Get out there – leaving the comfort zone behind, we tried a new grocery store

My husband and I were out running errands when we bumped into our old friend Jerry. Jerry’s always a guy to speak his mind – “you guys are crazy to shop at Safeway!” he opined. He suggested Winco and Food Maxx, assuring us all their stuff was high quality.

We realized we did need to shop around.  We’ve shopped at Safeway for years because it is an easy bike ride from our house, but we thought we were being smart, buying on sale, and supplementing our pantry with trips to discount stores like Cash and Carry and Walmart. We hadn’t tried another grocery store for years.

Coincidentally we got a coupon from Food Maxx, offering not only cheap prices but free items – a 5 lb bag of russet potatoes, a case of bottled water, and a ROTISSERIE CHICKEN! Get the heck out! So we drove over to check it out.

The first thing I noticed was the strip mall it’s located in has seen better days, but the front of the store was no dirtier than Safeway has been the last year or so, and no bums standing around the entrance. The carts were clean, that’s a plus. But I was kind of intimidated by the unfamiliar surroundings.

That’s why I need to get out more. I get in a rut, and when unexpected changes come up I feel a thousand years old and suddenly senile. I couldn’t help but notice my husband and I were clinging to each other like a couple of baby bats. 

We came out of it immediately in the produce section – lots of nice fruits and vegies, very fresh, and a lot cheaper than Safeway. We came for a free bag of potatoes, but I noticed bulk potatoes were half as much as Safeway. Some things were not that much cheaper, but really nice, like the spinach. It’s hard finding spinach that’s not all bruised and rotten in the center of the bunch. You can understand why a lot of people don’t like spinach. But Food Maxx had nice, firm, crisp green spinach for about $1.99 a bunch, I wish I had got two. 

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Here’s what you can do with spinach – spinach tacos!

We’d had chicken tacos the night before, and there was plenty of meat and beans left over. As I opened the bunch of spinach and handled those nice crispy leaves I immediately came up with an idea for lunch – we heated up the leftover taco filling, washed some big spinach leaves and lined them with strips of cheese and avocado slices. Look at those spinach tacos! Delicioso!

Of course for dinner that night we had half of our FREE ROTISSERIE CHICKEN. Pardon the caps, but it was exciting – we got two meals out of that bird, at a time when we are busy and tired in the evening and too broke to eat at a restaurant. 

We spent $40 and got almost as much in free stuff. We were so happy with the little russets we got, we’ve had potatoes in one form or another at almost every meal. I always cook two extras for breakfast.

So, yeah, it does pay to change your habits and try something new once in a while. Get out there! 

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Blogging is great!

Well, I’m glad I complained about my back injury here, I got the nicest note.

“Try ice.”

Yes, that’s the ticket, acute injuries respond to cold. I had been using a heating pad, and wondered why my back would go into spasms every time I took it off. It wasn’t helping – it felt better while it was on, and then as soon as I took it off, my back hurt again.

Ice – actually, a two pound bag of frozen peas – worked almost immediately. I put it on for about 15 minutes of every hour all day yesterday, and by late afternoon, I had a lot of flexibility back, and the pain was almost gone. 

Today I’m still stiff, rolling over in bed was slightly painful – the past few nights, it’s been awful, I’ve had to have my husband help me a few times.  Once I got caught in the sheets and almost got hysterical.

My arms had started to spasm and my hands kept going numb, I was really worried I’d have to go to the doctor. 

SHREEEEIIIIK!

Life is wonderful again, thankyouverymuch!

 

Bad air quality makes for pretty sunrise

We have a lot of fires burning in the North State, and you know, bad air quality makes for a magnificent sunrise.

Red sky at morning, everybody take warning.

We’ve been leaving the windows shut at night, with “lows” in the 70’s, it’s not worth taking in the crud too. 

In late Winter or early Spring I noticed some strange plants coming up along my driveway. They’re interesting looking, not the typical “weed”.

It grows a little every time I water the shrubs along the driveway.

I’ve asked my gardening guru, Belmont Rooster, to take a look, maybe he can tell me what these are.

Hey, we got another tomato!

No blossom rot!

We were so excited we rode our bikes to the store in 104 degrees to get a pack of bacon. We picked up an ear of corn for the side. 

Tried a different kind of bacon, this stuff is leaner than the old standard. And it fits the bread really good!

Nothing says Summertime! like a BLT.  

It’s 6:55 am and I already got sweaty eyebrows. It pays to get up early to beat more than the heat. Yesterday morning I went out to get some aloe vera for my smoothie and the GD squirrels had torn up several of my pots, looking for somewhere to hide their GD nuts! I had to act quick, they’ve been in them before, and they work fast – they throw the little plants and expensive potting soil everywhere.  My husband had some old 2×4’s, extra fencing and netting left over from the garden, so we went to work.

