Sunday, September 22, 2013

Using the Bountiful Basket produce

I mentioned a couple of times that I have been buying the Bountiful Basket co-op basket of produce. It is a huge bunch of quality produce, half veggies and half fruit. The price has gone up from $15.50 to $20.50 but it is still a good deal.

You pay online and show up every other Saturday to pick up whatever the co-op folks have found for quality veggies and fruits. Last time we got two bunches celery, green beans, English cuke, cauliflower, pack of mushrooms, a pineapple, huge bunch bananas, Hatch chiles, two yellow squash, and a head of Romaine lettuce. The quality is outstanding.

I am a vegetarian so I love pretty much everything that comes in the basket. See, you don't pick what you want. You don't know what you get until you pick it up. It just comes and whatever is in the basket, you eat.

I grilled the chiles on my George Foreman grill, and then popped them into a plastic bag to seat them. This helps separate the skin from the flesh, and I scraped it off. Cut open and scrape out seeds. They are mild and sweet. I used them in a black bean soup into which I put potato, a roasted on on the cob corn, onion. And also this way: flour tortillas, whipped cream cheese, and Hatch chile, roll up for pinwheels or fold into sandwich. Yum!

The mushrooms and squash (plus a zucchini from last Basket) became ratatouille, along with a tomato. Into this I put black olives and feta cheese. Also can put quinoa, or spaghetti, or just eat plain.

The celery became cream of celery soup.

The pears we got two weeks ago we were told were pears but looked in the shape of an apple. I found them to be hard and sour. They've been sitting in the fridge. Today I peeled and chopped them, and baked them with a bit of butter and brown sugar. Pear crumble.

My approach to groceries and food is: I eat whatever is on sale at the grocery store. Now that I do the basket I am making a commitment to whatever is in there. I always use it in some way and eat it all within the two weeks before the next Basket comes around.

I encourage you, if you live in an area that has Bountiful Baskets, to try it. Committing to the Basket means you take a different approach to groceries. You get what you get and you don't pitch a fit, lol. It does take time and commitment t make sure you use the food in a way that means it will be eaten, and sometimes searching the internet for recipes, but it is worth it. I especially love not eating any processed foods.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Morning commute

My morning commute is only 10 minutes. It's a straight shot up one road and then I veer off a bit to the school road. I go by pastures and a few homes and trees and ponds and cows. I love the moon in the  morning and the when I pass the open fields I can see it very well as it sets.

This time of year, the drive starts out dark. (7:00 AM)

The hay is in!
I think about what's ahead. Usually I think about all I have to do and the little time I have to do it in. But I try to focus on the kids as I drive. I think about the funny things they say and do. For example, I overheard this yesterday:

When the day begins at school, kids enter the building and some go to the cafeteria for breakfast and some go to the gym and wait for the first bell. When the bell rings, there is a lot of traffic in and out of the gym.

The kids don't naturally align themselves into the proper traffic pattern of entering or exiting on the right side and the left side. This year we put little P.E. cones on the floor to direct them in, and out. Otherwise a lot of kindergarteners get bumped into by fifth graders trotting off to breakfast. However, some kids still cut the last cone going in and go across the threshold in the wrong direction.

There is a decorative cone-shaped neck-high plastic tree in the hall. I took it and put it in the spot where the kids tend to cut across.

Two of the fifth-graders came out of the gym. They spotted the tree.

The girl said, "That's a nice touch!"
The boy said, "I think it's going overboard."


The day brightens fast around here. I took this picture while driving, putting up the camera, and aimlessly shooting the road ahead as I went tootling down the highway. I'd stop, but as you can see, there is no shoulder.

Today a kindergarten boy cracked me up. He's all boy, plain spoken, down to earth, loves his four-wheeler and says what's on his mind. I love him.

He had to choose 6 books for his book basket. He wanted books about puppies and snakes. We looked through all the puppy and snake baskets and he found five books he was interested in. We went through every other basket but nothing else appealed. We started to go through the baskets a second time.
Pink sky, moon set, cows wake up. (The blobs are cows)
I was started to get a little desperate. I had other kids to work with and he was taking a lot of time...and he was starting to lose his focus. I held up a book I knew other kids enjoyed, it was hilarious. But the cover featured a granny looking women scrubbing the floor. I said "Hey! This one's funny! You will like it!" he looked profoundly skeptical. I opened to the hilarious page, and showed it. "Look, she hung the Meanies on the line."

