Tuesday, January 31, 2017

The strangest ad I ever saw

While continuing my ongoing deep purging of odd nooks and crannies around the house, I came across something I'm very glad I kept: an advertisement.

Let me first give you the backstory. Back in 1981, as a college student, once in awhile I would pick up an issue of Mother Earth News. This was still when the periodical was in its hippy-dippy days, and amongst all the information on how to create tie-die sheets and other fashion challenges, it had a great Personals section in the back. My friends and I would read these Personal ads out loud to each other, highlighting the crunchy-organic requirements ("soul-sister" "vegetarian" "acupressure") along with the serious ("family-oriented" "lonely" "must love children").

So one day I picked up the May/June 1981 issue of Mother Earth News...

...and proceeded to read the ads out loud to my roommates. Suddenly I came across a Personal ad that was so startling, so jaw-dropping, so freaky-weird, that we couldn't believe it was real. I ended up tearing out the page and tacking it to our apartment bulletin board.

All now, these years later, I found the torn-out sheet. The ad still qualifies as the freakiest, weirdest ad I ever saw:
"Want young lady as a personal associate and companion to a financially secure married woman on a Pacific island mountainside estate whose lifestyle is reclusive, private, sheltered, and who enjoys nature, gardening, cooking, and wifely duties. Most of the amenities, social graces, and high-class living available and expected. So there will be no misunderstandings, look to the dictionary for the definitions of associate and companion. Girl must be educated, mousey, quiet, shy, reclusive, preferably Caucasian; young, healthy and of small frame, about 115 lbs. No drugs or religious freaks. Send full-length pictures in various attire along with very complete statistics of self. Personal interview, complete medical checkup, and trial period will be required. Compensation for this job will be minimal wage, room and board."
What the ...?

Mousey? Small frame? Full-length photos in various attire? What...?

My roommates jokingly urged me to apply (I fit most of the requirements), and the budding writer in me spent a long time pondering what on earth the true purpose an advertisement like this could be. My speculation was they were looking for a surrogate womb, a sort of The Handmaid's Tale (an ugly, freaky read if there ever was one).

All these years later, I have no better explanation. There is no possible way to follow up, of course.

And this, dear readers, qualifies as the strangest ad I ever saw -- bar none.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Friday Roundup

Here's our weekly "Friday" Roundup (okay, I know it's Sunday) in which we list whatever we did during the week, big or small, that inched us toward increased self-sufficiency or self-reliance. Keeping in mind it's still very snowy (limiting what we can accomplish outdoors), here's what we did:

• Don chaired the community crab feed, held on Saturday. It was a ton of work (largely because he had such short notice) but it went well.

There were moments he had to grit his teeth and remember "community" is the third leg of preparedness's three-legged stool. Nonetheless he was impressed by how many people pitched in to help, including donating items to the auction held after the dinner. Despite the workload and the short notice, it's times like this when we realize how fortunate we are to live in a community that's responsive, engaged, and civic-minded.

• We discussed future plans. We talked about taking a road trip to meet readers, see parts of the country, and learn what preparedness efforts others are doing; we talked about doing podcasts (suggestions for topics are always welcome); we talked about writing options and opportunities. Goals are good!

• I continued my sorting, organizing, and purging, including some papers from my very young childhood.

In sorting through some childish drawings, I came across this startling example:

Under my name is the teacher's handwriting, which says "The capsule landed in the water." Since there's a "7" on the capsule, I can only assume this is from the Apollo 7 capsule which splashed down in the Atlantic Ocean on October 22, 1968. I would have just turned six years old at that time. How glad I am my mother tucked this drawing away!

That's about it for us. What did everyone else do this week?

Friday, January 27, 2017

Store-bought vs. homemade

This week I took a run to the wholesale grocer in Spokane to make a huge bulk purchase. A group in a nearby town is putting on a community crab feed this weekend, and Don was (ahem) informed at the last minute he was the chair of the event. He's been busting fanny for the last two weeks to make sure the dinner and subsequent auction runs smoothly.

I was tasked with purchasing the bulk food items (everything but the crab). Armed with a detailed list, off I went.

One of the items on the list simply said, "6 boxes 'Cheddar Bay' biscuits.'" However no such item was found at the wholesale store, and the clerks weren't familiar with it.

After leaving the wholesale grocer, I went to WinCo to pick up one item for ourselves (apples) when I happened to glance at the walls of boxed goods on display near the front entrance. And there it was: Red Lobster Cheddar Bay biscuit mix. It wasn't the bulk packaging normally needed for a community-wide event, so I called Don and asked how many of these he wanted me to get (since each box only made 10 biscuits). He suggested 25 boxes. I purchased 27 -- two boxes for ourselves -- since I was curious how this compared to my homemade version.

