while we watched; there were at least double the amount of presents shown here still stacked in one of the conference rooms, waiting to be moved into place. Those black bins were heaped FULL of wrapped presents, sorted by age and boy/girl/either. I asked if they got hazard pay for paper cuts.
Every year, Jim Justice, the owner of the Greenbrier, insists that at least $1 million in toys are wrapped and distributed to needy children in the area. He wants to make sure that every child has a specially chosen present to open on Christmas Day. Wow. Just...Wow.
Now, The Bunker Tour!
(I have no pictures of the bunker tour: they confiscate all electronic equipment before the tour. To say I was disappointed would be an understatement.)
Our tour guide walked us through the hotel, explained how the government hid the bunker's construction and existence in plain sight, how the story was leaked, and how the space is used now. It was interesting, I'm glad we went, but in many ways it felt tourist-trappy, if that's a word. Most of what he said is at the above link.
THIS was much more interesting to me: 
$10 at a Lewisburg antique shop. The date is Monday, August 7, 1944. The articles are amazing!!
In the interest of length-of-this-post, I'll post pictures of the entire paper Wednesday. I believe you can click on them to enbiggen to read.

That's all for today. See you Wednesday!!



Defining Luxury Since 1778
See you Monday!


Short Post

Just a short post today...I'm trying to catch up on housecleaning, laundry, basic upkeep. You know, all the things that fall apart in a house when no one is watching. I mean, you should see my bathroom. Wait...on second thought, no you shouldn't!

The turkey-for-Thanksgiving ration problem has been solved. The college is handing out free turkeys to all faculty. Hey, I'm not the sort of girl who turns down free food. Don't judge me.

I've decided to just start over with the rationing. I'll use up the food I have right now and do grocery shopping this weekend. I still have a few Black Market credits I'm holding onto...may use them for Christmas.After all, what is Christmas without candy canes?

On Monday, I may (if the Lord is willing and the creek don't rise...and the cars don't break down) have lots of stories about Cold War bunkers (not WW2, but still.) and some interesting pictures to go along with them. I'll give you a hint on Friday...see you then!


The "Never Home" Blues

I honestly am confused as to where in the rations we are and where to go from here.

I started this little experiment at the end of September.Within two weeks, both vehicles decided, nay, demanded that we devote all our time and money to them. Since that time (almost 2 months) I have only managed organized grocery shopping three times.

Three times. Two months. One week's food each time.

The rest of the time, we have been eating out due to: lack of time to shop/not being home to cook; spending all my time hanging around the mechanic's shop an hour from home; and scheduling conflicts that require driving hundreds of extra miles each week (For example: Last weekend, Danny filled in for a 12 hr shift as a paramedic...and promptly got stuck in Lexington due to weather/pilot out-of-hours, and stranding the truck at the base. I had to drive out to Lexington (3 hours, one way) to pick him up, then drive him to pick up the truck. No time to grocery shop; not home to cook. We have had whole weeks of this type of thing. I'm exhausted.) The last time I managed to grocery shop, I bought rations for one week...and have used almost none of it. My refrigerator is full of badly wilted veggies and slightly out of date dairy. A dozen pumpkins ($1 each after Hallowe'en) are lined up in the kitchen, awaiting processing. I haven't made fresh bread for a month.

The schedule for the upcoming week isn't much better. As far as I can tell, I'll be cooking at home only three or four of the seven days. Two of the days we will be out of state, and one or two we will be out of town all day.

In addition, winter is finally here...and the chickens have decided that laying eggs is more of a warm weather sport. They have mounds of warm, fluffy straw; their chicken coop is nicely winterized; plexiglass windows let in lots of nice winter sunlight; and they have as much high protein, tasty chicken chow as they can eat. Makes no difference. For the last two weeks we have gotten zero, zip, nada eggs. I only have about 8 eggs left in the fridge. We went with the "chicken keeping" ration option, which means we're not eligible to buy eggs. I'm wishing now that I had stored more eggs when I had the chance, instead of trading them on the Black Market. (If you coat eggs in a thick layer of Crisco and store them in a single layer [I use a plastic cake storage pan] in a cool/cold place, they will keep for months.)

So I wonder: Do I just buy another week's rations and go from there? Do I sift through what I already have and save the rest of the ration points for the next week? Since we've been eating out so much (which I'm fairly certain would not have been possible for the average person during wartime, although there were restaurants available and the price was controlled to make eating out more affordable) do I just forfeit our rations up to now and start again next week, schedule willing (since I do have lots of food left over at home)? And what about Thanksgiving? It's only about two weeks away. Would it be fair to use all our unused ration points to buy a turkey?

We've got to stop eating out so much, it is breaking us. And now that we have no eggs, I'm going to have to rethink many of my recipes.

For example, take Eggplant Parmesan (which is surprisingly good without the "Parmesan" part of the agenda). No meat ration at all. Filling, tasty, quick. The batter requires three eggs. So much for Eggplant Parmesan until the chickens get back in the swing of things.

Strata. Potato pancakes. For that matter, pancakes proper. Quiche. Frittata. Lemon-rice soup. Et cetera. I had never noticed how many of the recipes I make require eggs. With no eggs and the little meat provided with the ration, meals look to be getting a bit harder to plan.

I'm going to have to research what a wartime family would have done faced with constant upheavals like this and use it as a guide to go forward. I'll post what I discover.


Happy Veteran's Day!

