Pistachio Pudding to the Rescue!

Chuck had a dream last night. I won’t analyze it, although I’m sure it has some parallels. The highlights are these:

We lived in a cramped place, and we were in a situation with a lot of anxiety. Chuck was working in the kitchen, I was struggling to get a box of something from the basement, and Amigo, just a toddler, played on the kitchen floor.  (La Petite didn’t make an appearance. Maybe she was at school.) When Amigo was young, he sensed anxiety and reacted to it in his own toddler-on-the-spectrum way. Chuck and Amigo collided, Amigo fell to pieces in a total meltdown. Chuck knew that the only thing to combat this meltdown was — pistachio pudding.

Long story short, he made pistachio pudding, put the toddler in the high chair, and all was well. Messy, but calm.

When Chuck woke up this morning, he came downstairs and made pistachio pudding. Inspired by his dream solution, he wanted to have pistachio pudding with lunch. It wasn’t that easy, though. Monday is typically our grocery shopping day, and our supply of milk was low.

Enter Daisy the Doomsday Prepper’s stockpile of sorts: dry milk! I had some! I only use it for baking bread and occasionally making oatmeal, so of course we had plenty in the cupboard. Chuck read the directions on the package, mixed up two cups of milk, and made pistachio pudding.

Amigo thought the dream was hilarious, and he could picture himself playing on the kitchen floor in our old tiny duplex. Pistachio pudding was a hit with lunch, and we continued on with the day. Chuck and Amigo grabbed the peanut butter jar to return (that’s a whole different story, and you probably know the background, readers), and headed off to shop for groceries.

Readers, has a dream ever inspired you? Serious or wacky, tell us!

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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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Freezers are the New Toilet Paper

First it was toilet paper. Then we went through stages of shortages: baking supplies, yeast, eventually canning lids, and even compost bins.

After a long wait and diligent searches, I now have a pretty good supply of canning lids. I canned chicken broth yesterday, and I didn’t even worry about having enough lids.

I found a compost bin, FREE, on curbside, last summer. Talk about luck! We’ve had to bungie the top down to keep the raccoons out, but heck, that’s a small price to pay to have found an actual replacement bin for the one that broke.

Last weekend, I saw a (cue the ominous music) small puddle under one of our chest freezers. After further review, Chuck and I concurred that the freezer was, in fact, dead. We moved as much as we could into the refrigerator/freezer in the kitchen and the smaller chest freezer. Then, we called Robin. She said yes, of course, we could bring over a few things to keep in her freezer for a little while.

In the meantime, we reflected. We decided an upright freezer might meet our needs better, so we did our homework the way we always did: online. We made notes of stores that claimed to have something we liked in our price range and in stock, and then we hit the road to make our purchase – or so we thought.

The web sites for Lowe’s and Home Depot did not correspond with the inventory. Two other stores had such convoluted and complicated web sites that we said nope, not going to even go there. With aching knees and sore feet and major disappointments, we were close to losing hope. And then the smart phone apps (search for: Upright Freezers Near Me) found a store name we didn’t recognize. Grand Appliance. Non-descript, but if they had the inventory, we were willing to buy. We followed my phone’s navigator to get there, rejoiced that they were still open, and to make a long story short, found what we needed and ordered it!!

We’re expecting a delivery within two weeks, as opposed to September and October as suggested elsewhere. They’ll take the old defunct appliance with them. After that, we’ll relieve Robin’s freezer and repack our new one! And that, my friends, is a relief.

Toilet paper. Yeast. Compost bins. Freezers. What’s next? I don’t really want to know. Readers, any predictions for the next shortage?

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New Adventures in Vintage Sales – The Booth Opens!

We did it. We took our thoughts, our talk, and our research, and we put down the rent to operate a booth in a Vintage Mall in a Nearby Small City. If this action seems sudden, it’s not; we’ve been pondering and researching this idea for several years.

We’re naming the booth after our mothers, Petunia and Robin, but with their real names (tee hee hee). La Petite is designing a sign and a business card for us. Amigo? Well, he’s tolerating our busy-ness, as long as we don’t disrupt the home routine too much. We took him to Nearby Small City for lunch yesterday when we dropped off boxes of merchandise.

Our focus is, well, eclectic. We’re organizing the booth so customers can find similar items on the same shelf or the same corner. Chuck and I signed the contract on Thursday, and we moved in on Friday, knowing there was a Flea Market in the parking lot on Saturday. In the hopes that a few customers might shop indoors, too, we pushed ourselves to get at least something on the shelves right away.

Day One!

There are a lot of empty spaces, but we’ll fill those later. In the time we had, we did what we could, and we pronounced it good. Now the challenge begins: selling.

Readers, do you enjoy shopping vintage/antique malls? Let me know, and I’ll email you the actual coordinates of our venture.

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(Farm) Market Day?

