Tag Archives: trying to figure it out

Simplify

It just occurred to me that I need to do this with well everything, including the food I make!

Given the “menu plan” I came up with:

  • M Double Veg.
  • Tu Soup/Stew using bits & pieces LO
  • W Second Veg.
  • Th Egg
  • F Double Meat
  • Sa Sandwich
  • Su Second Meat

I’ve been looking at recipes.

Also given that we’re trying to save $, the farm is starting the beginning of June AND I’ve decided I need to set aside some HM instant meals, I’ve been looking at what I might make:

Casseroles and Loaves meat and veg both.

Seasoned Ground Beef Make up a batch of the meat I use for meat loaves and make a batch of meat balls at the same time. Can be used with pasta, or in Albondigas Soup, or smashed with mayo as a sandwich filling, or in a pita with veggies.

The soup/stew base I found last week which I intend to use this year. Making it before I freeze a bunch of it is a really good idea as we’ve never had it!

Salad mixes – like 3 bean salad, except I hate 3 bean salad. But these kinds of salads can be mixed ahead. I’ll have to think/research this idea.

Quiche Base or Mix? Given that I’m supposed to make 1 dinner a week with eggs, maybe this is an idea? Never looked at quiche recipes with that idea.

Those will make the double meals easier. What else can I do?

White Sauce Balls I did this years ago and it was a success. You mix flour, butter, a little milk, salt and if you’re a purist white pepper. (I only use white pepper when I already have it. I don’t care if my white sauce has black speckles or not! YMMV!) You measure this paste out into 1T balls and freeze. Need to make gravy? Grab one or three.

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Photo by Hermes Rivera on Unsplash

Other ideas:

  • “Tray bakes” or “one pan” meals for the double  meals.
  • Self-frosting cakes (also one pan cakes).
  • Preplanning enough to use all the bits. When I make stuffed tomatoes mid summer as an entree, I use the innards the next day. That’s something I’ve always done. I wonder what else I can set up that way?

Research! Think! Plan! Do!

 

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What To Cull?

It occurred to me that I need to do an experiment. I will. But the experiment is to answer this question:

How much/how often do I use the kitchen tools/implements in the “everyday zone”? How many of the items I store in premium, everyday usage space in my kitchen (and elsewhere) really need to be there?

It seems to me that there are these easy areas to cull excess tools:

  • Medium sized implement in a small, medium, large set.
  • Eliminating duplicates.
  • Eliminating items used for the same purpose.
  • The tools which take up space and are used because the tool of choice is already dirty.

We only run our dishwasher once daily. If I really want to reduce my kitchen stuff, I could get into the habit of immediately cleaning and replacing the tool. That isn’t all that much more practical. So, it’s a balancing act, like many things.


Medium Item Removal: Eliminating medium-sized items is something I did for the bookstore. I stopped buying medium size dust jacket protectors, paperback sleeves, and book mailers. If needed, you can fold down or cut the large ones. I eliminated 1/3 of the supplies I bought and stored by that simple strategy.

Duplicate Item Removal: We only run our dishwasher once daily. There aren’t enough dirty dishes to run it more often. This inevitably creates a need for duplicate dishes. An item is pulled from the clean pile, used, dirty, put in the dishwasher, is washed, removed, and returned to the clean pile to be used again. The time passed from the beginning to the end of that cycle and how much cooking/eating we do here will determine how many dishes we should have. Right now I have 4 large plates, 4 medium plates, 6 larger small plates and 6-8? very small plates. Also in regular usage 4 custard cups, 4 monkey dishes, 4 larger small bowls, 2 salad bowls, 2 pasta bowls. That’s the bottom shelf. The 2nd shelf contains 4 crocks and 2 cereal bowls, 2 casseroles, and insulated drinking glasses.

When I remove what I consider to be excess items from the cabinets, somehow DH uses less, reuses more, or washes plates, etc. between uses. Because he works at home and frequently only has a few minutes to grab a snack, he continually during the day will put some cereal in a custard cup say, to eat at his desk while working. At the end of the day, between the snacking, meal prep, and consumption, frequently all the little dishes have been used, and at least 4 plates have also been used. I keep thinking I should be able to eliminate some of the small dishes and I do periodically cut it back. Somehow, the quantity seems to increase, again after a while . . . .

Eliminating Items with Duplicate Functions: This is why there are no glasses (except DH’s insulated mugs/glasses) in our home. I got tired of buying glasses. We use mugs.

I also got tired of replacing china. At the time, we were buying new china sets about every 4 years from Conran’s (like Crate & Barrel or Target). This was about $40 at the time, not insanely expensive, but after a while I decided it was an unnecessary expense.