 Thank you, Britain, for Winston Churchill. He truly had a gift with words...must have come from his American mother (snark)!

Thank you to all those who have served our great country. You are the best of what America is and can be. I, for one, am hoping this new administration finally treats all Veterans with the respect and dignity they have rightfully earned.

“There is no greater love than this: that a person would lay down his life for the sake of his friends.” John 15:13

[I'll be back on track next week. The truck is fixed!! (I had to replace the ECM. $500 total. Not bad.)  I've figured out the car!! (It needs an ABS module so it stops trying to skid the car off the road each time I apply the brakes. $3,500 new from the dealer; rebuild for $120. Guess which I'm gonna do.) The election is over!! And much rejoicing is heard in our Republic!! (The ones who think we are a democracy are weeping, wailing, and gnashing teeth. They should have paid more attention in Civics class.) Now I just have to figure out where I am in the rationing and go from there...I really haven't been home the past two weeks.] 

I hope everyone out in Bloggerland has a safe and happy weekend!!



(Extra points if you get the reference.)

I'm away from blogging until at least Monday. I've been rasslin' cars all week. Not joking: I've been at the mechanic's Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, today, and am scheduled for Monday. The only reason I wasn't there on Thursday was because I was busy rasslin' the bank for money to feed my car repair addiction.

See you (hopefully) Monday, when the clouds will part, the birds will sing, the sun will shine, the cars will all run without their check engine lights on, and I can get back to blogging about living life the WW2 ration way.

(P.S. If any of my readers work in car design: Press nuts on an axle?!? Really?!?)


Recipe: Hillbilly Crab Cakes

I don't remember where I originally found this recipe, so I can't give proper credit. This is a good recipe for using up leftover bread or summer squashes that were a bit too prolific.

Hillbilly Crab Cakes
2 cups shredded summer squash (zucchini, yellow, crookneck)
1 cup bread crumbs**
1 egg, beaten
1 TBSP Old Bay Seasoning
4-5 chopped green onions
1 TBSP mayonnaise
1 tsp prepared mustard

Mix all ingredients together. Pour +/- 1/4" oil into skillet and heat over medium heat. When oil is hot, form mixture into patties and fry until light brown, turning once. Good with tartar sauce.

**I put my stale bread slices into the blender and pulse them until about half is bread crumbs and the other half is still chunky. The chunky bread will soak up the seasonings and give more texture to the crab cakes.


One interesting thing that trying to live with WW2 rationing (especially with the election/geopolitical circus currently dominating our news feed) has really driven home is that life doesn't stop just because resources are limited. When you read books about wartime, it seems like it's all action, all the time. No one ever talks about doing the laundry, trying to keep the cars running, or the mundane, everyday stresses of trying to juggle home and work while coping with the stresses brought on by the political climate.

We have one more week of the Broken Car Shuffle, God willing. The car parts finally got here, so Monday the car goes in for wheel bearings and ABS, and Wednesday the truck goes in for the evap. canister. Then HOPEFULLY, we will be done with car repairs and be able to get on with our lives...and I'll finally have the time to put into this blog!

I have grand plans of being able to get back to working on our books as well (Danny has until January to make significant progress on his Grand Canyon book, and I've blocked out another novel.) I'm also going to be concentrating on getting the last of the house finished (flooring and the kitchen) as well as making significant progress on the greenhouse before spring. We've been trying to attend an Orthodoxy 101 series at the church we've been going to, but have missed the last two classes because of the ongoing car problems. I'm looking forward to being able to attend the rest of the classes and make a decision whether or not to join the church. 

(To those who read me before, I didn't leave the Quakers; they left me. When a Christian group gets to the point that mentioning Jesus is considered "triggering" or "Politically Incorrect" but they have no problem accepting any other belief system out there, I have no time for them. I want a church that I can depend on, that won't change their standards or beliefs based on the current fads or fashions. I'm not interested in a social club or a feel-good/self-help group. Danny and I read Kallistos Ware's book and decided this might be what we were looking for. Hence, inquiry classes.)

There you have it. I hope everyone out there in bloggerland has a great weekend. See you next week!


Worth Fighting For

Ol' Remus at The Woodpile Report had an interesting historical tidbit:
London was bombed seventy-one times during the "official" Blitz, from September 1940 to May 1941. Most were night attacks, the Luftwaffe having failed to gain air superiority. Raids averaged 200 bombers per night. Losses were light—low single-digit per cent, yet shifting strategy and lack of heavy bombers attained far less than could be expected for the effort.
Some one million houses were destroyed and 40,000 civilians killed, less than some single raids on German cities by the RAF and USAAF. John Bull, ever frugal, used much of the rubble for building airfields, and the "cleared" areas were handy places for Victory Gardens. Civilian morale was said to be higher at the end of the Blitz than at the beginning.
I love that last line: Civilian morale was said to be higher at the end of the Blitz than at the beginning. 

Remember the surge of patriotism in the US after 9/11...and our government telling us that the best thing we could do was to get out and go shopping? I'm going to go out on a limb here and posit that if the British government had told everyone to just buy new clothes and curtains after every wave of destruction, Great Britain may well have ended up German Britain.

Despite deprivation, destruction, and losses of WW2, the British knew what they were fighting for and were willing to make the sacrifices necessary to win. The rest of the Allies were also willing to do without so that we could aid our friends in the fight.

