Three Thistles

A post on Offbeat Home got me thinking about going without a car. When I moved up here, I left my fantastic Subaru station wagon back home. I’d only owned the car for seven months, but it was really my favorite car out of my previous four. The versatility of the station wagon turned out to be a real boon. I hauled all sorts of things — glass-top table, someone else’s shelves at value village, loads of branches and log — without ever putting the seat down.

I bought the car because I needed a car of my own for a job, but before that I had gone without a car for two years. This worked out well for me, for a variety of reasons.First, I lived and worked in the boonies, where I used a work vehicle for transportation. Then, I worked a job where mass transit was clearly the better option. I was able to borrow people’s cars (or “car-share”, which sounds less freeloader-esque and more sharing-our-communal-resources-responsible.) Finally, it came to the point where I clearly needed a vehicle that I had control over it’s scheduling. Thus, the subey.

Once I arrived up north here, I had use of a gas-guzzling truck for a while, until my father-in-law fixed up a car for me. Then, the car broke. Did you know that AAA tows in Canada, too? So nice. Then, my bike broke. We live in town, albeit a small town, but I pretty much exclusively bike or walk around town. It’s not far, or hard, to get anywhere, but the bike cut my time way down. It just seems that much harder to get out when it takes three times as long to walk anywhere. Maybe I should get some heelys. Then I can complete the trifecta of brokenness by breaking my legs, too.

That bike, the broken bike, is the titular inspiration for this post. Seventeen years ago, my partner entered a local contest. The objective of the contest was to win said bike, and the method of accomplishing said objective was to collect three thistles. I will pause while you try to understand this. I myself do not.

Okay, enough time? So, my partner entered the contest. I should note, as a classic first-born who likes everything to be fair and who will totally tattle on you, that he did not, himself, collect the thistles. His father did. So, using these questionably-gained thistles, he then won a bike. This seems like a wildly unfair effort-to-reward situation. (Note: After review, my partner would like to point out that the contest was sponsored by a chemical company. He believes the company would be testing the thistles for chemical levels. I tell him this is both highly suspect and still seems like a disproportional work-to-prize contest. He tells me I am weird.)

However, when I entered the picture, many years later, I capitalized on the situation by reclaiming the bike from my now mother-in-law, who no longer rides bikes. This worked out well for everyone, until the bike needed $220 in repairs. The bike shop sells new, comparable bikes for $300. Yesterday, we bought a bike. Technically, it’s an early birthday present for me. Hooray!


google nonsense

Gmail ads are trying to sell me “Baby Rabbit Complement Tissue — Culture Grade, Low Endotoxin.” Best I can tell, this would be used for “bacteriocidal, cytotoxicity and depletion/purging assays especially in cancer, transplantation studies, and vaccine quality control and manufacturing.” What casual gmail user decides, Oh! Perfect! I’ve been looking for a new supplier for my vaccine manufacturing supplies?! And if the answer to that last question is you, then we are no longer friends.

Quick Update

Heeeey everybody! I know I keep telling some of you “I really need to blog more!” and then I never do. For those of you whom I don’t talk with often, here’s a quick-and-dirty of some parts of my life.

I’m in the process of applying for permanent residency here in Canada. It’s a long, boring process, with tons of paperwork and fees. Several weeks ago I made the gut-churning discovery that my passport is missing. So that was fun. I made a trip to the nearest US Consulate to obtain a replacement, and let me tell you, security there is no joke. I had to throw away my lip gloss. The Consulate is in Calgary, 4 hours from here, which seemed like a big deal until I realized that it’s the Consulate that serves all of Alberta, Saskatchewan, and the Northwest Territories. So, I could have had to drive upwards of 25 hours (and that’s just from Yellowknife to Calgary), if we lived much farther north. Brian’s sister lives in Calgary, so I was able to drive up the night before and stay with her. The Consulate was efficient and quick; I had my replacement passport mailed to me within a week of my appointment.

