Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Moved, mostly

I hate moving, more than just about anything I have to do. I think it goes back to my childhood, when, courtesy of the US Army, I was moved 5 times from the time I was born until I was 3 years old. Until I was 25, the longest I lived in one place was 5½ years. To the best of my recollection, all of the army moves were done by professionals, right down to the packing, and several pieces of my furniture bear multiple identification stickers from those moves. I hate packing, and I kind of don't really like unpacking, but I do a little better at the unpacking than at the packing. Saturday, courtesy of some of the most awesome friends, and my 2 youngest nephews, all of the furniture, and 97% of the boxes got moved. Most of what was left is hanging clothes, and miscellaneous stuff, only about half to ¾ of which will get moved, the rest is just plain crapola, and will go in the garbage.
The cats have done very well, especially Trinity & Tegan, who were born in the house we just moved out of. I think the best part for them is that they don't get locked up in the bedroom at night, so if they want to go out on a perimeter inspection in the night, they can, at least as much of the perimeter as the walls will allow. There's only been one accident, and it was on the linoleum floor, so easy enough to clean up. They are still very much sleep with Mom cats, at least 3 of them are. Mollie, however, has decided to proclaim her independence, and she's not going to sleep in the bedroom unless it pleases her to do so, thankyouverymuch, a point she made last night by staying out in the living room on the ottoman.
We have less space overall than we had access to in the old place, but their confinement has gone from about 120sqft (our bedroom, which is where they HAD to spend their nights, and where they remained confined anytime I was gone overnight) to 790sqft, although part of that is closed off until I can get to sorting all those boxes and such. We now live in a 2 bedroom duplex with NO DOGS in our space. The bedrooms are a little bigger than the one we had, and they are also more square, while the previous one was Longer than it was wide. I chose the larger (by about a foot's width) of the 2 rooms simply because it IS larger, but I discovered on Saturday night that I chose even MORE wisely because the window in that room faces the back of the property, which is essentially an open field, whereas the other bedroom's window faces the parking lot on that end of the building (I am in the downstairs unit of a 2 story building), and while the security light is AWESOME to have lighting the parking lot, it also lights up that bedroom pretty well too.
I am quite pleased with the fact that I have finally pared down (9 years after Mom died) everything I own to that which I will actually USE, or I truly LOVE. Now if I can just find those organizational faeries to come get everything unpacked and organized, it will be fabulous! I am not pushing myself to get it all done at once. Last night I picked up a load of stuff (mostly clothes and my small garbage cans) from the old place on my way home from work. My goal for last night was to get the kitchen cleaned up (dirty dishes from the chili I cooked on Saturday to feed my moving crew, plus what hadn't gotten washed on Sunday & Monday), unload at least 1 moving container in the kitchen, and get all the clothes sorted. I managed to accomplish that PLUS clean out a drawer in my dresser that was holding random stuff instead of the clothes it could/should have! I also got the window security locks installed on all the windows except the one I can't get to in the spare bedroom (aka storage bedroom) because of all the boxes. Tonite I have several loads of laundry to get done (thank heavens for the inexpensive Laundromat a mile from home with 25-cent washers & reasonably priced dryers AND free wi-fi (since my home internet is STILL not working, tyvm AT&T for telling me lie after lie throughout the process of getting moved. If you'd been honest in the first place, I would already have everything I need & not be hatin' on you today) that I can use to get my internet fix, and get caught up on some of my FB apps that have suffered the last 5 days since I unplugged on Friday before the move… I figure that by the time I finish the laundry, I'll be ready to get home, hang what needs to dry in the bathroom, put the rest away, and empty another tote in the kitchen before I am ready for bed. At this rate, the kitchen will be put together by the weekend, but not a whole lot else. I just HAVE to finish it before Scarby starts, though I'd like to be able to say it's finished before NTIF, which still gives me 4 weeks to get it all done (aside from the monster in the spare bedroom, which will be reasonably done by the beginning of Scarby, if for no other reason than I'll need to be able to get all my garb organized & easy to choose from & pack for each weekend).