Not so much now. At least in the US, I can't imagine our government today using rubble to build airfields. The alphabet agencies' shrieks of anger would deafen us. And can you imagine the lawsuits if the government tried to order bomb-cleared private land be used to produce food to feed the public? For that matter, think of the outrage that would result if the government tried to impose rationing again?

As the world inches closer to another war, we need to ask ourselves if we, as a country, are willing and able to make the sacrifices necessary to win. Can we live with rationing and shortages? Can we adapt, improvise, and overcome? Can we forget our differences and pull together?

Can we remember what we are fighting for?


Progress Report: Stumbling out of the Starting Gate

Okay, we've had some successes and some failures in our first month of trying to live with WW2 rationing.  The main categories subject to the ration system are Electricity, Gasoline, Food, and Clothes/Beauty/Exercise. I break down our progress (or lack thereof), below:

Electricity:  Our 7 room house is allowed an energy ration of 140 fuel units, or 1050 KWH of electricity each month. That works out to 35 KWH per day. Last month's electricity usage was 1031 KWH for 32 days, or 32.22 KWH per day. This month's electric bill says we've used 792 KWH in 25 days, which works out to 31.68 KWH per day. We're over three KWH LESS each day than our ration allows, although I'm not sure how much lower we'll be able to take it. I think we're doing very well in this category.

Grade: A

Gasoline: The gasoline rationing has been...hard to document, what with the cars constantly breaking. I'd put my weekly gas ration into the car and it would promptly break down. After a week of the car being out of commission and having to drive the truck (which has unlimited "C"-ration status for Danny's job) I'd get the parts to fix the car, put my gas ration into the tank...and it would promptly break down again. It is currently sitting at the mechanics...with a full tank of gas.

I'm hoping that we're coming to the end of this episode of the "Broken Car Shuffle" and I can start actually tracking our gasoline rationing...instead of only using it when delivering the car back to the mechanic's.

For the record, since we started this little experiment about 4(!) weeks ago, we have fixed, repaired, or replaced: 4 tires, 1 rim, a water pump, an EGR valve, O2 sensors on both vehicles, tie rods, brake power booster and master cylinder, windshield washer pumps on both vehicles (necessary for clearing road salt off the windshield so you can see to drive), and done the full pre-winter maintenance and checks.

Parts on order: front wheel bearings and ABS sensors for the car (mainly for preventative maintenance for the winter. The bearings are just beginning to go, but a snowy day would be a bad time for them to fail) and an evap canister for the truck. (We're driving the truck anyway, check engine light be damned. The EPA can just get a grip.)

Frankly, it's going to be a sad Christmas this year, because the vehicle repairs have broke us. At least that will be an authentic wartime experience.

[Rant alert!! Currently, the car is out of commission because it has a short in the ECM wiring...that requires a 5 sided inverse torx bit to access to fix. Yes, 5 sided. Not 6. Five. No one in the P-towns had one, so I had to order the bit off Amazon so my mechanic can fix the car. I hate it when car manufacturers get cute with their "tamper proof" bolts. They need to realize that trying to build job security into car maintenance is not always the best idea...especially in America. All it does is piss people off and force us to buy ridiculously specialized tools to fix our vehicles ourselves. It DOESN'T make it any more likely for someone to pay extortion prices to take their 13 year old car or 12 year old truck to a dealer to be repaired, where the mechanics are condescending and you have to fend off salesmen trying to sell the latest crimps in sheet metal on a 7 year loan. Grrrr. Okay, rant over. On with our regularly scheduled report.]

Gasoline: F

Food: Because of the car situation, it has been very difficult to get the shopping done on any sort of regular, rational basis.

I was actually surprised at how easy it was to plan meals not based around meat. Admittedly, I'm not even trying to replicate wartime recipes. With my allergies (coal tar dyes, HFCS and all its derivatives, and nickel) most of those recipes wouldn't work, anyway. Plus, having a flock of chickens to keep us in eggs and the ability to supplement our rations on the Black Market makes a big difference. 

On the down side, the sheer amount of carbs in the wartime diet gives me pause. I find myself planning far too many meals around noodles, rice, or potatoes. They're cheap, filling, and easy. Bread is unlimited, so I find myself eating more than I probably should. Also, with the cars breaking down so much and having to drive almost double the miles to keep everyone at work or schooling, we've filled the gap by eating out more than we usually do.

All told, though, I think we're doing...okay...on the food rationing front.

Food: C

Clothing/Beauty/Exercise: Sigh.

I waited until this week to weigh do a weigh-in. My BMI has gone from 30.7 to 30.8; still obese. I blame the carbs. Daughter's BMI went from 24.1 to 24.0; still normal. Danny's BMI has gone from 31.6 to 27.4 and has gone from the Obese category to the Overweight category. How do men do that?!

Okay, the carbs may not be totally at fault for my weight. I completely dropped the ball on the exercise portion of the agenda. I need to redouble my commitment to daily exercise. Not having to sit for hours at the mechanics would be a good start. Just sayin'.

Let's move away from the weight/exercise part of this post before I get depressed.

Soap rationing has been an ongoing struggle. If I had it to do over again, I would have grouped the dish soap in the same category as shampoo and I would have been fine. Making your own dish soap--yeah, don't bother. Buy detergent dish soap and save the headache.

Moving on: Clothing!

Right after starting our experiment, Danny's only pair of black dress shoes (that he needs for work) lost their tassel while he was teaching at the college. (There's a joke there somewhere. When I find it, I'll let you know.) So we used 14 of his 60 clothing coupons to buy him two pairs of dress shoes (they were buy one, get one half off).

