altivo: Plush horsey (plushie)
Sleepy. Dog asleep at my feet, cat asleep on my pillow, and I'm drowsing trying to read. Gary's busy assembling a switchbox to control power options from two separate operator controls to four blocks of model railroad track. My contribution was attaching the eight slide switches to the panel for him, since they are tiny and have even tinier mounting screws. (And I have more patience with such things. He had already laid out the panel and drilled/cut the openings.)

[Brief interlude while I find a better stripper and finer hookup wire for him to use...]

It was darned cold last night. Rapid temperature drop after sunset went from about 24F to 9F by midnight. Our heat pump system isn't much good below 20F so that means woodstove, which always works but requires regular tending. At dawn it was back up to 19F outside, so there must have been a wind from the south overnight. Kept rising to just below freezing during the day. Tomorrow they say 40F with rain. Crazy weather. There is still 5 inches of snow on the ground. Rain will quickly turn that to slush that will freeze to ice, I'm afraid.

Since yesterday was too scattered and distracted for grocery shopping, we went today. Stopped at Aldi and scored some good bargains, but even more than Walmart, they are unusable for regular supplies. They just don't have what we use, things like bread flour, yeast, and a wide range of fresh produce. They are good and cheap for canned goods though, and seasonal specials like turkeys or hams. On the other hoof, I can't buy milk there because they only sell gallons and we won't use that much up before it spoils.

This morning I made apple pancakes, one of my favorite recipes though I only do it a few times a year because it's fussy. There was one Roxbury russet apple left, and it was perfect in this recipe. Peel and core one cooking apple, and chop the flesh coarsely. Then sift together 2 cups of flour, 2 tablespoons of sugar, 2 teaspoons of baking powder, and 1 teaspoon of salt. In a large mixing cup, whisk together 2 cups of milk, 2 egg yolks, and 2 tablespoons of melted butter. Beat the 2 egg whites until they form stiff peaks but are still shiny. Stir the milk mixture into the dry ingredients just until combined. Fold in the apples and then the egg whites, and fry 3 inch pancakes on an oiled griddle (about 375F or so.) They are light and very tasty with syrup or yogurt on top.

Shopping

Dec. 8th, 2011 10:41 pm
altivo: The Clydesdale Librarian (Default)
Actually went shopping this afternoon, but didn't buy anything. Well, three birthday cards, and lunch, but that's all. My Christmas list is short, but I'm just not in the spirit yet I guess. (Or didn't see anything really brilliant...)

We also stopped in to see a fair sized hobby shop in Crystal Lake because I wanted to look at N scale equipment and get some comparison prices so I have an idea what I'm looking at online. That stuff is expensive, and I can see it's going to pay to shop carefully.

Only a half day's work, as usual for Thursday, but it was busy. Caught up all the interlibrary loan tasks, which is rather like the labors of Hercules (never ending, repeating, etc.) I'm sure new ones popped up the minute I left my desk. I also typed three catalog cards, manually. I'm pleased to report that I still remembered how to do that, though I haven't had to do it that way since the 70s some time. What cards we use are normally computer generated now. When a record is added to the catalog database, a card or cards can be printed automatically. But we hit a limit in the software that I didn't even know was there. Adding a large set of volumes (80+ volumes of military records from the Civil War) we managed to exceed the maximum number of continuation cards for one title. It appears that the maximum is 12 continuation cards. This title needed 15 in order to list all the volumes. I remembered that somewhere we should still have cardstock in 8.5x11 sheets with microperfs to tear it up into 3x5 catalog cards, and after a little digging found a small stash of these. Then I had to lay out a template in OpenOffice to type cards on so they would print properly. Got that to work, typed up the needed cards, printed and did the manual feed thing, and like magic, three more cards, completing the contents for the set.

Still telling us it should snow tonight, but nothing is in sight. Also predicting bitter cold in the teens (F) but at the moment it is 30F outside. Debating whether or not to start a fire in the woodstove...
altivo: Wet Altivo (wet altivo)
All Easter means to me any more is like Christmas: a massive struggle to prepare most of a huge festival meal, pack it up and haul it to Chicago, where if anyone shows up they don't want to eat it anyway.