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Fresh Bread

So I've decided to stop spending money on bread, which often goes bad before I finish the loaf. I made a loaf last week that turned out to be entirely too dense to use for sandwiches. So today I found another recipe, over here at the Hungry Mouse. Instead of two loaves, I cut the recipe in half and made just one loaf.
My recipe is below:

1C warm water
1T sugar
1 pkg yeast (yes, I'm still using individual packages, but once I get moved, I'll be investing in bulk yeast, since it's significantly less expensive per use)
2 & 3/4 C self rising flour
1T butter

Since I was using self rising flour, I eliminated the salt that is in the Hungry Mouse's recipe.

I dissolved the sugar into the water in my bowl, then added the yeast and let it sit for about 10 minutes or so before I added in the flour and butter.

I don't have a stand mixer (yet), so I used a fork to get the mixing started, then kneaded by hand for about 5 minutes or so, until the dough was firm and elastic.

I let it rise for about an hour until it rose to a little more than double it's original size, then punched it back down, kneaded it a few more minutes and formed the loaf before I put it into the lightly greased glass loaf pan.

I baked it for 40 minutes at 350 degrees in my toaster/convection oven.  My only regret is that I didn't take into account that the back of my oven heats faster than the front, so I neglected to turn the loaf halfway through, in order to brown it evenly.

Overall, I'm much happier with this loaf than I was with last week's, it's lighter, and it tastes better. I sliced several slices, but then stopped because it wasn't quite all the way cooled down, so the slices were a bit gummy. The end piece I ate was delicious, and I'm looking forward to having some for breakfast in the morning... I'm thinking perhaps some chai toast...

Friday, January 13, 2012

Dublin Dr Pepper

Any of ya'll who know me very well know that I'm a Pepper, to the core. Dr Pepper is the only soda I've ever drunk with any regularity. In a pinch Mr. Pibb, or most generic versions of Dr Pepper will do, but when the server says to me, after I've ordered my Dr Pepper "Is Pepsi ok?", the response they'll get is "hell no, Pepsi's not OK, if I wanted a Pepsi, I would have ordered one. I'll have tea or water instead." I started ingesting Dr Pepper in utero, because during her pregnancy, coffee made my mother sick, so she, being the good TX woman she is, drank Dr Pepper for her caffeine. (After all, this was, you know, before caffeine was bad for us, particularly for developing babies). When I was a little girl, and we lived in Kansas, we would periodically go down to Marshall to visit my grandmother. Her Dr Pepper was HEAVENLY. What I didn't know then, was that the taste difference was partially because she bought the liter bottles (glass ones), instead of cans, and partially due to water differences at such at the plant that bottled hers vs. the plant that canned what we could get a the commissary. Even when we moved back to TX, ours tasted different than hers, though once she moved to a neighborhood near ours, I figured out that by then most of the difference in taste was the glass/can differences.
Once HFCS became the standard rather than sugar for the majority of the Dr Pepper bottlers, I never really thought about the difference anymore, until I was an adult and happened upon some of the cane sugar version. Since I lived in the Dallas & Tarrant county areas, I didn't often come across any of the cane sugar, or Dublin version, because I never traveled into the 6 county area that had always been the Dublin plant's territory. Do I prefer the cane sugar version? Yep, who wouldn't prefer a more natural version. For awhile, I took the longer (timewise) route to visit my bestie because it took me through Granbury and Stephenville, both within the territory, and I could pick up some of the good stuff, albeit at a bit of a premium price (not a LOT more, but it was a bit more expensive). Eventually, I started seeing the 6-packs of 8 oz bottles in some of the small, independent farmer's & specialty markets. When I inquired, I was informed that they drove to Dublin specifically to purchase it, something like once a month or so. By 2007, I was seeing it in major retailers, such as WalMart and Central Market, in TARRANT COUNTY. I also got it out of fountains at several chain restaurants in both DALLAS & TARRANT counties. Did this make me happy? Sure it did, I LOVE that version of Dr Pepper. Did some part of me wonder what was up, since I'd read various places about their restricted territory? Of course. Did that stop me from buying it when I saw it? Nope, if I had the money, I picked some up.
I don't remember when I first heard rumblings of Dr Pepper Snapple Group starting to discuss with the Dublin plant their marketing and labeling, but to the best of my recollection, it's been going on for well over a year, maybe two. When the lawsuit was filed in June 2011, it came as no surprise to me. I don't see it as a corporate greed thing, I see it as enforcing a contract. I recall blips on the news and such about DPSG asking, then telling the Dublin plant to only use "approved" logos. Dublin elected to continue to add "Dublin" to their labeling, rendering it "unapproved". Did they try to get it approved? I have no idea, and now it really doesn't matter. The Dublin plant agreed to a franchise agreement, which spelled out where they could sell the product, and how they could package/label it. They made the decision to knowingly violate the terms of the contract, not just once, but repeatedly. I know of no other franchised products that are allowed to use unapproved, location specific logos or packaging. Every DQ, Burger King, KFC, Whataburger, McDonalds, they all use standard logos and packaging. When I was at the Flagship Whataburger in Corpus Christi a couple of years back, their packaging was exactly like every other Whataburger I've ever been into. Did they place too much faith in the "We are the oldest continually operating plant, so we can make our own rules" idea? Did they think that when push came to shove DPSG would just back down? I don't know, I'm not a party to the inner workings of either organization, nor do I wish to be. What I do know is that as much as I LOVE the cane sugar version, and I'm sorry that it came to this, I can't help but think that the Dublin plant shot themselves in the foot, when they refused to abide by the terms to which they had agreed.
I've gotten several requests to sign at least one petition, there may be a couple circulating, I don't know for sure, and join in a boycott of Dr Pepper Snapple Group products. I've elected not to do so for a couple of reasons. Number one, the time for the petition/boycott was last summer, when the suit was first filed, to show support for the plant and the way it was doing things BEFORE it lost it's Dr Pepper production. As many of us as there are that love the cane sugar version, the reality is that very few of us actually live within the territory that the Dublin plant was authorized to sell in, and therefore the majority of us haven't been drinking it exclusively anyway, and the reality is that even if everyone who signs the petition never buys another Dr Pepper again, it really won't make that much difference to DPSG, their territory is too widespread, and product lines are too diverse. Number two, I don't think that the Dublin plant is the innocent little guy in all of this. They failed to meet the terms of their agreements with DPSG, and in the end, it cost them their franchise. I'm sympathetic to the 14 people who were "laid off", but I question whether or not that was really necessary, and whether that can actually be laid at the feet of DPSG. Could Dublin Bottle Works not use them in another capacity? Ok, they can't bottle Dr Pepper, but they can bottle several other things, why not ramp up production of those, and save the 14 jobs?
I'm sorry that it came to this point, and I'm sure the residents of Dublin are heartbroken and disappointed, but I really think that it could have been avoided if the plant had stuck to its end of the bargain to start with.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Kitchen Lessons