I have to admit to a bit of retail therapy at Goodwill. (Don't judge me; the cars made me do it.) I replaced two shirts that were too stained to keep wearing (well water+iron=destroyed clothing.) I also bought two more sweaters, because I hate being cold. Since it is all used clothing, no ration coupons were used.

Daughter needed a new dress coat for winter, so we used 14 of her 60 coupons to order her a coat off Amazon.

As for the beauty part; I'm trying to get back in the habit of doing my hair and makeup each day...but it's hard to get motivated to look pretty when you're just working around the house or taking cars to the mechanic's. I need to improve in this area.

Grade: C

Overall Grade: C

So there you have it. Our first month hasn't been a total failure, but it wasn't too great, either. We have LOTS of improvements we need to make.


Soap, Take...what number is this? Oh, Okay. Soap, Take 3.

 The chunky dish soap just didn't work. (I'll talk about the laundry soap in a moment.)

To be totally fair, I didn't properly follow the dish soap recipe the first time. But the second time? Yeah. Not as chunky, still does not cut grease! Why, oh why, would anyone want a dish washing soap recipe that won't get grease off the dishes?!?

(Don't take everything the government says at face value. Notice the quotes around "soap"? Just sayin'.)
So I've been experimenting.

I know you can use wood ashes to scrub greasy pots. Wood ashes+water=lye. Lye+fat=soap. Scrubbing with wood ashes saponifies the grease on wet dishes. Theoretically, this would give you grease-free dishes. But, here's the kicker. It hasn't been cold enough (yet) to fire up the wood stove and all of last year's ashes went on this year's garden. Plus, we use the fireplace ashes for traction on the walkways after a snowfall, as well as on the plants. Do I really want to run the risk of falling on my patoot this winter because I used all the ashes cleaning the dishes? I think not. Plus, ashes are messy.

Ashes are out. Strike one. What about bleach?

Washing with the dish soap and then rinsing the dishes in a sink of bleach water cut the grease...some. I was annoying not having the second sink to rinse the dishes off while I washed them, which necessitated rinsing the dishes beforehand, then stacking the wet, drippy, dirty dishes beside the sink and on the counter. Plus, when it came time to scrub the pots...well, the second or third time I knocked the pot I was scrubbing, while trying to balance it on the edge of the sink, into the sink and splashed myself with grey, greasy, grimy dish water, I decided I wanted my second sink bowl back.

Bleach is out. Strike two.

And then I had an epiphany.

Because we use a kerosene stove, the bottoms of our pans get blackened by soot from the open flames. (Kerosene isn't the cleanest burning fuel in the world. But "free" covers a multitude of sins. I, for one, will willingly scrub pots for free kerosene. Don't judge me.) In order to get the soot off the pots and pans, I'd squirt a bit of the homemade dish soap on the bottom of the pan, add a decent amount of baking soda, and then scrub with a wet stainless scrubber. Soot came right off...and the pans weren't greasy afterward. Hmmm...

Maybe baking soda would work.

So what I've been doing is putting a squirt of soap directly on my dish sponge, adding a sprinkle of baking soda, and scrubbing the plates to grease-free happiness. I'm probably using a bit more soap than I would otherwise, but with better results. So far, so good.

Score: Baking soda for a win. Dish soap, still not that great.

(Just in case I forgot to mention this: the homemade dish soap does not make suds. No bubbles. None. Which takes quite a bit of the fun out of doing the dishes by hand. Just sayin'.)

Which brings us to the laundry soap.

Rubbing alcohol gets out grass stains (Biology 101. Chlorophyll dissolves in alcohol.) Hydrogen Peroxide will get blood out of anything...although the whole foamy-exothermic-reaction-thing is a little disconcerting. Rubbing alcohol followed by Ammonia gets grease out of clothes. So really, there isn't much left for the laundry soap to accomplish besides just getting light surface dirt off. (It certainly doesn't remove any stains that are even remotely oil-based.) Which, honestly, plain warm water and a good agitator will accomplish without extra soap.

Score: Laundry soap, better than nothing...useless without pretreatments.

My take-home on homemade dish and laundry soaps: If there is no alternative, yeah, they'll "work." If you have access to any detergents whatsoever, grab them, store them, use them. They are worth the money. You'll have clean dishes, clean clothes, and most importantly....



Stores for Wars

I've read many, many "prepper" sites from all over the interwebs. Some advocate storing beans, rice, jars of bacon, and cans of tuna; some advise buying 5 gallon pre-sealed, pre-packed pails o' preps and a can o' seeds (NOW on sale!!); some prefer to can their own; and then there are the ones that think that all they need is LOTS a gun and LOTS some ammo.

And since opinions are like...um...well, I'm here to tell you mine!

Last shopping trip, I made a point of picking up a few things just in case our very own Big Brother manages to get us into a war sooner rather than later. I had only a couple of dollars to spare (Thank you, cars. Grrr.) What did I buy, you may ask?

Baking soda. Pickling salt. Bleach. Water in gallon jugs.

Let me explain my thinking.

Baking soda: You can use this to brush your teeth, scrub a pot, raise bread, or boil dried corn to nixtamalize it and turn it into hominy, masa, etc. It puts out fires, neutralizes acids, and is also good for upset tummies. Costs about 50 cents for the name brand, 25 cents if you're cheap.