I had worked in a commercial kitchen during college and I knew that “dinerware,” commercial china, was more robust than what I was buying in sets, so I set out to find that for our every day. That’s what we’ve got. Mixed brands, mostly rolled rim, white or diner blue commercial china. When a plate breaks, I look for a replacement at thrift shops and antique stores and usually find one in a few months.

Rolled rim china is a classic commercial style. Easy to find asst. plates and bowls with it. Rolled rims break less often than flat or knife-edged rims, no surprise.

If I was set on decorated china, I’d use dinerware with 2 green lines, every commercial china manufacturer made a variation of that. I’ve had it and mixed and matched brands, looked fine. In one of my culling purges, I decided that I didn’t need a pattern at all, I already had 3 solid colors: green (stoneware and fine china) white (fine china and dinerware) and diner blow (dinerware). That was more than enough!

The fine china was mostly inherited, but yes, I did buy some years ago. I keep promising myself I will have a tea and cookies party or another party and use all the fawncy china and then sell it. Because I have no reason to keep it!

Eliminating the fancy china from here would probably get rid of about 2 shelves worth of stuff, but I’m not ready to do that just yet. There are people who advocate using the fine china as everyday, but the stuff I’ve got breaks in the dishwasher or at least the glazes craze and so what I’d be doing if I do that is literally trashing ? dollars of housewares Dad bought for my Mom. Somehow, that doesn’t seem sane.

My Stepmother broke most of the plates and bowls doing exactly that. It wasn’t her fine china, so they used it for everyday, mixed with plain white open stock china from Pier 1 and it all willy-nilly went in the dishwasher and the good stuff broke. Dad wouldn’t let me take it, but he let her break it.

Somehow, I’m not ready to do the same, or let go of what’s left. I should get rid of it, because it pokes that wound every time I think about it! I want to use it, at least once more, first.

Use Fewer Tools: My answer to this is I think trying to set up a place where we can put a bowl or plate when it has been used, but isn’t so filthy it can’t be used again, like the underplate I just had for my cereal. No food touched the plate, but it’s now “dirty.” There’s no particular reason it couldn’t be reused as an underplate or for something else. We don’t have such an area. I will talk to DH about this idea.

I have an experiment I will try to see what we actually do use in a given day or week. After that, I may do a major kitchen purge!

 

Food Waste Tracking & Food Plan

I dropped the ball on the food tracking because I was just too busy: compiling tax data, cleaning house for new to us freezer, and yesterday dealing with something we really needed: another cord of wood. (We heat with wood.)

In between there we voted, had meals, counted ballots, did laundry, etc. But there has been one major thing having to be dealt with after another all week. It’s done. Hurrah!

Today we get to go to the dump. DH is working on the pot rack he’s building. I started cleaning the kitchen cabinets. Laundry has been done. Dishes have been put away. Life is slowly returning to normal. And I have no idea what we ate which day. I tossed 4 packages of old left overs Wednesday, thinking I was going to the dump, but we didn’t make it. Definitely have to go today, the trash is stinky and full!

DH finished the pot rack he was making! Well, he used up all the materials he had. This meant that we cleaned another part of the kitchen, removed the old apple ladder and grid wall we’d used to hold our pots, pans and colanders/strainers. All of that is on the new rack. Very spiffy!

Why didn’t we buy a rack? DH is 1’+ taller than I. To get pots where I can reach them, he’d be whacked in the face by them. Put them where he can get them? I can’t. So he built one, a spiffy new version of our old ladder.

I tossed one package of food during the freezer move. We unpacked the old freezer, thawed and cleaned it, packed the food in coolers. Moved the old freezer outside. Repacked it, turned it on. And kept it cold for a week. Then we unpacked it the morning the new freezer was delivered and packed all the food into coolers again. Cleaned old freezer. It was put on the driveway to be picked up when the new one was delivered. That happened. The new freezer got packed with the food from the coolers. The coolers got cleaned and put away.

We’ve discussed what happens to the coolers now? The old freezer wasn’t frost free. The new one is. At one point I thought we could store the small cooler inside the bigger one, but that won’t work, alas. They take up a fair amount of real estate on top of the fridge. (We’re going to wait and see how it goes.)

My job re the freezer now? To empty it as much as possible before 6/1, when we start getting farm produce and here we go again!


What I’d intended to talk about was historical food planning. I have a brochure from WWII era by the local electric company and another, I think it’s older, from Knox Gelatine.

