Saturday, January 21, 2017

More Rambling

I'm just going to ramble this time, you know that's a problem for me when I'm trying not to, so let's see how this goes.

I saw on TV Tuesday morning about how birdwatching is becoming THE GREATEST ACTIVITY for America's Millennials.  And truly, I think that's wonderful.  One of the young birdwatchers, binoculars in hand, looked happily into the camera and said it was "like a video game".  Heh.  They say the pendulum swings out from one extreme to the other and we've been in a mindless extreme for much too long, if you ask me.  So I'm all for this change.  It gets them away from all their electronic stuff, out into the fresh air and sunshine and in the presence of other people.  Plus they're not killing anything, real or otherwise.  I think when people sit at a game console and kill all day, it desensitizes them to violence in real life.  Almost like they are granted permission to do it because it's "normal behavior".  But then again, a sense of boredom can set in once something loses it's shock value.  I don't think killing will ever lose its shock value for many of us and as long as we older people are alive, we'll always register and express that.  But there are other things that are no longer shocking.  And once that happens, not only are all the older folks not shocked and repulsed by it, but they're doing it.  My mother was born in 1912.  She had contempt for people who broke the Victorian rules that she lived by and tried to raise her children under, as well.  She was incredibly shocked by the "F" word. It's just a word, for heaven's sake.  It doesn't blaspheme God.  Now, it's used so much, by people young and old, that it's just tiresome.  An interjected, useless, wasted-energy word.  Boring.  Makes people seem undereducated or unintelligent.  Lame, if you will. So I think we older people all need to band together and start doing drugs, alcohol, technology, recreational shopping and sex without love as a public service to our next generation.  The Millennials will look at us and see how lame it is.  They will be motivated to be better than we are.  Maybe then they can live their adult lives the way we tried to teach them to when they were kids, and failed because they thought the way we lived was so uncool.  Oh, but seriously, I don't WANT to do some of that stuff.....

Dr. Oz, on Monday, had a pair of identical twin young women on his show and it was so very sad.  One of them had weighed a little over 600 pounds and the other about 585.  He had footage of how one of them almost died during or immediately after her gastric bypass procedure.  They had weighed 200 pounds when in elementary school and 300 pounds when in high school.  This has got to be what Hell is like.  And sometimes I think that maybe there really IS no such place as Hell, unless it's the tough times during our life on this earth.  Most of us have experienced that, right?  It ended on a hopeful note, as I think they had both lost some of the weight already, but not such that I could see much of a difference yet.  So far yet to go.  I wish them all the best. 

And, y'all might as well know, I'm pretty hacked off at IHOP because of their new commercial.  They show a stack of five fat pancakes smothered in syrup and butter and they say, "Go put on your stretchy pants and come see how many pancakes you can eat".  Just as the advertisers of alcohol say, "Drink Responsibly", the purveyors of carb-rich foods should have to say, "EAT Responsibly", considering that one in three Americans is obese and obesity is a huge health problem in America.  I find this commercial highly offensive.  Anybody who has ever had to lose weight knows that ONE pancake is AT LEAST equal to one slice of bread, sometimes more, and we haven't even considered how much sugar is in all that syrup.  That's a TERRIBLE way to start your day. 

McDonald's has come out with two new sizes of their Big Mac hamburger.  Business Insider did a comparison and they said the new smaller Big Mac is really the same size of a regular hamburger.  Yet they went on to say that it's "hardly filling" and "might be good for a quick snack on the go".  What the hell?  Back in the 1960's, this size hamburger was plenty for most people!  PLUS it came with fries and a drink.  Certain guys with big appetites would order two hamburgers because they'd been out on the hay truck all day or some other strenuous activity.  But NOBODY ever really considered a regular hamburger to be "a snack".  So the Big Mac we all know about has been part of the menu for awhile.  That was bad enough.  Now there's "The Grand Mac" which comes in a box that has "You're Gonna Need Two Hands" printed on the box.  Might be even more truthful if it said "You're Gonna Need A Larger Casket".  And here's something weird: the price difference between a Mac Jr. and a Big Mac is two dollars.  The price difference between a Big Mac and a Grand Mac is only sixty cents.  What the hell!!!!  It makes it look like it's a better value to get a Grand Mac and they know how we all love to get more for our money.  In fact, if you bought two Mac Jr's instead of a Grand Mac, you'd spend about a dollar more.  So save yourself some money, if you MUST have a hamburger, buy a Grand Mac and cut it in half, feed two people the same amount as if you got two Mac Jr's.  If there's just one person to feed, then save your two dollars and get the Mac Jr.  I think really if they priced the Grand two dollars higher than the Big, nobody would buy it.  So they're, like, discounting the bigger size.  Then they can say how well the Grand is selling and how poorly the Jr. is selling and eventually they'll phase out the Jr. because, well, it's just, "not selling".  As for myself, I have become somewhat of a "bread snob" and I find what passes for bread on take-out hamburgers to be rather......  ....slimy.  There are 550 calories, 30 grams of fat and 47 grams of carbs in a Big Mac, by the way.  I haven't been able to find any numbers on the new sizes but I'd bet half again as much for the Grand (775-45-70?) and maybe half the calories, etc., of a Grand (388-23-35?) for a Jr.  Some of those carbs will be the bread, but not THAT much.  So, must be some sugar in that "special sauce". 

