Monday, November 21, 2011

Getting Out of Town in an Emergency

Recently, Grant and I have been talking about Emergency Preparedness. It is something we really strive for, and we work at it a little at a time, and talk about it frequently.
Our most recent conversation turned to our cars, Pixie and Mitsi. You see, in Nevada, we are surrounded in almost every direction by miles upon miles of NOTHING. And that's a good thing! A lot of people can't stop talking about the "imminent end of the world" that is supposedly coming in December of next year. While I don't really believe 12/2012 will bring the end of the world, I recognize that a lot of people really do believe that. And when faced with the prospect of a disaster, people are capable of terrible things.
In the event of rioting and power loss in the city, staying at home is a viable option for us. We have one room in our home that has a wood-burning fireplace. While it would be cramped with all the people living here, it is certainly possible. But what if, the best solution is to leave town? Could Pixie or Mitsi save the day? They sure could, provided we stay prepared! We figured out that half a tank in either car could get us at least 200 miles away. Here is Nevada, that could put huge distances between us and trouble.
So, our goal is to keep half a tank of gas in one of our cars at all times, with the priority being on Mitsi, the newer car featuring more interior storage and better mileage. In addition to this, each car is getting a little survival box with gloves, blankets, can openers and a few cans of food, and water. I don't want to go overboard with my trunk kit, since I don't want to weigh the car down too much.

This post is being linked on Homestead Revival! They are a great resource for preparedness! I have learned a lot there

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Things We Keep

My darling Grant likes to label people by the things they keep. Now, the wording of that makes him sound judgmental or something, and that isn't what I am trying to get at. Here, let me explain...
I am a worryer, and I worry and stress about all kinds of things. When I am sleeping, I often wake up before dawn and am unable to get back to sleep because I am stressing about work, school, whatever. This issue (or, rather, its negative effect on my sleep schedule) is a concern for us, and Grant has taken to calling me "the keeper of the stress."
Then, there is my cat, Abercrombie. She has lots of beautiful, soft, long fur. Her appearance is really quite extraordinary. Grant likes to call her "the keeper of the long hair." LOL
This habit of his has me thinking... what are the things we "keep," the things that define us? Can we be defined by mostly good things, or are our traits and habits mostly negative? I think we would all much rather be the keepers of the humor, or the tasty cookies, or the beautiful prose than to be the keepers of the smoker's cough, or the anger, or, perhaps worst of all, the keepers of the old, dusty baggage from the past.
I think we would all do well to remember the things we are keeping. Let's all take a moment to unpack the negative to leave room for all the great things we could be keeping!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Autumn has Arrived!

Autumn is my favorite season of the year, always has been. I remember around 12 years old being insanely jealous of a girl I knew whose birthday was the first day of autumn. We got a new rake this weekend, and a big group of us went into the yard and cleaned up old leaves and pine needles. (more on this in my next entry!)
Autumn is full of beautiful colors that can be found in nature on the trees and in all the stores as cold weather fashion becomes necessary. The leaves are so bright and beautiful. I would really like to take a drive one day to see some autumn foliage, maybe through the lovely area north of Donner Lake, whose name escapes me at the moment. (Anyone know what I'm talking about? It's really beautiful there...)
And who can beat the delicious food?! Autumn food is just the best food there is. Hand's down. Not just Thanksgiving dinner, but all autumn long, all I want to eat is Shepherd's Pie, mashed potatoes, apples, soup, et cetera. And anything pumpkin. I just found some neat pumpkin recipes in a magazine that I can't wait to try out and report back on. Pumpkin custard, pancakes, bisque and brownies. Yippee!
Another great thing about autumn is the CLOTHES. Oh my gosh the clothes. Sweaters and tights and scarves and hats! Usually in autumn-appropriate colors, but occasionally in an expected, beautiful color like bright pink. And it isn't too cold yet, so you can still wear your lighter clothes with some layering without worry. For example, I attended a wedding just last week. It was chilly outside and I wore a strappy summer dress with a long sleeved t-shirt under it and a pair of nylons. No big deal. I looked good and was warm.
Speaking of clothes, HALLOWEEN! This was always my favorite holiday. I love to get creative and put together a great costume. A lot of times I employ the thrift stores, but they have failed me this year and I am going to try my hand at partially making my own costume as Little Red Riding Hood. Grant is going as the Big Bad Wolf and I think everyone will get a laugh at his costume, so I won't give away the spin he is adding to it.

