Friday, October 29, 2010

Friday, October 22, 2010

Can't wait to slowly accumulate enough 5-gallon buckets?

I found an eBay seller who has very nice, clean used 5-gallon buckets with metal bale handles for sale. His shipping costs are very reasonable, too. The total cost even with shipping was less than it would cost to order new buckets from a plastics company (though these are used, of course, if that matters).

I wrote and asked him about leaving the lids off my order to reduce the shipping weight, since I did not need the lids, and he not only did that, he even reduced the purchase price a bit, which was above and beyond, as I don't know what he would do with the lids alone.

Anyway, check out Jake at StuffForAllSeasons. Good seller, good buckets.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Do you have medical power of attorney for your grown college-aged child?

Judy Laquidara just brought up the necessity for college-aged young adults to have a medical power of attorney that allows their parents or other trusted loved ones to speak to medical caregivers on their behalf should they become incapacitated. Without one, we could not even find out information on Britta were to be in a car accident and hospitalized, for example.

Get your kids a medical power of attorney form, ask them to fill it out, and get it notarized. It's not set in stone, they can change it any time they want, but it's something at least.

Gundersen Lutheran, one of our two  local hospital systems, has this boilerplate MPOA which is sufficient for Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin:
In addition, the National Right to Life Committee has information on setting one up for whatever state you live in. It would make sense to have one that satisfies the requirements both of your home state and the state in which your college-aged child is living at present.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

We have a new phone number.

I just sent out a giant spammy sort of e-mail to notify friends and family. If you need our number and I missed you, please drop me an e-mail and I'll get it to you.

P.S. Little Miss A was driven to tears over the news that her phone number was changing, because "it's been that way forEVer."

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Don't Go Car Shopping While In Labor

Mike and Sara, friends of ours in Wisconsin, were a bit overdue for their second child. Well, she's here NOW. This morning Sara delivered their new little girl in a car dealership parking lot. It was just a convenient place to pull off the road when they realized they were not going to make it to the hospital in time, but I like to think they were car shopping. :o)

Little Annabelle didn't even wait for the paramedics. Mike got to catch her himself.

Welcome, little Annabelle!

LATER: Gundersen Lutheran put the 911 recording on YouTube. Sara and Mike were so awesome!

And here's a news story on them:

Mother Gives Birth in car dealership parking lot on way to hospital

Made apple juice (and applesauce as a byproduct) instead of working this morning.

Work has been pretty slow, and we've been called off in the mornings, when I usually work, to defer our time till later in the afternoon when more rolls in from the western half of the country, and that happened today. So I spent my morning baking bread and also making apple juice with my new steam juicer. (The link is informational; I got mine for quite a bit less money on eBay.)
I still have quite a few tart green apples from the neighbor's tree, and they're great for pies and crisps but not so great for juice, which is supposed to be sweet, so I picked up a couple of pecks of Jonathan apples from Leidel's Apple Stand in La Crescent, and another half bushel from a vendor at the farmer's market there, a pretty red apple with a lovely crunch, called a Scarlett O'Hara. I'm not sure Barry will let me juice those, however; he really likes them as eating apples. I also bought a half bushel of delicious little green pears that aren't all ripe yet, but the ones we have been able to eat have been wonderful.

So anyway, I was turned on to steam juicing by Judy Laquidara. She has many, many good ideas and inspires me. She has a large, stainless steel steam juicer, but I wasn't ready to spend that kind of money since I had never used one before. But I figured this one would be worth its while very quickly considering how many apples there are around here. A steam juicer is sort of like a giant percolator, only it's steam that percolates through the top, not hot water. It has several chambers stacked vertically, starting with water in the bottom, to produce the steam, then a juice collecting chamber, and on the top, a colander for fruit. You put your fruit in the colander part (apples get cut in halves or fourths, but that's all you do, no peeling or coring), put it on the stove and let the water produce steam for awhile. The fruit will cook in the top and release its juice, which drips through the colander into the juice collection chamber, and from there, you can pour it off using a rubber tube. It comes out scalding hot, so you can pour it directly into sterilized bottles or jars and seal it. If you are very gentle with the fruit and don't stir it at all, the juice will be clear, but I like my apple juice to have some fruit in it, so I stirred the fruit around to let some of the solids mix into the juice.

