Saturday, June 30, 2012

Eats & Treats: Delicious curry/stir fry!

I had been craving spicy tofu for a couple weeks, and a Facebook friend suggested red curry sauce as my flavoring. Originally I had intended to get some sauce in a jar and move on, but nothing at the store looked that great in the ingredients besides a red curry paste. Knowing I had coconut milk at home, I decided that was easy enough.

 Delicious veggies! Onion, garlic, bell peppers, and kale strips. 

Brown rice, boiling via pasta-method which cuts about 1/3 off the cooking time and comes out a lot nicer, not as soggy.
After adding the tofu cubes, but my pan was too full to sear them like I wanted. Next time, sear separately! Still, doesn't this look fantastic??

Tossed in a good tablespoon or two of red curry paste, which was nowhere near as spicy as I wanted. Coconut milk, too much peanut butter (though Mr. Moon would have liked more) and sriracha. I think this came out too much like peanut sauce, not enough red curry flavor. I've always joked that I'm an amazing cook--I don't always get what I set out to make,  but what I get is (almost) always delicious. (Ahem, we will just ignore that first attempt at stir fry 6 years ago...)

Delicious bowls of delicious tofu! Totally hit the spot.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Eats & Treats: Weekly Dinner Menu returns!

Well, that was a fun hiatus! Over the next few days you will be totally updated on what's been going on at Chez Moon. In the meantime, let's look forward to dinners and to-do's this week!

As you know, our "week" begins on Thursday. Mum requested tacos, and we had everything in the house for them but shells. Plus, twist my arm! I love tex-mex!

She also requested spaghetti. I love how within hours of writing the menu I was already changing it, before I even got a picture to post. That's why I use dry-erase to begin with, the flexibility, but admittedly I rarely actually write in changes because they're usually last-minute ones.

Crockpot Soup made me laugh, we just had a bunch of produce in the fridge needing used up from over-purchasing the week before we went camping PLUS people backing out of the camping trip last-minute. Ultimately, I probably didn't need to switch days, because both this and spaghetti were using up a bunch of that produce for the crockpot, but I wanted the broccoli used up and that just doesn't taste good with tomatoes! I ended up making a broccoli cheese soup by adding cheese-sauce powder we bought in bulk, and a little milk. Mmmmm smells good so far!

Tamales has been a running joke in this house. We bought half a case of them and they're great for meals ready in 2 minutes, but I keep wanting to put them in a casserole dish with some enchilada sauce and a bunch of veggies and cheese.

Pops got a great deal on pork roasts while we were camping, so I'm pretty excited to get one of those into the oven and slow-roast it for some pulled pork perfection. For about 6 months now I've been craving a super-mustardy pulled pork sandwich with aioli and something pickled, but just haven't gotten the pork roasts to do it. Definitely need to pick up some ciabatta rolls for that!

Tuesday we're having a little get-together potluck BBQ thing, hopefully it will be a good time. I'm looking forward to blueberry cobbler now that I have my cobbler recipe pretty well down! The biggest thing seems to be thinking seriously about the water content of my fruits.

Ah, good old leftovers. Honestly, I'm not even sure if we will have much of any this week, but when we don't it means we tap into some of our TV dinners and such that are still stashed for OhShit! meals.
To-Do List
I'm learning lately to try to divorce myself from the idea that all of this will get done. But I need to start marking with stars or something the things that are imperative. It IS working to write an X on the days that really are just too busy to expect anything done beyond the daily dishes, because when I leave it blank it tempts me to write things in without thinking about what our schedule looks like.

Mr. Moon likes to see things erased or crossed off on these lists, so we started crossing them off and re-arranging things as we don't get them done. I DO need to get sweeping and vacuuming on some sort of rotation, so that sweeping & mopping gets done at least every other day and the vacuuming at least once a week. I ultimately prefer being able to walk around barefoot in my own house, and I can't do that when I don't trust the floors.

We are certainly easing back into project mode though, since his accident and then the busi-ness that is prepping and recovering from a camping trip.
I'm really looking forward to July, what about you? Any exciting menu plans in the works!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Relationships: Doing the Dating Thing

The common wisdom of the Internet and magazines is that long-term relationships, especially live-in ones, are hard. It's easy to take each other for granted, get into a rut, forget to express your love for each other in ways that are continually special and unique.

This move was never expected to be easy. Both couples are losing a great deal of independence, and that's a hard pill to swallow. Couple that with a very busy schedule, and it seems easy to get into a routine of just doing housework until we drop.

