Closed Captioning Counts

It’s a familiar rant. “Would it kill the budget to add captioning to the commercials?” Super Bowl commercials, at least, have no excuse. With the millions they pay for production and air time, the expense to caption the commercials would be a drop in the bucket. A small drop, at that. 

Here we are, four television days before election day, and it’s almost impossible to watch a newscast without an overabundance of bureaucrats and lawmaker wannabes talking at us, the viewers and voters. How many are captioned? My unofficial estimate: about half. 

So why bother? Why take the time and spend the money to add closed captioning to an admittedly short run for a commercial? Here’s why. 

  1. The baby boomer generation is aging into hearing aids, and they vote. The baby boomers, not the hearing aids, that is. If a candidate wants his/her platform known to this valuable demographic, captioning is a great way to do it.
  2. When a commercial (or program) is captioned, the mute button only mutes the sound. The video still has a chance, a remote possibility if you will, of penetrating the consciousness of someone looking in the direction of the television screen. 
  3. If a non-captioned commercial follows one with active captions, sometimes the last caption remains on the screen. Imagine this: incumbent Scott Walker babbling at the camera as the top of the screen announces: Tony Evers is committed to you, for a change.

And that, my friends and family, is irony enough for me.  Go Tony!

Just Once

Just once, I’d like to hear a story about the president and not react with “Idiot” or “Figures.” 

Just once, I’d like to hear a doctor make my health care decisions without saying, “We’ll have to wait for the insurance company’s approval.” 

Just once, I’d like to watch the news without having to mute the pre-election commercials. 

Just once, I’d like to see a political commercial that doesn’t make me cringe or think, “This is misleading, to say the least.” 

Just once, I’d like to take a walk without foot pain. Hey, I had to put in something realistic. I’m in the middle of laser treatments; I should start feeling relief soon. 

Just once, I’d like to answer the phone without screening out all the political calls and the unavailable ID calls and the unfamiliar numbers and… you get the picture.

Just once, I’d like to stop worrying. Okay? Just stop worrying. 

October Random Thoughts

I was feeling kind of down about the whole Stupid Boot thing. I saw a picture from the downtown farmers’ market on Facebook, and I was really bummed. It doesn’t feel right to stay home on Saturday mornings when I could be marketing. So…Chuck arranged to go grocery shopping at the store that has a small market in its parking lot on Sundays, and I was much, much happier. He’s a sweetheart, that man of mine. 

The haul – just right!

I stopped at the Democrats’ office to pick up a Tony Evers for Governor sign, and the greeter at the door didn’t greet me. She apologized almost immediately; she said I looked like I belonged there. Trying not to read too much into this; it’s the first election cycle in a long time when I haven’t been actively involved.

I used up the last of the zucchini from the picture (above) with a batch of zucchini chocolate chip cookies inspired by Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. I’ll use the rest in tomorrow’s beef stew. 

We emptied the basket in my closet that we call the Goodwill basket. We toss things in to donate, and when the basket overflows, we take inventory and take it in. We had some excess kitchen supplies, too. Purging feels good. 

So here we are, in mid-October. I’m very limited in my walking ability, but I’m coming to terms with it, sort of (see above). Readers, what is October bringing to your life?

Scrappy Cooking – Cooking with Scraps

There once was a TV show “Scraps.” I tried to follow it, but they’d only made a few episodes. When I saw that the head chef from “Scraps” had published a cookbook, I ordered it right away. 

Once upon a time, during a summer when I had access to my kitchen for canning, I made a very scrappy tomato vegetable soup. I’d been canning tomatoes a few days earlier. The process of peeling tomatoes, while not like herding cats, is time consuming and yields an interesting leftover. To peel tomatoes, I drop several into hot water for a few minutes and then into ice water. The peels slide off (almost) effortlessly. Almost. The results: a lot of tomatoes without skins, and a big bowl of water laced with tomato remains. I decided this tomato water was too good to throw away. On the theme of a Pantry Raid, I used only ingredients that were readily available in my freezer, refrigerator, or pantry. Nothing fancy!

Step one: we skimmed off some of the water floating on top. The tomato content kept sinking to the bottom, so why not?
Step two: poured the tomato water into a large slow cooker and let it simmer on high overnight.
Step three: added herbs. A few green onions, a clove of garlic, some minced basil – all simmered in the soupy mix for several hours.
Step four: Store the boiled down mixture in refrigerator overnight.