With apples, after you get out all the juice you're gonna get, you are still left with a lot of apple pulp. If you run that through a chinois, then you have applesauce. Sort of a byproduct of juicing. :o) I like applesauce, but I don't love it, and the kids think it's either baby food or something you eat when you're getting over the flu, so it is not a very popular item around here. I'm hoping, since I have so much of it now, to get in the habit of using it in baking. I hear you can substitute apple sauce for oils in baking pretty much one for one and still have moist baked goods without the added fat.

The juice is wonderful, by the way.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Praise God for His help in Chile.

I'm so proud of all those who never gave up and kept thinking of means to reach and encourage and finally rescue those men from the depths of the earth.

Really Cheap Phone Service, Part II

My netTalk device arrived in the mail today. There were very clear setup instructions with it. The first thing you do is go online and choose a phone number. I remembered being told that Lansing, Iowa, numbers were available when I first looked into this, but Lansing was not an option; the nearest exchange available was Decorah, and that's not very near. I checked the nearby Minnesota and Wisconsin exchanges, and again, nothing near, in fact it was worse. So I called netTalk Support and after an extremely short wait time, I was given a number in Lansing, which is about 12 miles away and is where the children go to school anyway. It's under a different phone provider, which is probably why it's available. Anyway, so now I had a phone number which would not cause our friends and neighbors to keel over at the thought of paying long distance charges to Davenport, Muscatine, Decorah, or someplace like that.

I connected it all up as per directions and about 2 minutes later I made my first call. I was able to call our current home number with no problem. MagicJack wouldn't let me do that.

So far so good! We're going to give this at least a week and see if we can find any serious downsides before canceling our Mediacom phone service. But I'm anxious to stop paying that $40 a month or whatever it is (bundled so it's hard to tell exactly).

Monday, October 11, 2010

From Everyday Cheapskate: Look, a Silver Lining in This Great Recession

Look, a Silver Lining in This Great Recession

Long-term food storage solutions *

A big part of managing our food budget has been minimizing waste. This family wastes an appalling amount of food. We are doing better than we used to, but still it's not good. Buying in bulk is a waste of time, money and space if you don't even use all the food you buy, and if it isn't stored properly, by the time you DO eat it, it will have lost a lot of its flavor and food value.

We have a medium-sized chest freezer, about 15 cubic feet if I remember right, and if I am careful, it can hold a lot of good stuff. But that means dumping everything out every so often and sorting it and repacking. I should do this about once a month but don't. I usually wait till the lid won't close right and it's getting everything frosty and by that point it's not just  a simple matter of sorting, it means a full-blown defrosting, and that's no fun.

Anyway I was already interested in finding a better way to store bulk flours and grains. Judy Laquidara mentioned offhand "gamma seal" lids numerous times on her blog and I was too embarrassed to ask what they are. I finally checked into them and they are just one of the wonders of the modern world! They are a 2-piece lid that fits nearly any standard 12-inch-diameter plastic pail. You know, the ubiquitous 5-gallon buckets that you can get from bakeries and delis and such? With the horrible lids that rip your fingernails off when you open them? No longer. You put the gamma seal lid on these and you have an airtight seal that is EASY TO OPEN. Amazing. There's a ring that you hammer onto the rim of the lid, and then the other half of the lid is a screw-on seal that is very easy to manage. Airtight storage. No critters are gettin' in there, no sirree. And they stack neatly.

Here's a nifty video that explains it very clearly:

I ordered mine from Baytec Containers, which had the best price I could find for smallish quantities when I figured in shipping (they use 3 carriers and ship the cheapest, which for me was FedEx Ground).

I found when I put mine on my buckets that it worked best to push one part of the seal ring down really hard till it snapped into place, then use a rubber mallet to pound it down from there all the way around, moving a couple of inches at a time. I first tried using the mallet on opposite sides of the ring, but the ring kept popping off the opposite side from where I was hammering. I thought, "Oh no, they say it fits virtually any 12-inch bucket, I must have found the mutant bucket it won't fit!" No, it was just user error.

By the way, I got mine in red. Are you surprised?