I've tried in the past to not buy a lot of groceries at a time, to go along with the European trend of getting fresh food from the market every few days, instead of doing a big shop one day a week. The problem for me with that is that if I haven't already planned and done some prep, well, then I end up buying junk. Fridays on my way home from work is when I typically do most of my grocery shopping. This serves two purposes, the first is that I'm not fighting with a million people on Saturday (at any given time), and I've discovered that I find fresher stuff Friday night, that's been stocked for the crowds that will be in on Saturday. I live in what I call a 'country-city'. We're actually a city, but a significant part of our property tax base is rural or semi-rural. My grocery store options are Albertson's, Wal-Mart, Brookshire's, and Save-A-Lot. Most of my staples come from WalMart simply because they have the best prices, and I trust the quality of what I've always gotten there. I don't buy a lot of bulk, especially perishables, because it will go bad, either from not being frozen in time, or from freezer burn, because bulk is generally just entirely too much for one person to use. I do sometimes stop at Central Market on my way home from church on Sundays to pick up something special, or stock up on bulk spices. I'm thrilled beyond belief that when I shift back to the main office, instead of the field office I'm in right now, I will pass an HEB going to & from work!
Today I did my main prepwork for this week's dinners (and lunches, probably, since I need to learn to give up my naps at lunch, so I'll be able to actually sit down and eat something, instead of grabbing a sandwich on the run back to work). I made a meatloaf in my new, smaller slow cooker. It turned out better than I expected, but not quite as good as I'd hoped. Of course, I wasn't paying attention, and forgot to put my sauce on the top for the last 15 minutes, though I'm not sure the sauce would have done a whole lot. I also made homemade macaroni and cheese, using the 5 cheese macaroni & cheese recipe that was used at TGI Friday's a few years ago. I tweaked it a little bit, because I couldn't find any fontina cheese here in the country-city, so I substituted gouda instead, and it was still quite tasty. I halved the recipe, however it still made more than I can eat before it goes bad, so I'm thinking I'm going halve it again, and hope that it will be a more reasonable amount, to minimize the waste.
Tomorrow I'll be having a beef stir-fry, with some brown rice, red peppers, & snap peas to use up a small piece of steak that I froze a couple of weeks ago and need to get cooked before it dies.
Tuesday I've got some chicken breast tenders in the freezer that I'm going to grill on my little countertop grill, and have with some more of the mac & cheese, and some green beans
Wednesday is dinner with my crew, and my one night out this week.
Thursday I may roast up a piece of the pork roast I bought Friday night. I'm going to halve it, because it's almost 2 lbs, and I'm going to save the other half to cook later, so I don't end up wasting at least of half of it.
I browned another pound of ground beef to make a casserole. I've not decided for sure yet, but as it's browned with just some onion & some red pepper, I can turn it into sloppy joes, or Mexican food, or even Italian, though I did spaghetti last week, so it's not likely to be Italian again this week. And since I'll be gone on Saturday evening, and all my other evenings are covered, I may just bag it up and toss it in the freezer to have ready for the next time I need to grab some out of the freezer quickly.
I also made my first loaf of bread just for me. I used a basic Country Bread recipe that I found. I'm satisfied with it, but not totally pleased. I'm planning to use it for sandwiches for lunch or breakfast, and it's a little bit dense for that. I think I just didn't let it rise long enough the second time around. Lesson learned.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

