A good housecleaning turns into an online shopping trip!

This is the time of year to clean out stuff. I know, they say “Spring Cleaning.” Well, if you get a move on it right now, you just may accomplish something by Spring.

I do have a hard time throwing stuff away, but I don’t want to be classified as “hoarder” so I try to rustle around the closets and drawers once or twice a year, and then take a good step back and just plain look at my house to see if there’s any substantial “kipple” piling up.

Science fiction king Phillip K. Dick coined the word “kipple” as “rubbish” that simply piles up, seemingly without any human effort. That makes sense to me because my husband and I have made a life of buying old houses and fixing them up. You wouldn’t believe the stuff I have retrieved over the years – toys being first and foremost, and then household objects, dishes, flatware, nick-nacks –  once a huge cut-glass vase without a scratch or a chip on it, I still use it for rooting plant cuttings.

The toys are the most interesting – my son dug up a “Tootsie Toy” once, still in pretty good condition, looked like one of these:

Before “Match Box”, these were little exact replicas of cars, the older ones made out of steel, with doors that open, etc. He was so tickled with the little truck he dug up he traded them on E-bay for a year or so, and still has a couple of very nice ones on his book shelf.

I have all kinds of plastic figurines.

I found this little mermaid in a lump of dirt, I washed her off with a toothbrush, and she sits on a jar of bits collected at Glass Beach.

I found this little mermaid in a lump of dirt, I washed her off with a toothbrush, and she sits on a jar of shells and bits collected at Glass Beach.

A little plastic totem pole - I love this stuff, it's on every windowsill in my house.

A little plastic totem pole – actually a pretty good replica of real totems you’ll find in the Northwestern US.

This guy is so tiny I could hardly get a picture - another treasure from the garden. He challenges me every morning from my kitchen window sill.

This guy is so tiny I could hardly get a picture – another treasure from the garden. He challenges me every morning from my kitchen window sill.

One of my favorite things is the big green glass ashtray dug out of our front yard without a chip in it.

I am always amazed how pretty ashtrays can be - something for putting dead cigarettes in.

I am always amazed how pretty ashtrays can be – something for putting dead cigarettes in.

Here's how I found it, buried upside down in my front yard, only a few inches of the bottom visible - I knew I had "a find".

Here’s how I found it, buried upside down in my front yard, only a few inches of the bottom visible – I knew I had “a find”.  Took some scrubbing, I’ll say.

 

This heavy bowl sits on my husband’s dresser and every night when he takes off his work jeans he empties the pockets into this ashtray –   bits of paper receipts, gum wrappers, those plastic brush picks we buy from Lucky Vitamin, screws, bolts, nuts – and coins from transactions at Collier’s, Home Depot, Corlin Paint, Ace Hardware – sorry if I left anybody out.

Here it is, loaded full of "kipple" from my husband's pockets.

Here it is, loaded full of “kipple” from my husband’s pockets.  Of course some of this stuff was found, my husband is a scavenger just like me, and yeah he actually uses stuff he finds on the ground.

About once a week I pour through this mess and pick out the throwaway stuff, leaving the useful stuff and coins. When the ashtray is flowing over onto the dresser, we sort all the change into a leather bank bag and take it to Safeway to run through the coin counting machine.

I once read the story of the man who invented the Coinstar machine – apparently, he had owned and operated laundry mats for years, a tinkerer. He was distressed to find small change – mostly nickels and pennies – in the waste baskets at his mats. He knew a lot of coins were going to the landfill, and he didn’t like that. He decided to make a good coin counting machine that could take the public brunt.

I remember trying to take coins to my bank – the machine they used was huge, noisy and hard to operate, they didn’t like doing it, and charged a pretty good hunk for it. My kids and I went back to counting and rolling, but the bank didn’t even like taking those – I had to carefully print my name, address and account number on each roll or they wouldn’t take them! They would only take coins rolled in standard coin sleeves – no wrapping them in an old envelope! So, we used to have hundreds of dollars in useless change laying around – a little family, that was a few weeks of groceries. And, change stinks – did you ever notice how bad coins smell?

What a thrill when we found our first Coinstar machine, inside the door at Raleys, now at most grocery stores. I think the charge is 8 cents on the dollar – be my guest! You just pour your old change, along with your slugs and buttons, right into this little tray, and the machine patiently sorts it all out, counts it, and prints you up a nice little receipt.  And you get your buttons back!