And the other thing I wanted to tell you about was that I found an eBay seller who sells 4-1/2-gallon square buckets with lids and handles, food grade plastic (though he doesn't call them that, but they are, I know from the manufacturer's website), that he sells 5 for $19.99 postpaid. Four bucks each. Now the lids are good, though not gamma-seal good; they're decent for sealing packaged foods. What I'm doing with these is I'm sorting the deep freeze into them. So one bucket is vegetables, one is fruits, one is poultry, one's fish, one's red meat, et cetera. They sit down in the bottom of the freezer providing nice vertical dividers to keep everything sorted out. Plus, if I want to search through one, I just grab the bale handle and yank it out of the freezer to look through it without upending myself into the deep-freeze. I am really happy with this idea. And with my particular freezer, I can stack them two high and they fit just right. No more losing stuff in the deeps.

Note that the buckets had glass beads in them originally. The seller cleans them nicely before shipping them, and I washed them again when I got them, but if you have any concerns about them not being food safe, just use them for packaged foods, like I do, rather than, say, filling one up with flour or grain, though honestly they would be such a handy way to store stuff like that in a deep freeze. But that's what the gamma seals are for.

By the way, if you want great tips on food storage, make friends with a Mormon. :o) It's an act of faith for an LDS family to put away food against coming catastrophe, and they have made an art of it, collecting practical ideas for storage and food economy even if you don't have much storage space. I have been offered excellent tips by a friend of mine who is LDS.

Buying in bulk and making it work requires that you find a system that meshes with  your daily life. The gamma seal lids are a good example of this. If it is a huge ordeal to store your flour in a 5-gallon bucket, are you gonna do it? I'm not. Losing fingernails is strong negative reinforcement. But if it's easy? And it even comes in my favorite color?! You betcha I will.

* By the way, when I say "long term storage," I mean, like, a year or two. I googled something related to that and found out that to a good number of people, "long term sotrage" means 20-30 years and/or after the Zombie Apocalypse. So don't take this blog post too seriously if you are really into long, Long, LONG term storage. You'd need to have oxygen absorption packs and Mylar bags and that sort of thing in your packaging if that's what you are doing.

We eat too much around here to store it up for that period of time. I would make a terrible survivalist. I'd eat up 5 years' worth of supplies in about 2 weeks.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Saturday's Apron: Playing Catch Up

You want to know my favorite kind of blog contest? - The kind where I win, of course! I have been on a real winning streak lately. I haven't told you about all of them, and it's time to catch up. Plus since most of the prizes were aprons, I'll combine this with a Saturday's Apron post.

First of all, I won this cutie pie from Christine of Pies & Aprons. A cute, diamond-shaped half apron with a tulip print and lots of pretty yellow rickrack trim.

Next, I won Michael's blogversary contest, the one I linked for you here. See, it all comes out in the wash.

As did these pretty aprons that he sent. A wash, starch and session on the clothesline, then a touch-up with an iron, and they are all ready for another few years helping out in the kitchen. First is this cobbler's smock style apron. I'm not normally a big fan of them, and this one looks silly on the dress form, but it looks unusually cute on ME.

Next is this full apron with a cute heart-shaped pocket decorated with rickrack. Love, love, love.

But wait, there's more! Here's my favorite of the aprons from Michael:

It was made of a blue and white border print. It fits so cute, and I feel gorgeous in it. I need to make more just like it. Where are my border prints, anyway? :)

Michael also sent more goodies:

Fabric trims, rickrack and gift wrap ribbons:

And a cute little souvenir plate for Missouri, about 4 inches across:

That's all the prizes. I also bought this little half apron with big comfy useful pockets at a garage sale. It's not pretty, it's just a hard workin' little apron.

The print fabric is all pockets. See what I mean?

And finally, I have to show off a really beautiful apron that I bought from Cate's Vintage Linens in Arizona. She has closed her blogs and so I can't link for you. I miss her! Anyway, this appears to be an unused cotton apron. I love it so much. I plan to make more just like it. I think there would be quite a demand for them.

I don't have any really handy ways to store and show off full aprons. Any thoughts, anyone?

Friday, October 08, 2010

On reduced pay for editing versus transcription

Webmedx pays less for editing "intelligent speech recognition," or ISR, than it does for transcribing the same reports from a voice file. This is not unique in the field; all the major MT companies of which I am aware do the same. But I disagree.

Editing involves listening through an audio file of physician dictation while editing the text file created by the ISR engine. It requires exactly the same knowledge that medical transcription requires, with possibly an increased level of alertness, as at least I find it very easy to "zone out" and miss important errors if I am not the one typing the words myself. The only thing that does not match up with straight transcription is the number of times one's fingers pound the keyboard to produce the same length of typed text file.