Glanced at the page, looked at me, waited a second, shrugged and said, "I ain't laughin'".

He had a point. Okey dokey then. Back to the book search!

I love morning ground fog.
It's full day when I arrive. There are a few cars lined up by the front door with puffs of air coming out the tailpipe, these are parents in idling cars with kids waiting for the opening bell so the kids can exit the car and enter their school day. I walk across the parking lot and think about all the important things I have to do. And those are: for the 2000th time, listen to the story of how the tooth fell out, ask how old they are when they tell me "It's my birthday!", say "Yes!" when asked "Do you like my dress/shirt/hair? And all in all, love on some kids.

The day has begun.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

The kind of conversations you have in Georgia

Our church has a church supper every Wednesday evening before bible study and kids' church begins. They are heavily attended. Last night fried chicken was on the menu. I was sitting on a bench by the bathrooms, looking over some notes. A little girl skipped over and stood there. She looked at me and I looked at her. After a moment, I said

"Hi! What's your name?"
"My name is Miss Elizabeth."
[awkward pause]
"Did you have chicken tonight?"
"I have chickens. I have three hens and a rooster."
"I meant, did you eat chicken for supper tonight?
"I think the bathroom is empty if that's what you're waiting for."
"OK, thanks!"

and she skipped away.

I love living in a rural area. Many people around here have chicken houses as the means of business. This county is chicken farm central. But many locals have a few chickens in the yard as a means of personal sustenance. Or a few cows. Or a few goats. Or a few hound dogs for hunting. Georgians are tremendous agrarians and they know how to live off the land.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Birds are better than TV

A fellow church-goer said yesterday that she believes that God put in us the desire to nap on Sundays. Everyone naps on Sunday after church, it's like He is making is easy to do what He said that day is for: rest.

I had to agree. After my nap, I continued to rest on the bed.

My bed is next to a window and the height of it comes exactly to the sill. I lay there, just resting in my Sunday rest, and along with my cat who was next to me, we watched the birds.

There is a wall of green trees outside the bedroom window and I enjoyed feeling the cool breeze and listening to the birds. I began to actively listen to and count the number of different calls I was hearing.

Some other thing

Hmmm, it looks like I need some help with auditory identification.

I went to the Cornell's ornithology department online and listened to many of their calls online after having searched for birds of Georgia.

Their bird call collection is impressive. So were the number of birds songs in my backyard. This is going to be fun, trying to memorize them.

I realized something else. It has been not a few days since I turned on the tv. Wednesday, I believe. That was when I tuned in to watch the finale of Masterchef when I got home from church, and after a few minutes of watching decided:

--I did not like the noise
--I didn't care

I hope I keep doing the things that relax me and don't do the things that don't relax me. When it comes to television being part of the things that don't relax me, it seems very hard to give it up, though. For some reason.

It is an activity that seems embedded in us, or me anyway. My first memory was of TV: The Beatles, Ed Sullivan, Feb, 1964. I was just turned three. I watched the moon landing, the space shuttle blow up and 9/11 unfold. I crowded around with friends at their houses watching American Bandstand. I saw American black people fight for their civil rights and hippies waste their freedom. Mr Rogers soothed us, Walter Cronkite informed us and Johnny Carson comforted us.

I came of age during the television age, so I think it is hard to give up a friend.

But it is not a friend.

In the 90s I read a book by Jerry Mander: Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television (1978). It "is a book written by Jerry Mander which argues that there are a number of problems with the medium of television. Mander argues that many of the problems with television are inherent in the medium and technology itself, and thus cannot be reformed."

Wikipedia summarizes Mander's 4 arguments:

The four arguments are:

1. While television may seem useful, interesting, and worthwhile, at the same time it further boxes people into a physical and mental condition appropriate for the emergence of autocratic control.

2. It is inevitable that the present powers-that-be (or controllers) use and expand using television so that no other controllers are permitted.