Look at this ginchee cage my husband built for my aloe vera plantation.

 

The net skirt folds up so I can get in there.

 

I pinch off a big leaf with my thumb nail.

 

I put two of these in my fruit smoothie every morning.

 

Quality, “hand filleted” organic aloe vera!

 

I use these plants not only for a dietary supplement but for dry skin, rashes, burns, etc. A couple of weeks ago, I was weeding my tenant’s yard and my gloves got so full of wild parsley stickers, I had to throw them away. A couple of hours later, my right hand, which of course is the chief weed puller, swelled up and turned red and itchy – I started putting aloe on immediately, but my hand continued to swell up so much my knuckles cracked and bled. This happens to me a lot – one day I was doing some scrubbing with baking soda and vinegar, and forgot to wear kitchen gloves, same result. Aloe vera is the only thing that soothes the pain and itching, I have to rub it on constantly. It soothes on contact, but with a rash like that, you have to put it on every time the rash starts to dry out, about every half an hour.  It helps if you can stop doing anything with your hand, let it rest – oh yeah, sure! Try to live without your dominant hand – my left hand was like “What?!”

It took over a week of constantly rubbing on aloe vera to get the swelling down enough to bend my fingers. I also took aspirin, but too much aspirin has it’s own consequences! The last huge crack on my index finger is just starting to scab over. When I saw the damage the squirrel did to my pots, I started wondering what squirrel meat tastes like.

But my husband saved the day, I can enjoy the squirrels running through the trees outside my windows without worrying what they’re up to.  

Peace Out! Juanita!

 

 

 

July 28, and we’ve just got our first tomato

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At this point we’ll take anything.

As I told you previously, the only red tomatoes we’ve seen in the garden this year have had blossom rot. My husband applied some calcium to the soil and we’ve been waiting and watching.  This one grew out of the rot, pretty much, so we brought it in and cut it. The end was rotten, but most of the mater was still good!

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When I opened the container this morning, it smelled like SUMMER!

We cut off a thick slice and diced it over our salad. Today I will have a tomato sandwich. I wish I could say I had my own bread to eat it on, but it’s been too hot to take Bob out of the bucket, we’ve been subsisting on Alvarado Bread.

This weekend I am enjoying a “Staycation”.   I have finally got my husband to take some time and just sit around and enjoy.  We set up our tiny Intex pool on the patio, and put our old tv on the patio table, the antenna strung up on the umbrella.  

I can mix work with relaxation. This morning I watched “King of the Hill” while I mowed the lawn, when my eyebrows were heavy with sweat, I jumped in the pool! 

The other day they played the episode in which Mega lo Mart moves to town and forces Strickland Propane, where Hank works, out of business. Hank has  to go to work at Mega lo Mart. One day he’s trying to tell his co-worker, Buckley, to be more careful with the propane cans, when Buckley drops a can and blows up the entire store. Hank escapes but his niece Luann’s longtime annoying boyfriend Buckley is killed. 

At the funeral, Hank’s neighbor Kahn tells about his strange friendship with Buckley, explaining that Buckley taught him to “live in the moment” – a nice way of saying Buckley was completely careless and irresponsible, without any consideration for the future or those around him. 

Kahn tells a story to illustrate – a story about a man who is hunting a tiger, when the tiger charges and knocks him off a cliff. As he grasps at a root, pondering his fate, the hunter notices a strawberry growing along the cliff’s edge. Instead of being hysterical, he reaches up and picks the strawberry, eats it, and declares, as he falls to his death, that it was the best strawberry he’d ever eaten. 

So, whenever I see a strawberry, I pick it and eat it. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another crazy Summer in NorCal – no tomatoes yet?!

Back in July, as we were watching the blossoms on our tomatoes dry up and fall off, I read this post from Pobept:

https://survivalfarm.wordpress.com/2017/07/06/summer-weather-pattern-settling-in-for-a-long-hot-dry-period/

“Tomato’s and Peppers stop pollinating and blooms drop occur when:
Daytime temperatures greater than 32° C (90° ) Pollen sterility occurs, flowers may drop.
35° C (95° F) Much reduced fruit set .
Night time temperatures less than 15.5° C (60° F) or greater than 24° C (75° F) will result in poor fruit set.”

Well, crap! Our daytime temps have been well over 95 for months now, with night time temperatures in the high 60’s, even 70’s.

We’ve seen some fruit on our tomato vines, but it’s just sitting there.