Because it somehow helps my mate and his mother try to recapture their memories from half a century ago, I keep doing this twice a year.

We went to three grocery stores today trying to capture all the elusive pieces. I'm particularly disgusted by what Jewel has become. For those not from Chicago, Jewel is (or was) an old local grocery chain that dates back to the 19th century and was noted for delivering goods to your door. Over the years they looked more and more like the conventional supermarket, and reached what I'd consider to be their peak in the 1980s sometime, when they were building new stores that had expansive produce and fresh deli departments, live fish markets, and a really extensive selection of foods both local and imported. Typically they had an associated pharmacy under the same roof, and a liquor department with a very fine selection of wines.

Then this local tradition was bought up by a west coast grocery mega-chain and things changed. Old brand names disappeared, replaced by generics. Prices started creeping up, then shooting up like weeds after a thunderstorm. The prices at Jewel are now nearly double what I pay at the local Centrella (used to be Certified, similar to IGA in other parts of the country--independent grocers who obtain many of their goods through a cooperative warehousing system.) Jewel stores are still attractive looking and have a good selection and variety of products (not what it once was, but still better than many) but the prices are so high that I don't understand why anyone shops there.

Anyway, we did go to Jewel. Their weekly flyer had some special offers in it that made it worth the trip. Of course, in typical Jewel fashion, they had already run out of most of the specials (which were supposed to run through Tuesday) and the substitutes were no bargain at all. They told us we could drive over to McHenry to get what we wanted, which would have canceled out most of the savings just in the cost of the gas consumed. "And that," I said as we left the store, "is why we don't shop at Jewel any more." We used them for years when we actually lived in Chicago. Now they're just too expensive to even consider. We also went to Walmart, specifically to get some things Gary's mom had requested, and almost didn't find them because their shelves, even in the pharmacy, were nearly barren. Not just because of the holiday, but because they are always like that. I guess they're too cheap to reorder until they run out of everything. Or else, they're too cheap to hire anyone to put stock out on the shelves.

Fortunately we'd already been to the Centrella in Marengo, and got most of what we needed. Then Gary went off to sing in church yet another day, while I stayed home to bake the traditional lamb shaped cake that must be served even though no one wants to eat it. We could have bought one at Jewel... at a price of $15 for a cake that weighs well under a pound, closer to eight ounces. If I succeed in frosting and decorating it without its head falling off (a distinct probability) I'll take a photo of it.

Now to bed so I can get up at 5 am and bake the ham. ;p

Day two

Jan. 9th, 2011 10:16 pm
altivo: Plush horsey (plushie)
Christmas decorations are back in the boxes and put away. This means I get back my favorite reading and knitting spot (the lamp goes away to make room for the tree, which in turn leaves that spot too dark for reading or close work.

Due to a miscalculation, we made an emergency run into Woodstock for a bag of dog food. While there we stopped at a Jewel for some produce, since we did the week's shopping on Thursday at two places with notoriously bad fresh produce. It's amazing how much the quality and price of produce can vary at stores just a short distance apart, or even within the same chain. Our local homegrown supermarket has expanded to about four locations in the 50+ years since it was founded. The home store has excellent produce and mostly reasonable prices. I am spoiled from buying stuff there. The only thing better within the 20 mile or so radius that I'm willing to drive is the Italian grocery in Crystal Lake. I'm not the only one to be aware of that either, as the place is a mob scene seven days a week. Anyway, Jewel stores often have good quality but their prices are excessive. The have a "preferred customer" system that gives a "special" price to anyone who carries their card. However, the supposed discount is fake. What they do is double the regular price, and then offer about 50% off to anyone with a card. Even with that discount, they are priced higher than Wisted's or Joseph's, the places I mention favorably above. In the case of the Woodstock store, their quality is poorer and the selection is disappointing. I have to note, though, that produce in the Woodstock Wisted's is also disappointing. Only the home store in Marengo has the good produce manager.