Mr. Moon and I had a big, long discussion about that before we moved. We talked about priorities, and how we need to make our relationship a very high priority. Regular dates, getting out of the house when we can, and affirming our commitment to each other. Of course, in practice it's not so easy. And doing so frugally has been a chore.

I think the hardest thing for people to learn is that anything that is routine makes it inherently less "special" in your mind. You may have fond memories of going fishing every Saturday with your grandparents for a few years as a kid, but if you did that every day it wouldn't be anything to write home about. "Dates" are, to me, something special. Something where you put forth effort to determine what would make an enjoyable experience for yourself and your partner, and out of the ordinary.

When you don't live together, a home-cooked meal and some TV on DVD is a super-special date. But living together and cook at home as a rule, that's just your average Thursday night. It gets frustrating when I see advice on popular personal finance blogs telling people that this kind of activity can be a date--I mean sure, if you don't spend time together every night doing exactly that, but at some point you can't say you got a date with your partner 6 days a week. If you always eat out together, a home-cooked meal is special. Not typically in this house.

But personal finance is also about saving in some areas so you can afford others. Let's say we eat at home most nights so that we can afford to go out for "dates"--and so that then, eating out is a special thing and not a go-to behavior.

We've also been making a point of doing some dates "in." If Mum & Pops are going out to dinner for a date, we might stay at home, watch a movie on the nice big screen TV, and cook something that's a little more gourmet than we do for the 4 of us. And by "gourmet" I apparently mean "spicy" because that's what these meals end up being! But it takes a certain mindfulness to make these nights special, and food is a big part of that.

I do feel blessed that Mr. Moon and I get to enjoy each others' company as a rule in ways that some couples would consider "date night" activities. I've been mindful of the fact that we won't always have this level of freedom in our lives, and to enjoy it while it lasts.

In the meantime, I'm looking forward to some of the dates we have planned for the future:
  • Mr. Moon gets all the free movies he wants at his current job; I can't sit through movies often, but having them at half-price and going for a matinee really takes the sting out of it and would make it a bit more enjoyable for me (or at least not so bad if I miss more of the movie than I'd like).
  • Kites! We found our kites and have a bucket full of park toys we're excited to go enjoy soon.  Bonus, we have a park in our backyard! And it's a cheap way to hang out with friends.
  • Camping: We have a few trips around the area we've been dying to try, and we also want to go camping more often. Since campgrounds are cheaper than hotels and we already own a tent, we're pulling double-duty and getting in some camping as well as sight-seeing in the region. Our first stop, I hope, will be the Hood River Fruit Loop, to find some non-grape fruit wines. Also on the list: Bend, Eugene, and a few places on the Pacific coast.
  • And of course, bar-hopping. That is hardly a cheap date though, and we're focused on saving as much as we can and paying off debt right now. 
What do you do for a special night with your honey, to get out of the daily grind and focus on each other? Any specifically budget-friendly ideas that aren't too cliche?

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Being Gentle

As I mentioned before, Mr. Moon was in a car accident last weekend. This week we've done barely more than feed ourselves and keep up on dishes, to give him some time to recover. It's been a rough week.

What it means, though, is that we haven't been working on any projects lately! Not even any ambitious recipes. Nothing fun to show you. Tomorrow promises to be more good weather though, so I'll try to get out there and get some garden update pictures before the rain comes on Monday.

What have you been up to?

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Eats & Treats: June 14-20

Nothing exciting this week, really. Mr. Moon was in a car accident last weekend, and so we are keeping our cooking efforts fairly light this week. While we picked menu items that involve mostly things we already have on hand, and Mum & Pops are out of town for two days for a funeral (unrelated to the car crash BTW), it just so happens that we are starting to run low on a number of our staple items and we have a lot of sale items we liked this week to fold into our menu, so we have a HUGE shopping list.

I'm back to only planning my own lunches, because apparently no one else has an issue deciding what they want on any given day. Less work for me!

Of course, Father's Day needs to be something special and we know Pops wants steak, but with Mr. Moon working we are celebrating Monday when he will be home to cook the steaks on the BBQ. These are some awesome steaks, I tell ya. Local, hormone-free (well, no added ones anyway) and delicious. Plus, I was too tired after shopping to package them properly for freezer storage, so we need to use them sooner rather than later.

All in all, a not-busy or -exciting week.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Eats & Treats: Slow-Cooker Debacles

You know how I've been talking for ages about wanting to make CrockPot Breakfast Oatmeal?

Yeah, so that happened.

Besides the fact that I'm disappointed in the recipe, I discovered something about myself: I am REALLY not drawn to sweet foods in the morning. I have known for ages that if I only get starchy goodness first thing, I'm a bear to live with all day. This "revelation" should be no surprise to me but it somehow is. The long and the short of it is, I need PROTEIN to get through until lunch, and I want it to be savory.