This slip of paper is good for $79 worth of online shopping.

This slip of paper is good for about $79 worth of online shopping.  That’s another $6 in sales tax that won’t be spent in tax happy Chico California.

You can turn your slip in for cash at the register. I used to apply it toward my groceries and household goods, which is a smart reason for grocery stores to have these machines.  Recently we noticed they have added a great feature – you can have your money in the form of an Amazon.com gift certificate. There’s a code, you key that in, and voila! Which in French means, no taxes were spent in Chico! 

I used this certificate to buy some last minute Christmas presents – already delivered, one of them for free.

I know, I started out to clean out and get rid of stuff – I’ll take you on a dump trip next time, and after that the thrift store.

 

Winter, Christmas, good deals, Shopacalypse…

I will mark this date on my calendar and watch my PG&E bill – my heater is officially ON. I woke to that rumbling sound this morning, having turned on the thermostat yesterday. I had gone out on the patio about 7:30 yesterday morning to find the mercury hanging at 39 degrees. Today when I took the dogs out for a drink and a pee, the old Kist! thermometer was registering 32. I hadn’t really needed to look at it – the air was burning my face and the concrete was coming right through the bottoms of my slippers. 

I’m getting up a half hour later now, saves 15 hours a month in PG&E. I set it for 62 during the day, once it gets warmed up in here it hardly runs, unless somebody opens the front door, which is right below the thermostat. 

I tell you what, a good pair of slippers to wear inside your house is going to save you some money, especially if you add a pair of scrunchee socks. Rite Aid has cheap slippers, $20 or less, and a pair usually lasts me a couple of winters. I finally convinced my husband and kids to wear them – they had been wearing multiple pairs of socks.

Cold feet make a person miserable, they don’t even realize it. As soon as they get their feet in a pair of good slippers you see the relief stretching out across their face.  And, it ends that constant compulsion to check the thermostat.

Don’t forget layers – it’s still kind of warm during the day, I’ve even been opening my sunny windows to get that nice afternoon air. It’s good to have clothes you can peel off and hang over the back of your chair, put them back on again when that chill breeze comes on about 4pm. 

I had noticed our layers were getting pretty shabby, elastic giving way, tiny tears developing, sagging and stained in embarrassing places – so I went through all our drawers and closets and threw stuff away without mercy. It’s hard, I get attached to a favorite shirt, somebody else usually has to tell me – Yecchhh! Get rid of that old thing!   My mom used to wait for a weekend when we were out with friends and go through our drawers for us – “MOM! not my favorite cut-offs!”  - then take us to the mall to get over it. 

So, the other day, like spawning salmon, we headed for Chico Mall, to Sears, to pick up some last minute presents for G’pa and look for warm clothes. Sears did not disappoint. They’re funny – they have two men’s departments, right next to each other – one for the young, trendy, and lackadaisical spenders, the other for the bargain hunter. Yes, they still have those grooooovy fleece pull-overs, for 9 bucks. You heard me, in like 10 different color combos, for every member of your family. I would have bought one, but my husband gets tired of looking at me in men’s clothes. Off to the womens’ department. Yes, they had all kinds of warm stuff, cheap underwear, snuggee hats, scarves and gloves. 

But here’s where I really scored. 

I can never throw away these fancy shopping bags. This one is now sitting in a cabinet, full of colored paper and other art supplies.

I can never throw away these fancy shopping bags. This one is now sitting in a cabinet, full of colored paper and other art supplies.

I should have asked her name, she was so nice, but I will tell you, the lady at iCandy Couture was having a regular garage sale. She’s nervous about getting her new stuff in there for Christmas, so she’s got all these beautiful swishy cotton shirts and, what I would call “yoga wear,” for iCheap.   It’s the perfect stuff to wear under your heavy winter sweaters and jeans. She’d just had a sale the previous weekend, and apologized for not having more stuff. It was difficult finding my size – I always seem to be following a pack of women my exact size. But I managed to buy 5 of the neatest little candy-colored shirts for $15. What caught my eye to begin with – she had a rack of teeny weeny bikinis for 5 bucks hanging in the doorway.  I can’t remember what I saw first, the groovin’ bikinis or the $5 sign.

