Why Amigo and Chuck do the Grocery Shopping

Amigo and Chuck have been doing the family shopping for a long time. By now, we consider it routine. They rarely take me along, which is okay, I guess. Maybe. Why?

  1. Chuck worked in grocery stores in the past; he knows the tricks of the trade.
  2. Chuck knows how to bag groceries. When I do it, it’s a mess.
  3. They make the list in order according to the store layout.
  4. They’re fairly efficient and cost-conscious.
  5. Chuck is a good cook; he’ll look through the departments with menus in mind.

But the main reason they take on the shopping without me is this: I’m a closet prepper. When I see something we use and it’s on a major sale, I tend to buy a  lot. Like, “Ooh, baked beans are marked down! I think I’ll buy six cans.” Or I might think, “Jello? We don’t use much jello. But then again, if we’re sick we don’t want to make an extra trip to buy jello and chicken soup. I’ll grab a few boxes – like, maybe, five.”

Then there are the loss leader prices: the ten for $10 deals. I’ll reach for the shelf and hear Chuck saying, “Dear, you don’t have to buy ten to get the good price.” And I’ll shake my head, think “Busted! again,” and only get a few.

In support of my own contributions, I’ll remind you that I’m both gardener and canner. We rarely buy vegetables at the store because we buy veggies in season at the farmers market all summer and fill our freezer. I make and can pickles, tomatoes, tomato sauce, jams, and more.

So, readers, how does grocery shopping shape up for you? Who is the main shopper, and why?

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Harmony Weekend with Amigo

Like much of the world last year, the barbershop harmony world was largely shut down. Amigo’s chorus was rehearsing on Zoom, waiting for a vaccine so they could rehearse together again. Amigo took voice lessons, also via Zoom, once a week. The annual district fall contest was cancelled, as many other events in 2020. Fall of 2021, the Land of Lakes District of the Barbershop Harmony Association gathered in Minnesota.

To summarize briefly, Amigo’s chorus did well. They scored well and got some good constructive comments from the judges. They didn’t win, but they were pleased with their performance and feedback.

Summaries, however, don’t really show what the weekend was like. To feel the atmosphere of a barbershop crowd, imagine attending a banquet. On the surface, it seems like a regular banquet, with good food and a nice group of people at each table. But listen closely: you’ll hear a pitch pipe, followed by a table of guys singing standards, or Polecats in barbershop lingo. When one table finishes singing, another pitch pipe will sound at another table in the room. The ambience couldn’t be beat.

As the banquet program began, the entire room joined together in the National Anthems for Canada and the U.S. Four part harmony, of course, and a lump in my throat just listening. An all-chapter chorus followed, with Amigo representing his chorus.

As the announcer declared, it’s great to be at a conference that brings their own entertainment! Sitting at this banquet was a highlight of the weekend. Singing and listening, making new friends, enjoying coming together after a long separation. It’s a wonderful irony that Land of Lakes District abbreviates their name to LOL. There was laughter, out loud laughing, all around. Harmony and laughter? Now that’s a sweet weekend.

 

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Butternut Squash Soup

The storage area that is usually cool and dry is, well, neither. Thanks to an unseasonably warm October and a streak of rainy days, the back hallway is not a good place to store my vegetables. I disposed of two potatoes, a large red onion, and half of a butternut squash this morning.

Then I cleaned the containers and added the little “dryers” that come in packages. Does this do any good? It can’t hurt.

And then I made soup with the remaining half of the butternut squash. I used my standard recipe and cut it down to match the amount of squash I had left. Here it is, folks, without adaptation. This is a lot of soup; use a BIG crock pot if you make the whole thing.

Ingredients:

1 large butternut squash (about 4 lb), peeled, seeded, and cut into pieces(estimated amount: 10 cups)

1 large apple, peeled, cored, cut into 1-inch pieces1 medium white onion, diced

1 large carrot, peeled, diced

2 teaspoons curry powder, 1/2 teaspoon sea salt, 1/8 teaspoon white pepper

3 1/2 cups chicken broth or chicken stock

1 Tablespoon minced fresh ginger root

3/4 cup packed brown sugar

Directions: Spray slow cooker with non-stick spray. In cooker, toss squash, apple, onion, carrot, curry powder, salt, and white pepper. Pour broth over vegetable mixture. Cover; cook on low for 8-10 hours or on high for 4-5 hours. Use immersion blender or remove small amounts of soup (3 cups at a time) into blender to blend until smooth. Add brown sugar (and milk or cream, optional) while blending. Turn heat setting to high. Cover; cook for another 30 minutes. Serve. Enjoy.