I do know that rice and beans works great in the crockpot, and it is something that I'll scoop into a bowl and throw a couple of eggs on top for something a bit more substantial than the eggs-and-toast rut we've been in lately.

Something else I'm noticing is that I don't mind cooking food from scratch, but when I do manage to get hungry and am ready to eat, I need the food ready OMG!RIGHT-NOW. I'm more interested in cooking right after I've eaten, so throwing things together in a crockpot seems to work really well for me. Putting together casseroles ahead of time also works really well for us, both because it means that people can eat whenever they're ready without having a sit-down dinner time.

Of course, the last couple years I've suddenly been having problems with my crockpot meals. They keep coming out with this metallic, sour taste that I can't seem to get rid of. Brainstorming with friends, the consensus seems to be that it's either:
  • Stuck-on food mixed with soap to create a consistently burned-yick flavor;
  • The water, somehow reacting badly to crock-pot cooking;
  • That the glaze on the pots themselves is wearing thin; or 
  • That I need to try a different brand because the glaze itself is leaching into my food. 
So we'll start with a baking soda scrub and vinegar rinse to get out any invisible food particles, and then use filtered water on the next round of slow meals. If that doesn't work, I'm going to have to borrow or buy a couple different brands of slow cookers to see if it's a brand/glaze issue.

Yet another experiment to add to the list!

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Food Storage: Dry goods and Freezer goods, all in one day!

I previously discussed, without pictures, the food storage situation at our house. I didn't have pictures then for a lot of reasons, one of which being that I've never been much of a shutter bug, as evidenced by the fact that I forget a lot of the "Before" pictures for some of these projects. Also, it's one thing to show the before pictures of a shed in disarray, most people with a shed are probably in the same boat. But I don't want to shame people publicly for being behind on major household projects, especially when there's no real "fault" to be thrown around. This is why we're here.

But! That won't stop me from bragging on all the awesomeness we've accomplished!

These shelves were just full, stacks had toppled over, things were stacked in front of other things so we had no idea what we had, and I'll just skate right on past the details of the mouse infestation issue which has been taken care of, thank goodness. Of course, that had an impact on the cleaning process and what we could keep, so we had to be very selective.

We also took this opportunity to donate some of the foods that are no longer suitable for the restricted diets Mum & Pops are on. Now, most of the foods we got rid of, I don't think should be considered food--for anyone. Every once in a while I catch myself looking through the grocery ad and skimming over things, not even recognizing them as food. I had a similar problem with the contents of these shelves.

But it digress. Whatever it was before, it's a hundred times better now. No furry creatures and their remnants, A LOT fewer boxes of Pasta-roni, donated (after cleaning the cans) a number of over-flow items that we could never use up in a reasonable amount of time, and lots of organization. I expect that as time goes on, we will have to do these kinds of reorganization projects--part of what I call "firebombing"--to get things back in place as we use and gain stuff. Still, that's to be expected.

Bonus, I now have 1/4 of this shelving system for my food, so I can have a bit of a stock of canned and dry goods.

Oh, speaking of dry goods! In the pantry, on the floor where no one but Mr. Moon could reach them, we had a giant stash of air-tight containers (Tupperware brand, mostly) storing dry goods. As part of this project, I put any doubles out into the garage, and got all but a couple of those containers onto shelves where they are reachable. Mr. Moon and I make a great team, as he can do the heavy lifting and I am awesome at 3-d Tetris where the blocks don't always match up. Even on a bad day, I can just point and direct where things can go, to get these kinds of projects done.
While we worked on the canned/dry goods shelves, we were also dividing our efforts into defrosting the freezer. I don't know how many of you may have experience defrosting a freezer, but it's a PITA. AND MESSY.
Again, forgot the Before pic, so you get the Mid-Season update. That top shelf was so overgrown with ice that we had trouble getting stuff out--it measured 8 inches thick!

But I was a lady with a plan. I knew that I needed some way of getting the water to NOT drain onto the floor, but we didn't have a pan that would sit under the lip of the front bottom edge to catch the drips--at least not one that wouldn't have required constant emptying. Best bet was a wet-dry shop vac, but the one we have is buried and who even knows whether it works?

So I put a bunch of towels in a basket to absorb the drainage, and put one in the bottom of the fridge draped over the pile to wick the drips into the basket.

Believe it or not, it worked like a charm. There was a very small drip that caused a puddle underneath the basket, but we put a towel there and nothing got damaged at all. We did have to replace the entire system halfway through, but I had expected as much and planned ahead. When it was ready, we just ran it into the laundry room and tossed it right into the empty washer, spun out the liquid and waited for the next load before washing. The towel under the basket wasn't really even wet all the way through by the end!