2012, It’s Good to Meet You

2011 was not my worst year, nor was it my best year, and I can't say I'm sad it is over with.
I don't make resolutions, or at least I don't call what I do resolutions. I acknowledge that I totally suck at follow-through. Yeah, I'm really good at making plans and setting goals, but I'm not really very good at actually following through on everything necessary to meet them. A lot of what I'd like to get accomplished hasn't been lately, largely because I really don't like my current living situation. The good news is, that in the next 2 months, it will change, and I'll be back in full control of my little world, instead of sharing a house with someone I don't particularly like. I will be able to have my home the way that I want it, and I won't have to worry about someone else's clothes in the laundry when I need to wash mine, or try to work out a tv watching schedule.
I've gotten my groceries for the week, and am doing my best not to eat a lot of junk or processed, foods. I've bought frozen veggies instead of canned, I made my turkey spaghetti sauce from scratch with a can each of tomato sauce & tomato paste and added my own spices instead of buying a jar of Ragu. Since I have tomorrow off, I'm cooking up a batch of brown rice, and a batch of quinoa that I can then freeze into individual portions to reheat easily. I also plan to clean out the refrigerator of the leftovers that haven't been eaten. My goal for January is to have all of my groceries for the week by Sunday, so I can spend the afternoon getting the pre-prep done, cooking up my starches for the week, getting sauces ready, portioning my meats, so that I can do quick prep each evening, and have more time to read, write, or play with the cats before we head to bed.
I borrowed a couple of books from a friend, because I spend entirely too much time on the computer, and I need to get back to one of my first loves, Reading. The books are The Chronicles of Faerie, which is a collection of 3 stories, and the finale to the series, The Book of Dreams, by O.R. Melling. I've started the first, but frankly, haven't gotten very far because I haven't yet conquered my addiction to the internet, and managed to tear myself away from the computer until it's time for bed. My 2nd goal for January is to spend an hour a day reading, just because I love to read, and not because I have to read that contract, or that business email.
I need to get more organized, which is really not possible in my current living situation, because I just don't have space to spread stuff out and organize it, but I am determined that when I move, I manage not to move so much CRAP that I've wagged around for too long, so as I pack over the next few weeks, I'll start weeding out the crap and trying to organize as I pack. Goal #3 for January is to get my closet sorted and packed, starting with the Christmas stuff.
I'm not going to try to fool myself into believing that I can accomplish a bunch of huge goals, but baby steps I can manage.