Sunday, January 29, 2006

When Cooking...

...It's wise to pay attention to what one is doing.

The saga started when GMP left me completely alone in the house on a Sunday morning. Strategic error, methinks.

After working on some laundry, making a couple beds, dealing with an LL Bean dress shirt of mine that was "hanging out" waiting for it's 100% cotton wrinkles to be "ironed out" sometime, and helping out it's freshly white junior choir robe friend that was in a similar state, I turned my attentions to the family's sadly neglected finances.

Finances? We were talking about cooking, so how did we get into finances? Well, that's what I have been doing because I have not done it since somewhere around January 17 or earlier. While my Mom was visiting, I pretty much let things go and last Sunday I spent almost all day traveling to get her to the next stop on her offspring tour. With Mossflower due home this evening, her exile from her own home is winding to a close.

In 11+ days the finances can get into a horrible mess. Especially when you have made hash of them to buy a new car in the meantime, as was detailed on "My Empty Nest" recently.

I spent 4 hours after Sabbath ended last night and there was still much more to do today including doing our taxes this year - which I am currently procrastinating on by writing instead. My task this morning was to organize our 1st Quarter-to-date medical expenses and seek reimbursement for ~$500 of expenses thus far that are potentially reimbursable through our Flexible Spending Account.

The bright thought came to me while taking a break to fold sheets that I could start some rice and have it left over with vegetables, beans, etc. for the next few days. This is because we finished the goulash last night so I would otherwise be fending for myself. What could be simpler? Right?

Task #1: Find the rice. A check of the Lazy-Susan in the kitchen and the co-op table and corner down cellar yielded nothing that looked like rice but I found:
> about 6 months worth of powdered "Better Than Milk" soy beverage in various flavors,
> dried banana chips to last about 3 - 5 years (I think that's how long they've been down there already, actually, though I could be wrong there),
> the remains of my 15 lb of Turkish dates which I am using regularly and have given a 1 qt. zip-lock type bagful to my Mom who also loves them (do you think that might be inherited? Hope does spring eternal that I bear no personal responsibility for my dried fruit picadillos. Moving on...)
> 1 1/2 boxes of whole wheat macaroni,
> a nearly full box of whole wheat spaghetti,
> a container of dried apple slices that was excavated from King Tut's tomb in 1950 (it helps marrying a wealthy wife to be able to afford such delicacies!)
> a new 50 lb bag of hard white winter wheat berries that makes the most scrumptious bread (and in someways is why one must be patient with some of the other items of archeological vintage that one must concede may well have their original provenance at the co-op)
> and one unopened box which proclaims that it contains Wild Rice - not quite what I had in mind, actually.

No BROWN rice. Back upstairs. Spin the Lazy-Zusan one more time (those who do the same thing repeatedly, expecting to get different results...). Nothing. Time for a more thorough search of the kitchen environs. Pay dirt! In the dining room two containers (1 full, 1 essentially empty) with Basamati rice! One has a cryptic notation on the lid, which after failing to decipher the message, though I comprehend from the math that my beloved has wrestled with the quantities and proportions for cooking this particular item.

Instead I delve deeply into memory from the last time we had rice: [Fade to Memory Vision]

GMP:"You know what I was doing wrong with this rice before?"

ME: (Thinking: "Actually no, and it really doesn't matter: my mouth is full, my stomach is still empty and you want to talk about the fine points of rice preparation?!") "No, dear, I can't say that I do." (Said around a mouthful of perfectly cooked Basamati rice with stir fry vegetables topping it and soy sauce and a bit of salsa...while thinking: "That did it. Now you ARE going to hear what was wrong with it before - seemed fine to me last time" - which is code for, 'It was ready when I was hungry and it filled the void; what more does rice need than that?! At least it wasn't Tofu Loaf.')

GMP: I cooked it with 2 cups of water this time. Before I was using 2 1/2 like it said for brown rice. (ME: THINKING, of course, 'This IS brown rice - Basamati brown rice!') I found out by looking up cooking instructions for Basamati rice on the internet!