You see, many years ago -- in fact, just as I found I was pregnant with Older Daughter -- I waitressed for a few months at the Red Lobster restaurant in Medford, Oregon (a fine establishment; they treated their employees very well). I also learned how tough it is to be a waitress, and ever since we have unfailingly tipped very generously whenever we eat out. (Please treat your server well.)

The biscuits they served at the restaurant were absolutely delicious. I'm not surprised they started selling a boxed version.

But many years ago I also found a copycat recipe for these biscuits, which I make frequently. I was curious to compare the boxed version with my homemade ones, hence the purchase (it cost $1.98/box, by the way).

According to the directions, I needed to grate some cheese, add water, and melt some butter. These are drop biscuits, so they don't have to be rolled and cut.

In other words, with the boxed version, I still needed to grate the cheese and melt the butter. The only time-savings was having the other ingredients pre-mixed.

The biscuits came out a bit light for my taste (I could have kept them in the oven a few more minutes to darken).

While the biscuits were baking, I heated butter on the stove, and added their packet of flavoring (largely onion and garlic powder).

As soon as the hot biscuits came out of the oven, I double-brushed them with the flavored butter.

The verdict? Good, but not as good as homemade. "They taste almost the same, but when you bite into them, there's no substance," said Younger Daughter.

So it looks like I won't be substituting the boxed stuff for the homemade version any time soon. For those interested in making homemade garlic cheese biscuits, here's the recipe (which I always double; cold biscuits are still pretty durned good):

Dry ingredients:
2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 tablespoon baking powder
(mix thoroughly)

Wet ingredients:
1 cup milk
2 teaspoons sugar
1/3 cups mayonnaise

Mix wet and dry ingredients together, then add:
4 ounces shredded cheddar cheese

Drop spoonfuls into bumpy mounds on baking sheet. Bake at 350F for 22-26 minutes (depending on how dark you like them). Immediately brush with garlic butter.

(My original blog post on garlic-cheese biscuits is here.)

Bottom line: The boxed biscuit mix is good -- but not as good as the copycat recipe we use. I'll continue to make them from scratch. However, kudos to Red Lobster for boxing a decent product.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Sigh. Another icon, gone

Mary Tyler Moore passed away today. Very very sad.

She's best remembered, of course, for the Dick Van Dyke show...

...as well as the Mary Tyler Moore show.

But I've always had a special fondness for her in Thoroughly Modern Millie, even though it was a wildly un-PC movie.

Sigh. Another icon, gone. Rest in peace, Mary.

Those thrilling moose

When we moved to Idaho in June of 2003, the one thing I couldn't wait to see was a moose.

Why? I don't know. Maybe because they didn't exist in the parts of California or Oregon where we had previously resided. Maybe because the biologist in me has always loved ungulates of all types, and moose were kind of my "last frontier" of ungulate sightings. Whatever the reason, I really really really wanted to see a moose.

But the years went by, and no moose were to be seen -- at least by me. Don saw some. Older and Younger Daughters saw some. My parents, up visiting, saw some. But me? Zip, zilch, nada, nothing.

It got to the point of teasing. Any time a friend or neighbor spotted the elusive critter, they would call me up with glee. "Guess what I just saw?"

A few years ago, as a continuation of this ongoing dearth, Don gave me a little moose statue for Christmas. I keep it on the small shelf over the kitchen sink where I can see it daily. I -- stinkin' -- love this little moose statue.

Nonetheless, over the past 14 years I've managed to see a few rare glimpses of a moose. Rare is the key word; I'm thrilled whenever I see them.

The other day, Younger Daughter and I were heading toward town when we saw what at first we thought was a horse dash off our road and into the bramble. You guessed it.

He (or she -- without antlers it was hard to tell) looked at us calmly from behind the screen of bushes. My camera kept focusing on the branches rather than on the animal behind them, and in my haste I couldn't switch to manual focus in time, so most photos were blurry. Much of the time, all I saw were ears poking up over a snow mound.

By far the best (lucky) shot was this one:

All too soon, he made his way over an embankment and out of sight. Ah well, it was sweet for the few moments we saw him.

Love those thrilling moose! But since they're such a rare sight (at least for me), most of the time I'll have to be satisfied with my little moose statue.