After tossing an entire trash can full of unidentifiable freezer burn substance, and having the remaining contents filling three and a half coolers for the duration of the dripping and chipping of the ice, we got every scrap of ice off the shelves. Ten hours total project length, but I'm guessing only three of that was actual active time. Not a single saved food item was anything less than frozen solid, despite our fears. My towel plan worked beautifully, and we got the food shelves done at the same time, thereby maximizing efficiency while keeping an eye on the freezer progress.

And thusly, we now have room for me to make things like, a giant batch of chili, and freeze it for future meals. I can make a casserole and freeze it in serving sizes for "TV Dinners." When there are good quality meats on sale at the store, we can stock up and store them properly. (Plus I have a shelf to myself. :P)

I'm thinking it would be great to make a batch of mushroom-veggie soup, just add barley. I could stick a cup of barley and a frozen bag of soup in the crockpot, turn it on, and come back later to hot mushroom barley soup. Yum.

Two major projects in one day. So, so excited to live with the results!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

The Latest Dirt: Butterfly bushes, Raspberry bushes, and volunteer potatoes

Mr. Moon realized the other day that we never got After pictures up about the landscaping he did in the side yard. When we moved in, the butterfly bushes were 5 feet into the neighbor's yard, who was being understanding and ever-so polite about asking when we might get to that project now that we've moved in? Did you need a nice little reminder of what that looked like before? This is from April 16:

Yeah, we took those back quite a ways...

These are from only a week later, April 23. Including, as you can see (left), taking out an entire BUSH. It had been growing at an odd angle away from the house, and didn't seem very happy there in general. So, out it came.
My favorite part is that we saved all the strong branches for using as stakes for other plants. Already they are holding up rose bushes and being used as the bottom rung of the trellis for my nasturtiums.

Mr. Moon is especially proud of the back-breaking work he did taking out the stump of the butterfly bush, since as you can see here, one of the roots was half as wide as the shovel itself. That would not in fact be the root that caused him to break my shovel, but another one just as big that was growing straight out from the bottom.

Can you believe that was over a month ago? I need to get some updated pictures down there, to show you how the pruned bushes have already started filling in. At the time of writing, it's dark and rainy outside. Not good for picture-taking. Also, DUDE, get on that (blog post) already!

How about something a little more recent, shall we?

A cousin on the east side of the state sent us some raspberry bushes from her yard, since we'd had trouble getting some. De-thorned and everything. They're planted in this section next to the blueberries, under the fir tree where there will be lots of nitrate in the soil for them. Hopefully they will be happy there.

Oh, that long pile there? That would, ahhhh, be the mulch from that bed behind it that I pulled out a month or so ago and has probably killed the grass by there now. On the up side, we'd been thinking about making that bed a little further out from the fence, so now we just need to finish the job.

This is where I get even redder in the face. Mr. Moon ASKED ME if the potatoes which we were throwing away would grow in the compost, and I said that typically things don't grow in the compost because it's too strong, it just burns the roots. Well, I was right--TYPICALLY that is true. But I had to post this shot on Facebook for my gardening experts to inform me that in point of fact, potatoes LOVE pure compost, and it appears that's what's volunteered in our bin. Ahem. Oops. Anyway, the decision was made to stop throwing things into this bin (except perhaps the occasional load of grass clippings) to allow the potatoes to grow without being totally lost in the pile, and to start back up on the pile to the left of the bin itself. There are plans for a better compost system here, but this is what we're stuck with for a while.

The rest of the garden is growing happily along. I've had to wage a bit of a war on slugs because they seem to be totally addicted to my cauliflower even moreso than the broccoli, but everything else seems to be... OK.

Everything else I've wanted to give a "haircut" to, the internet has told me when to do that. But my leeks, I get nothing telling me I can even trim them while they're growing, just to keep burying them if the white parts show over the dirt, so I don't know. They're huge now, easily 3 feet out of the dirt, and I can't imagine I can't trim them and use them like every other similarly-shaped onion-family plant in that damn garden. So when Mr. Moon and I get back from our road trip, I'm going to trim one of the plants and see what happens.

Lots of experiments happening around here lately! I'm enjoying the process.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Eats & Treats: Weekly Menu plan for Thursday June 7-Wednesday June 13

I mentioned on Sunday that we have to switch our "week" to starting a different day, because of Mr. Moon's new job scheduling. We decided we'd have our weekly dinner meeting on Wednesdays now, which means I still have to snag the grocery ads on Sunday and set them aside, or else look them up on my computer come Wednesday. (I do so love living in the future, where that stuff is available at the click of a few buttons.)