3. Television affects individual human bodies and minds in a manner which fit the purposes of the people who control the medium. (Ed note: affects our very biology, in other words)

4. Television has no democratic potential. The technology itself places absolute limits on what may pass through it. The medium, in effect, chooses its own content from a very narrow field of possibilities. The effect is to drastically confine all human understanding within a rigid channel.

I agree with all of them. Presciently, thirty-five years later, Mander has been proven right.

Especially about the biology, I feel calmer for not having watched for 5 days. I have come to dislike television so much, and I've come to love birds so much, that I would not insult my feathered friends by saying "tv is for the birds." But I am going to try to make it a thing of the past.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Insanity is going to the Dollar Store over and over again but expecting different results

The title of this blog essay is an edit on the old definition of insanity. It's attributed to Albert Einstein but its earliest emergence was 1981 in Narcotics Anonymous material.

So, insanely, I went to the Dollar store again on a Saturday. I had written last week in a piece titled "I went to the Dollar Store for TP and garbage bags, and forgot the bags",that I noticed there is often a higher price rung up at the register than was shown on the shelf. I know that food prices have been volatile for a few years now, due to unusual and severe weather, fluctuating fuel prices, and scarcity. I also know that one of the reasons the prices are lower at the Dollar stores is that there are fewer employees and quite often, I'm sure, they don't have time to keep up with price stickers that are increasing each week.

But I can't let the overcharge go, even it it's only a dime or so each time. I showed how the higher prices accumulate from the pocketbook over a year's time.

Now these, I'd pay $2.15 for!
photo credit:
Dee West (Formerly deedoucette)
via photopin
This week it was busy as usual, even busier because there was a festival down the street and people were coming up to get drinks and snacks to listen to the music. I kept an eagle eye on the prices on their small screen they have at the checkout stand for the customer to swipe their card. It's a small screen and shows about four items at a time, and they click by fast. But I did spot one price difference of nearly a dollar. I bought chopped green olives for $1.35 shelf price, and they rang up at $2.15.

I asked, "Why did the olives ring up at $2.15?

The cashier peered into his larger monitor and said "They didn't ring up at $2.15. I see $1.00, .85, $1.69..." and he read off four or five prices of the last items scanned through.

I went "Huh, um, ok" and we continued.

I got to the car with my register tape receipt and I took a good look. And what did I see? "Olives = $2.15." I drove out the lot and shaking my head, decided not to let it go, I circled back and went back in with the olives and the tape.

I said, "Help me understand, I might be reading this wrong but I believe I see olives at $2.15 when the shelf price says it sells at $1.35."

He said "Oh, you meant THOSE olives. I thought you meant the other olives." (I had bought black olives too.)

I said, "Please restore the difference, if you would." It was 82 cents.

The lady behind me, who ironically was behind me at the register originally five minutes ago, had an item in her hand and she said, "That's why I'm here too. You have to watch every penny these days."

And olive the other customers shook their heads and went hmmm. Har har.

Insanity...I will still go to the Dollar store but I will change a variable. Never again on a Saturday. Let's see how that works.

A new mushroom town and a new kitty

In May I posted that with so much rain a mushroom town had sprung up by my favorite tree. They were very cute, pretty button mushrooms. Their arrangement looked artful. I liked them.

We have not had rain, only heat, lately. But a new mushroom town has sprung up. It is not a nice little button-cute town of mushrooms, but an ominous, crowded, ghetto tenement mushroom city. I do not like it.

Speaking of cute, my neighbor has befriended a stray kitten. The kitty howls all night outside my window, runs across the drive way as I enter in, and is crawling with fleas that are taking over her body, the patio and the yard.

My neighbor is of the opinion that since her young daughter is attached already, they will feed the kitten for a while and if it stays it stays and it if goes it goes. That is all well and good, but in our conversation, I forgot to ask two important questions:

1. When are you going to spay the kitten, so I am not left with a new litter of kittens in a few months?

2. When you move, and you are moving soon, are you going to take her with you????????

I have tried valiantly to remain aloof, but kitten cuteness is too impossible to ignore. Today I petted her, despite my horror of bringing in fleas where my own two cats will catch them. She really is a cute thing. I hate her for it.