Several months ago, my microwave died.  This was a catastrophic thing, because my microwave and oven are built-in appliances, and they are a matched set, together in one unit. 
(This is a picture I found from when we did all that painting and cabinetry in 2010 or 2011.) 

Hubs took the microwave out and temporarily put the microwave we still had from when we lived in The Ponca House in the space that resulted.  I thought I might start thinking about waiting to replace the oven when it died, too, but seriously, I started thinking about that the moment I saw the date on the back of the microwave.

It was 36 years old.  Of course the oven, then, is the same age. 

Yikes.  Lots of improvements have been made in oven technology since then.  I'm sure these were state-of-the-art 36 years ago.  But then, so was I.  Heh.

I have developed a healthy hatred for that oven.  It's small inside.  There are two shelves, but anything baked on the bottom shelf burns on the bottom.  So if I bake bread in this oven, I have to do one pan at a time.  Usually I just take both pans of bread dough to the convection oven that's in the used stove we bought to keep in the garage as a "canning stove".  It is a Whirlpool Gold, and it has worked flawlessly up to now.  It 's easy to use without needing a user's manual.  Appliances that work flawlessly are the best advertisement I know of, don't you agree?  Plus, canning or running the oven in the garage has paid for itself because these functions deliver sooooo many BTUs of heat into the house that it overworks the cooling system.  And I just fell in love with convection baking because it makes the bread rise better. 

I decided I didn't really want a fancy built-in microwave oven this go-round.  They are 'way more expensive than buying a decent brand at Walmart.  And I think, really, since they can leak radiation, they need to be replaced a little oftener than every 36 years or so.  So I decided to spend the money on getting a really good replacement for the oven and Hubs agreed to build in a shelf for the microwave we already had from when we lived at The Ponca House.
He used wood he already had in his "wood stash" and I'll paint and spiff it up the next time I have my gear out.

The oven that I ended up buying was --- wait for it --- a Whirlpool Gold convection.

It feels like it is soooo much larger inside than the old one (it was a GE), though, in fact, it's only about 4" wider.  That's quite a bit considering that it was only an inch wider than the old oven on the outside.  And the the WHOLE DOOR is the window, where the old one just had a bitty window in the middle of the door that I could never see through well enough for it to be of any help, whatsoever, to me.  It took a little shopping to find one that would fit the built-in and in fact Hubs had to trim away half an inch from the vertical trim on the front right and left sides of the cabinet, but he did that in pretty short order.  There is still plenty of extra room between the oven and the inside of the cabinet, and the outsides of the oven don't get hot so I wouldn't worry, even if the fit was tighter. 

Joe came over and did the electric part for us, and I baked bread in it on Tuesday.  I noticed on the reviews for this oven, some people complained about the noise the fan made when it ran and oh good grief, it's not bad at all.  Others complained about a whistling noise and all that is, is the fan moving the air around inside the oven and it's not even as loud as the sounds my dishwasher makes when it's running.  If that's all they have to complain about they should really count their blessings.  No complaints so far from me.  None at all.  And you know I'd tell you if I had any. 