ME: "Great job! It sure is good!" (THINKING: "That should give her permission to bask in the praise and eat some of HER rice!").

[Fade to Present]

Task #2: Cook the rice. So I grap the pressure cooker (the old one that I'm familiar with) and two 4 cup measuring cups: 8 cups of water, heat to boiling. Measure out 4 cups of Basamati rice into the 2nd (dry) measuring cup and wait for water to come to a boil.

Back to financial document work: sorting, copying, downloading a 2006 reimbursement form, save the PDF file, print out 4 copies (1 for now, 3 for later), start filing in the blanks, etc.

[Noise from next room intrudes into thoughts - our erstwhile cook gets up to check]

There is water on the burner, the pot may be starting to have a few bubbles on the bottom. Not ready for rice. Back to work.

[Sometime later another sound intrudes into our cook's thoughts - off to check again]

The pot has a geyser of steam that would make Old Faitful proud. Time to stop that nonsense! Get that cover off that pot NOW! W H O O S H!!!

By later measurements it was determined that ~3 cups of steaming hot water erupted out of the pressure cooker when the lid was removed under sufficient pressure to liquify russets!

The cook's backward leap, lid in hand was performed with sufficient alacrity that not a drop of scalding water touched him. Anywhere. Plan B: turn the burner off. Done!

Task #3: Clean up the mess. There ensued a 10 minute clean up of the 3 cups of water which distributed itself in a radius of about 2 feet and ran another 1 - 2 feet before being corralled with sponge, cloth and mop.

More water. Re-heat the pot, lid on. Add the rice, turn down the heat and set the timer (surprised, are you that our wayward cook remembered that little detail?!).

What, after all, could be simpler than cooking some rice? Piece of cake!

Sunday, January 22, 2006

I Got Stopped - But I'm Home

Today was the day to take my Mom from our house to my sister's house in northern Vermont. We left the house at about 8:05 AM and made a couple stops: one for gas before we left Maine for the higher gas prices of New Hampshire and Vermont; the second was for a bathroom break.

The day was gorgeous and the view of Mount Washington at Crawford Notch was just wonderful. There was fresh snow on the roads (still) and the mountains. The trip north took about 3 hours 34 minutes (~150 miles).

While there I had a tour of their house, which once belonged to one of our aunts on our Dad's side, got Mom's belongings into the house and they fed us a wonderful meal. Before leaving I put a link to my blog on their computer toolbar - a warm welcome to them!

The trip home started at 1:06 PM and went very well. Until I had come through Gray, Maine. I missed a turn that would have brought me home the way we went - but I had been navigating on the way out with a step-by-step travel map I had printed out on my Delorme Street Atlas 2006 last night. On the way back I had hoped to be able to retrace my steps, at least figuratively.

It was not to happen. I missed at least one turn and ended up on a road to Yarmouth on which I do not recall ever driving before. I did not see a speed limit sign and was frankly looking to figure out where I was and where I was headed. I should have pulled over and checked a map, to be honest.

I didn't. Until the Cumberland County Sheriff stopped me for speeding. After he told me what the speed limit was I told him I was sure that I was exceeding the speed limit by at least 10 mph and probably more. He agreed. I apologized for that and indicated that I must have missed the speed limit sign. He agreed again and retreated to his cruiser with my license and registration.

When he returned to my car, he handed me back my documents and indicated that he was giving me a warning to drive more safely. I thanked him and mentioned that I thought I had just missed a turn and frankly didn't know where I was or where I was heading as I had not been on this particular road before. He asked if I was headed home? Yes, I was and would be grateful to know that best route. He directed me to continue on the road I was taking.

In the future I will:

1. Have been on that road and will remember (hopefully) that the speed limit is less than what the road appears capable of tolerating safely,

2. Take THAT road going both ways as it is A) a much simpler route, B) has much better quality road(s), and C) really didn't add a significant amount of time due to the overall higher speed limits.

So my brother-in-law's prayer that I would have a safe trip home was answered. I'm off to look for some supper! Jean will be home soon from her committee meeting at the conference office, I trust.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Laptop Troubles Again

Two days ago the laptop battery died. Kaput! If the power cable is unplugged the screen instantly goes black. The battery light constantly flashes orange with occasional green. "0% Charged" is the constant message on the power icon.