Think ahead people, I don’t care how cold and wet it is now, in five or six months we’re going to be toasting away again, and I’m going to be ready with my $5 bikini. 

Here I’ll thank my girlfriends Debbie Presson and Dani Brinkley for helping me lose all that weight – I was able to squeeze myself into the last size Small.  I would have bought two but there was only one small left.

Everywhere we went we scored good deals, we’re done with our Christmas shopping, having done most of it online. I’m glad we went to the mall last week – everybody was gearing up for Black Friday. The mall has asked vendors to be open at 6pm Thanksgiving evening. I don’t need to be rubbing elbows with the kind of people that get on their ugly and go out shopping after Thanksgiving dinner.

Watch this movie sometime:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sGi21YQFjMM

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Merry Standish to open for San Francisco comic Will Durst at State Theater in Red Bluff – tomorrow night, 7pm, ticket booth open at 6:30

This is a big opportunity for San Francisco funny man Will Durst – he’s got Liz Merry, Aaron Standish, and Roland Allen warming his audience Saturday at the State Theater in Red Bluff.  Tickets are available at the door for $15 – that is a screaming deal, especially since we will be benefiting the Red Bluff Theater. 

I don’t know if he should be following Merry/Standish, I think he’s going to have a tough act to follow, might take the wind out of his testicles. I’m hoping for some of my long-time faves, in addition to the latest news  from Stand-up Standish, Silly Songs with Liz (can’t wait to see what Liz will be wearing!), with the comedic musical stylings and plenty of smart ass cracks and rolling eyeballs from Roland Allen. Maybe a little Gal Noir, or some classic outtakes from the sex ads section of the News and Review, but I’ll take whatever they dish out. I love that bit Aaron does with  the skeleton and the typewriter. 

Note to Roland: I have to hear “Red Bluff Girl,” I got it stuck in my head…not that there’s anything wrong with that.  See how the crowd reacts when they realize what he’s up to:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_OFP4y7Evcg

This show is guaranteed to entertain, and it’s a benefit for the State Theater.  Once they just played their answering machine messages during intermission, and that was enough to keep the beer line in stitches. Here’s “Tammy Whynot” and the boys:

Gonna drive my old pick-up down Hwy 99 – I’m in a Merry/Standish state of mind…

http://www.merrystandish.com/home.html

 

Confessions of a taco bender

This morning I woke up to that drip around the eaves – I finally turned on the heater today. Wet days I like to stay inside, but I won’t run the heater all day – instead I’ll do some cooking.  Now’s the time to whip up a casserole big enough to eat for a few days. The other day my husband and I made tamales and we’re still talking about it.

I always think these things will take all day, so I put the rice on early to get that over with. First you should wash brown rice, it’s dusty. 

I'm cooking a big batch here because I use it as the base for my dogs' food. I'll take a cup or so of the cooked rice for our dinner.

I’m cooking a big batch here because I use it as the base for my dogs’ food. I’ll take a cup or so of the cooked rice for our dinner.

I wash it around in a big pot, pour off the dirty water 4 or 5 times, then dump it in this ginchee wire colander for about 10 minutes to drain. Then I pour it out on a paper towel – or two – to dry for another half hour or so. 

Spread it out even with your hand - it will get so dry you'll think it just came out of the bag.

Spread it out even with your hand – it will get so dry you’ll think it just came out of the bag.

Time to pour it into boiling water – for each cup of rice use about 2 cups of water. Takes about 35 minutes – it’s done when the water is all boiled out. It’s nice to cook it early in the day and let it set, the kernels plump up and get chewy and nice. 

That is probably the most involved part of this meal, and the rice doesn’t even go into the tamales, I like to put it underneath my tamales to catch the rich green dripping sauce.  Actually, I put most of it in my dogs’ food, I’ll blog that another time.

About 4 pm my husband comes in from chores and gets the skillet out to cook the chicken filling. We use boneless chicken thighs for this dish, starting with some sauteed onions and green peppers (our friend is still giving us bags of his sweet peppers), and adding some canned corn and canned green chili sauce – MILD! We haven’t cooked our own beans since we started using Rosarita canned pintos – we’re not the best bean cookers, and when you get to be our age, it can be…hmmm…uncomfortable to eat poorly cooked beans, so we used canned. We add the onions, peppers, canned corn and a touch of chili sauce. 