We are all-electric here.  Could have propane if we wanted it, but I don't, because it's expensive, and if you have a leak, it's dangerous.  One of our new neighbors brought in a propane tank, I don't know if their kitchen is gas or if it's just for backup when their electricity goes out.  I never thought I'd like cooking with electric appliances.  One of the things that I had heard was that cooking doesn't stop when you "turn the fire off".  Those coils cool off so quickly that it's really not a problem.  I've also been canning on a ceramic-top stove.  So far that's worked out OK but I would rather can on coils.  It's just that I couldn't find a used stove that had them at the time.  I saved the old cooktop with coils from the kitchen, though, and if something happens to the ceramic top, I can have Hubs and Joe install it in the garage.  My canner was easy to modify for electric canning by buying a "rocker" that lets out the pressure that is beyond what it's set for.  In fact, I wish I'd discovered those 'way long ago.  Would've saved me hours and hours of standing there in front of my canner, watching the gauge and adjusting the heat under the pot. 

We have gotten so we go to the workout center at different times of the day, depending on what we're in the middle of doing or what the weather's like.  While we were there today, somebody had tuned the TV that was over my recumbent bicycle to the HGTV channel and I got to watch a show I hadn't seen before while I went four miles into nowhere.  It was called "Good Bones", and it's about someone buying a real eyesore that's got real possibilities once you get past the crap.  That's what I always look for when I look at a house.  It seems like a lot of people look at the paint colors and what's on the floor and they get turned off or on.  Listen, all that can easily be changed.  They don't seem to notice that there's no yard, or there's a highway right out front, or the rooms are all real little, or there's a horrible place next door with about twenty dogs in the back yard.  These are all things that can NOT be changed.  Neighbors told me that they watched lots of potential buyers come into this house before we did, and turn right around and go out.  Might've been that orange dining room that socked them right in the eye when they first walked in.  Or the ugly carpet, especially where it was stained or otherwise damaged.  Or the Hershey brown walls in the living room.  Those things hit me, for sure, but I knew they could be changed.  And what's up with having this much land, and hardly anything planted on it?  Beats me....

Our "cold snap" is about over for a little while.  The high for the day is expected to be in the 60's for several days, and lows in the 40's for several nights.  I have some sweet potato plants growing in small pots and they have developed those little gnat-looking things.  I think they're called white flies but not sure.  I tried the sticky paper and that didn't do it.  Tried a spray bottle with water, some cooking oil and some dish soap, and that helped but didn't last.  Then I saw a tip about just taking the plants outside and letting them fly off to more interesting things.  This may or may not work.  But I have the sweet potato plants out in the cold frame today and will leave them there till nights start to get below freezing again.  I have some sweet potato cuttings in a glass of water in the kitchen, and they have made roots.  I wanted to find some way to keep plants going for the next year's garden and these are experiments.  Most of these are from little pieces of root that I found in the bed when I dug the bigger potatoes out.  I'm also trying to keep other kinds of potatoes healthy so I can plant them in the spring when it's time.  I've seen so many demonstrations about how they can be held over the winter and none of them have worked for me.  I cannot leave potatoes in the ground under the best of winter weather, because the grubworms are down there.  Waiting.  Grrrrr.  Aldi had a special price on some cute little red, white and blue potatoes.  They were sold for eating but I bought mine with intentions of planting.  Prior to that they had a special on Yukon Gold potatoes so I bought some of them for planting as well.  The prices were better than what I'd have to pay for seed potatoes.  Of course there's that stuff they put on the potatoes to keep them from sprouting, and this works to my benefit because it slows that process down, but doesn't prevent it.

So far they have not sprouted but other potatoes from the grocery store have and I hope I can keep them going till I can plant them.  The grubworm problem is making me think about planting them in big planters, or totes, or bags though. 

I think I mentioned before that this year I'm doing my seedlings differently than in prior years.  I'm still doing Wintersowing for those plants that like a little cold, or that need winter stratification.  I'm not totally finished, but so far I have these seeds sown:

Giant Winter Spinach
Dwarf Blue Curled kale
Green Globe Artichoke
Angel Wings Rose
Canton Bok
Cos Romaine
Wading Pool Romaine
Troutback Lettuce
Jericho Lettuce
Bloomsdale Longstanding Spinach
Orach, Rose and Aurora
Kale, Blue Vates
Spigarello Liscia
Petunias
Virginia Mountain Mint
Orange Scented Thyme
Root Beer Hyssop
Fireweed 
Nodding Onion
Joseph's Coat Amaranth
Siberian Wallflower
But what is different this year is that I'm "mass sowing" many of the seeds that are warmth-lovers.