Readers, what do you like about autumn? What are you dressing as for Halloween? Let's discuss this wonderful season together!

Monday, July 25, 2011

The Simple Pleasure of a Good Book

I love to read. My relatives will proudly tell you that I learned to read at age 3, with the help of my grandma as well as my great-grandma, who was a teacher. After picking up the basics of reading, I couldn't be stopped. I would read just about anything. Out of curiosity and boredom, I read through encyclopedias, cover-to-cover. So much of my childhood was spent with my nose in a book, it's a miracle that I made it to adulthood without walking right off the edge of a cliff!

These days, I still enjoy a good book. In fact, I just started a new book last night. Deception Point by Dan Brown. Dan Brown is one of my favorite authors. This particular novel, published in 2001, is a sort of political conspiracy thriller with some elements of science-fiction. I can't wait to find out what happens!

An engaging, suspenseful plot is key to a good novel. I remember watching my grandfather read novels as a kid. He would come home from the library with a bag full of Westerns and stories of political intrigue. Sometimes, he would sit at the table with a new book, read about 30 pages, then put it back in the bag and pull out another book. He told me that he just couldn't "get into the plot," so he would cut his losses and move on. Later, I learned about this issue. Life is too short to read boring books. Luckily, I have not come across too many books that I couldn't finish.

A related issue is writing style. While this issue seems to mostly pop up in cheap romance novels, occasionally, one finds the words on a page to be lacking in good-quality prose. I have read some books where the wording was just too awkward to understand. One must wonder whom is sitting at the publisher's office, sending these unfortunate samples of English to print...

I typically do not purchase new books, except as gifts. I prefer to find my books at the library (whose efforts I support through my consistently earned late fees) or at a secondhand store. Used bookstores are especially good, since their staff are typically knowledgeable and can help with a recommendation. I have also come across books I really enjoyed by reading reviews in the magazines I subscribe to. Sometimes, I borrow books from friends. I once saw a quote by Abraham Lincoln, which goes something like "my best friend is someone who will give me a book I have not read." Isn't that the truth? I get book recommendations from my sisters, my mom, and my friends. Sometimes, I daydream about starting a book club with my friends. I wonder how that would turn out. We could read books and munch on snacks and drink wine. Any takers?

Tell me, readers. What makes a book great? Where do you find books? Let's talk literature!

Monday, July 18, 2011

How to make your leftover rice and french fries edible again!

At my home, rice is an important dietary staple. It is very inexpensive and filling, and it goes with pretty much everything. However, I tend to make large batches of my rice dishes, then save the leftovers. Additionally, being a resident of the high desert, my rice sometimes comes out, shall we say, "crispy." So, one can imagine the disgusting crispitude of my rice after it has been sitting in the fridge for a day or two (or five).
Luckily for me, I have devised a simple but effective method of improving my leftover rice. All I do is put my leftovers in a pot with some leftovers. You may want to start with around 1/3 of a cup and go up from there to find the right amount for your rice and climate needs. Put the pot on the oven to simmer with the lid on for a few minutes, until the water is absorbed and your rice is puffy and soft again. This is a great opportunity to add other things to your rice, such as leftover meat, stew, or frozen vegetables. Just make sure to add more water if that stuff is a bit dry as well.
While we are on the topic of leftovers, let's talk about french fries. I always get way too many fries at a restaurant, and while I don't want them to go to waste, I think we can all admit that microwaved, leftover french fries are just about the most horrible, soggy things imaginable. The other day, I went out to eat and had some delicious fries with my Fish & Chips. I had a ton of fries left and wanted to save them, so I took to the Internet in search of a solution to this age-old problem. One idea I saw mentioned several times was to sort of flash-fry them in oil on the stove. Here is what I did, and it turned out really well. Much better than microwave fries.
I began heating up some cooking oil in a pan on the stove. Just use a pan big enough for your fries, since you will be tossing them around a bit and you don't want the fries flying around all over the place. Since my fries were pretty plain to start with, I added a little rosemary and minced garlic to the oil as it was heating up. Once the grease began to sizzle, I added my french fries, stirring them around to get a good coating over them. At that point, I lowered my heat. The point is to warm the fries up, not burn them. Then, I just stirred often until the fries were nice and hot. Then I let them cool on top of some napkins to drain the excess oil. They were fantastic. Definitely worth the time and extra work.
That is all I have for you folks today. Let me know your tips for leftover rice and fries!