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Shortages and Pantry Raids

The latest shortage: certain ink cartridges. Or so we thought – and then we discovered Chuck had “remembered” the wrong number for our printer. We’ll return the wrong one and hope that maybe the office supply store has the right one in black and in color.

I keep seeing blank shelves in the grocery store. Fortunately, we’re fairly well stocked. Chuck teases me a little (more than a little) about my prepper tendencies, but stocking up makes it easy to keep on cooking.

Pantry Raids are easy ways to create a side dish or an entire meal – and tonight it was a side dish. I chopped up two apples leftover from cidering and simmered them on the stove with cinnamon sticks (a bonus included in an auction lot of canning supplies). Simple, delicious: a perfect pantry raid.

I predict more pantry raids, of course, as shortages go on. The unseasonably warm October weather is keeping my tomato and tomatillo plants giving, so we may have more tomato soups or salsa.

And so it goes, readers. I hope your pantries are full and your families are healthy.

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The Black Walnut Project

I have been attempting various foraging projects and no-waste cooking projects. Roasted maple seeds: success! I’ll plan to collect and roast maple seeds every spring from here on out. Saving corn husks to make tamales: nope. I read up on it, browsed recipes and tutorials, and realized it wasn’t going to work in this busy home – mainly because of the time involved. Now for the latest: harvesting black walnuts from the trees in La Petite’s backyard.

Short version: fail. Not going to happen.

Slightly longer version: There were a lot, and I mean a lot, of nuts on the ground after a recent wind storm, so I decided to collect a bucket full and see what I could do. Like I did with the corn husks, I read up on harvesting walnuts, I watched video tutorials, and browsed recipes, too. The first fail: it’s too early. Black walnuts ripen in September and October, and the solid green nuts on the ground were nowhere near ripe. It should have been a clue that not even the squirrels were picking them up.

The next obstacle: time. Most of what I read suggested setting the nuts on a screen to dry for several weeks. After that, I could cut or tear off the outer shell. Then they’d need to dry – again! – for a few weeks.

Details of the process aren’t necessary here. It’s enough to say that despite the vast quantity of black walnuts in La Petite’s backyard, the nuts will never become a food source for her family. The wait time and the work time investment are just too much.

La Petite does, however, have two awesome raised beds and several container plants. She might not get walnuts from her yard, but she grows tomatoes, peppers, green beans, and more.

What should my next foraging experiment entail? Anyone have a suggestion for me?

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Not since 1814.

It was supposed to be a procedure, a formality, verifying the electoral votes that confirmed the November presidential election. Chuck and I listened to the beginning of the process on the radio on our way home from an appointment. As I headed out the door for a half day of work, he asked, “Should I keep you informed?” I said, “Well, I’ll be in class from 1:00 to 2:30, so only text me if something big happens.”

Little did I know.

I finished my classes, stood up and stretched, and took my phone off its charger. And reacted with uncharacteristic vocabulary. OMG! WTF! Holy C***!

I texted Chuck and asked if he was joking, even as I pulled up online news, Social studies indeed – history, a frightening incident, was unfolding on the monitor that had just shown fifth grade language arts and social studies.

The wheels of democracy sometimes turn slowly, but they do turn. Mr. 45 was wrong to incite violence and invite mobs to Washington today. Those who followed in his dirty footprints (Senator RJ, I’m looking at you) share responsibility for the first breach of the Capitol since the War of 1812.

After working on the Constitution, Ben Franklin was asked, “Well, sir, what kind of government do we now have?” Franklin replied, “A republic, if you can keep it.”

Our democracy, after all the mobs and rioting, is once again up and running. It’s up to all of us – Congress, Senate, and voters – to respect the process, to participate in the process and and maintain and keep our republic.

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Touch Typing while Distracted

It started well. I had good intentions, really. A Power Point presentation (I make loads of them for online lessons), with the script in the notes. The “script” gets long at times because I’m working on a lengthy series of reading intervention lessons, and they’re heavily scripted. Rather than read the manual and handle the power point at the same time, transcribing the notes now saves time later.