Pickling salt: This is salt with no additives. A 20% brine (2/3 cup salt per gallon of water, boiled together, in a glass or enamel pot: NOT metal) will preserve pork or beef (or venison). Fish can be layered in dry salt to preserve it. Use it to make sauerkraut or pickles. Salt can be also be used as a scrub to sterilize wooden implements. Costs about $1.50 for a 4# box.

Bleach: This can be used to disinfect water for drinking, clean dishes after scrubbing them, diluted to wash down wounds, used to clean floors...and it will keep your white clothes looking good! $2.50 for a gallon of the store brand.

Water in jugs: Most people don't realize that one of the first things to go if there is an extended power outage/EMP is the water supply (and the sewers; more on that another time). Without water, you can't cook, wash, flush the toilet, get a drink...you get the idea. People die from lack of water. Think Hurricane Katrina. Even if water is still coming from the taps if things go bad, are you sure that it has been properly disinfected? We are lucky that in most of America there are sources of water everywhere (swimming pools, decorative fountains, golf courses, lakes, rivers, even springs and wells). Most of them have this in common: you wouldn't want to just drink the water the way you find it! That is where the water in jugs comes in handy.

Purified water in jugs gives you 1: Water to keep you going (if the water goes off) until you can get more, and 2: a container to either transport water to a new container, hold it while you disinfect it (see:Bleach, above,) or store it once it is usable. No, the plastic jugs aren't perfect and certainly won't last forever, but they're good for getting you started. Cost: 60 cents for store brand spring water.

(I'm still hoping the adults will take over the asylum before things get to the point of war, but it's better to be safe than sorry.)


Recipe: Ratatouille

As everyone who saw the Disney-Pixar movie knows, this is the recipe that turned Ego, the food critic, from a brooding curmudgeon to an outgoing, cheerful Parisian (a contradiction in terms, true, but it was an animated movie.) Once you taste this, you'll understand just why Ego was willing to eat food prepared by a rodent. Heck, you might even become cheerful and outgoing...even if you're not a Parisian.

This is a thick, chunky stew, best served with fresh bread and a hearty appetite. (Rat optional.)


1 medium onion, chopped
1 TBSP (2-3) garlic cloves, minced
1 medium eggplant, skin on,chopped
1-2 medium bell peppers, chopped (about 1-2 cups)
2 medium zucchini, chopped
2 yellow squash, chopped
6 oz tomato paste
28 oz can diced tomatoes OR 10-12 Roma tomatoes, peeled, seeded and diced
1 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1 TBSP dried parsley
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper

Drizzle just a bit a oil into the bottom of a large soup pot. Saute the onions over medium heat until just beginning to turn translucent. Add garlic and saute another minute. Add rest of ingredients, turn heat to low, and simmer 1 1/2 to 2 hours, stirring occasionally to make sure nothing is sticking to the bottom. Good hot or cold.


Rations, Rations, Everywhere

With the cars being pains in the tuchus unreliable, it has been hard to keep up with shopping/rations. (FYI: Once again, the truck is in the shop until, oh, Tuesday or Wednesday, waiting for parts...so the car, our only working vehicle, promptly got a hissing-air, wires-showing, no-tread, flat tire in sympathy over the weekend, which took all our extra cash to replace. Horses are beginning to look like a viable alternative.) I keep telling myself that the cars are probably making allowing me to replicate wartime conditions better than I could have otherwise...but it is still aggravating.

I had (by my calculations) roughly one week's worth of rations, plus 6 Black Market credits for eggs. To recap, these are the rations we're following now, per person:

Bacon or Ham             4 oz
Sugar                            8 oz
Tea/Coffee                   2 oz
Meat, including fish    1# 3 oz
Cheese                         2 oz
Preserves                     1#/month
Butter                           2 oz
Cooking oil                  4 oz
Lard                             2 oz
Sweets/Candy             12 oz/month
Milk                            1/2 gallon per week under 18, 1/2 gallon per month for adults
...plus the $25 dollars per person, per week, for everything else.

I bought NO sugar or tea this time around (I have LOTS left over from the previous weeks) So I counted that as one coupon for the Black Market this week, with one ration (8 oz) saved for later. I also only bought 2 rolls of sausage (1# each) and one 8 oz bag of frozen mini shrimp, so I still have 1# 1oz of meat coupons for later. I also still have one chicken breast left over from last week. We are in the middle of harvesting potatoes, so I geared this week's food to use up as many damaged potatoes as I could. I also didn't buy any milk, since we still have about 3/4 of a gallon left. I used half of the milk ration to buy heavy cream for the Zuppa Toscana.

I needed 16 oz of cheese, so I used our 3 cheese rations and 5 of the Black Market credits to buy a 1# brick of Swiss cheese. That left me with only 2 Black Market credits for next week. The only thing that I'm a little short on right now is butter, but as soon as I run the next couple dozen eggs over to the neighbor I should be able to rectify that. (We're getting 10 eggs each day!) I have plenty of oil, so it really isn't much of a problem.

The Dinner menu for this week is:
Gnocchi with spaghetti sauce and broccoli
Zuppa Toscana
Orange chicken with steamed rice and steamed broccoli and carrots
Fried rice with egg
Polenta with spaghetti sauce (I picked up half-a-dozen jars of Classico Spaghetti sauce for a dollar each on sale.)
Shrimp, spinach, and Swiss cheese sauce crepes.