Artichoke, Green Globe Improved
Roselle
Brussels Sprouts, Roodnerf
Cabbage, Copenhagen Market
Tomatoes:
Cherokee Purple
Thessaloniki
Merveille
Striped German
Rutger's Select
German Giant
Bush Beefsteak
Purple Smudge
Yellow Cherry

 
I use those Folgers containers to set the plants on and thus get them closer to the light.  It's just faster and easier than adjusting the height of the lamp, though that was the way the plant stand was engineered.  Having a bit of a problem, since Folgers has been making their "3 Pound Canister" smaller and smaller.  I find now I have them in three different heights.  (And they think we don't notice.  *smirk*)
 
I'm not finished, but ran out of milk jugs in which to Wintersow, and waiting on more time to pass before I start some of the warm-weather seeds.  We have so many voracious birds that I think it's not wise to scatter seeds without putting some kind of cover over them.
 

I'm not quite sure exactly what this bird IS (is that a red spot on the back of its head, and a black bow-tie on its throat?  Could they be mates to those Dickcissels that have yellow bellies?), but they, and the crows, and many other bird varieties are out in huge numbers and they're in seed-eating mode.  They land together and it's kind of a treat to watch how they take flight in unison when they're startled.  It's like choreography.  As long as they eat weed seeds, I'm happy.  Otherwise, not so much.  They poop whenever they fly off, so I'm getting free fertilizer and probably some undigested "seed gifts" from where they were before they came here.  That could be good, could be bad.  I cast the last of my Crimson Clover along the outside of The Rock Wall during the fall and I can only hope that the seeds got rained in well enough so as not to be a bird attractant.  Time will tell.  I have yet to cast my poppy seed.  I would really like to get some perennial poppies started, I thought I had some but they did not come back up last spring.  So, not sure what happened.  My Hopi Red Dye Amaranth always flings out so many seed that I have found plenty of new plants every spring.  Not always where I want them, but oh, well.  Same for Morning Glories, Kiss Me Over The Garden Gate, Calendula, Dame's Rocket, Four O'Clocks, Jasmine Tobacco, Datura Moonflower, Hollyhock, Marigolds and Red Russian Kale.  I don't think my Love Lies Bleeding Amaranth made any seed so I'll try again to get that started.  Amaranth just does not like to come up if it's being watched, apparently.  I've been trying to get Love Lies Bleeding and Golden Giant to grow for years without much success.  Amaranth, as a grain, is very high in protein and I love how shiny black the seeds are.  The leaves can be eaten as a vegetable and I'm going to do that this spring.  But Hubs will back off from it, I'm sure.  This is the first winter for my rhubarb plants.  They made it fine through the summer in afternoon shade.  I sure hope to see them again in spring.
 

Well, this is now the day after Inauguration Day and we have a new president in The White House.  I have to say that it's been very hard to be a Democrat lately.  I may have become over-sensitive but I've found myself trying very hard to be careful what I say.  In a country where one is used to having free speech, this is very difficult.  Yet still all Democrats have been lumped into one category as a bunch of mindless sore losers.  Of course I know, and you know, there would've been mindless sore losers in the Republican camp had the election gone the other way.  The other side of "mindless sore losers" is "mindless ungracious winners".  And if you grew up under Victorian rules as I did, you know very well what that is and how to spot it when it happens.  It has much to do with getting in the face of the losers, gloating, and goading, and yes, even bullying.  There are lots of those in both camps, as well.  I cannot say that I was surprised by, and unexpectedly proud of, Barack and Michelle for the way they conducted themselves during the "transfer of power", because I expected nothing less from them.  Bless their gracious hearts.  They have truly lived a motto that I believe I heard Michelle say was advice given to her by Laura Bush (but I could've gotten that wrong -- not sure), which is, "When they go low, we go high".  Wherever it originated, it is good advice for all of us.

I would say that most of the people that came to fight and tear things up during the inauguration did not really care, one way or the other, WHO was being inaugurated.  It's just that they thought they had an excuse.  Isn't THAT sad.  If the election had gone the other way, we probably would've seen many of those same faces out there.  Those people who chose not to attend the inauguration had every right to do so, just as both Bush presidents, the losing candidate, Mitt Romney, and plenty of others, did when Obama was inaugurated.  We "THINKING Americans" must go on.  We must set the bar for The Mindless Ones on both sides.  We stand, we wait, we watch, we hope.  We pray, and ask for prayer across the world, that only good will come out of this.  And that's all I'm going to say about that.

May you all be blessed.  May you know good health, safety, peace, love, and joy.  Hugs xoxoxo

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