Skillet Green Beans

It’s transition time at the Farm Markets in my region – the transition between pea season and green bean season. I suppose I should include yellow beans and purple beans, too, but mainly I buy the green. This recipe turned up in my employer’s wellness newsletter. I wonder if it would work for the purple, without losing the color?

Simple Skillet Green Beans

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flake, or to taste

1.5 pounds green beans, trimmed

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 teaspoon coarse kosher salt

2 tablespoons water

Directions:

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add red pepper flakes and stir to coat the pepper in the oil. Add green beans and cook, stirring often until the beans are blistering and browning in areas, 5-7 minutes. Add garlic and salt and cook, stirring constantly until the garlic is fragrant and browning, about 30 seconds. Add water and immediately cover. Cook covered until the beans are right green and crisp tender, 1-2 minutes. Serve immediately.

With fresh green beans from the market, this sounds awesome. Readers, how about those yellow and purple beans? Any opinions?

Just another plastic bag of produce.

Sometimes I have to help the grocery store cashiers when I’m buying bunny food. Red leaf lettuce, green leaf lettuce, or Romaine. Curly parsley or cilantro or maybe even flat leaf (a.k.a. Italian) parsley. On my way home yesterday, the cashier and the staffer bagging my purchase needed more help than usual.

I almost, not quite, but almost felt sorry for the cashier. She seemed new at the job. I suspect she has a hearing loss, too. Trust me; I recognize my own hearing-impaired behaviors when I see them in someone else. But where were we? Oh, I was checking out at the small grocery store on my way home from school.

The woman ahead of me in line was buying a six pack of bottled water. The bottled water ended up in a plastic bag. Huh? Put a sticker on it, people. I mean, really.

So I came in prepared; I handed over two cloth bags I always carry in my purse for times like this. Between the bunny food and hamburger buns, two bags should have been sufficient. But then, nothing seemed to go the way of “should” on this trip. First of all, my cloth bags didn’t make it to the end of the checkout right away; they got tangled in with the plastic produce bags. The first bags of lettuce ended up in a store plastic bag anyway.

While that was happening, I was distracted by a clueless clerk. “Is this kale?” “No, it’s parsley. Curly parsley.” She rang up kale. “Excuse me, that was parsley. Curly parsley, not kale.” Oops! She fixed it. And then – “Red leaf lettuce?” “No, it’s Romaine. That’s red leaf, coming up next.” She rang up red leaf. “Excuse me, that was Romaine. The red leaf lettuce is there.” I pointed. Ugh. She was lucky Chuck wasn’t in the checkout with me. He would have identified everything else on the conveyor for her. “And those are carrots” is his favorite line when faced with produce identification problems.

Finally, when I could look down toward the bags, I realized she’d packed my two bags with a few items, a store plastic bag full, and was reaching for another store plastic bag for two small packages of cookies. It was right after school, people. Don’t judge me. Sometimes a teacher just needs cookies. This was really ridiculous, though. I ended up bringing home way more single-use plastic than necessary.

Next time I’m stopping at the nearby grocery on my way home, I’ll avoid this particular pair of employees. If I have to deal with them again, I might react badly. And by badly, I mean I might loudly announce, “That’s curly parsley. That’s red leaf lettuce. That’s Romaine. And that’s celery, by the way.” Or I might glower at the  person bagging my groceries in twice as much plastic as needed. Growl.

If the produce is problematic, maybe the solution is to just buy cookies. Cookies might check out smoothly. Well, they “should”. However, we all know that “should” carries no guarantees.

40 Bags in 40 Days

Final Jeopardy Category was Religion. The answer read, “Famous Catholics who’ve publicly answered this question include Susan Boyle (sweets) & Paul Ryan (beer).” The question?

“What are you giving up for Lent?” Of course. Now if you’re not Catholic (I’m not), Lent might not be a time of personal sacrifice. In Wisconsin, Lent might be an opportunity to find the best Friday Fish Fries.

Let’s go a different angle on the “giving up” philosophy. I’ve been slowly and steadily de-junking and de-cluttering our home. My process is fairly simple. I keep an old, worn out laundry basket in my closet, and every time I find something to donate to a thrift store, it goes in the basket. When the basket is full, I take inventory and go to a donation site. The basket doesn’t come home, either – it was worn out or breaking apart, anyway.