 (Recipes WILL be coming each week. I've just been a bit frazzled. Don't judge me.)

I splurged for breakfasts. I found a recipe for homemade apple doughnuts that I'm itching to try, so I went all in on maple syrup, pie spice, apple cider, apple butter (I used both remaining preserve rations for this), and whole apples to grate. Any remaining apples will be made into apple sauce for apple crepes. I also found a recipe in July's Southern Living for a chocolate Babka. I used the last of our sweet ration to buy a bag of mini chocolate chips for this recipe. I'm going to adapt the heck out of it, but I really, really liked the tip of dehydrating any extra left over and using it for cereal. I hate throwing good food to the pigs. Also on the breakfast list is biscuits and sausage gravy (I can use 1/3 of a sausage roll per breakfast and still have it taste good...plus gravy uses up milk at a quick clip.) And finally, any extra bread and the cheese left over from the crepes will let me make a strata. YUM!

Lunches are leftovers or sandwiches (eggs, again.)

So to recap: I have 1# 1oz of meat, 8 oz of sugar, 3 tea rations, and 2 Black Market credits saved up right now. The cars still are acting up, but I hope believe we're going to have that under control soon-ish. We have lots of yummy food (New recipes! My favorite!) planned for this week, so I'm off to post my Ratatouille recipe. Look for it tomorrow.

And that's the way it is.


One More Delay

I'm going to be doing the broken car shuffle...again...all day, so we will resume our regularly scheduled program on Monday...or sooner if Obama does something stupid.

Planned posts for next week: Rations, Stores for Wars, and Soap that doesn't work but alternatives that might.


Life Imitating Art?

Some of the top stories on Drudge (just below the election circus) are a trio: Putin cancels Paris trip as diplomatic crisis over Syria deepens, Russia's top propagandist says US behaviour could have 'nuclear' implications, and Russian Government Officials Told To Immediately Bring Back Children Studying Abroad.

This doesn't look good.

Who would have thought we would come to the edge of another world war over a conflict in Syria, of all places? But then, the excuse to start WW1 was an assassination in Serbia, so I guess any excuse will do once government's minds are made up.

I've been doing my little experiment for about three weeks now. I've learned some things already. For example: Rationing is more of an annoyance than the great deprivation that I had assumed it to be; Eggs are gold when food is scarce; and "Soap" recipes on the internet aren't worth the paper they're printed on (more on this later.)

The beating of the war drums is once again getting louder. It may fade back down, or it may explode into armed conflict...but this time, it will be a conflict where everyone has nukes. Which makes me feel the necessity of preparing for war...World War 3, not just re-enacting the conditions of World War 2. I'm hoping diplomats from both our country and Russia can put a stop to all of this. But I think I need to explore our options, just in case they continue down the same reckless path. That means making sure things work, instead of just trying to follow guidelines from the last time the lunatics took over the asylum. (I'm still going to follow rationing...I'm just also going to explore other things that would need to be done if there were another war.)

Britain civilians got almost a year's reprieve from the time war was declared in 1939 until WW2 kicked into high gear (for them) with the Blitz in 1940. That was almost a year to prepare, both mentally, materially, and physically. I'm hoping...well, I'm hoping everyone in charge starts acting like adults, but barring that, I'm hoping we civilians get at least that long to prepare for whatever is to come.


I Need a Break! (Or: Days like this are why people drink.)

Yesterday was a full day of WTF.

Both cars needed repaired: The truck needed two new tires and a rim, and the car needed its brakes rebuilt (power booster/master cylinder.) I had an appointment at the mechanic's for the car and an appointment at the tire shop (different towns) for the tires/rim.

Danny was late to work because he had to renew his driver's license. He hadn't noticed it was expiring until he started doing paperwork for his new job. Yesterday was the last day he could renew, so he headed off in the car to do that, while I drove the truck at about 10 mph to the tire shop. I planned to do the grocery shopping after getting the tires fixed. I had two week's worth of gas rations burning a hole in my pocket (figuratively, people. Figuratively.) I was sitting pretty.

The tire shop had two tires to replace my dead tires...but no new rim. I called our mechanic (in the same town Danny works in.) He found a rim for the truck. Was I still planning to bring the car in? 'Cause the shop was really busy. I mentally rescheduled the grocery shopping and headed there. We already had planned on dropping the car off to be fixed that morning...but Danny had been late, so he had headed straight to work.

The plan was to swap the truck for the car at the school's parking garage, get the car fixed, and then swap them back out. But that meant hours of sitting in the mechanic's waiting room...and I hadn't had breakfast yet, even though it was edging toward noon. To keep me from getting stuck waiting at the mechanic's, Danny met me at the mechanic's to drop off the car to be repaired first. On the way back, we grabbed lunch at the local Chinese buffet. I wasn't sure it fell under the "Three courses, only one with meat" rationing rule, but I was so hungry, I didn't care.

Then we went back to his office, where I whiled away the hours filling out HR paperwork for him, while he dealt with IT (his phone was assigned to the wrong person; then they didn't give him the password to set up his new phone number...and he can't order his business cards from HR until he has a working phone number) and campus security (locating the physical key to his office. He's been depending on the secretary being there to get in.) He also found out that the SOAR conference (three hours away) he was supposed to go to NEXT weekend was actually being held THIS weekend. He was already scheduled to work with the Dean on Saturday, so he agreed to go to the conference for Friday (today.) Three hours of driving, eight hours proctoring, three hours driving back. Then straight to work on Saturday. Explain to me again how teaching is an easy nine-to-five job?!