Started my warping calculations. Since this will be a sectional warp, I have to first wind the warp spools. The warp will be 24 yards long, and 14.75 inches wide with 24 threads per inch. Since my loom has 2 inch sections, that means I'll need 48 spools. Of those, 18 must be prewound with 192 yards of warp yarn, and the remaining 30 will have 168 yards. Even with an electric winder and an automatic yardage counter, this is going to take a while to prepare. Still, it should be easier than the old hand method that would require measuring each of 354 warp threads out on a pegged board and loading all of them onto the loom at once. We shall see. I hope to get the warp beamed tomorrow. Then comes the threading.

Not as cold tonight as last night, thank goodness. They're predicting snow, possibly several inches of it, by Tuesday, though.

Grrr!

Dec. 27th, 2010 08:45 pm
altivo: Running Clydesdale (running clyde)
Had a persistent painful spot on my back for several days. First I thought it was a muscle cramp, now I see a red rash. I'm not usually hypochondriac at all, but I wonder if it's shingles. Eeew! (Yes, I'm in the right age group and did have chicken pox as a child.)

On the bright side, since a paid holiday fell on Saturday, I get an extra day off and was able to schedule it for Thursday. Yay, four day weekend. Actually, that's using an 8 hour credit for what would usually be a 4 hour day for me, but I don't mind since it makes a really long weekend.

It's getting really cold here tonight, single digits again. I guess I should go put a fire in the woodstove now.

We decided that we need a new storage cabinet with latching doors in the kitchen to provide better dog protection, allowing us to crate him less often. Started shopping Menard's and other hardware places for steel storage cabinets, but none fit the space or budget. Looking at Office Depot on-line found a wooden one from Sauder that should do, but has to be ordered and is non-returnable. So I took the manufacturer's number from there and went to the Sauder site, where they say the average retail price is $15 less than what Office Depot wants. OK, so I asked who else might have it. In our area, Menard's and Shopko. Menard's did not have it and their on-line can't tell us differently (not a complete inventory.) Shopko, however, shows two similar items from Sauder that look even better. Plus they are on sale for almost half price at the moment. I see a trip to Shopko in Belvidere in our near future.

Bugs!

Aug. 14th, 2010 09:56 pm
altivo: From a con badge (studious)
No, not the computer kind. The real ones with six legs, wings, and often it seems a propensity to bite.

We have so many mosquitoes right now that just going out of the house quickly makes anyone resemble a single retiree who just won the lottery: surrounded by parasites and sycophants looking to suck all the blood they can get.

Myself I tend to see mosquitoes and flies as the bankers and lawyers of the insect world. They produce nothing and serve no useful purpose, but they steal the lifeblood of others in order to make themselves fat. This year we are getting those big horseflies with a bite like a vampire bat, too. I think those must be the politicians.

After guild meeting this morning and having lunch with Gary and his fellow musicians, I put Tess outside and then went to the grocery store. As usual, I had quite a bit of produce in my cart, and I got the same cashier who remarked a couple of weeks back on how "healthy I was eating."

She got to the eggplant and was stuck. It had no sticker on it so she didn't know the magic number to feed to the scale so that it would be weighed and charged appropriately. The customer in line behind me was an assistant manager at the end of her shift, and the cashier held the eggplant up and asked her if she knew the number for it. Ms. Manager (who is generally quite nice and often opens a register herself if there's any kind of backup) shook her head.

"I don't know the number," she said, "but it's an eggplant."

This made sense but also made me laugh. The cashier, who is an elderly woman with gray hair, said "I know that, but I don't know the number to weigh it." Of course they do have an index on which to look it up, and she resorted to that to find the answer.

I suggested that many of the younger women who serve as cashiers wouldn't even recognize the eggplant for what it is, and they both had to agree.