So imagine this: I’m speeding along, typing a long batch of script, looking at the manual. I finish the paragraph, and turn to look at the slide to find — this.

mocprm/ Imocprms are ,usteropis amd ,agoca; amo,a;s tjat upi read abpit om faoru ta;es/ A imocprm ;ppls ;ole a jprse wotj pme jprm pm ots jead/ Sap;a ;ove om kimg;es amd are extre,e;u rare/ Tjeu arem T rea;;u imocprms. Bit tjeu are ca;;ed Asoam imocprms because tjeu are veru sju/ Frp, the sode. Tjeu ;ppl ;ole tjeu jave pme jprm/ {ep[;e dp

Yep. You guessed it, readers. One hand moved over a key. One hand. A few of the words may be right (are, a, rare), but not enough. If you try hard enough, you might be able to decode parts of the sample. Maybe.

And yes, I hit delete and typed it correctly — after resisting temptation to bang my head on the desk. So readers, what kind of time-wasting mistakes have you made lately? No, on second thought, you don’t have to reminisce and remember those moments. I have enough of my own.

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And then, bananas.

Remember the baked oatmeal with apples? I needed a banana for that recipe – one, count ’em, one banana. While the boys (Chuck and Amigo) were out running other errands, I stopped at the convenience store for a few bananas. As often happens, I found myself at the back of the store mixing up a strawberry lemonade, too, because – why not? Stay hydrated, support local business, and so on. And I had my banana.

When Chuck and Amigo came home from the grocery store, Chuck handed me a bunch of rather-ripe bananas and said, “There’s a story here.” It seems the bananas at the store were “so green they should have still been on the tree.” He’d grabbed a bunch that was mostly yellow, knowing I needed one for my recipe. Well, oops. I already had the necessary banana.

We spent the next few days enjoying bananas. Half a banana with lunch, sliced banana on cereal for breakfast, and eventually banana bread made an appearance. But this weekend, we didn’t buy bananas. Not at the convenience store, not at the grocery. I think we’ll wait a little bit before we dive into bananas again.

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Apples, Apples, everywhere

Subtitle could be Urban Foraging or Scavenger Skills or even Free Food. When my online school moved into a new office, we discovered an apple tree in the front yard. No one seemed to be actively picking the apples, so Chuck and I decided to dive in, er, climb on. We brought big buckets and a stepladder and gathered seven or eight buckets of ripe apples.

The first season, I made applesauce and apple butter and apple pie filling and even apple jelly. Then Chuck got to thinking and bought the me (well, the family) a cider press. We pressed a batch or two of cider and filled the freezer. We took the cider production angle seriously after buying a quart from a farmers’ market and realizing that hey, ours was better.

This year was typical. We picked a little early, so not all the apples were fully ripe, but they were tasty enough for cider. I took to keeping a small box in my car and picking up the windfalls as I left work for the day. These windfall apples added up, and we had apple bread pudding, apple crisp, a Russion apple cake, and even baked oatmeal with apples. We scavenged another bucket of apples in early November, but then I got sick (not Covid!), so the apple pie filling and the strained jelly I’d hoped to make were not likely. After I regained my health and energy, I took the easy way out and made more applesauce.

If I ever retire, will I still have access to that tree and its apples? Technically, it’s on a public school’s property, so anyone could pick. Just to be sure, though, I should stay on good terms with my boss. That’s not a problem. In fact, I could even bribe her with fresh cider. Mmm, cider. From free apples. Works for me!

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TP, Compost Bins; try Canning Lids

The search for a new compost bin was successful in an unexpected way. Instead of spending lots of money to replace my broken tumbler, I got a stationary bin for — free. Free, free, free. Yes, you heard me, free. I was driving home from buying tomatoes for salsa, and I saw a big hulking black thing on curbside. I couldn’t stop then, but I made mental note of the location. The next day, Chuck and I drove the van over to that spot, and found the big hulking black plastic object with a new sign on it: FREE COMPOSTER. I looked it over. It was dirty (um, no problem), but all the parts were there, so we loaded it up in the minivan and brought it home. I’ve hosed it out a few times, and it will replace the collapsing composter of doom. What a deal!

Last time Chuck and Amigo went grocery shopping, I put canning lids, regular size on the list. They came home with two boxes of exactly what I needed. Good thing, too, because now – less than two weeks later – the store shelves are empty of canning lids. Friends elsewhere in the state have complained that they can’t even find jars to buy. I’m lucky; I have a very good supply of jars, and a fair amount of lids. I hope to buy more lids as I dive into the Tomato Crazy and Applesauce Season. I’ll keep my eyes wide open for unusual sources of lids for my canning jars. So far, my online searches have suggested a few I hadn’t considered.

So, readers, if you’re running low on lids for canning, either regular or wide mouth size, where do you go? Brick and mortar or online, I’ll take your suggestions.

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