Meanwhile, I make the tortillas. Let me warn you – once you make your own tortillas, you will not only never want to eat store bought again, but you will notice every time you come close to the tortilla section of the store you will be repulsed by the smell of old tortillas. 

You can buy Maseca corn flour at any grocery store. It's so easy - add water in the correct proportion, and you get a very friendly dough. You portion it into little balls, and lay it down on your press - I use an old rice bag to keep the dough from sticking to the press - it peels right off.

You can buy Maseca corn flour at any grocery store. It’s so easy – add water in the correct proportion, and you get a very friendly dough. You portion it into little balls, and lay it down on your press – I use an old rice bag to keep the dough from sticking to the press – it peels right off.

It's like a play-doh machine, perfect every time!

It’s like a play-doh machine, perfect every time!

You don't cook them all the way through for tamales, leave them pliable.

You don’t cook them all the way through for tamales, leave them pliable.

I get into a rhythm – by the time I’ve pressed another cake, it’s time to turn the first, and by the time I get the second cake off the press and take it to the stove, time for the first cake to come off the skillet. I stack them on a little plate and wrap them in a paper towel. 

Now my husband sets each tortilla on the skillet to warm it up again - I could have cooked the tortillas much earlier with the rice - and loads it full of filling. He stacks them in the baking dish, and ladles in some chili sauce.  Don't forget to cover the bottom of the pan with chili sauce, keeps them from sticking.

Now my husband sets each tortilla on the skillet to warm it up again – I could have cooked the tortillas much earlier with the rice – and loads it full of filling. He stacks them in the baking dish, and ladles in some chili sauce. Don’t forget to cover the bottom of the pan with chili sauce, keeps them from sticking.

Here's where I realized - our kids have moved out, but we're still cooking for three to four people.

Here’s where I realized – our kids have moved out, but we’re still cooking for three to four people.

Here we are, empty nesters, but we still make these huge dinners.   For a minute as I looked at this pan, I thought, “oh no! This will end up going to waste! We’ll get sick of eating tamales at every meal!” 

We put foil on for about 20 minutes, until the sauce is bubbling, then add some grated cheese and put it back in. The foil goes underneath just in case the sauce gets overexcited.

We put foil on for about 20 minutes at 350, until the sauce is bubbling, then add some grated cheese and put it back in for 10 or so. The foil goes underneath just in case the sauce gets overexcited.

Well, that was Tuesday. Since then I have watched my husband get that pan out repeatedly – tamales and eggs for breakfast, cold tamales for lunch, and then last night, we heated up six of them and ate them again for dinner with sour cream and a big crunchy cabbage salad. I was shocked how good it  tasted – in fact, this is a dish that is better left over. The fresh tortillas soak up the sauce and get all gooey and congealed, feels so good going down. 

I still eat at Mexican restaurants and love the taco truck, but not as often. 

 

 

Sleeping under the stars – some cliches never get old

A campfire is as good as tv, especially with some chatter and popcorn.

A campfire is better than tv, especially with some chatter and popcorn.

This weather has been so wonderful, the nights aren’t even that cold. We been doing a lot of camping. Most of the public campgrounds are already closed, so we been working with friends on fire clearance, and set up our camp on the work site.

The morning sun brings out the fall colors.

The morning sun brings out the fall colors.

The air is clear now that a couple of storms have dampered down the summer smoke and dust. The mix of conifers and hardwoods make a crazy quilt of colors, every shade of green  and yellow.

 It’s amazing how the tree clutter – needles, leaves, cones, rotten branches and sticks – piles up over the year. This is fuel for forest fires, and it’s good to keep it swept up regularly. It just doesn’t rot, especially the needles. It piles up like an old rug, deeper and deeper, remaining dry underneath. Sometimes you have to dig a couple of feet into this stuff to find real dirt.

One year a neighbor was clearing his property, burning, and  after he thought he’d extinguished his piles for the day, he woke up late that night to see the ground burning. An old dead, dried out root had caught fire, and the fire had moved along underground – the ground was on fire. He had to call the fire station in the middle of the night, and they pumped his well dry putting it out. I never forgot that story, it scared the shit out of me. When we were offered the use of this property I started raking, and  I raked and raked until I couldn’t see anything but red dirt for a good 20 feet around our campsite.