To make soup for supper, I added a few simple ingredients along with salt and pepper, thickened with arrowroot starch (Penzey’s is the best), and served with crackers.

Simple ingredients added (but not measured precisely): a dash of Worcestershire Sauce, a small can of commercial tomato paste (to mitigate the sweetness of the fresh tomato remains), salt and pepper, frozen peas & corn & shredded fresh zucchini.

This tomato soup, whether you call it a Scraps menu or a Pantry Raid, is a winner. By the way, those tomato skins were dried in the oven on a low heat and then eventually frozen. We used them often. Scraps? They’re tasty and priceless.

What (not?) to Wear

It was Friday. Friday! Casual Friday! Jeans abounding in the office! Green Bay Packers colors! Or Brewers? The Brewers were playing at 3:15 that afternoon. My kindergarten and first grade teacher friend was torn: Packer or Brewer gear? Or pink, for Breast Cancer Awareness month? She’s a Packers fan, Brewers fan, and a breast cancer survivor. Oh, the dilemma of what to wear! 

Sunday, I was thinking along similar lines. I have a new Brewers tee shirt. Should I wear it today? They play at 3:30 against the Rockies. Maybe I could wear it to school tomorrow. The boss has been lenient when there’s a game on. But wait – I want the Brewers to win today! If I’m lucky and they play well, I won’t need to wear the colors on Monday. I can wear them later in the week as the playoffs continue! 

Oh, teachers. We dress like geeks at times – think holiday “Ugly” sweaters. But in October, who can choose? Readers, what are you wearing – baseball colors, football colors, or breast cancer pink?

And More Apples!

You’ve heard about the apple-gathering run. I had a boatload of apples in my minivan for about a week. I’d covered the whole batch, boxes and buckets, with a tarp to discourage the fruit flies. Sunday, we started the cider making day. 

The Cortland apples in the beer boxes came from the second orchard. “Someone drinks a lot of Busch Light beer,” Husband announced to nobody in particular as he saw a pile of boxes along one wall. “The bar down the road drinks a lot of Busch Light,” the orchard woman told us. The boxes are sturdy, and the bar hands them over free of charge, and it works for everyone. I lined the boxes with plastic bags because…well, see for yourself.

The beer boxes and the first four buckets were bargains because they were “seconds.” Imperfect. Scratch and dent. Whatever term you want to use, we got a deal on the apples because of it. Some, maybe most, had been windfalls – apples that fell on the ground before they were picked. Maybe that’s why I found so many apples that looked great to me, but were included in the bargain boxes. 

The finished product!

Does it look like a lot? It is. This batch got squeezed into the space remaining in the refrigerator and freezers. I brought a gallon to work; it was a hit! Crock pot, no spices, just warm and delicious cider on a cool and rainy day. It’s extra special because some of the apples came from the tree in front of the office. 

In other words, perfect. 

Apples, Apples, Everywhere

My minivan is full of apples. I do mean full. We made last weekend into a Procure the Apples weekend, and oh, were we ever successful! (Pictures later. Really.) 

For our first trick, er, trip, I led Chuck to two small orchards in the not-really-a-town of Darboy. The owner/operator at the first orchard sold us four pails of “seconds” only after he was convinced that we knew what we were doing. He was suitably impressed that we own a cider press, and he showed us a few of the varieties (honey crisp! Sweet!) in the scratch and dent collection. This is going to be good cider.

The second orchard had two boxes that had been cases of Bud Light filled with imperfect Cortland apples. They had a wall of empty Bud Light cases donated by the bar down the street. Bud Light, according to Chuck, is to beer what Velveeta is to cheese. But back to the topic at hand, Cortlands are a lot like Macintosh; they are good for eating or cooking and go with just about anything. Mixed with the Honey Crisp and Macintosh and who knows what else, their tartness will keep the cider from being too sweet. This is going to be really good cider.

The next day we gave up on the officiating at the Green Bay Packers game – we would never give up on the Packers themselves – and we picked from the tree in front of my office. A few buckets and too many mosquito bites later, we loaded up three buckets at no cost and brought them all home. All the buckets and boxes from the weekend are still in my minivan. It’s a very safe storage space. No chipmunks or other critters can get at those apples before it becomes that good, good cider.