Just finished attacking a leaf

Attacking a leaf

Thinking about attacking a leaf

Friday, September 13, 2013

My friend, Orion

Things are getting busier and busier at work. We've lost positions and since the same amount of things need to get done, it is left to the remaining workers to do them. Pile on and pile on until the load is pretty heavy. And busy! I like to think I am doing a good job but I'm not so sure anymore...I'm so busy I just feel like I'm running on a Jetsons treadmill.

And then there are a lot of furlough days. I don't understand what they are, except that I make $900 less than before. I am going backwards in salary, and food and utility costs are going up. Sigh.

My car has developed a funny list to port, the alignment obviously and suddenly got out of whack. There is also a wobble from the right front tire. It may be related tot he alignment. My car has so many things wrong with it I should just put a sign on the front windshield, "Abandon all hope ye who enter here."

I cam home very tired yesterday and I went to bed at 8:30. It was a restless sleep. At 12:30am I awoke to hear men talking nearby. Like on the property nearby. I fell back asleep. Then at 3:30am a dog barking woke me up again. and he kept barking all the rest of the night. I like night sounds, and I keep my windows open on purpose so I can hear them. Donkeys braying, errant roosters cock-a-doodle-doing, the occasional bird, rustle of leaves- all great Not barking dogs!!

I woke up at 5:00am irritated. Grumbling I went into the kitchen to start the coffee. I looked out my window because I saw a glow. I looked up. It was the stars.

Bright, glowing, jewels on a dark sky, so bright. Orion was heeling to starboard, tipping into infinity. I stopped immediately, and just stared in awe at the gorgeous artwork in the sky. Orion moves across the sky depending on season. He'll get higher as winter comes on.
Wikipedia photo

What a beautiful, beautiful world. My irritations vanished and seeing the stars so pretty helped me regain my balance. Life is good.

Monday, September 09, 2013

New books are on order

New books coming!

Without an open book or two or three, littering my apartment at my various relaxing stations, I am bereft!

I used a gift certificate and a refund credit to purchase the following:

Up the Down Staircase:
Amazon blurb: 'Never before has a novel so compellingly laid bare the inner workings of a metropolitan high school. Up the Down Staircase is the funny and touching story of a committed, idealistic teacher whose dash with school bureaucracy is a timeless lesson for students, teachers, parents--anyone concerned about public education. Bel Kaufman lets her characters speak for themselves through memos, letters, directives from the principal, comments by students, notes between teachers, and papers from desk drawers and wastebaskets, evoking a vivid picture of teachers fighting the good fight against all that stands in the way of good teaching."

To Sir, With Love:
London Fictions Review: "Edward Ricardo Braithwaite’s autobiographical novel To Sir, with Love, which is based on his experience as a black teacher in a tough East End secondary modern school, offers a remarkable insight into the politics of class and race in postwar London. Sidney Poitier came to London to star in the film version of the novel in 1967, and later appeared in a sequel, based in Chicago, which was made for television in 1996 ('To Sir, with Love II', directed by Bogdanovich). Yet, surprisingly, the novel itself has been largely overlooked."

I plan to remedy that. Braithwaite's life is hugely interesting to me and I want to start looking into it by reading his first book.

When Crickets Cry
Shirley Priscilla Johnson Amazon Reviewer: "What happens when you have a broken hearted man and a small child who is clinging to a thread of life and somehow, through an act of God, their lives touch and connect? This is the essence of this outstanding work by Charles Martin, "When Crickets Cry."

I tried to buy this book last Janauary but it never came. I kept getting notices that it was still almost going to come, but they didn't know when. After 8 months my patience ran out and I canceled the order and re-ordered it with the refund at a $3 increased price. It is supposed to arrive on Friday.

Follow Me:
Amazon blurb: "From best-selling author John MacArthur, Follow Me reiterates the call of Jesus, offers insight into ways people respond to it, and encourages readers not just to follow, but to follow through."

Ha ha, I see the theme of all these books now. Kids, kids, kids, Jesus. The theme of my life.