We also heard a similar comment this morning from a friend at the farmers' market in Woodstock. Gary asked if he had any kohlrabi because we like it and weren't able to grow any this summer. Keith's answer was that kohlrabi is easy enough to grow, but he'd have to explain to everyone who passed by his stand both what the vegetable was, and how to prepare it. Unfortunately, I'm afraid he's right.

Hectic

Jul. 10th, 2010 08:45 pm
altivo: (rocking horse)
Lots did get done though. Took Sarah to the vet for a follow up this morning. They changed her dressing, said she was doing fine. Unfortunately they had to give her a mild sedative, she was so reluctant to let anyone handle her. They offered to reverse it with a second injection but I said no, I'd watch her until she got over it. She came home groggy and went to sleep, but in an hour or so she was awake and alert again. Made the ride home much calmer than it would have been.

Gary and Rob went off to a Civil War event. I went to my guild meeting, and stayed longer than I intended but got back about two. After some lunch I figured on taking Tess out back for her grass, and just as we started out something startled her. I don't know if it was an insect bite, a sound, or an acorn falling on her, but she did a little dance as she sometimes does when startled. Unfortunately her front hoof came right down the back of my left leg as I was stepping forward on the right. Ow! Fortunately I had on heavy jeans, so it's just abraded like a scraped knee and didn't actually contact the hoof. Still smarts though and I'm sure it will be a nice big bruise by tomorrow.

After putting her out and recovering from that, I went to get groceries. Thunder started shortly after I was out of sight of the house. Rain began when I was halfway there, and turned into a blinding downpour that lasted all of maybe 30 seconds. Then the sun came back out. Clouds were spectacular for the rest of the afternoon, and I'm sure someone to the east of us got considerably more rain and thunder because they were really starting to reach for the stratosphere.

Some amusement at the supermarket. I wasn't buying anything that unusual for when I go, but it was later in the day than I get there as a rule, so different staff were on duty. An older woman was working the express lane and others were backed up so she offered to take me through as she had no line at all. Then she expressed astonishment at what I was buying. "You're going to eat healthy this week," she said.

"Well, yes, I like vegetables and fruit." That store has a good produce manager, too, so they have good stuff at a reasonable price most of the time.

She shook her head, and said "Most of them are too lazy for that." I didn't ask which "them" she meant, but I know an awful lot of shoppers just buy convenience foods like frozen pizzas and microwave dinners.

Then we got to the total. Now it wasn't that large an order, about half filled the cart, but things like leaf lettuce and flour are pretty bulky so it took quite a few bags to pack it. The total was about $57.

"You got a lot of groceries for that much," she said, smiling.

I smiled back. "Yes," I told her, "I've had a lot of years to practice," which is also true. But I suspect again it was a comparison to the average adult male shopper, who is likely to carry out just a case of beer, a frozen pizza, and snacks like pretzels. That's likely to come near to $45 or so even though it all fits in a single container aside from the beer.

I tried not to feel smug about it, but didn't quite succeed. We aren't always real good when eating at restaurants, but we do make balanced meals at home much of the time, with care about nutrition. I guess that's nearly a lost art. Had the cashier been a teenager, I'd have had to tell them what half of the vegetables were so they could work out the prices.

Now the chores are done, the dogs are fed and have been out, and I'm going to make a salad. After all, I have to live up to the image I present. ;p
altivo: The Clydesdale Librarian (Wet Altivo)
Lovely weather today, ruined by the continuous snarl and crash of a chain saw next door as the Brit neighbor continues his vendetta against trees, any trees. One could hope that the ents will show up and stop him by any means necessary, but I'm afraid it won't happen.

I'm also afraid he's going to forget where the property line is some day and start in on the ancient oaks that line our side of it. The seeming border between our lands is laid out by a creekbed in the southern half, where he has been "working" lately. But the creek meanders of course, while the property line is straight. At some points, he owns both banks, but for most of the way, we own both banks of the creek. In the woodlot, we own 18 to 24 feet beyond the creek, on his side. I'm sure he has forgotten this.