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This will be a nice tomato…some day…

Beautiful green round tomatoes. The only ones that started to ripen turned out to have blossom rot.

But, we have been getting my favorite beans, the asparagus and long red beans. We get enough of those for dinner about every other night.

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These asparagus beans will be ready tomorrow.

I have to look hard, they like to hide in the Johnson grass. 

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It only takes a few of these beans to make a meal. You have to pick them regularly or they go to seed, like the bean at left. Of course we’ll save those for next Summer.

Peaches don’t do well in this weather either. They don’t get very big, they get burned, they don’t ripen evenly. And the blue jays are waiting. Every day I go out and pick a small box and leave it to ripen in the garage for a couple of days.

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These are small but smell good.

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Next January I will be damned glad to have them!

Today I have enough to fill a freezer bag.  They aren’t as nice as tree-ripened fruit, but it’s better than paying $2.50 a pound at the store.

 

My husband planted the usual melons, different kinds – in past we’ve done well enough to freeze a bag of mixed melon.

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The future looks bright in the melon patch.

The last months have been tough. We spent our “discretionary” money fixing up our old rental to sell, and with no tenants to pay rent, that got pretty hairy. I worried and worried as my husband and son scraped paint and replaced rotten wood, replaced old fixtures, spent a couple thousand bucks just doing required testing and repairs. Luckily the buyer was anxious and willing, and very cooperative, or I think my husband would still be on top of that house scraping and hammering. 

He had to replace the hail-damaged shingles himself, but it was worth the savings.

Plus, my son was going through a lot of angst over the last year, marginally employed, girlfriend marginally employed, our town turning to crap all around their heads. Even in the worst neighborhoods, housing  is incredibly expensive here, whether you buy or rent. They wanted a house with a yard – in their price range, that would mean “Chapmantown.” Poor Mr. Chapman, getting that albatross hung round his neck.

A typical example – one cute house they looked at was on the news a few nights later. The neighbor, an elderly woman, had an old motor home parked in her side yard, and couldn’t keep the transients from breaking into it at night. One night it caught fire and nearly burned her house and the house next door. The news crews talked to other neighbors – older folks, many of whom kept little trailers on their property, or had sheds in their yards, and had the same problem – constant break-ins by transients.

Chico is having horrific problems right now, so we all had to wrap our heads around the concept of them moving to another town. That was hard for me, and later I realized, it was pretty traumatic for them too. 

They found a much nicer house and cheaper expenses, but we are physically separated for the first time, another town, a good half hour away. 

So, it was nice for the boy to spend a couple of months tagging along with Dad, scraping and painting and hammering, and talking about things that go bump in the night.

So now I got my husband and my dogs and my garden, and thank goodness for texting. 

 

 

 

Motherhood is a good gig!

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Here’s Old Mother Cactus and her children and grandchildren.   Those furry nodules to the upper right will hopefully bust into striking pink flowers before too long.

My succulents took a beating this past Winter, but my spiny flowering cactus seem to be happier than ever. They are reproducing so fast I can’t find pots for all their offspring, and most of them have two or more flower buds swelling with promise.

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This is a variety of aloe vera known as “Alligator” – I get it! Not only do the leaves remind me of snapping jaws but the flower spears resemble baby gators.

I’ve got sap from these alligator aloe before, they’re just not as juicy as their cousin. They are more hardy, taking to the bright open sun. I’ve been spreading these along my rock walls, in out of the way spots – they make a good ground cover, treated with the proper respect.

Speaking of the garden.

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Here’s our tomato nursery – the bigger plants are from the box store. I’ve transplanted them from their original sixpack containers and they are ready to go in the ground now. I planted the smaller ones from seeds we got from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, and I’ve started to put them into the sixpack containers left from the box store plants.

Last year my kids got me this cute little plastic tray with teeny tiny cups for planting seeds. It sits in another tray, and came with a lid, which I did not need.  It was supposed to be disposable, but I’m careful with it and I will  use it again next year. 

Baker Creek is a very reliable source of seeds – almost every one I planted sprouted.  Of course we love the Best Boys and Early Girls we get a Home Depot – they produce a lot, all Summer. Some of the heirloom varieties – like the beautiful Indigo Apple – produce a lot of fruit. Others produce small quantities of really good, big fruit.

https://worldofjuanita.com/2016/07/17/think-i-can-fill-my-empty-nest-with-tomatoes/

The Hungarian Heart  and the Carbon produced big, sweet, meaty tomatoes, weighing in at over a pound each. I don’t know if I got a dozen fruit between the two of them, so this year I’ve made sure to plant about a dozen seeds each, and the little plants are growing really well. 