Sunday, September 08, 2013

Mystery Art: Naples, Italy, circa 1965

Almost ten years ago, my old landlord gave me a painting. He liked me as a tenant and when I was leaving to move to GA he gave me a painting that the artist had given to him. My landlord served in the army in the 1960s and had been stationed at Naples Italy. He said that there was a small, family-run trattoria he used to frequent. He got to be good friends with the family and their eldest son was a painter. The son had painted this scene of Naples bay and given it to my landlord when his time of service was up.

There is no signature. If my landlord had told me the artist's name, I have long since forgotten. I love the painting. I loved my landlord and his wife, I loved living there and I respect this as the gesture it was intended to be. I also like the painting for itself. I had it restored, and someday I'll have it framed again.

I am curious if anyone knows of an artist who paints similarly? Let me know if you think you know who the artist is!

Saturday, September 07, 2013

I went to the Dollar Store for TP and garbage bags, and forgot the bags

If it's not on my list, it is not in my mind. Aggravating.

Saturdays at the Dollar Store aren't a great idea anyway. The lines are long, the people are loud, the kids are whining, and the day is hot. I put two cartons of corn muffin mix in my basket, because they were two for a dollar. I'd decided to go Mexican, and I bought black beans, canned spicy tomatoes, Spanish rice, and will grill the Hatch chiles I got last week at the co-op, and make a huge black bean salad and corn muffin on the side. The corn muffins rang up at 60 cents each instead of 50 cents per. Twenty cents may sound like a lot, but increasingly, the Dollar Store's prices at the register and price on the shelf don't match. Guess which is always higher. You guessed right, the register.

So this happens every time now, at least a couple of times. I go to that store 4X month, so if I'm gypped out of an average of 35 cents each time, and that is a low conservative estimate, then at the end of the year I'm gypped out of $17.50, or two months worth of Netflix bills. If I'm gypped an average of 50 cents each time, that's $24 and one and a half Bountiful Baskets price. You see my thinking.

So I keep an eagle eye on the prices, and when the corn muffin mix rang up overpriced I mentioned it. The cashier said that sometimes it takes the sale price off at the end. "It might do that this time." I said "Might??" arching my eyebrow the best I could without looking Halloweeny and thinking but not saying, "What is this, a casino?"

The people behind me started shifting foot to foot, the universally understood gesture of "I knew I'd get in the slow line today" which is their way of telling me I'm the equivalent of hair gunk slowing the flow of the drain.

Neither the cashier guy nor I saw a 'take it off at the end' price so he called on the microphone for a "Void and an override, please!" More shifting of feet, accompanied by grumbles. Audible growls, actually. I might as well be 15 years old and the cashier shouting on the microphone, "Price check on Kotex, please!"

The void lady arrived in due time, unhurried and unperturbed and unfazed by any antiquated concept of 'customer service.' She listened to the cashier and looked at the register monitor, and said "Look, the price is taken off right there!" The line almost had a mutiny because "It's all for nothing!" A second cash register opened up and no one was trampled in the rush to get over there, thank goodness. No medics were called.

The cashier and void lady mumbled something together and then a great bustle erupted. Keys went in the register, and clangs and cheeps of bells and whistled and she hustled to my cart (she's really moving fast now, a-HA!) and she rooted around in my bags in the cart and then scurried back to the register and then said officiously, "Press yes on the debit please!" which I did, and she handed me the tape and I felt good that at least I had made a stand for whatever it is I am making a stand for.

I got home and the muffin mixes had been taken out of my bag. No mix.

Defeated by the Dollar Store. Again. I am now busy looking up recipe for corn bread from scratch.

I Fight Authority, Authority Always Wins

Friday, September 06, 2013

"It's Friday, it's Friday, we love it!"

One of the kindergarten teachers plays a welcome song every morning and on Fridays it is the Friday Song with that as the refrain. The kids dance. It's really cute.

I do believe there is nothing like the feeling of driving home on Friday after a ___________ workweek. Insert your own descriptor.

1. a stressful work week
2. a fruitful work week
3. a productive work week
4. a tiring work week.
5. A dull work week.

This week I choose work week descriptor... #1 and #2!

When I get home on Fridays I put the car in the garage. It's my signal of the boundaries between home and work being set. If I had a moat, at this time I'd be filling it with water and alligators.