One loss I’m feeling deeply is the lack of local farm markets. My downtown farm market usually starts at the end of June on Saturdays. The main street of our fair city closes, and the vendors fill several blocks. It’s a wonderful atmosphere; live music, the smell of egg rolls cooking and corn roasting, and all the produce that’s in season. Not this year, thanks to Covid19.

Thanks to Covid19, our downtown farm market will start two weeks later than usual and support about one third of the usual vendors. Live music will not be allowed, and prepared foods will no longer be available. I’ll go, and I’ll buy veggies and fruits to freeze and to can for the winter, but it won’t be the same. Not by a long shot.

Today I drove past Festival Foods, the store that hosts my favorite midweek market in their parking lot on Wednesday mornings. As I got closer, I saw – could it be – a tent! A white canvas top with a point in the middle! Maybe the market was back! Maybe…maybe…nope. Just a fireworks stand. Sigh.

Fortunately, Chuck’s mother, Robin, called and told us of a farmer selling fresh strawberries from the back of his truck. She’d bought some herself, and said they were delicious. I didn’t drive there immediately (it was noon), but I may try tomorrow. Maybe the strawberries will be there again, ready for me. That may be the solution this year: without the usual market, I need to find the independent sellers. It’ll be a little more work, but I can still fill our freezer for the winter.

Readers, is your local farmers’ market still going on this year? If not, what are you doing to get fresh produce for your family?

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Once Upon a Coupon

One Saturday night, not long ago, Chuck and I pushed a cart around the grocery store and filled it with all the necessary foodstuffs on our list. At least once, we encountered a very focused shopper noting totals in a notebook and sorting through piles – I kid you not, piles – of coupons. 

She was a Real Live Super Extreme Couponer. In our store! In our city! Wow! Where were the cameras? 

When we were ready to check out, there was only one checkout lane open, and she was in it. More power to her for taking the time and making the effort to shop this way, but we did NOT want to be in line behind her. I looked toward the self checkout, looked at my cart’s contents, and said nope, not going the selfie way. Luckily for us, the store staff provided another checker. Phew! As we left the store, we could hear Ms. Super Extreme Coupons with her checkout still in progress. Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep. 

The next day, we took the minivan to Kwik Trip to fill out the tank, and grabbed a few coupons on the way out the door. Chuck dashed into the mini mart to get the free bananas, dozen of eggs at half price, and a dirt cheap cup of gourmet hot cocoa. The cashier rang up his purchases, scanned his coupons, and then swept his Rewards Card. With the rewards card discount, his total came to a negative number. They owed him money. And at that, the cash register froze. 

He tried to pull it up into the positive numbers by buying a tube of Chapstick. The Chapstick wouldn’t scan. The cashier tried entering the code number manually. No luck. So Chuck tried again; he grabbed a candy bar. This treat scanned successfully – sort of. The total went farther into the negative, and this time read Transaction Finalized. Amid much laughter from the other customers,  including one who had offered to help out when it appeared Chuck was short on cash, he headed quickly back to the van. 

“Don’t say a word! If the cops stop us, let me do the talking!” “What?!?” He laughed and laughed as we zoomed home and tucked the minivan in the garage. 

Chuck the Super Coupon Man. Go figure. I never would have guessed. 

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To Swap, or Not to Swap?

I had plans. Big, exciting plans. I was going to go to a seed swap and seedling sale on Saturday morning before The Boys (Chuck and Amigo) were even awake. Then the blizzard arrived. And not just any blizzard: the blizzard that broke records, records in snow-is-the-norm Wisconsin.

So I didn’t get to the seed swap and seedling sale. Honestly, it may have been cancelled. So much was closed, so many events cancelled, that I don’t even know if the park or the nature center was plowed. In fact, we were at the meat market watching a chef pick up $500 worth of meat for his restaurant when his wife called him to say the staff couldn’t get in and they were closing.

I wasn’t planning on bringing seeds to swap, if I’m honest with myself. I had been thinking about buying seedlings and nurturing them indoors through the blizzard and the early spring that might happen, maybe, someday. I don’t have many seeds, or at least not unique seeds. Or do I?

I have butternut squash, parsley, and dill, all salvaged last fall. Those are such common seeds that I wouldn’t bother to offer them up as a swap. However, when I found myself in the garage after cleaning and emptying a litter box in the middle of the storm — oh, let me start over without the drama.

Bunny’s litter box needed cleaning, so I walked through the garage to dump the waste/fertilizer on top of the snow in the backyard patch. On my way back through the garage, I grabbed a packet of seeds for sweet banana peppers. As long as I was there, I dug through the empty pots on my planting table to find milkweed. On my way to the milkweed, I realized I had saved more than I’d remembered. I searched through yarrow, chamomile, yellow beans, feverfew, baby’s breath, and (how could I forget?) walking onion bulbs!