From the electric company (edited) and with my comments in italic;

  • Don’t pare carrots; scrub with a stiff brush. Seems my root veggies are always really sandy. I’ll have to try this and see if it works!
  • Cook potatoes in jackets; eat skins and all. See above.
  • Cook young beet tops as other greens. If we ate beets, I would. DH hates them.
  • Don’t peel tomatoes or pare cucumbers or apples. My plans for this year include making tomato powder from tomato skins and there are various ideas for apples. Never thought about cukes. We hardly eat them. Hmmm?
  • Use green onion tops as seasoning. I do this already.
  • Save celery tops for soups, salads, etc. I just use them, always have.
  • Save coarse part of celery; puree for soup. If I’m not planting the bases this year, I’ll try it.
  • Use dandelion and other wild greens. We’ve done this.
  • Use every scrap of baked goods. (bread, cake, cookies) We do this and then also do something I’ve never seen elsewhere. There’s usually a small container in the freezer of “flour dregs” which is the left overs from kneading bread. I use these to thicken soups & stews or make gravy.
  • Use carrot & radish tops as garnish. Or food. I have a recipe I call “beans & greens” which I save carrot greens for every year.
  • Check refrigerator and bread box daily. I usually do this before I make a meal.
  • Plan to use all left overs daily. Nice idea, I rarely manage it.
  • Keep a list of left overs and check them off as used. Never considered this. The tracking I was doing effectively does this.

The Knox book includes recipes for leftovers: meats, rice, etc. The main idea I got from this isn’t actually in the book: making gelatin from LO jelly.

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Photo by Micheile Henderson on Unsplash

We always have various jellies going. It seems that they all run out at once: lime marmalade, current jelly, orange marmalade — there’s just a little bit left in the bottle. I have not had an idea what to do with that tiny bit? Maybe make a drink? That seemed like it might be easy to make something which tastes bad: too thinned, so it’s all but tasteless, or if I combined the jellies to make a drink base, it might just be awful.

So I haven’t.

I think I’ll try making small gelatins instead. The flavor/no flavor thing could be a problem? We’ll see!


Honestly? I don’t even know if I have any plain gelatin in the house!

 

Wimp

I wimped out. I was supposed to have a colonoscopy and endoscopy this week. I cancelled it.

Why? Because my PTSD brain had decided that I would die under the anesthesia. Crazy, right? But it wouldn’t go away. Every time I did anything about the procedure, it would show up, again and again.

Don’t tell me it’s irrational. Thanks I know that already.

I got tired of crying about it.

Also, different than in years past? I didn’t grit my teeth and just do whatever, so that others wouldn’t know I was scared or think less of me. I was scared and yeah, you can think less of me if you want; I have no control over that anyway.

For one of the few times in my life about something pretty big, I let myself wimp out.

Different? Yes. I kept telling myself it was no big. I kept telling myself it was my crazy PTSD, anxiety-ridden brain going off the deep end.

It wouldn’t go away.

Finally? I was supposed to watch this 40 minute thing for the hospital this morning, and that put me over the edge.

So I wimped out.

On the one hand, it’s nice because I’m actually being honest. (Unlike all the times from dissecting a frog in high school, to almost anything else, up to and including submitting the memoir to a publisher, because I thought others would think less of me if I didn’t.)

And, the pay off? I’m pretty sure if I wasn’t dead, it wouldn’t have been a big deal. But if I was? Well, it’s hard to write and live this life then ‘eh?

And I want a chance to do that living. I owe DH a clean house. I owe myself the chance to see what, if any, impact the memoir can have. I want that. I want to see what kind of other life I can have!

panic

But there’s a large part of me that’s saying “I’m done.” The work which started when I was born 3 months premature, fighting for my life, is complete. And, if I’m really, truly going to be honest here? That’s what really scared me. I wasn’t sure if they put me under I’d  want to come back. So, I blamed the medical profession, but it was just me.

You know? I have no idea who I am if I’m not fighting. And I’m not, not really any more.

Maybe I’ll get a chance to grow up/grow past the stupid childhood before I’m 70? You think?

Remember the Energy Report?

Yes, this one. The one which said we use 94% more energy than other people in similar houses.

We just got another one of those reports! This one says we use 53% more energy than other people in similar houses. So, we’re doing 41% better than six months ago.

Still same idiotic recommendations: set your thermostat at 68*, we don’t use the thermostat; we heat almost entirely with wood.

There’s a tip. “Make an energy savings plan for the new year. Maintain momentum all year by celebrating achievements large and small.”

Hello? According to you, we used approx. 200% (93% more than others, rounded) more energy than others in May.

Now we’re using approx. 150% (43% more than others, rounded) more as of Oct. THAT means we’ve cut our usage 25% in the past 6 months.

And there is, this time, a statement: “This is based on 75 similar homes within an average distance of 2 miles.” I don’t think there are 75 other log homes within 10 miles of here, much less 2. But I don’t think our home’s construction is the real issue, although I’m sure it matters.