Monday, January 23, 2017

The sword of Damocles, North Idaho-style

Some of you may be familiar with the Sword of Damocles, defined as "an allusion to the imminent and ever-present peril faced by those in positions of power":
According to the story, Damocles was pandering to Dionysius, his king, and exclaimed to him that Dionysius was truly fortunate as a great man of power and authority, surrounded by magnificence. In response, Dionysius offered to switch places with Damocles so that Damocles could taste that very fortune firsthand. Damocles quickly and eagerly accepted the king's proposal. Damocles sat down in the king's throne surrounded by every luxury, but Dionysius arranged that a huge sword should hang above the throne, held at the pommel only by a single hair of a horse's tail. Damocles finally begged the king that he be allowed to depart because he no longer wanted to be so fortunate, realizing that with great fortune and power comes also great danger.

For the last few days, our sub-zero temperatures have risen above freezing, resulting in slushy conditions. It also means snow has been sliding off metal roofs, often with an enormous "whoosh-WHOMP" as hundreds of pounds of snow dumps off. Obviously roofs with the steepest pitch dump first; roofs with a shallower pitch take longer and often result in long curls of snow before the weight breaks it off and it dumps to the ground.

A couple mornings ago I went out to fill the water tank behind the barn. The snow was slowly sliding off the roof, and the overhang was at least two feet.

A bunch of snow had already dumped off, burying the water tap, which I dug out.

But I was working directly under the snowy sword of Damocles. Here I'm looking up, just waiting for the snow shelf to break off and bury me.

Needless to say, while the tank was filling, I stood well away from the tap.

Fortunately I escaped the dump.

Two hours later, I heard a mighty "whoosh-WHOMP." Down came about half the snow, which completely buried the tap. I dug it out again.

It partially blocked the stall where Matilda and her calf get shelter, so I had to dig them out.

Later the rest of the snow slid off and re-buried the tap even deeper. Wheee.

Sigh. Had to dig out the tap yet again.

But this time there's no more snow. This dig-out should last awhile.

No new snow on the horizon, at least in any appreciable quantity. No more digging. (Yeah right.) No more swords of Damocles.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Last chance for Back to Basics Bundle

This is the last chance to participate in the Back to Basics Bundle. It ends at 10 pm Central time.

(I hunted around and actually managed to figure out how to insert a countdown clock -- aren't you proud of me? -- but of course it's a free demo doohickey.)

To learn what kind of nifty info is included in this bundle, click here.

Pretty nifty stuff if you're into the whole simple living/homesteading/self-sufficiency thing, as we are. Thanks and happy reading!

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Friday roundup

Yeah, I know it's Saturday; but nonetheless, time for our newly-reinstated Friday Roundup in which we list whatever we did during the week, big or small, that inched us toward increased self-sufficiency or self-reliance.

It's winter, so things are still slow as far as what we can get done, but we've done a few things this week:

• We bought wood since we're gearing up for a production run of tankards.

We're in the early stages of getting ready to sell the business, which -- who knows? -- might become a home-based business for someone else.

• I've continued my slow but steady progress in eradicating the unnecessary. This week I tackled our enormous file boxes of old tax records. You wouldn't believe how far back some of these files went went; how about 1997?

With the blessings of our tax preparer, I cleaned out twelve years' worth of old tax files, records, canceled checks, and other supporting flotsam and jetsam (you can see the enormous pile of discarded paperwork in front of Lydia). The only think I kept were the taxes themselves (one folder per year). When the snow melts off, we'll hold a burn party and send the ashes to the earth.

That's about it for us. How about you? What have you done this week, big or small, to increase your self-sufficiency?

(Reminder: If you're interested in ordering the Back to Basics Bundle, tomorrow is the last day.)

For those in high places...

As the events of Inauguration Day unfolded yesterday morning, I found myself in the barn doing the usual morning chores.

I gave the chickens their feed and refilled their waterers. I cleaned the stall where elderly Matilda and her calf are spending a lot of time. I fed them. I filled the livestock water tank. I fed the rest of the livestock. And I thought about Trump taking office.

Literally a world of responsibilities now rest upon his shoulders (I pray he allows himself to be guided by God in handling those responsibilities). And I gave thanks those responsibilities are not mine.

Some people in high office (Hillary comes to mind) may look down upon those of us who shovel cow patties around for a living, but I vastly prefer these humble duties. There are those born to rule others, and those born to rule only themselves. I am firmly of the latter, not the former.

The decisions of a president can affect millions of lives. The decisions of a north Idaho housewife affect very few.

Just some thoughts on a winter morning.