Saturday, December 28, 2013

Last Weekend

Well, here we are on the last weekend of 2013. Just seems like this year has gone by awfully fast. Some change around here this weekend.

Tomorrow is my last shift at Home Depot. I gave them two weeks notice but they decided, after I offered, to cover the 4 shifts scheduled in 2014 with someone else and make my last shift in 2013. Makes sense.

All the seed catalogs have started to arrive so I need to spend some time getting all my orders ready. First I need to inventory what I have left over and saved from last year. I also need to decide what I am going to corn or not to corn, etc.

Got to get to work in the garden and finish up my raised beds. I've been thwarted by rain over and over again for at least a month or two and now that I don't have to work I need to get hopping.

One possible glitch in the gardening plans is that I am having some pain that is very similar to that I was having before my hernia surgery in June. I'm going back to the surgeon on Monday to see if I need a tune up or if something came loose. I sure hope it is under warranty. If I have to do the surgery again it will put me a month behind for the garden which won't make me happy. Last year was such a disappointing gardening experience that I am very focused on getting it right this year. I'm actually in real danger of running out of canned tomatoes!

Heavy rains forecast for this afternoon and tonight so outside is out for today. Madam's cell phone is refusing to hold a charge and she is due for an upgrade so at least part of the afternoon will be at AT&T figuring out what sort of gouge they will do for me. It is a crime what we are paying in this country for phone services.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Happy Christmas Eve

Happy Christmas everyone. Let's hope the proper spirit of the season takes the chill off the hearts of those that are doing all the Scrooge stuff.
Quiet little Christmas Eve here abouts. I've got today and tomorrow off so I can enjoy a little downtime. Minimonk is here for most of the day to celebrate though she is going in later so that the firefighters with children can be home for the evening. She's got her new best bud Pete with her and he and Miss Zoey have been romping about.
I hope everyone has a happy holiday...lots of tasty treats and a good and rewarding visit from Santa tonight.
Madam is throwing her annual Boxing Day do for her mates so I'll have some cooking and prep to do on Christmas Day. I'll have to open the store on Boxing Day at 545a so I will miss the house full of ladies (too bad!). Madam has chosen chicken curry for her menu with all the fixin's so it should be fun.
I've got rolls rising that should be about ready for the oven and we'll have Honey Baked ham, and other goodies for our Christmas Eve festivities. I've got to finish the deviled eggs and a few other chores before we get going.

Merry Christmas everybody!

BTW my Christmas present to myself was my resignation from Home Depot so even though I have two weeks to go my spirits are already lifted.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Healthcare, Here We Go

I changed my mind about signing up for health insurance through the ACA. The more I thought about it the more it seemed like taking too big a risk for the 8 months I wouldn't have any coverage before I'm eligible for Medicare. A serious problem could wipe out the savings I intend to supplement my SS with. The only hitch is that I need to call Home Depot quits. The extra income from the part time, soul sucking work puts me almost at the limit for any tax credits to help with the insurance premiums. Without the extra income I qualify for a little over 300 bucks in monthly tax credit towards the premium which equates to nearly half of the take home. Really a no brainer. I was already thinking of giving my notice and have almost done it several times. I've really only been working so I can get a minimal amount of health insurance.

So anyway I've signed up for a silver HMO plan that will hit me for a little over $200 a month and yes the deductible is $3,500 but at least I won't have to worry about something serious wiping my nest egg out. After the deductible the insurance is much better that what I had as a part time Home Depot.

So I will give my notice when I go in at 3pm today and rest assured I won't miss opening the store at 6am and closing at 10pm.

You may remember that I had been trying since the beginning to at least find out what kind of insurance I could get on the exchange and had completed the application part way back but hadn't been able to get to the part where I select insurance.  I had to delete all that old stuff and do a new application and it went through and I had insurance in about an hour of work. Now I just wait for the insurance folks to contact me so I can pay them.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Expensive Snacks

It was an expensive weekend around here. I was inattentive and left my hearing aids on my desk in their case but I left the case open. Zoey managed to snag the left one and chew it to bits. At least she didn't swallow the battery. A couple of grand down the tubes. Fortunately, it was still under warranty and a replacement will only cost me $250. She also managed to chew one my New Balance trainers pretty well. If she wasn't so cute I would be mad.  It is somewhat amazing how cat like she can be when she is determined to explore and get into mischief. She has obviously found her way onto my desk and we've found her on the kitchen counters and table. She has also discovered that she can travel around the den completely by leaping from chair to chair and couch and never touch the floor.