The ending of the story is this. I didn’t go to the seed swap and seedling sale – if it even happened. But I did find more seeds that I could start right now – right now! – and nurture under my grow lights until spring really arrives.

Take that, Mother Nature.

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Kitchen Planning, sequel.

Have I mentioned that we’re remodeling the kitchen at the O.K. Chorale? It’s all consuming, and we haven’t even started demo. We’re still planning. Details, details, details!

Chuck and I made a trip to Lowe’s – again. We have wandered the aisles in search of wisdom in cabinet design, color (paint or stain?), handles and knobs, under-cabinet lighting, and more. I didn’t know that so many decisions were involved.

Add to the sheer number of decisions the fact that Chuck and I work opposite shifts. We communicate a lot by text message and email, but any true conversation and discussion have to happen on a weekend. This is dragging out the process longer and longer.

We’re close, though. We’re close to calling the designer and telling her, “We’re ready! Here are the details! Let’s make an order!” And then the real work begins.

Due to the age of our house (built 1890), every single element has to be custom. We’ll place the order, and then we’ll wait for the cabinets to be built. Meanwhile, we have a long to-do list to prepare for this project.

  • Empty the cupboards, upper and lower
  • Store the contents of the cupboards somewhere – anywhere.
  • Set up a temporary “kitchen” in another room.
  • Set up coffeemaker in another room.
  • Invest in disposable dishes OR make a plan for washing dishes without a sink.
  • Empty the refrigerator and freezer to prepare for moving this appliance.
  • Make room for computer desk and bookshelf currently in dining room
  • Find temporary storage for dining room table and chairs
  • Cancel cleaning service until project is done
  • Remind selves that we will enjoy the new kitchen for many years before selling even comes on the radar, at which time the lovely kitchen will be a major advantage.

Meanwhile, life as we know it continues.

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Prepping for the Flu

Influenza always scares me at least a little. I trained as a public health volunteer when Avian Flu was the big fear, and I was more than a little shocked to realize how close we were to a pandemic. Then H1N1 strain came to my fair state, and my fourth graders were really hard hit. An average day would see anywhere from eight to ten kids absent (out of a class of 26), and those kids were sick for a week or more. The flu season that year lasted four or five weeks – or was it six? Eight, even? I remember slowing down the pace of instruction almost to a standstill. My kiddos needed to rest, to get better, and not worry about missing school. When the first group made it back, the second batch went out, followed by several more. That particular influenza strain hit kids a lot harder that it hit adults. I remember needing two flu shots that year, and I don’t remember missing school myself – not for influenza, anyway.

If that hadn’t been enough to make me nervous, Amigo had a long stretch of ill health that started with influenza when he was 16. A few years ago, Chuck fell victim to a nasty strain of Influenza A that landed him in the ER, barely breathing. If you haven’t yet guessed, each and every one of us at the O.K. Chorale makes a point of getting a flu shot every year. My flu shot was delayed this year due to other problems (hey, vertigo and Prednisone, I’m talking about you), but I finally got one in December.

This kind of worry activates my prepper-style paranoia. Any time we go grocery shopping, I make my list and check it twice for any over-the-counter medicines we might need. The chicken soup section of our pantry is well-stocked, too. Tissues? Check. Juices? Check. Crackers and white soda? Check, check.

I no longer have direct face to face contact with my students, so I’m not breathing their germs  and handling their papers daily. Computer viruses are more likely (Ha! Ha!) in an online school. Chuck works in a large plant, and the people there are conscientious about hand washing and the works. They all touch the same tools, so they’re not willing to spread illness through the line. Amigo doesn’t get out much, so if he brings home a virus, it’ll be one spread through his singing buddies in the barbershop chorus.

Now that the current influenza has reached epidemic status, I’m going to take every precaution I can to avoid bringing it home. At last count, I heard the virus had bloomed and spread its, er, pollen in 49 states. Hawaii is the only state with out an influenza epidemic, and Hawaii has its own issues.

But Hawaii’s troubles are a whole post in themselves.

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Feeling Fortunate

Chuck likes to say, “Good intentions ain’t worth squat.” I have to agree, even when my good intentions are the ones fading off into the distance.

I intended to get out of the house and walk every day during winter break. Mother Nature had other ideas. We are in the midst of below zero temperatures plus wind chill, making outdoor activity unlikely to say the least. Brrrr.

I also intended to spend some quality time with La Petite shopping in the post-Christmas sales. Instead, we’re huddling under new blankets (gifts) and sipping coffee and leftover mulled apple cider.

Instead of grumbling over lost goals (the afore-mentioned intentions), I’m feeling lucky. I have a home, blankets, coffee, and more. I’m warm and cozy. Missing the chances to go outside and spend money? No problem. Staying home in this case is a good thing, intentional or not.

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