Friday, March 25, 2011

To have, or not to have, a cooking blog? Or, some thoughts on the environment.

Now, I know what you're thinking. Michele, you just started this blog, and you have only made one post so far. How can you think about creating a new one?! However, I was talking with a coworker and we mutually decided that I was the Queen of Leftovers. Not a terribly glamorous title, but it fits me quite nicely. We talked about how I could wear my tiara and film little videos of me fixing up awesome meals using my leftovers.
You see, what happened was, a few days ago, Michelle (note the double l) gave me her leftover Chinese takeout, which consisted of some fried rice, shrimp, and veggies. She always gives me her leftovers because, while she won't ever eat them, she knows I will. So, I ate the fried shrimp and vegetables, and later, I took some raw cauliflower and sauteed it with a little minced garlic, then steamed it until it was cooked. I then added the pork fried rice with more water, added some hot sauce, covered my pan back up, and let the steam rejuvenate the rice. It worked beautifully. I scarfed that stuff down like it was my last meal. In retrospect, I overdid the hot sauce, but I am pleased with the results. My meal was much better than just popping the rice in the microwave.
Now, this may make me a conceited person, but I think some people could really benefit from some advice on stretching their leftovers inexpensively. Not only is it better for the food budget, food waste has a remarkable effect on the environment. Allow me to briefly explain...
For the most part, food is shipped long distances as it makes its way from the farm to your plate. For example, let's think about the aforementioned pork fried rice. Before Michelle picked it up at the Chinese restaurant, the vegetables, rice, pork, eggs, soy sauce, etc, all had to be delivered to the restaurant, either from the factory or, even worse, some sort of warehouse where the item is stored between factory and restaurant. The factory also took shipment of these goods, as well as their packaging (bottles, bags, etc) from their source. In the case of the pork, food also had to be shipped in for the pigs to eat. Not counting the energy consumption of the factories themselves, that is a lot of driving around in a truck or boat, possibly tens of thousands of miles. If we all wasted less food, less of these trips could be made, conserving energy and protecting the environment from CO emissions and landfill usage.
And did I mention that it is good for your pocketbook? According to a 2007 study sponsored by the UN, Americans throw away nearly 26 million tons of food each year. How much do you suppose that much food is costing us? The cost just to dispose of that extra waste is estimated by the same study to cost about 1 billion dollars each year. Our nation could do a whole lot of stimulating of the economy with a billion extra dollars.
Hopefully, my leftover crusade will inspire some interest in cutting down on food waste. I will be sure and post a link when my new blog is up and running.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Hula Hoops

Today, I spent a decent amount of time with two of my sisters, hula-hooping. Hula Hoops became popular as a children's toy in the 1950's, but today many adults also enjoy this hobby for exercise or performance art.

Some time ago, my mother got a weighted hula hoop for working out. These weighted ones are easier for me to use than typical toy hoops that have no weight to them. My mom's hoop has these little bumps all around the inside, supposedly to "massage" you or something. I think the real purpose is to give you little annoying bruises on your stomach for no reason at all, but that is neither here nor there. At family dinners, we all often spend lots of time playing with the hula hoop with the music blaring.

A few days ago, my sister, Traci, received her own hula hoop via the Internet. Hers is not weighted and is free of the massaging bumps. Thanks to several videos from Youtube, Traci has become quite good at hooping and is trying to teach me and Cyndi (another sister) some fun techniques. The "ice cream/exploding soda" analogy in this video was very helpful in our successes as students of hooping:

I definitely still need more practice, but boy, was it fun. The three of us shared a lot of laughter this morning. It was a great way for us sisters to get together and just have fun. With work, school, pets, and relationships, it is hard for us to find the time for stuff like that. Even better, it is a pretty rigorous workout, especially when combined with all the laughing we did!

Let a Little Light In

Today, I have elected to begin a blog. Left to my own, morbid devices, I would typically fritter away my spare time by perusing Missing Person's websites or some similarly dark corner of the Internet. This creepy fascination with the macabre is so addictive and time-consuming that I sometimes forget that I am interested in more cheerful, colorful, happy things. This blog is dedicated to my sunny side, named in remembrance of the times when my mother would greet me with a sincere "good morning, sunshine!"