That’s my routine now, I mark off a section of the property and go in with my rake and loppers. I rake the ground clean and then I start loppering off the dead stuff and the brushy little trees. In the beginning I found a lot of dead standing trees – old forest fire – and those I was able to pull out with my hands. I stacked those up nice for the chipper crews, which come in about twice a year. I stack up the bigger stuff for them, and I get nice chips for my garden.

But the little stuff just flies through the chipper, then has to be sorted out of my nice chips – no sense there, that gets piled up to burn.

Daytime tv - tending the burn pile.

Daytime tv – tending the burn pile.

An old couple from the Bay Area owned this property for 20 or 30 years, I don’t know. You could see their initial zeal – the property had been cleared, but they’d never removed the stumps. The trees grew back as suckers, it was an ugly brushy mess. The neighbors all sat around it for years, worrying – a fire could have come up through this place and destroyed five homes along the road above.  The owners only vacationed on the place a few times a year, leaving their little tear drop trailer as a nursery for mice. Now in their 80′s, they haven’t been to the place in over five years. The brush grew up around the little trailer and  the place sat quiet, turning into a disaster waiting to happen.

So, the owners happily left us the use of the place, we went to work, and after a few years of activity, it’s safe to camp here again. We started by clearing a nice fire pit.

We built a little dirt mound and made retaining walls out of pine logs. Then we built  these nice fire pits. I can  rake this area clean in a few minutes, and we can get a roaring fire to feed our cook fire.

We built a little dirt mound and made retaining walls out of pine logs. Then we built these nice fire pits. I can rake this area clean in a few minutes, and we can get a roaring fire to stay warm and feed our cook fire.

 

Next we had to get rid of the little trailer, the neighbors were convinced it was the source of their rat and mice problems. And, snow is not good for  trailers, it crushes them slowly, year after year.  Which was really too bad.  It was a neat little chrome sided tear drop trailer, with a kitchen and a table that converted to a bed. My grandpa had the next bigger size, and I had many happy memories. The trailer was all hooked to plumbing and electricity, just sitting there waiting for somebody to come and  stay. The owner offered to give it to us, but we had no idea how to restore something like that – the chassis was getting rotten, and the mice had stunk it up pretty good. So we put it on Craigslist, and the next morning we woke up to find a dozen responses. We sold it to the first couple, for $200. We were all amazed when they just hooked Old Betty right up to their car and bounced her right out of there. We know they made it back to Chico cause they had to borrow my Grandpa’s old tow chain, which they returned with their thanks. I’ve heard from mutual friends  - they really made it “tits out”, we wouldn’t recognize it today.

Then we secured the outhouse – the toilet was still hooked up and working great, but the little building it sat in was always full of somebody’s nest. First, we were pretty sure, it was a skunk. We cleaned her nest out of there, but when we came back the following spring, she had got in again. We never met her, but I could see she was a fastidious housekeeper – she stacked her trash in a neat pile to one corner – all these nut and acorn shells – apparently somebody in the neighborhood has a pretty nice walnut tree –  and bits of trash from garbage cans. We sealed the outhouse better this time, and that was the last we saw of her, but the mice came on like a regular wave, always nibbling and scratching to get in. We realized the little shack was pretty rotten, so we fixed the roof, replaced rotten wood and sealed and sealed – at last, we have a mouse free bathroom. My husband put a vinyl floor in it, we insulated the walls and replaced the rotten paneling inside with new drywall. It sure beats the hell out of the portables at Elam.

So now we can get out of Chico a couple of times a week, and that means we save oodles on our PG&E Bill. No kidding, we got it down to about $60 last month, even with the new rates that seem to punish the lower users. 

 

We sat by the fire watching the moon rise over the tree tops.

We sat by the fire watching the moon rise over the tree tops.

 

 It is so quiet there, you can hear the neighbor open and shut a door, or sneeze even. You can hear the wind in various parts of the forest, moving closer, like a car on the freeway. A pair of ravens fly overhead several times a day, jostling and rolling along, making funny little clucking sounds between themselves. The resident male junco sings almost all day, making various noises depending on how close we have wandered to his nesting area. The tree tops change colors as the sun makes it’s way across the sky. At 4pm the sun goes behind the ridge and we get ready for another night under the stars. The valley lights roll out before us as we sit by the campfire, and we watch the full moon set out on the same path the sun had made earlier in the day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

What’s going on at your house this weekend?