I think the reason we’re over is because we’re here, working and living 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. And nowhere is that talked about.

This time there does seem to be a number where I can talk directly to someone about this. I wonder if I have the patience to try again? I never did get an answer to the letter I sent, this one.

Update: 11/8/18 I tried to call to talk to someone at 1:23 p.m. That’s a Thursday, right? Said they were closed for the week. Hello? Going that extra mile to impress me again, aren’t you?

That Little Girl

I was who was so traumatized has caused me a lot of problems, because I don’t know what she decided or thought in many cases until there’s an issue. It’s my flashback to be swamped with pain, fear, or panic and possibly no apparent reason for the reaction.

For a long, long time, shame held me back, but I didn’t realize it until one day in therapy I blurted out, “I don’t deserve to heal; I killed my mother.”

I remembered feeling that way as a small child, but I thought it was survivor guilt, and I thought I’d dealt with it. I hadn’t. I did after that.

That same little girl has me trapped in the street car dealing with whatever it is related to cleaning or knitting.

train image from target

One of the most difficult things is at 60+ is to “get” that what’s going on with my body/mind has not much if anything to do with who I am now and figure out how to undo whatever it is. In many ways, it’s rather like trying to talk to an alien.

That said? She also did me a really, really good turn by her lack of understanding in one critical area. A few years back, I started to slide into clinical depression. I thought I was going insane, finally. My therapist and I talked about how I felt, and what was happening to me and she diagnosed it as clinical depression.

A while later, I put it together. What I had always been afraid of was losing control — “going insane.” That was what I’d fought internally for decades. It was keeping myself out of that. But it wasn’t insanity; it was clinical depression.

It meant that when I started to slide down that path in my 50s-60s, a remote part of me — at a distance — noticed and said, “What are you doing?”

My internal response was, “I don’t know. I don’t care.”

But that monitor said. “Hm. Maybe we’ll read this piece, it usually makes us feel better.”

“Nothing will make it better.”

“Let’s try.”

“If you insist.”

I did two or three other things: read the pieces which make me feel better, walked to the place which makes me feel good, etc. with no hope they would work. But eventually, they did.

So, yes, I’ve been depressed. And I’ve been close to succumbing to clinical depression.

But that plucky little girl wasn’t going to “go insane” no matter what! She kept finding ways to avoid it.

This puts me at a loss with people who ARE depressed, because my magic, most effective tool against depression’s devastation is that I made it absolutely illegal and forbidden for myself, when I was 3.

depression

 

Self-Cleaning Cooking. Is It Possible?

Also available on the self-cleaning cooking page, see the menu, above, for a link to the page, all of these posts are there!

I’m beginning to think this is a pipe dream.

Even something as basic as sauteeing 1/2 an onion gets involved:

  1. Storage it came from +1 locale
  2. Cutting board +1 thing to wash
  3. Knife + 1 thing to wash
  4. Storage for remaining onion +1 locale
  5. Pan  +1 to wash
  6. Cooking tool +1 to wash
  7. Butter storage +1 locale
  8. Butter knife +1 to wash
  9. Stove to cook it on +1 locale

Potentially there 4 areas (onion storage, unused onion storage, butter storage, stove) which could need to be cleaned, 2 food remainders to deal with (the other 1/2 the onion and the rest of the butter which also might need additional packaging), and 5 items to clean (cutting board, knife, pan, cooking tool, butter knife).

From a TWO INGREDIENT cooking task, there’s potentially 11 items or locations to deal with! No wonder the kitchen is always trashed after cooking a meal!!!

My only “hope” is that if I do my 5:1 item swap, this would involve cleaning or putting away 20 items.

Honestly? I wouldn’t have expected this kind of ratio, that it takes about 5 areas or cooking tools to deal with a single ingredient.

I’m sure this doesn’t hold true through a complex recipe, (You would use the same knife to chop things, for example.)

I tried to do a count like this for the simple recipe I made for dinner last night, 8 ingredients. It kept getting longer, more complicated and then I’d see something I’d missed, and it got longer and more complex. After 3 drafts, I decided to do the simplest recipe I could think of. This one.

There are variables:

  • Was the tool already in use and re-used without washing? Certainly this could be true for the stove, cutting board,  & knife, if not the bread board, butter dish and butter knife.
  • Is the potential cleaning something done as a part of the kitchen’s clean up, rather than because of this recipe? Possibly so for the onion’s original storage locale or the storage for the 1/2 an onion, although maybe not for the storage it is put into?

I am working on a way to chart this stuff so it’s easier. In the meantime, I have relaxed. I am overwhelmed for a good reason, this is confusing as all get out and much more complicated than I ever would have figured!

stack of dirty pots & pans