I gather my things from the back seat of the car and go in. This is a momentous occasion. Crossing the threshold of my home
photo credit: Stewf via photopin cc
from the outside on a Friday night is a tremendous feeling of relief and release. As I step inside, there actually should be a mariachi band playing.

I close the door and lock it. The 'tick' the lock makes cements the feeling that I have now separated from the world.

I'm IN!!

I make sure to have cleaned up the apartment Thursday evening or Friday morning so that when I come in the place looks orderly and nothing stands out as needing attention or to be done. I close the windows, fire up the AC, and unpack. I change into comfy clothes, currently a stretched white Hanes tee shirt and very soft blue stretch pants. The world is now dead to me.

I fire up the laptop and pour a chilled green tea, warm up piece of pita bread to enjoy dipped in hummus.

Weekend has begun.

Monday, September 02, 2013

Labor Day: no laboring

All is quiet here in Comer. There are lots of people camping down at the state park, quietly snugged down and staying put. School across the street is closed. My neighbors seem to be gone somewhere.


So what did I do this morning? I was a bundle of energy. I vacuumed every square inch of the place. I flipped two mattresses. I dusted, I moved furniture, and I did loads of laundry- including the top bedding.  At 11:30 I'm settling down to a brunch and cooling off after a shower.

I made an egg fresh from a neighbor's farm, with green peppers. Home fries, whole wheat toast, and a bowl of fruit consisting mostly of one huge peach and half a mango. Yum.

This weekend I've watched To Sir, With Love (again) and I'd found a sequel, named the same with the number 2 after it. The sequel was passable. A little preachy but overall watchable. It picks up with Sidney Poitier 30 years after the close of the first movie, retiring and being honored by his London School at a retirement luncheon. Lulu reprises her song. Everyone claps.

Poitier had been contacted by his old friend in Chicago who is a principal of an inner city school. (Daniel Travanti). Contracted to come teach for one year, Poitier has his own reasons for wanting to be in Chicago again. The story unfolds with his departure from London over to Chicago. Much as the first film did, the teacher Poitier gains the high school students' trust, deals with their upheaved home lives, school politics, and this time, a personal life.

Seeing the films got me interested in the background to the movie story. I had not known that To Sir With Love was based on a book written in autobiographical fashion by ER Braithwaite. In addition, ER Braithwaite has written many books subsequent to the success of his first book, dealing with the social work system, race issues, and apartheid in South Africa. Wikipedia says Braithwaite was a "Guyanese novelist, writer, teacher, and diplomat, best known for his stories of social conditions and racial discrimination against black people. He was born in Georgetown, Guyana."

I went to Amazon and bought To Sir With Love. I was also interested in two other Braithwaite books, Paid Servant and Honorary White but they are hard to find so I'll have to wait for another more opportune time to buy them where the price is a bit lower than 'collectable.'

I also wanted to see "Up The Down Staircase" but that movie is not on Hulu, Netflix, Youtube or Daily Motion, more's the pity. So I bought that book too, and using up my refund-coupon money, also got two Christian books: John MacArthur's "Follow Me" and a novel called "When Crickets Cry."

My other neighbor is cutting her grass, and I've always liked the sound of a lawnmower so that is a good kind of comforting sound going on right now. The bedding is ready to be shifted from the washer to the dryer so I'll go out to the garage and do that, watering my flowers along the way. This is a good holiday day, quiet and serene.

Sunday, September 01, 2013

"How was your weekend?"

Part of the tree out my front door that I love so much is dead, but I love this weird wood at the end of the dead branch. The birds love it too. They sit there and sing. The markings look like hieroglyphics or carvings on a totem pole. At least in my imagination they do-

My side yard is just a wall of greenery this time of year. It shields the house from the sun. It provides shade, and a windbreak. it's pretty. And it is an all important sound buffer.

Because people wear me out. Noise, emotions, activity, colors on clothes ... it all gets overwhelming.

I wish I was brave enough to say this on Monday when people ask me the inevitable question.

They might get the wrong idea. I really like them, I do.

I spend time & energy  creating a solid buffer between work and home, though. I LOVE work. I LOVE home. The twain shall not meet.