Being restaurant industry people, we're no stranger to odd work-weeks. The actual work schedule starts on Friday, but I don't want to do the weekly meeting on Thursday because it has a higher likelihood of Mr. Moon working. I have had jobs where the schedule starts every weekday, but Friday & Saturday always seem to be in the same week, thankfully. It's one of these odd schedules that got me working on military/24-hour time rather than 12 hour/AM&PM time, because of the number of times I've lain down for a nap during the winter and woken up at 7:05 (when it's pretty well dark whether it's AM or PM) and had no idea if I slept all night or only an hour, or what was going on. Plus, no accidentally setting alarms for the wrong part of the day.

Our new menu schedule allows us to make the menu when we know what his work week looks like, which is of course necessary to know whether we're putting something in the crockpot during the morning or early afternoon, or if we can have him baby-sitting meat on the grill. I'm still not a fan of such flexible scheduling, but the coworkers at this job are all very happy working there, and the perks aren't bad. So he's giving it a good shot.

Onto the menu plan!!

Got back on the wagon with lunch planning this week, and I'm grateful. It takes some of the guesswork out of eating, and reminds us to use things up that we bought for lunches and snacks.

I'm noticing a lot of Americana food this week, and I'm not really sure why. Funny thing is, this includes 3 vegetarian dinners, 4 experimental recipes, and lots of healthy goodness. Let me explain:
  • Mushroom barley soup in the crockpot: lots of veggies sauteed in a dash of olive oil, veggie mushroom stock and barley, toss in crockpot, ignore for a while. Haven't done it before, but it has promise! Low fat, vegetarian (unless you add strips of steak like Mr. Moon and I are planning), whole grains. 
  • Leftovers: This was specifically put on there for Mum & Pops to get some of the butternut lentil soup I made last week. Though "soup" is stretching the term a little, it was flavorful and delicious. Lentils, onions, carrots, and chunks of butternut squash with lots of herbs and spices. I thought it needed a little hot sauce and curry powder, maybe some rice, but I can't say it was BAD. It was really good! And plenty that didn't get eaten which needs to be shared. Anything not gone after today is getting puree'd and frozen into small bags, and I can probably toss it in any soup as a thickener for a while. 
  • Sandwiches: On at least three occasions in the last couple months, Mr. Moon and I have been sorely tempted to stop for burgers or pizza after a late shift. Safeway deli sandwiches may not be the BEST food in the world, but it's a BETTER choice--and I'm all about that. Trouble is they're not ready-to-eat in the strictest sense, they need condiments if nothing else. We have to leave right after his shift on Friday to head out of town for a day, so I get to pick up sandwiches when I drop him off at work, doctor them up, re-wrap them, and we can munch on them in he car. Lower fat, more veggies, and no sugar in the condiments.
  • Chicken Rice Casserole: Another experimental item, because we're putting these together Friday afternoon for Saturday's dinner. The plan is to spread a thin layer of cold butter on four different casserole dishes, toss in the rice, layer in some veggies, dump in some cold liquid (so as not to melt that butter layer so it stays non-stick) and top with a couple chunks of frozen chicken. Wrap in foil, leave in freezer, leave directions for mom (350 for 45 minutes, remove foil, remove when rice is cooked and chicken is done). I'm thinking we'll make this with mushrooms and tomatoes, to get out of the 1950's Americana rut. The thing about it is that it means the 'Rents can have a home-cooked meal on Saturday no matter what time we get home, and so can we--even if we don't feel much like putting forth the effort to cook. Put casserole in oven, wait a while, eat. I get my happy organic chicken and brown rice, everyone else can eat whatever is in the freezer.
  • Salisbury Steak: The most experimental recipe yet, especially since I'm tossing it in the crockpot and have never made this before. Excited! But it will be a nice traditional Sunday dinner without the pressure of getting everything ready and out at once. Mashed potatoes can be made and held in the crockpot, and the same with the meat & gravy (which of course in my world will involve a lot of veggies).
  • Mac & Cheese: Think this is greasy, gassy goodness? Try again. Don't tell Pops, but I found a recipe in the Moosewood cookbook for a creamy cheese sauce that is over half tofu, and has only a cup of cheese for a 6-serving meal. As you may recall, last time I made baked "country style" mac & cheese, I substituted half the pasta with broccoli, and it was a big hit. So I plan on doing that again. Plus, doing all that increases the protein count so it might even fill me up! Much lower fat than my family-traditional version, higher protein, vegetarian, and utilizing a cookbook I've had for years. All wins in my book!
  • Turkey Dinner: Really no idea how this is going to go, and I suspect I'm going to opt for an easier meal that night. There is a turkey roast in the freezer, but it looks more like lunchmeat to me. I think I'm going to try to convince Mum to go for something a little more exotic that night, like curry or something else we can make in the crockpot, and save the turkey dinner for a night we can pick up some turkey legs or something.
  • Leftovers: Twice in one week? Indeed. After all that, I suspect there will be plenty. And failing that, we've always got TV dinners we need to get through. 
Getting excited about any innovative recipes this week? Or do you seem to be stuck in a rut of similar-themed food items?