I saw the 40 Bags in 40 Days challenge and thought, “Sure, why not? This will speed up the process of what I’m already doing. Maybe my blogger and reader friends would like to join in, too.” So just in case you’re interested, here are the main links.

Here’s the basic explanation.

You can also like or follow her Facebook page.

Rather than throw out or donate a full bag each day, I’m either throwing something away, tossing a stack into the donation basket, or setting aside something for a potential summer garage sale. No matter what, the “something” will be significant. A tiny key ring or scarf will not be enough to qualify. Can the significance be emotional rather than size? Maybe. I’ll see how it goes.

I started today by sorting through a basket of linens I bought at an online estate auction. The napkins I’ll keep. The bandannas from various fundraisers will go in the donation basket. The basket itself will go out in the sale in June. The scarves? I don’t know yet. I might run them through the laundry and then decide if I’ll wear them, sell them, or send them off in the basket.

I’m not ending with a question for you, readers, not this time. I’m asking myself: can I make it? My prediction is yes. After all, I’m still making room for all the canning jars I bought a few months ago.

Boycotts – to buy or not to buy?

Chuck’s new job (electrician, fire truck manufacturer) is turning out to be tough on his jeans and tee shirts. Luckily, he wears jeans and tee shirts, not anything more valuable or expensive. But I’m standing in the closet staring at two pair of good Lee relaxed fit jeans that are ripped in the rear, and I don’t sew.

I did what I do: I reached out for help online. My post said “DH (Darling Husband)’s new job is hard on his jeans. Do iron-on patches still exist? I don’t sew.” The responses were mixed, but positive. Sort of.

“Yes, you can buy iron-on patches at WalMart!” I don’t shop WalMart. I haven’t for years. In my state, WalMart encourages their employees to sign up for the state health plan for low income residents. It works because WalMart doesn’t pay enough for their typical worker to buy health insurance through the company, thus saving WalMart the investment in health coverage. Therefore, I’m already subsidizing WalMart through my tax moneys. Shop there? No, thanks. That company doesn’t deserve any more of my money.

“Try Joann Fabrics or Hobby Lobby.” Joann Fabrics, okay. They’re in the same mini mall with Penzey’s Spices, and I love me an opportunity to shop Penzey’s.

But Hobby Lobby?

Remember the Hobby Lobby Supreme Court case? Hobby Lobby brought suit against the Affordable Care Act complaining that the company did not want to pay for coverage that included birth control. They claimed it was a faith-based decision. Let me get this straight: a nationwide corporation, claiming deeply, sincerely held religious beliefs, can apply those beliefs to its employee benefit programs. I haven’t shopped there since the decision.

That leaves me with Joann Fabrics. I certainly hope they actually carry iron-on patches. If not, keeping up my principles might get expensive. I might need to buy a sewing machine and learn to sew.

The Wardrobe of the Rebellion

I bought my Teach Peace sweatshirt last fall. It didn’t seem radical then, but now I wonder whether I should wear it to school or not. I decided yes, I can wear it, because the sentiment is not rebellious. Peace is a valuable, if not exactly realistic, goal.

Nasty Woman gear hit the interwebs after the third debate of the presidential campaign. In the feminist world, the term became synonymous with strong.

Ah, the pink pussy hat! A coworker told me she has one. She leaves it in her car when she gets to school, but she has it. She wears it. She describes it as “cute.” I don’t have one – yet – but the question comes to me: What does it mean to wear this in public? Wearing a pink pussy hat to a rally has a clear meaning: don’t mess with me, celebrity or not. Thousands of women wore them on January 21st, and the world took notice. I predict these hats will stay in style for, oh, at least four years.

The safety pin is still out there, just not as prevalent as it was initially. The trend started in the U.K. and spread via social media to the U.S. after, you know, The Inauguration. The safety pin quietly announces that the wearer is a Safe Person. If someone is being harassed, threatened, and needs help, the victim can reach out to the one with the pin. I see safety pins on Facebook profiles, Twitter hashtags, but few in public. Heck, maybe I don’t travel in the right circles. I know many who consider themselves advocates but don’t wear the pin. This symbol might see a surge in popularity wlong with the surge in deportations.