Full moon today and it is the Long Night Moon or the Winter Moon. If you have any magick to get done tonight is the night. Don't forget that the Winter Solstice is coming Saturday so you'll have two good chances this week to harness nature for a helping hand.

Still grinding away at the Home Depot and they are scheduling me mostly at night for the next couple of weeks. Last night I managed not to freeze in the garden center and tonight I am scheduled to supervise Self Check which is my least favorite thing. Watching stupid people do stupid things for 5 hours. I don't use the self check out ever and I can't see why people insist on it when there are live cashiers just a step or two away. They'll struggle to get the product scanned and usually wind up frustrating themselves for no reason. I'll have intervene over and over again when people have quantities of something and suddenly realize it means scanning each one or they have hardware with no barcode that can be scanned. You even have people trying to self checkout doors and appliances that they can't even lift. Major insanity.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Not For Me It Seems

A day off and Madam has planned a small dinner party for some friends moving out of state. Since it has been so cold and wintry I thought a nice stew would be a good easy meal. So I will spend the afternoon putting together a nice boeuf bourguignon and some nice  braised Brussels Sprouts glazed with a balsamic reduction. Normally you serve boiled potatoes with this stew but I am going with an egg pappardelle instead. A rustic French apple tart is going to be pudding. Going to be a nice afternoon putzing in the kitchen.

As for the title of the post....I've mentioned that I have been trying to get through the process and get some insurance to tide me over until September when I can enroll in Medicare. I still haven't been successful but with the changes to the website that kicked in 12/1 I can at least see what my options are here in Georgia. Turns out they are not so great. At my age and income I do qualify for a small subsidy but even with that I am looking at at $500 a month for a Silver plan and the plan has a $6,500 deductible. The best case scenario(I stay healthy) means a minimum out of pocket of $4,000 for the eight months and a worse case of  $10,500 if I get sick before I see any insurance. I am thinking I just have to risk not having insurance for those 8 months. I'm still stewing on it but I think that's the way I will go.

Everybody enjoy your Friday the Thirteenth and I am going to go cook. Working all weekend so it is likely quiet in these parts.

Monday, December 09, 2013

Old Fashioned Soft Molasses Cookies

Updated: Added the photo.

It's another cold and rainy day off. It has been like this for days and it is starting to wear thin. It is, however, coming the winter holiday season and I begin to think of cookies. One of my all time favorite cookies is from my mother who passed this recipe from her mother on to me and is a nice soft and spicy molasses cookie. Not really a very nuanced cookie but substantial and earthy from the molasses and some might think a little too spicy since it has a lot of ground ginger and cloves in it. Whatever, it is still one of my all time favorites and it makes a big batch so you can share.

Old Fashioned Soft Molasses Cookies

You'll need:

1/2 cup butter
1/2 vegetable shortening
1 1/2 cup granulated sugar plus a little more for rolling the cookies in
1/2 cup unsulphered molasses
2 large eggs slightly beaten
4 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
2 1/4 tsp baking soda
2 1/4 tsp ground ginger
1 1/2 tsp ground cloves
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon


In a large bowl cream butter, shortening and sugar and then beat in molasses and eggs. In another large bowl mix the dry ingredients with a wire whisk then add this to the butter mixture and mix well. Roll the dough into balls about 1 to 1 1/2 inch in diameter and then roll the balls in granulated sugar to coat. Place the balls on a cookie sheet and give them room to spread as they will flatten and spread as they cook. Bake a 350F for 10 to 12 minutes. Don't overcook these or they will get too hard.

Store tightly covered and if they start to get too crisp put a slice of apple in the can with them and they will stay soft.

The above recipe is the one from my mother but I just use a cup of unsalted butter instead. I also use extra large eggs when I bake. BTW use fresh spices and not those that have been in the cupboard for a couple of years. I am a Penzey's spice guy and I  think they are consistently the best available. If your ground spices are more than a  year old, toss them and get new.