All of which meant the cars HAD to be in good running condition. Good thing we were taking care of that problem, huh?

Around 4:30, we headed over to pick up the car and let the mechanic replace the tire rim for the truck. The car was still up on the lift. Daughter's Kung Fu class was starting at 6pm, so we rescheduled the tire/rim and Danny headed home in the truck to pick daughter up. I was going to do the grocery shopping once the car was done and meet up with them later.

Ten minutes later: the mechanic's phone rings. The truck had died at a stoplight. Danny tried to call me on my new cell phone, but couldn't get through. He was limping the truck back to the mechanic's. Could I call daughter and let her know she was going to be late to Kung Fu?

It took him almost 30 minuted to drive the distance back. By the time he had gotten back to the mechanic's, I had discovered that my phone wouldn't send or receive calls. I was busily doing the power-off-power-on trick, trying to reset it. The mechanic was past his closing time and anxious to leave. We off-loaded everything we needed from the truck into the car, handed the truck over to the mechanic, jumped in the car, and zoomed home.

Daughter was sitting on the front steps waiting for us when we pulled up. By the time we got back to town, there was only 1/2 an hour left of her 2 hour class, so we bought dinner instead. At which point I reminded everyone that:
1: I still hadn't done the grocery shopping.
2: We still didn't have two cars.
3: The one working car was not going to be available for grocery shopping until sometime Saturday night/Sunday.
4: If people wanted something to eat besides eggs, we needed to do the grocery shopping!

Which is why we ended up grocery shopping at 9 at night. As a treat, I bought a box of biscotti cookies (since we had two week's worth of rations to spend.) I've bought this brand before, but usually I bought the chocolate biscotti. These were salted caramel biscotti. Unfortunately, I didn't read the box, since I had bought them before...and the salted caramel had corn syrup in them. I discovered this after my first bite, in the parking lot, when we ripped open the box and grabbed a cookie to eat on the drive home. (After a day like that, I needed some sugar. Don't judge me.)

So we got home, threw the groceries in their respective receptacles, I downed a Zyrtec to head off the worst of the reaction, and everyone collapsed into bed.

Which is why, this morning, I woke up to no car, no husband, a sore throat, no pictures of the rations to post, and an overwhelming urge to take the day off!!

But at least we have something to eat besides eggs.


Rain, Pouring

 This has been a rough week.

I spent a goodly potion of the weekend in bed suffering from an allergic reaction. Danny started his new job at the school, which has necessitated all types of backing and filling, since we're doing the whole last check-first check pay gap dance. (He'll still fly part-time.) Two of our rescue strays have decided they just don't want to be backyard dogs any longer and are making nuisances of themselves (Anyone want a free dog? Not joking. They're small and cute...and desperately want to be house dogs.) An overly-celebrating driver took out our mailbox...and narrowly missed adding his car to our living room furnishings. Speaking of cars, we're down to one car, which Danny is using, because the other car needs not one, but two tires replaced, so I'm stuck at home. All of which means I'm still trying to feed everyone on the same week's worth of food I bought two weeks ago.

It never rains, but it pours.

I'm sure, positive, convinced that this sort of thing happened to families during the war. People got sick; there was massive job restructuring; tires needed replaced and were unobtainable for a time; ...which meant wartime housewives had to come up with meals from nothing until they could get themselves and their ration coupons to the stores.

All of which is a long way of saying that, right now, the chickens are saving our bacon. For emergency food times, there is nothing better than a small flock of chickens.

Egg fried rice. Omelets. Eggy in a basket. Fried egg sandwiches. Egg salad sandwiches. Scrambled eggs. French toast. Egg and rice soup. And the list goes on. Eggs are the perfect, "We're out of food" food.

Things will be better by Friday, which is good. We should all be heartily sick of eggs by then.


Recipe: Carrot Cake

 (For extra fun, this link tells all about how carrots won World War 2. Impressive little root!)

My family loves this recipe! On birthdays, instead of store-bought cakes (most of which I can't eat because of my allergies) this is our go-to recipe. For rationing purposes, it only used 20 oz of our first week's 48 oz of sugar. It DID, however, use all but 8 oz of our cheese ration, which meant I had to put off our traditional birthday breakfast of cheese strata (recipe coming soon.) Oh, well. It was worth it!

There are two ways to use this recipe: as breakfast muffins, or as a layered cake. I'll give directions for each. The ingredients are the same.

Carrot Cake/Muffins:
1 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2# finely grated carrots (about 1 1/2 to 2 cups)
3/4 tsp salt
1 1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 1/4 cup flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/3 cup walnuts, optional

Cream cheese frosting:
8 oz package cream cheese, room temperature
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 375F for muffins, 350F for cake.

Combine sugar, oil, eggs and vanilla extract; mix until thoroughly blended. Stir in grated carrots, salt, and cinnamon. Combine flour and baking soda, and nuts if using. Add flour mixture to carrot mixture. Mix gently until completely blended.

 (Forgive the uninspiring pictures. I was in bed with a wicked bad allergic reaction from eating Taco Bell. Daughter made the cake. I dragged myself to the kitchen to snap a couple of pictures, then went straight back to bed.)
In a separate bowl, beat all the cream cheese frosting ingredients together until smooth.

(I have no pictures of this step. I was in bed, moaning with pain. On my birthday. Allergic reactions suck.)