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Be Prepared: Following my Boy Scout come the apocalypse

As I mentioned in our shed organizing post, we are big into emergency preparedness, but totally at a beginning stage of implementation. 

We have three frame-packs, and realistically I'm not interested in doing any recreational hiking that requires sleeping farther than 20 feet from my car (I have an air mattress to blow up, after all). One pack will be pre-prepped with some basic gear for a day hike, since we will only need one (not one each).

The first part of our emergency preparedness plan is to get us each a fully-loaded frame-pack bug-out bag. Not set up so that one has the food and one has the first aid kit, but both will be individually ready for one person to bug out of town on foot or in case we get separated (mine will have the tent which I already know how to set up by myself, Mr. Moon is more capable of building himself a shelter of tarps if necessary). I arranged things in the shed in such a way that we can get three fully-loaded frame packs stored on these shelves, with everything else not moving. Of course, in order to pack these bags we actually NEED some of the stuff stored elsewhere, so we will still wind up with some extra space to spread out and get some more bug-out gear as necessary.

We also have two rolling suitcases designed for bug-out bags, the handles of which can be easily tied onto the bottom bar of a frame-pack and dragged behind hands-free. These will hold, first and foremost, additional canned goods and water bottles which are HEAVY, so we will appreciate the ground accommodating some of the weight. Long-term plan, I'd like to get a trailer to attach to one or both of the bikes for holding two rolling suitcases and two frame bags, in case cars are not available come the apocalypse.

So, our emergency preparedness plan also includes pre-packing a bit for camping trips, to make spontaneous camping easier. Each bag will have an inventory list right on top when you open it, also stored in a folder on my computer so that I don't need to head out to the shed every time I start a camping packing list. Complete with purchase/expiration dates on anything perishable.

How do we deal with perishables?
The important thing is to pack foods you will eat. First in, First out. Food safety motto. In an ideal world, things like canned beans and tomatoes have a cycle of locations: Purchase at store, unpack into garage; eat out of kitchen stores, which when empty get re-stocked from bug-out-bags which get re-stocked from garage food.

Similarly with bottled water, but we don't DRINK bottled water. So we do not intend to stock up on additional bottled water which takes up space, but instead to buy water purification devices and chemicals for a more endless water supply (which given our location and plans need to include a way to make an endless supply of salt water drinkable). Bug out bags are prepared for 72-hours of survival, and will include these and a few bottles totaling about 1/2 gallon of water per day per person (1 gallon per day includes washing and cooking, this is just drinking water). Past that 72 hours we can acquire more water and make it potable.

Don't forget, your first aid kit is perishable too! Adhesives melt and medicines become more useless stored in the heat of a shed, so the first aid kits here will be fairly small and hold the newest purchases. We have a buggable first aid kit in the house packed and ready to go which the bags will restock as needed. And of course, we have a "kit" that is in a few places in the house, which when we run out of things we tend to reach for the buggable kit. So, new stuff --> Frame packs --> Buggable bag inside  --> household drawers and such. Ensures that if something is expired, we find it first when trying to use it inside and not when potentially dying of a septic wound in the woods.

What do we need next:
  • A compass! Our phones have them, but I don't have a manual one anymore and Mr Moon's is broken. 
  • Water purification devices and chemicals.
  • A set of Under Armor for each of us for packing in the bags (and using for camping).
  • To pack the bags, write up a list of what's there and then start a list of additional purchases.
  • A list of books that need to be acquired in the event of bugging out; things that will help us survive on the water, in the wilderness, feed and shelter our selves, and rebuild a society.
That is our first step in being prepared for an emergency, making the bug-out bags. We have a friend who sales boats, and come the apocalypse we are planning to meet him at a pre-determined location to sail out to sea for a while until, hopefully, the chaos dies down and we can return to land for supplies and repopulating the earth. Given how many zombie/cannibalism stories have hit the news in the last week, bug-out bags are a priority this week. Juuuuuust in case.

Do you have an EmerPrep plan? How prepared do you feel? What are you working on next with it? What do you think of these "zombie" stories hitting the news the last week or so?