Of course our tractor is on the fritz – we bought a used Kuboda tractor, a tiny backyard model, from a friend of ours about 10 years ago. It’s been great, but the last couple of Springs we’ve held our breath as my husband has jimmied the ignition switch. This year it won’t start, so we’re digging beds by hand and waiting to borrow our friend Wooton’s little rototiller. 

Luckily we still have about a dozen pints of tomato sauce in the freezer. Last night my younger son came home from college and we sat down to homemade pasta, meatballs, and sauce from last year’s garden. 

It’s good to be a mother. 

 

 

Chicken soup still good medicine

Tuesday I finally succumbed to the pollen – I couldn’t lay down in bed, or my sinuses would close up like Tupperware. My dog Badges was also having some sort of breathing problem – same as a couple of weeks ago, he was coughing and gagging, as if he had something stuck in his throat. 

So, having laid awake since 1 am, I finally gave up the bed about 2:30, pulled up my little ottoman and settled into my cushy Walmart office chair to see what was on the late show. Oh, my God, all kinds of crap.

I like NBTV, out of Santa Rosa. It’s a small privately owned station that has lots of different shows. The other afternoon I watched a half hour documentary about a century run called  “The Barkley”.  Very interesting – the kind of stuff you used to see on PBS before they went all cooking and home improvement.  

They produce their own shows too.  At about 4 am the owner hosts his own show – “Creature Feature”.  Tuesday night he was playing one of my all time faves – The Head That Wouldn’t Die!  So I turned on the coffee pot and decided it was too late to try to sleep.

Last time this happened he was playing “Little Shop of Horrors,” the original from 1960.  I had never seen that, always felt left out – wow, it was great!  What Schlock!

But yeah, the party was over when the sun came up and I realized I’d pulled an all-nighter.  My eyes were so dried out I couldn’t decide which was worse, closing them or holding them open. My neck and head hurt from sitting in a chair all night. 

I had wanted to go to a “Local Government Committee” meeting at 3:30 that afternoon. I realized that was out. I knew I would not be able to take a nap, and by 3:30 I’d be a piece of walking toast. The North wind was already picking up outside, and at 3 am the weatherman had told me – there would be a pollen “advisory”.  

Nothing beats the pollen like a bowl of chicken miso soup.

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Comfort food.

My husband had just bbq’d an enormous boneless chicken breast. We get those in a 40 pound box at Cash and Carry. They are frozen in a big wad – I usually leave them in the sink overnight, they soften up, and I can separate them, wrap each one in plastic wrap and put them in Ziplock bags for the freezer. They are full breasts and probably twice as big as the chicken breasts they have at Safeway. I fillet them for the grill and we get at least two dinners and sandwiches for a couple of days. 

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We got four fillets out of one double breast, here are two of them. Each fillet is almost as big as the single breasts they sell in the pack at Safeway.

I usually make soup with a raw chicken thigh, but it’s certainly easier to use the cooked chicken. I saute the onion and celery tops as usual, then add the chicken, cut into bite size pieces.  I try to keep chicken broth on hand, it’s good for cooking rice and other dishes.  I added about two cups and then another two cups water, with a teaspoon of salt for each cup of water.

Once this is simmering along, I ladle out a little of of the broth into a cup and mix it with a couple of tablespoons of miso paste, then put it back.

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Miso is getting so available now.

I’ve just started using miso paste again since my son gave me a little container. It used to be hard to find and expensive, the packaging was such that I could never use the whole thing before it went bad. Nowadays there are lots of different brands, and good old Westbrae has it in these neat little plastic containers. There is a plastic film inside to keep the remainder fresh. I’ve been using it for a couple of weeks now, and it’s hanging in there fine.

To that I add chopped carrots and more celery. When the whole thing is really cooking I add noodles. This time I had the rest of a pack of dry udon noodles – we use these for stirfry alot.

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You can keep these dry Westpac noodles around the house forever. Since I made this pot of soup we found Safeway again carries the “fresh pac” noodles, in the produce department, near the mushrooms. But these were good in a pinch.

The dry noodles have to be boiled for about 8 minutes to attain that fat, slippery udon texture. The fresh ones just need to be heated – you can dump them in and turn off the pot, leave it setting on the stove. The great thing about udon noodles is they just keep getting fatter and yummier. 

I call this “instant soup” – it took less than half an hour to put together. We ate it for three days – the first night we had soup and salad for dinner.  After that we ate it gladly for lunch and anytime we needed a pick-me up.  It really made us feel good to come in from the pollen storm to a pot of soup.