The man's a fruitcake. He seems to hate all trees. Why he bought five acres of heavily wooded land I just can't imagine. The previous neighbors there had deliberately let it grow up and even planted more undergrowth to encourage wildlife. They had walking paths through it, but beyond that, never disturbed it. Gary says he has some "pioneer" notion that he's supposed to "clear the land" but I really think he's just plain nuts. This afternoon I chased the oldest of his dogs out of our arena, where the irritating beast was digging holes in the floor apparently looking for chipmunks or something.

Spent an irritating hour at Walmart this afternoon. I've been keeping a divided shopping list, with items I know are less expensive at Walmart listed separately for when I get a chance to go there. The store was mobbed. It seemed that every shopper had at least two unhappy kids trailing along. Plus store personnel were doing inventories or something that involved removing every item from the shelf and putting them back. Perhaps they were looking for someone's runaway hamster? ;p The produce department is always frustrating. Generally overpriced, poorly arranged, and not always in the best of condition, most of Walmart's produce may well best be avoided. Their meats are mostly prepared, precooked, ready-to-microwave. Huh? Once again I'm reminded that no one seems to know how to cook any more. They also put meats out in huge packages that may be great for a family of six with teenagers, but are impossible for a childless couple. I was pleased when I noticed that my receipt had a code and URL on it to file your reactions to the shopping trip. Alas, when I went to express my thoughts and opinions, I found that the survey consists of loaded questions that can't be easily answered, and no way to convey my suggestions or concerns. Of course.

Tomorrow, the Freeport Steam & Antique Engine Association show. This year featuring "horse power" (hard to say just what they mean by that) but I want to go see. Hopefull it will not rain.
altivo: The Clydesdale Librarian (Default)
We went out shopping this afternoon. First to Farm & Fleet to get wild bird foods and so I could peruse shoes that are on sale. They are holding a half price clearance on a lot of shoes, and though I don't care for most of their offerings, I found a pair of plain black tie ups in a good size for a price that can hardly be beat ($22.50) considering that they were actual leather and rubber rather than synthetic materials, and made by the store's work clothes provider whose quality is generally high. My normal work shoes have been starting to come apart at the seams, so this was a required purchase. I also got a nice pair of leather sandals to replace my old ones that were losing their soles.

Then we went to the Evil Empire to get groceries for the week, since we just can't afford our local grocer any more. Did all right in terms of finding most of what I wanted, though as usual the produce department was vile. The asparagus needed to all be thrown in the trash, as it was wilting to slime and growing mold, for instance. We bought the bare minimum there, which is going to be fine in the summer since we garden anyway and there are farmer's markets, but it will be an issue when winter returns. I require fresh fruit and vegetables.

The cashier was nice enough, but even though I'd estimate her age as somewhere near 30, she didn't know lettuce from cabbage, had no idea what broccoli was, and couldn't figure out how to ring up the sweet corn since it goes not by weight but by number of ears purchased. I'd say this is incredible, except it's becoming commonplace.

Whoof

May. 5th, 2009 09:42 pm
altivo: The Clydesdale Librarian (Default)
Just came in from walking out back with Gary because he thought he heard a fox and wanted to make sure it wasn't in his live trap by the burrow under the arena. It wasn't.

"The moon was as bright as a reading light" as the song says, even though it isn't yet full. It is casting clear shadows. Unfortunately, when it is really full we are probably going to be under dense cloud cover according to the weather service.

Completed the spinners' newsletter and sent out notifications this morning. Went to sit in on one of Gary's rehearsal sessions, and at his insistence took my flute, which was nice enough. Car got its oil changed this morning, and we stopped in to see the new Tractor Supply Co. store in Harvard. It's nice to see a farm store that still has farm goods in it. The more local chain, Farm and Fleet, is all clothes and kids' toys now, with very little agricultural supplies. I got a soft plush pony about 3 feet long for $9.99, which is a pretty good price. I'm on vacation, so I get to splurge a bit.

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