Monday, June 4, 2012

I am Not a Baker: The day I didn't screw up cobbler

That's as far as I got before I panicked and begging for help. My brother was kind enough to tear himself away from burlesque dancers (well, for seconds at a time since he was texting me) to help me talk myself through this.

But doesn't this pile of nectarines and rhubarb look delicious?? Brother assured me that I could use my porcelain-covered cast iron pan safely, told me what temp to use since I didn't have a recipe (box said 450 for biscuits but no cobbler recipe, he said 425? Was going to turn up to 450 but forgot so I stuck to 425) and said my recipe as I remembered from watching my aunt last summer sounded good, so I dumped in the fruit, took a deep breath and jumped in head first.

Ingredients all assembled. Biscuit dough all mixed up with a little extra milk (because there's never enough liquid to even mix it all together by the recipe--it says 2/3 cup, but 1 cup is too much, just fair warning). One cup boiling water. One cup sugar.

I drizzled the biscuit dough over the fruit. Took one handful of about 1/4 cup of sugar and sprinkled it over the dough and along the edges where I could still see fruit. Since that amount looked like WAY too much to me and covered everything, I didn't even use the rest of the sugar. Then poured on boiling water.
 SUPER blurry picture, entering the oven. 

45 minutes later...

Not too sweet, with a nice crunchy top with fluffy cobbler dough underneath and gooey fruit. Mmmmmmmmmm MM!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Eats & Treats: Weekly Menu

Wondering where this week's menu entry is? Me too!

Mr. Moon started a new job* and having a Monday thru Sunday menu plan isn't going to work for us anymore. He doesn't even get his Friday through Sunday work schedule until Tuesday. We have a couple meals planned to use up ingredients through Wednesday, and then we start our menu plan with a Thursday thru Wednesday week from there on out. I don't know if I'll be able to participate in Menu Plan Monday anymore, but I'll find out!

The menu board looks so empty!
Yes, that is in fact a re-visit of butternut lentil soup 
that didn't get made last week. Why do you ask?

* The new job is at a local movie theater with a restaurant and wine bar. Pro: 3 mile commute. Con: Completely unpredictable scheduling, and thus unpredictable income. Still, it's a nice respite from me driving 120 miles a day, and I'm already noticing a lot less stiffness after a week of not having to make that commute. We decided to give it two solid weeks, and then discuss whether it would work long-term.
Any major changes happening in your lives lately?

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Dude, get on that already!: Shed edition

May 7, Mr. Moon took some "before" pictures of the shed that desperately needed some TLC. As you can see, one door (ahem, the one that LOCKS) is torn completely off the board that attaches to the hinges. It just kinda fell down in a rain storm.

Like so many of us do these days, everything was just kind of... tossed. I can't even say "shoved." I know for a fact that some of these things toward the back were actually indeed "tossed" in, because I did it myself (see: rainbow umbrella). There was everything from gardening tools and supplies, painting tools that had never even been cleaned off (and actual paint and stain) to hard drives and radio equipment that had been out here since around the time the 'Rents moved in. Do you see the pile of tools (left) and the rack for them to live (middle) standing empty? It was a wreck! We'd made it even worse in the spring planting process because we hadn't had time to deal with it.

After we removed all the non-outside-stuff that you don't think of belonging in a shed (which was, all told, not actually a ton), and got things re-arranged and organized in a fashion, this is what we get! (I swear, one of these days I will get a working version of Photoshop or something that lets me edit and add text to pictures. Right now everything is just getting me wonky-ness.) Shall we take a little tour, before we add more stuff from the storage unit?