One exception exists, unfortunately. Fruit flies. It was Tuesday night when I decided the fruit flies were distracting the driver (me) all too much. What to do about it? I didn’t want to leave the buckets in the garage where they might attract little furry creatures and stinging critters as well. If I moved the overflowing apple buckets to the house, I’d just be moving the fruit flies to a new home where they’d still drive me crazy. 

The solution: cover the buckets. I only had two covers for the big five gallon buckets, and the Bud Light boxes didn’t come with lids. I covered the two buckets that I could, and then found a tarp to throw over the rest. It worked. The apples are still exposed to enough air that they won’t rot, my van smells heavenly, and there are far fewer fruit flies. 

Alliteration. That’s where it’s at, people. When we hit the cider press on Sunday, I’ll do my best to chronicle the process on film. Er, on digital. On the blog. 

Curiouser and Curiouser – and apple cider, too

Brother and family came to visit yesterday. 8-year-old niece, we’ll call her “Rainbow,” was curious about Chuck’s cooking techniques. He cooked boneless chicken thighs in barbecue sauce on the stove in a cast iron pan. The original plan was to grill the chicken, but Mother Nature delivered steady rain that made the grill less attractive. 

Rainbow decorated the chalkboard on the drop-down table. That’s her job when she visits. We hand her the chalk, and she knows what to do. 

Rainbow was curious about the barbecue sauce that Chuck had made from my homemade ketchup, which started as leftover liquid from canning salsa. The concept of making something from scratch that might be available in a jar or bottle caught her attention. Her mother is an excellent scratch cook; she must not have made her own barbecue sauce recently. 

After supper the fun began. We set ourselves up in the garage (still raining) and began chopping apples for cider. Rainbow was, shall we say, excited? She took part in every step of the process: chopping, crushing, pressing, and of course, tasting. She came inside with me to watch the pasteurizing step. She ended up leaving before the cider cooled, so she didn’t take any home. Yet. We’ll definitely find a way to get some of the finished product to her family sometime soon. 

Back to the Blog

I’ve been off-blog for quite a while. I realized that a lot of the short incidents, like what I’ve bought at the Farmers’ Market, are getting shared on Facebook these days. I haven’t done much on Twitter, and I’m not on Instagram, so I can’t use those two as an excuse. 

Lately I’ve run into situations that made me think, “I should blog this.” Sometimes it’s Amigo who tells me, “Mom, you should blog this. Really.” And I realize that the Pharmacy that Shall Not Be Named has improved to the point that they don’t make the blog anymore, but the Clinic that Shall Not Be Named still rates a post now and then. The worst offender lately was my employer-provided health insurance. I’m still very angry with the folks at charge there, so I’m not ready to post. I might be ready to write it, but I’m not quite ready to post. And the “Smart” MRI place? I’m not sure whether to christen them “Stupid” MRI or “Dollar Store Variety MRI.” Frankly, either would fit. 

I don’t want to blog my Packers. At the moment, their record is the same as the Cleveland Browns. At least the Browns inspired Budweiser to Open the Refrigerators – Clay Matthews is only inspiring yellow flags at the moment, deserved or not. 

The Pirate’s Booty (current nickname; this may change)

I’m in this boot for six weeks – one down, five to go. Updates to come.  for the Boot and its progress, I’ll need a full post – or two.

Safe to say, Daisy will be back. Besides, there’s an election coming up. I’ll have all kinds of plenty to say.

Communication and Health Care – not

Dear Clinic that Shall not be Named: 

I get it. I do. I understand that I had my last mammogram in August of 2017. I know that I cancelled my August appointment this year. Really, though, you could have saved the postage on that little reminder letter. You know the one: the letter reminding me that a full year has gone by and I haven’t had my next mammogram yet. 

You see, Clinic that Shall not be Named, I have already rescheduled the mammogram for mid-September. If your computer system had been programmed to make one more step, perhaps a search for an upcoming appointment, there would have been no need to send a reminder letter by way of the USPS. 

I suppose it could have been worse. If Clinic that Shall not be Named made robo-calls instead of sending reminder letters, then I would have gotten very irritated and perhaps my blood pressure would have escalated. At least with the silly letter, I just laughed and ripped it up. 

In conclusion, Clinic that Shall not be Named, once again your right hand doesn’t know what your left hand is doing. Get with it, okay? Okay.