The moon and stars are bright this morning, the air is crisp but not painfully cold.  Good time to go camping, the trees are gorgeous, and the nights are beautiful. 

Yesterday I spent outside transplanting stuff. A friend of ours gave my husband a plant from his garden – an “Elephant Ear” plant. It came to me as a tubery bulb in a little 8 inch pot folks, I never knew what I was getting into. It seemed to be bullet-proof – it sat in that dinky pot, with almost no dirt, under a spigot where it was occasionally remembered. It kept getting one leaf after another, about cake plate size. 

In spring my son bought us a beautiful ceramic pot for it, and I planted it on the patio. It had to be watered almost every day, but it took off, growing up about four feet out of the pot. It sat on the patio over summer – the leaf that stretched out into the full sun would burn and die, while a new leaf would grow out of the bulb about every three weeks. As soon as the weather started to cool off and get moist, the top leaf stopped burning, and the plant started getting reeeeeaaaalllllly big.

My husband had seen the mature plants in his friend’s yard, so we knew this plant would need some room.  We found a good, semi-shady spot under a big oak tree along a fence, where it would be easy to shelter it in the winter, and yesterday I sunk that mutha into the ground. Geez it weighed a gazillion pounds, easy.  I have misplaced my camera, so couldn’t get a picture – I’ll add that later. I saw some online that were over 6 feet tall, with leaves that a full-grown person could easily hide behind. I think it’s going to be a nice addition to this little part of the yard.

You’ve seen the dirt plumes west of town – rice harvest is in full swing. Have you cooked rice lately? Living here, where Ag is King, you should really avail yourself of one of our top products, brown rice. I get mine at Raley’s, they have several brands that compete in price. I like Hinode from Woodland – I’ve seen the plant and met people who have good jobs there – and it comes in a really nice resealable stand up bag. 

It took me years to learn to cook rice and I still screw it up occasionally. First of all, you need at least a two quart pan with a really tight lid. When you don’t have a good lid, the rice on top doesn’t cook, comes out like little packets of powder. 

Second, you need to wash and dry rice, unless you want to eat all the dust from the rice dryer. They can’t wash the rice, they hull it and blow it around until it’s almost clean, but there’s still a bunch of dust. Take my word for it – I grew up in rice country, right across the road from a dryer. Just recently we were driving by the dryer at Loma Rica and there was dust coming out the top vent like a Kansas tornado. Welcome to Rice Country, get used to it. But you don’t want to eat it, so learn to wash it first.  Some brands are cleaner – the Hinode is a lot cleaner than the slightly cheaper Safeway brand, you get what you pay for.

I measure out a cup for most meals, that’s about 3 1/2 to 4 cups  cooked. I pour it into the cooking pot and cover it with water, swish it around, and then, using my hand as a strainer, I pour the water off. It’s gray to begin with, and you can see junk floating on top. I repeat this about 5 times, and the water becomes clear, so I put it in a little screen strainer and rinse it out one more time, then set it over the pot for 10 minutes to drain.  I shake it around a little, get it drained out, then pour it onto a paper towel. No lie, it will get completely dry within half an hour, just spread it out thin on that paper towel. When it’s dry to the touch, gently pick up the four corners of the paper towel and pour the rice into two cups of boiling water (note to Mark Stemen and other sustainability gurus – the paper towel is still usable). Add a dash of salt, turn it down low, and simmer it for 30 – 35 minutes. Check it, if you still see water bubbling, it’s not done. If you see steam coming out of little holes, it’s done, take it off the heat and leave it alone anywhere from 10 minutes to hours and hours. 

Cooked rice is easier to use when it’s sat and separated into rubbery little grains. Then you can throw it into something else. I found a recipe on a box of Minute Rice, when I used Minute Rice, and I’ve adapted it to brown rice, it’s really easy. 