The skillset is the same. The experience that makes a good medical transcriptionist is the same experience that makes a good medical editor. The training is the same. Why isn't the pay the same?

Sometime, try saying to your hair stylist, "I have thin hair, so I have fewer hairs than most people, therefore you will not be cutting as much hair, and there will be less wear on your scissors. Please charge me less." See how far that gets you. The same skillset is required. (Possibly even more, because the hairstylist can make even you, with your thinning hair, look just as good as the last person who sat in that chair.) We don't pay for haircuts by weight - as in, 6 ounces of hair ended up on the floor, therefore we pay six dollars, or whatever. We pay for the skills and talents of the hair stylist.

I am not paid by the number of times my fingertips hit the keyboard. Or I should not be. I should be paid for the accuracy of my transcribed or edited reports, paid for the fact that my employer, and hence my employer's client hospitals, can count on any reports that pass across my desk to be accurate and precise, that any errors I find that I cannot legally rectify are brought to their attention to be fixed by someone who can rectify them, that patient care will not be compromised by a sloppy report that will make them look incompetent if it ever ended up read out loud in court.

I know this blog post isn't going to change anything, but I wanted to say it anyway.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Replacement lids for vintage spice jars

From time to time I get requests for a source for replacement lids for the old spice jars. You can get them several places, but they're usually quite costly. Right now on eBay there is a seller out of Colfax, Iowa, that is selling them, along with a lot of repro hardware, for unusually reasonable prices: Bea's Treasure Chest. She also has vintage and repro parts for Hoosier and Sellers cabinets, such as flour and sugar bins and tambour cloth. Great resource. I have not bought from her, just passing on the information.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Shopping expedition into the Northwood

Taking inventory at Northwood Country Market

I just realized, I'm coming up on a year of making almost all our bread here at home, from scratch (except for 2 loaves of store-bought that were sneaked in against my will, and hotdog/burger buns, which I don't always make from scratch). And I don't have a great source for flour yet.

After reading about Wheat Montana flour from Judy Laquidara, I determined that I would try to track some down. First of all, you can order it from the website, but the freight charges are a deal killer. So I called my friend Jan who has made her own bread for a long time and asked where she gets her flour. I didn't mention Wheat Montana in particular, but she told me she gets her wheat (sometimes flour, sometimes wheat berries that she mills herself) from a Mennonite market in Sparta, Wisconsin, and that it comes all the way from Montana. I asked if it were Wheat Montana brand and she said it was, and that it's great. My next question was how much is it? She pays just under $25 per 50-pound sack. Not bad.

She offered to have her husband pick me up a sack, since he works very near to the store, but then I realized I had to come into Onalaska today anyway, and that I had some time to spare - so we made a field trip out to Northwood Country Market. I took both the girls out there with me. I, at least, had a wonderful time. The girls didn't mind too bad. I bought 100 pounds of the white whole wheat flour. I also wrote down a few other prices:

  • Mindoro Blue cheese (a local blue), 6.99/lb
  • smoked swiss cheese, 4.49/lb
  • local honey, $8.50/3 pound bottle OR you can get it in bulk if you bring your own container for about $2.65/pound - I forgot to note exactly
  • very dark brown sugar, 91 cents a pound
  • toasted wheat germ, 2.77/pound 
  • farina (cream of wheat), 43 cents a pound
  • fruit gelatin in bulk, 1.82/pound
  • instant vanilla pudding, 1.65/pound, or chocolate, 1.80/pound 
  • liquid caramel, 5.17/pound (like for baking or for dipping apples)
  • red wheat berries, 60 cents a pound
  • stick cinnamon 6.48/pound 
They have quite a bit of local produce (pie pumpkins!), an extensive meat section and do their own cutting, and they have a deli section with lots and lots of cheeses cut to order. Not all they carry is organic or even supposed to be healthy, but most of it is available at bulk order prices.

For the flour alone, it is probably worth the trip for us every so often. Not sure how long 100 pounds will last me, but if I make that trek a couple of times a year, it will probably be worthwhile.

P.S. - I just talked with Jan on the phone, and she said that they grind their own peanut butter at Northwood! It's done fresh every couple of weeks. Yum! I didn't see everything, obviously.