From left, going clockwise :
  • Chairs: Previously back right, way too far to reach; now all the chairs live right in the front corner, easy to grab for impromptu guests or comfy seating for sunny days requiring a good book or a picnic. 
  • Rack of hardware, including stuff we found scattered around the floor. Sorting this is a project for a different day; for example, I don't think we need wall anchors out here, but I know we have some stuff in the garage that is hardware for outside. 
  • Step ladder: Nice to have one for hanging baskets and any high pruning necessary. 
  • Mower: Just off the walkway, with the catching bag tucked away behind it. Very compact but easy for Mr. Moon to get to. 
  • Fire Pit: This will actually not be living here after it gets set up, but for now we'd like to keep the cardboard clean. Area next to the shed has a nice new pile of wood acquired from Freecycle, and the pit will live under the tarp with its wood. 
  • Aha! Tools! Blocking a bit of the shelving, yes, but it's on wheels, and what's behind it that we don't really need easy access to?
  • Cleaning supplies: Sorting and discarding is also a project for a different day. 
  • Paint and stain: Leftovers from projects, ready to be used for touch-ups. Sitting perfectly on top, with just enough space, is the paint pan and a couple rollers (crusty roller pads discarded--no need to save those now!)
  • Sprinkler system tubing. 
  • A post holer (It's for digging posts. It's dirty, put that down.), hiding behind the tools, along with some tomato cages. Yay for use of space!
  • Power washer! To the right of the tools. Excited to use this for the siding and cement later. 
Along the top, from middle to right: 
  • Random milk crates: One has some Velcro that needs to go into the garage, the other has a first aid kit that needs to be pulled out and re-stocked for the camping gear. The purple one is actually to be attached to my bike, after I strip it and re-paint since I screwed up the first time. Housing helmets, and the bike rack on top (unpictured).
  • Rock speakers! Can't wait to have an excuse to set those up, but that's a next-spring project.
  • Planting gear, specifically some compostable containers for seedlings and some pans for mixing dirt. 
  • Plant stand: Hiding behind the tarps. Also hiding, some folded tomato cages and pruning tools.
Second & third shelf: 
  • What's all this empty space? You'll see...
  • More planter pots! This time, saved from nursery purchases.  
  • Planting tools and gloves.
  • A weird yellow light that we don't know what to do with, plus a nice awesome halogen lamp for bright-as-day midnight yard work. Think the neighbors will mind?
  • Fertilizers, planter stuff, and a gas can for the generator.
What's hiding on the floor?
  • Mini propane tank, and nothing to use it with (although possibly useable for the camp stove)
  • Random industrial mop bucket, complete with brand new string-mop head. The handle is int he garage. No idea why we have this. 
  • Coolers! Sooo many coolers. Inside: mini coolers and drink containers. 
  • Under the red blanket (which belongs in my car) is a drink bucket full of park toys: spiderman ball, frisbees, and kites for starters. 
  • Sitting in front of the coolers is a milk crate table built by an old roommate--really it's a table top, and you can zip-tie mik crates together underneath to desired height. Nifty! This one is housing...
  • Dirt! Potting soil for flowers, organic stuff for foods.
  • Newspapers. We're stocking up for the inevitable mulching that will need to be done in the process of building raised beds. 
  • Garden chemicals: Slug bait, grass seed, weedkiller... anything we didn't want spilling anywhere else. 
  • And of course, the generator. Pops wanted to get rid of it. We had a generator on our list of intended "someday" purchases. Score!
Why yes, we do have nasty stingy friends living inside, why do you ask? I need to do some research to figure out the best way to remove them. For now only one is active (on the right here) and they're mostly out of the way so I'm not too scared.

Whew! Who knew you could cram so much stuff in so little space and still have room for more?? Oh yes, there's more. Now that we had the room, we went over to our storage unit and grabbed ALL our camping gear to put out here. Our goal is to downsize our unit as soon as possible, and we're just about ready to do it (I think one or two more carloads of stuff to unpack). We managed to get everything for camping into about half the allotted shelf space, although it's not even packed well. 

So what were we able to add to the mix? 
  • Top: Camp stove; cooking utensils; box with a couple tree-bowls (check out the one on our kitchen island we're using as a fruit bowl!), and a stupid $10 useless car vacuum (I'm not sure why I still have it); hiding: Bucket with huge roll of bungee rope and a crowbar. You can kill zombies with a crowbar, right?
  • Second shelf: 3 frame packs, a bunch of tarps, the car topper bag and its blanket liner, more tarps, a bedroll pad, tent, and a box full of cooking gar (a coupe utensils but mostly just cast iron cookware). 
  • Third shelf: Big empty space; rolling suitcase full of water bottles; big empty space; thermal bag full of silverware and Tupperware.
  • Floor: Giant box of camping bedding that needs to be put into vacuum bags; air mattress which will be living inside; BIKES!!! (Totally not excited about that.)

 Oh, you want to see what we did with the power drill? Yeah, hot chick and a power tool, baby. Totally doubles the available space in this corner.
Chairs, more chairs, and even umbrellas fit back here.

Can you believe how much we got crammed into this spot? And everything is still accessible too!

But Moons! What are you planning on putting into those Big Empty Spaces in the third shelf?
I'm so glad you asked! Check out tomorrow's entry detailing the plans for emergency preparedness.

Oh, and my favorite part? We got new doors installed, so the shed actually locks again. Even if you know where we live, you can't come abscond with our massive amounts of outdoor gear. 
Dude, what projects have you conquered lately? Anything you've been stumbling and tripping over that you've been meaning to get to and finally accomplished?
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