Fortunately we recognized that it had died within an hour or so of the battery going bad. I was able to order a replacement from Dell that night and it shipped the following day! We should have the replacement battery within the next week.

In other news, I worked from home Friday so that I could be with my Mom and take her to her doctor's appointment at a local SDA internist to follow up the labs, x-rays, and other tests that he had requested to evaluate her health while she was staying here with us. I got in 7 hours of work (typical for a Friday) inspite of having taken about an hour off for the doctor's visit.

Without the periperals that I already owned for my own laptop (a USB hub and a USB-PS2 converter for my split keyboard) I would not have been able to work from home - I would not have been able to plug in both my GoldTouch split keyboard and 3M Ergomouse. I would never have survived for 7 hours on a laptop keyboard!

One other thing that is new: I just joined our church AudioVisual team. I have been going into the church at 8:30 AM every Sabbath morning this year to learn the procedures for both sides of the desk: sound board/video camera & projection (DVD/PowerPoint/VCR/Audio, etc.). The opening that came up today was for running the sound board one Sabbath per month. My first Sabbath to "solo" on the soundboard (32 channels) will be a month from today.

My hope is to continue working with the music team, continue to teach Sabbath School, and also substitute for others on the A/V team as the need arises this year. That, in addition to playing my new clarinet with the community band will likely be more than enough. Although every Sabbath this year I have gone out to visit one or more church members who are not able to get out to church as well. It makes for a full Sabbath, now that Jean is planning to go to the fellowship dinner most weeks.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

A Landmark Day

Allan Visited: Allan came up from Pennsylvania where he was visiting his sister to spend the New Year's weekend with our family. We LOVED having him visit! He helped us with multiple technologic projects that had been on hold, in some instances, for months and years.

1. Got our GPS, a Garmin GPSMaps 60C working properly for the first time in 2 years. We promptly went out and found 3 geocaches within a couple hours in the area within walking distance of our house.

2. He installed our wireless router and has it working so that we have wireless internet in our whole house! I am currently posting this using my laptop and the wireless internet connection.

3. He helped installed Jean's new HP Photosmart 26210 All-In-One Printer, which includes printer, scanner, copier and fax machine. All functions are connected and working properly. We have all blessed our three dear daughters who bought this for us for Christmas this year - it is greatly appreciated and has been much used already.

The copier function particularly makes life so much easier than hiking to the basement, wait for the 20-year old Mita copier to warm up and then hope that all works well and you will actually get a copy of acceptable quality. It is low cost but fairly low quality and is at the end of its useful life according to my repair man who serviced it this fall. He told us, "This is the last time I will be able to work on this machine." It is just too worn out and parts are no longer available for it.

So our whole family blesses Allan for his help while he was here, even though his trip back home was long and arduous as documented on his blog, in an entry entitled, "Trains, Planes and Automobiles."

More GPS & Mapping Options: Inspired by Allan's huge boost, I went out today and bought an updated version of Delorme's
StreetAtlas 2006, with the idea being that we can map a route and download it into the GPS and have turn by turn directions in our hand while traveling. It took about 2 hours to install the software, install the maps in the GPS, map a route for an upcoming trip, and download it into the GPS. But it is done! In the future, without the lengthy installation process which taxed the laptop processor considerably, it should take just a few minutes.

Traval Options Abound: Jean and I bought an inverter for traveling so we can even plug the laptop into the car's power port and use it for detailed maps while traveling without fear of running the batter down. The GPS holds only 58 MB of maps, which at the time we bought it was about 4 times the amount of memory other GPS units had for installed street-level maps. We can modify our installed street-level maps as we are traveling if we are on a long car trip. Yeah!

Beth Is On Her Way!: Grammie is with my brother for the upcoming week and Beth has left to spend an all-to-short day with us before flying out at "0:Dark Hundred" Tuesday morning to help with children and household chores during and after her sister's upcoming surgery.