26 July 2008

Cooking: The good and the not so much..

Trying to keep to a budget, CAT and I have been eating almost exclusively at home.. Something that has been slightly more difficult as of late, being as we are short an appliance. Last weekend CAT put some reruns (aka leftovers) in the microwave, pushed a couple buttons, and the heretofore dependable machine said, "I Quit!" I couldn't complain really, given the fact that I'd had it for 17 and a half years, at least 5 of that it had lived with my brother.. Knowing that I'd spend way too much money if I just ran to the store to get another one, I got online and actually shopped around.. I found one at Lowe's that would work perfectly for my needs, and it was only $60 bucks. Only downside was that it won't arrive until sometime next week.

I'd never really gave much thought about how much I use my microwave. Not for anything major. Really just to defrost the occasional thing for dinner, reheating reruns, softening butter, etc, but it's something that I definitely do not wish to live without! Reheating food shouldn't be so difficult, but as I learned that first day, it's quite complicated.. You actually have to PAY ATTENTION to the food you are heating up, as demonstrated by the fact that the first time I tried to do this and burned the left over stir fry to the bottom of the pan..

CAT and I have had quite the adventure in cooking lately.. One night he made Oysters Rockefeller and this enormous, not to mention amazingly delicious burger.. You may not think these two things would go together, but it was sooo good!!

Last night we attempted to make sushi. It was quite funny. Those little suckers are not easy to roll. My first try left us both laughing, and me about to give up.

But, by the time I rolled the 4th one I was a pro.. Ok, maybe not, but we could at least eat them with chopsticks..

And even when they weren't pretty, they were edible.. We learned a lot by making them ourselves. IE, it may take a while before we find a brand of Nori that we like, and, though we sometimes have sushi that has sprouts at the restaurant, they must not be alfalfa sprouts. The alfalfa sprouts overpowered everything in the rolls we added them to and wasn't so good..

And, before anyone questions our sanity, we did not use any seafood that wasn't cooked, only cooked scallops, shrimp, and smoked salmon.. We'll leave the raw stuff to the professionals..

19 July 2008

Back Outside..

Now that my leg has finally stopped itching (it was a VERY long few weeks), I have been able to get my kayak out on the lakes.. Last weekend while CAT had stuff to do, I went over to Vancouver Lake. It was very warm (it got up to 90 that day) and the water was pretty choppy, so I gave up after going about 6 miles. I did see some great birds however, including a bald eagle.. Also, the views of Mt Hood and Mt St Helens were great that day..

Yesterday CAT and I got out on Lacamas Lake. We'd intended to do some fishing, but the water conditions have gotten really bad since I was last on that side of town, and there were only very small bass. Still, there were neat things to see and some great wildlife..

Today I really wanted to get out on the Columbia and try to catch a sturgeon, but CAT thinks this is a ridiculous idea so I'll have to work to convince him otherwise.. Sure, sturgeon are only considered "keepers" if they are between 42 and 60 inches , and they are caught with 40 to 100 lb test line (they can get to be 20 feet long and weigh over 1500 lbs), but think of the adventure it would be to hook one while in my kayak!! :)

11 July 2008

On The Cheap..

As I sit here contemplating the sharp rise in the price of EVERYTHING, and the subsequent shrinkage of what is left each month after I pay the bills, I am trying to find comfort in the activities that do not cost money.. Sometimes it isn't easy..

Sometimes I can only see what I can't do.. I can't go camping next weekend, because I went last weekend and the insane gas prices deem going again so soon not altogether a wise choice for my budget.. I started feeding my cats a cheaper kind of food. A cheaper kind of Nutro that I buy at Petsmart, but not the Natural Choice kind which sort of makes me feel bad, even though they seem to like it better (good thing they're not picky, Purina may be only weeks away).. I've seriously started to pay attention to the cost of food when I go grocery shopping.. I cancelled my subscription to Audible.com.. It seems like each week there is a new thing I can no longer justify spending money on..

It's not as though being financially challenged is anything new to me. When I got out of the Army and was jumping through hoops trying to get the VA to fix my knee, things were a lot worse. Back then I was living with friends and collecting food stamps..

Maybe I'd just assumed that the days of stressing about each purchase was a thing of the distant past.. Maybe I need times like this to make me remember the joys in things and activities that don't cost money..

So, here's my list of favorite things to do for free...

1) Spend time with Alex.. Today when I got home from work, she woke up and, half asleep, came up to me wanting some love. It made me remember how very lucky I am that I have her (even if I do have a dead opossum in my back yard that I need to go dispose of)..

2) Reading.. I have about a hundred books in my house that I've collected from various places and have yet to read. After my grandma passed away, I took two boxes of her books. She loved to read and had so many great books. I recently read The Alchemist, which I thought was wonderful and would recommend to everyone. Right now I'm reading Stolen Lives. (There's nothing to make you appreciate what you have than reading about the inhumane suffering that others have endured).. My favorite book of my grandma's was Reading Lolita in Tehran. Not only did I read it, but then I got it from Audible and listened to it twice, unable to imagine what it would be like to live in a place where you had so little freedom that you even have to read in secret..

3) Podcasts.. This is my new favorite addiction.. Every night at work I listen to hours of podcasts; This American Life, WNYC's Radio Lab, CBC's Vinyl Cafe, The Skeptic's Guide to the Universe, This Week in Science, Car Talk, Dan Carlin's Hardcore History, Masterworks Broadway Podcast Theater, etc, etc... Lately it's the science and history podcasts that I most enjoy. Every night I learn so much!!

So, here's my question.. What do you like to do on the cheap?? And if you have any podcasts you could recommend, I have a few hours during the week that I'm still looking to fill...