You can use chicken or shrimp, or even chunks of beef I assume  -  last night we picked up some frozen shrimp at Safeway, it was cheaper than the fresh.  Start with some chopped up onions, garlic, green peppers and celery in an oiled skillet – make sure to use a pot that has a decent lid. Add the peeled shrimp, and let that all saute for about 5 minutes, turning that shrimp. Then dump in your cooked rice, all of it. To this add two cups of chicken or vegetable broth. I usually keep onion soup mix,  it’s easy to have on hand, and works well in most recipes. Put a lid on this, and let it set on simmer for 10 minutes. Then take off the lid and let it set a few, let that rice soak up that broth.

You can substitute a cup of tomato sauce for one cup of soup, and you get kind of a Cajun feel – but don’t forget to add a teaspoon of sugar, it takes the acid off the tomato sauce.

I was just thinking, fresh cooked or canned beans would be great in this recipe, I’ll try that and get back to you.  Right now I need to get a loaf of bread in the oven.

Hard work and fresh air are good for whatever ails you

It’s been so warm we’ve hardly used our heater. We turned it on one day to get it going, clean ducts, change filters, figuring we’d want to use it pretty soon. That was weeks ago. This morning it’s 67 degrees in the apartment,  I’m wearing flip flops instead of my snuggy house shoes. 

This is a great time of year to go camping if you watch the weather report. The colors are incredible up in the woods, and you can have a nice campfire now without worrying too much.  

Nothing makes a camping trip like a pack of pork/apple sausages from Chico Locker.

Nothing makes a camping trip like a pack of pork/apple sausages from Chico Locker.

We don’t use a wood stove at home anymore and that left us with a huge pile of almond wood from that big storm a few years ago (10 years?). We were almost completely dependent on wood heat then, so when we heard almond orchards all over the county had  been knocked down and farmers were selling whole trees for $5 – bring your own chain saw and trailer – my husband borrowed a trailer and got a couple of friends out there to haul home enough fire wood to last us for years. When we moved out of our woodstove house, that became, “a lifetime of wood”.  We load a pile into our truck and take it with us whenever we head out of town. 

We’ve been working at using cast iron “Dutch ovens” since we picked up a small one at Raley’s, on sale, for $7. I couldn’t believe it was real cast iron, for that price, a good skillet went for more. I didn’t know how to use it then, and it sat. One day I saw a Dutch oven cook-off on Channel 9 and got the nerve to try it out. The easiest way to use one is just set it right in the coals and use it as an open skillet.

These sausages smelled so good, we had to put  guard dog on them.

These sausages smelled so good, we had to put guard dog on them.

Dutch oven baking is a little more challenging. We didn’t have any instructions – the pot just comes with cleaning instructions.  We had to watch and try and learn. We burnt our way through a few rolls of Pop’n Fresh buns before we figured it out.

These Pop'n Fresh buns are so easy to take camping, they don't need that much refrigeration, and no clean up.

These Pop’n Fresh buns are so easy to take camping, they don’t need that much refrigeration, and no clean up. One roll of buns fits perfect in our 7 inch oven.

If I made my own buns, and burnt them to a crisp, I’d have been pretty frustrated. It’s not easy mixing dough at a campsite.  I do that at home and take them down to our bbq,  where my husband starts the charcoals. Charcoal is easier to use than wood, you can actually find charts online that tell you exactly how many to put on the lid and bottom of the oven. Over the years we’ve had to make do without charcoal on occasion, and have learned to do it with wood, but we still use charcoals when we use the ovens at home. 

I’ll tell you what’s fun to make on a camping trip with a Dutch oven are those instant cake or brownie mixes. You can put everything in a zip-lock bag, eggs, oil and all, then squish it all together and pour it out. And here’s a good trick – you line your Dutch oven with tin foil, get the whole thing warmed up, then pour that batter in there. I have also used muffin cups, they came out wonderful. If you learn how to keep the heat constant, you can do it in the same amount of time it takes in your oven at home.

These were done, perfect, within 15 minutes. We used to burn them all the time because we were worried about keeping the pot hot, but we finally figured it out.

These cinnamon Pop’n Fresh buns were done, perfect, within 15 minutes. We used to burn them all the time because we were worried about keeping the pot hot, but we finally figured it out.  The chef’s assistant is giving it the smell test.

My husband and I work hard when we go up to the hills, and we eat piles of food. We polished off the entire pack of sausages over the course of the morning, in between raking, cutting, and stacking brush for the chipper. Hard work is the best medicine for whatever ails you – my shoulders are sore, but I feel pretty perky.