Friday, December 06, 2013

This and That

Well, I've had two days off and its rained so no gardening. Instead I have been doing pretty much nothing. I did manage to get a batch of sourdough bread baked today and yesterday I baked cheese crackers in a continuing effort to make good cheese crackers at home...a work in progress. Cheesy but not thin enough or crunchy enough. It's supposed to rain through the weekend as well and I am scheduled for the garden center which is typical though it should be pretty quiet.

It has been interesting seeing the reaction to Nelson Mandela's passing especially from the right. Ted Cruz made the mistake of praising Mandela on Facebook and his already crazy followers went off the deep end. Rick Santorum likened Mandela's fight against apartheid to the GOP battle against Obamacare if you can believe it.

Anyhow, back to work tomorrow. Everyone have a great weekend.

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Judy Rodgers - Thanks

Unless you are a foodie like me it is likely you have never heard of the late Judy Rodgers, chef at the famous Zuni Cafe in San Francisco. I was lucky enough to eat there only once and it was memorable but more importantly it is people like Judy, who not only love food and cooking but truly cared about the food in its entirety.
The following is an excerpt from an interview done in 2004 (h/t Michael Ruhlman) that expresses how Judy considered food and cooking. It really resonates with me. Judy passed away Monday from cancer at the age of 57.

This from a 2004 conversation, before she became ill with cancer, says it all:
That’s what we’re up against, that it’s perceived as a triumph that you can get strawberries in January as opposed to a catastrophe. Not all choice is good. Even if the January strawberry tastes OK, even if you have a really good strawberry that’s organic, I still know you turned down other things for that to happen.
A lot of our culinary habits in this country developed after refrigeration and freezing and certain technologies were inexpensive, whereas most other old world countries’ culinary traditions evolved before you had all those things. And so you had dried apples—not to put in your Cheerios, you had dried apples so you had something to eat.
That’s something I can do is try to make the menu, as much as I can, reflect a lot of the natural rhythms of this part of the world and reflect that this used to be the way you would eat before you could cheat.
There are a lot of reason not to buy Chilean blueberries. Let’s do nuts or chocolate or dried fruit for dessert. Part of not getting tired of food and cooking is not having every option every day, it’s responding to your constraints.  You don’t have that much to work with, so you have to be more resourceful.  If I were in St. Louis, I’d have a different palate of flavors to play with. I’d probably be more aggressive about putting stuff up myself during the season.
And guess what?  That’s what culinary tradition is, making the harvest season last all year long. My God, the most unique holiday we have is Thanksgiving, it should be something that if you really ponder what Thanksgiving is all about, you would really understand food. But people think it’s about gluttony, as opposed to truly revering your great harvest celebration, and now put stuff up so you don’t starve over the winter. But people don’t think about it that way—here, it’s the beginning of the eating season.
Judy Rodgers, 1956–2013 obituary by Eric Asimov

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Still No on

Tried again this morning to get to the enrollment part of the process. All the eligibility stuff appears complete but still no plans are presented for me to evaluate. I tried the on line chat but really got nowhere with that other than a suggestion to call the 800 number. Not sure I will actually enroll but I would like to compare plans and costs just to see what it would be. I lose the minimum health plan with Home Depot on the first of January and while it was pretty crappy it was something. I will have Medicare next September and may just try the go without route for 8 months but I can't make that decision without some information on the plans available here in Georgia. I'll keep trying.

Buttermilk Pie

Here is the recipe for the Buttermilk Pie that I fixed over the Thanksgiving holiday.
Nothing complicated but it makes a very nice pie and is a nice change from the usual
fare. Rumor has it that it started with the Amish. As a note I use extra large eggs when I
am baking and I use whole buttermilk not the reduced fat.

You'll need:

1/2 cup butter melted
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 tablespoons flour
3 eggs, beaten
1 pinch salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup buttermilk
1 deep dish pie shell ( homemade or store bought)


Preheat oven to 400°F.
Beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at time and
beat until well mixed, add the vanilla and salt. Alternate adding the flour and buttermilk
while mixing and beat until smooth.
Pour into a deep dish pie shell and bake at 400F for 10 minutes, reduce heat to 350F and
bake for 50-60 additional minutes. It helps to bake pies on the lowest shelf of your oven
as it helps prevent a soggy crust. Pie should turn a nice golden brown and a knife
inserted should come out clean.