For muffins:

Line a muffin tin with paper or silicone liners. Add 2 TBSP of batter to the bottom of each muffin liner. Drop one heaping tsp of frosting onto the middle of the batter in each cup. I usually use the smaller end of my melon baller (you won't use all the frosting. Don't skip this step; it makes the muffins really moist.) DON'T try to add more frosting or the rest of your batter won't fit. Use remaining batter to fill muffin liners to within 1/4 inch of the top, completely covering the frosting.

Bake at 375F for 18-20, until the muffins are firm to the touch. Don't worry if the frosting oozes out of the top of the muffins. This is normal. Cool muffins on rack for about 10 minutes.

While muffins cool, fill a pastry bag with remaining frosting. Pipe frosting into muffin through hole where frosting broke through the batter. (OR you can do what I do and just smear whatever frosting is left over from "taste-testing" while the muffins bake on top. I'm not Martha Stewart. I don't have time for pastry bags. Don't judge me.)

For cakes:

(I usually double the recipe, both cake and frosting. But then, I make BIG cakes. The recipe undoubled makes a normal-size cake. Double the frosting, though. That's good stuff.)

Crisco and flour two cake pans.

Divide batter between the two pans.

Bake at 350F for about 20-25 minutes, or until cake tester comes out clean.

Cool on a rack. Frost between the layers, then the sides and top. Decorative swirl optional.

(Happy Birthday, to me!!)


Reviewing Rations

Last week, I had a mild moment of panic when I realized how little meat the rations provided for the three of us. I tried some quick backing and filling. Since daughter gets 1/2 gallon of milk per week, I chose to take one of our monthly adult rations of 1/2 gallon milk as 8oz heavy cream and 8 oz sour cream, to give us more options. I hit my cookbooks and came up with recipes heavy on veggies and light on meat and dairy.

It  turns out that, except for meat and cheese, the ration amounts actually provide way more food than we can use, especially sugar. One pound of sugar per person per week is totally ridiculous. We don't use that much sugar in a month, much less in a week. I could understand needing some extra sugar if we had lots of fruit to preserve, but 3# per week is industrial-scale fruit preservation. We're VERY heavy tea drinkers, but the tea ration is more than even we can drink in a week. (Yes, we drink our tea without sugar, which is looked upon with deep suspicion in the South. I was raised in California. Don't judge me.) Also, 36 ounces (12 oz x 3 people) of oil per week is excessive. I might use that much in a month, but in a week?!? And 6 sticks of butter (24 oz) for three people for a week? I'd have trouble using half that amount, even if we were having bowls of buttered popcorn every night!

Obviously, I'm American, not British. But I have to ask: What in the world was British cuisine like during the war that the ration system needed to provide that much oil, sugar, butter, and tea?!?

To recap, our current ration, per person, per week, based on the highest amounts allowed by the British during the war, is:

Bacon or Ham              8 oz
Sugar                          16 oz
Tea /Coffee                   4 oz
Meat, including Fish  1# 3 oz
Cheese                           8 oz
Preserves                       1#/month
Butter                            8 oz
Cooking oil                 12 oz
Lard                              3 oz
Sweets/Candy             16 oz/month
Milk                             1/2 gallon for children under 18 per week; 1/2 gallon for Adults per month

(I'm leaving off the egg ration because we have chickens. We're getting so many eggs that we share a couple dozen each week with our neighbors. During the war, we could have made a decent amount of extra money selling our eggs on the black market.)

Based on last week's results, I'm revising the ration to the amounts the British were allowed as of April 1945:

Bacon or Ham             4 oz
Sugar                            8 oz
Tea/Coffee                   2 oz
Meat, including fish    1# 3 oz
Cheese                         2 oz
Preserves                     1#/month
Butter                           2 oz
Cooking oil                  4 oz
Lard                             2 oz
Sweets/Candy             12 oz/month
Milk                            1/2 gallon per week under 18, 1/2 gallon per month for adults
...plus the $25 dollars per person, per week, for everything else.

A pound-and-a-half (8 oz x 3 people) of sugar per week is better, but we still won't be able to use all of it. During WW2, I could have sold my extra sugar ration on the black market or traded it privately for some other hard-to-get items (meat, chocolate, cheese, chocolate, bacon, chocolate, soap,...chocolate.) Unfortunately, the wartime black market is no more, so I have to create my own.

I've decided that for each pound of sugar we don't use, every ration of oil or butter, and each dozen eggs we give to our neighbor, I'm going to allow us black market purchases of:
1 extra soap coupon OR
2 oz sweets/candy OR
2 oz of cheese OR
4 oz of meat OR
4 oz of bacon.
I'll keep a running total on here so I (and you) can keep track of my illicit activities.

Since I'm changing everything up, I'll post this week's shopping and menus tomorrow. [Addendum: Due to a perfect storm of a flat tire, rusted lugnuts, a sloped gravel parking area, and Danny working all weekend, the grocery shopping will be delayed until Monday. Tuesday at the latest. Maybe Wednesday. Cars suck.]

Monday's recipe will be my super adaptable, super easy (except for grating the carrots, but that is what children are for, right?) Carrot Cake recipe. It can be made into breakfast muffins (with the frosting on the inside) or into a cake (with the frosting on the outside), and is our go-to favorite for birthdays.

In honor of my (age redacted) birthday, have a fun, cake-filled weekend out there in Bloggerland!!!