An old favorite, the Believe There is Good in the World tee shirt, attended the Women’s March in Chicago on my sister-in-law and niece. I wore mine at home – mine being the second I’ve purchased with this slogan because I wore out the first. No matter who leads the free world, I hope many will continue to believe and to Be The Good in the World, too.

The latest on the tee shirt scene is Nevertheless, She Persisted. Senator Elizabeth Warren was “warned, given an explanation; nevertheless, she persisted” to read the now-famous letter from Coretta Scott King criticizing the now-infamous Senator Sessions in his quest to become Attorney General. This slogan has been applied retroactively to Ruby Bridges, Susan B. Anthony, Rosie the Riveter, and more straight up strong women. This one, folks, may last more than four years.

On Election Day in 2012, I slipped my Team Obama tee shirt under a fleece bearing the logo of my employer. Will I do that again? Readers, what are you wearing to the revolution? Your pink cat hats? Teach Peace athletic wear? Something I’ve forgotten? Leave a comment, if you dare.

Deal? Read the Tags. All the tags.

I’ve been considering putting a few lights in the backyard. I’m not talking about extending power to the garden patch, but just a few stakes with solar-powered lights in them. I would then be able to take out compost after dark without tripping.

I bought an inexpensive wind chime that had such a light in it, and the darn thing never worked. I guess I got what I paid for in that case.

When I saw the tiny (about 6 inches tall) canning jar facsimiles in a specialty store, I thought about getting a few.

Cute. Very cute.

I looked more closely. The adorable little mason jars with solar-powered lights inside were available at a cost of $8 each. Oh, my. That’s a little steep, considering I want several.

111Cuter up close.

Also prominently stamped on the tag: Made in China.

No, thanks. Maybe I can convince my engineer husband to rig something up using mason jars I already own. Chuck, what do you think?

Busy, Busy, Busy!

I haven’t posted lately because we’ve been – yep, you guessed it – very busy. Let’s skim the high points.

Chuck has a new job! He’s no longer making sure the news gets on the air. He is no longer driving and running and repairing live trucks and satellite trucks. He is now installing electrical components in brand new fire trucks. He’s been training for a week now, and it looks like this job is a fabulous fit for him. His official title is Electrician, Fire Truck Division.

Maybe he’ll actually enjoy the NFL playoffs this year instead of huddling in a corner crying out “No, no, don’t send me on the road again!”  

In other news, it’s Christmas concert season for Amigo and the barbershop chorus! He’s already sung in two shows in two weeks, and the third comes up in a few days. He looks very festive in his elf costume, and his sense of humor keeps rehearsals light.

For example, consider the following. Dress rehearsal at the restaurant that will host the Barbershop Bistro. Risers are set up, guys are in place, lights are adjusted. Director scans the chorus and asks, “Is there anyone who can’t see me?” Think on this for a minute.

Amigo, he of the white cane club, gleefully raised his hand. The chorus members were beside themselves with laughter. When I picked him up two hours later, the guys were still chuckling. He livens up a party, all right, my Amigo.

My holiday shopping spreadsheet is in place, and I’m filling in the blanks. Wrappings and trimmings and trappings are organized and ready for use. The Christmas music CD collection is accessible – those albums not on my desk at work, that is.

The O.K. Chorale is settled in for the remainder of December. The blog might even reflect that – when I have time.

Jar Variety

The batch of jars from a recent estate auction contained some interesting variations in size and shape. Several were the basic half-pint jelly jar size and design. Some were different.

Milk bottle, perhaps?

Milk bottle, perhaps?

Old fashioned lid - slightly odd shape

Old fashioned lid – slightly odd shape

Some had the word “freezer” embossed on them. Most were Ball; a few said Kerr. Two or three lids, the solid gray lids – does anyone know what they’re made of? I’ve seen lamps and hanging lights made from jars with this type of lid, so I’m not quite ready to throw them away.

For now, I’m sorting and storing those that are clean and suitable for food storage. The others might become…well, who knows? It’s all part of the fun of finding and procuring and using old jars.