Had a car, but it broke. On the side of the highway at night. When I was alone. Now I have a big fuel-sucking truck. Around town I almost exclusively bike or walk (it’s a 6 minute bike ride from our house to the main street). Then my bike broke, but now it’s sort-of fixed. As long as my legs don’t break…

Last week I mailed off some forms for immigration purposes. Included were credit card payment forms. Two days later the bank called Brian to tell him his credit card had been stolen. The subsequent cancelling of that credit card set off a flurry of faxes and phone calls to the places I’d mailed those forms to, letting them know about the updated payment information. I cannot speak highly enough of the courtesy and helpfulness of the various people I spoke to at the FBI. Short wait times (or none at all — if you call FBI headquarters, someone picks up on the first ring. Every time. They may also tell you “Oh, bless you heart, child!” when you pour out your sad story.).

I’m working on several creative projects — a large mural in the nursery at Brian’s church, spiffing up the guest bedroom/art room (it wasn’t an art room until I moved in :-), some gardening, and of course the perpetual rearranging of the house.

The Centennial Celebration for our town is coming up at the end of June. I’m involved with the ecumenical service, and am excited for the weekend in general. If you’ll be in town, let us know!

Until my permanent residency application is approved (which could take up to 18 months) I won’t be leaving Canada. Leaving would be fine, but getting back in might not be so easy, so that’s not a risk I’m willing to take. I miss Seattle, and my bio family, and my church family, like crazy. Our town is small, and the population leans towards baby boomers and older. Most people my age work (something else I can’t do while I’m in this immigration holding pattern), and many have kids as well. Those factors make it that much harder to meet new friends.

Please ask any questions you have in the comments, and I promise I’ll answer!

Bacon Jalepeno Skillet Cornbread and Cheater’s Pot Roast Stew

So maybe posting something I’m calling Cheater’s Stew on Valentine’s Day sends the wrong message. Not to worry, this recipe will enhance, not harm your relationship. It’s so easy and has minimal hands-on time, giving lots of time for… other things. Mopping the floor, for instance.

When you make a pot roast with root vegetables (in this case, carrots, potatoes, and parsnips), freeze the leftovers. Now, leftover pot roast is pretty darn good on its own. But if you want something different yet delicious, try this: Grab your leftovers out of the freezer. Defrost just enough that you can dump everything into an oven-proof pot. Pour a large can of crushed tomatoes over the top. Add one big clove of crushed garlic. Put the lid on. This goes in your oven at 300 degrees. Don’t bother with preheating the oven. Just let the pot simmer simmer simmer, lid nice and tight, for about 2 hours. Check it out. Use the back of a big spoon to smash up any big pieces of veggies. Smoos any big pieces of meat too. If it’s getting too thick or dry, add some water or beer or wine or stock, whatever delicious liquid you like. Put it back in the oven for another hour or so. Taste a little, and add salt and pepper as needed. Maybe some paprika too. There you go: Cheater’s Pot Roast Stew.

Since you’ve got all this time while the stew is cooking, and you’ve probably worked up an appetite… mopping, you should make something to go with it. Make some Bacon Jalapeno Skillet Cornbread.

Bacon Jalapeno Skillet Cornbread

adapted from Joy of Cooking

6 slices bacon
1 cup cornmeal
1/2 cup corn flour (Use 1 1/2 cups cornmeal total if you don’t have corn flour)
3/4 cup flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 large eggs, beaten
1 cup milk or milk substitute
2 pickled jalapeno slices, or more for spicier cornbread

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. In a 10-inch cast iron skillet, cook the bacon over medium heat until nice and crispy. Set the bacon slices aside.

Whisk together the cornmeal, corn flour, flour, baking powder, and salt.

Pour the bacon grease that’s in the cast iron skillet into a bowl and whisk in the milk and then the eggs. Pour this wet mixture into the dry mixture and quickly mix to combine, but do not over mix. Crumble the bacon into the bowl, and dice the jalapeno into the bowl. Kitchen scissors work well for both of these jobs, and then you don’t have to wash a cutting board.Stir briefly to combine

Pour the batter back into the cast iron skillet and bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until brown on top. Serve right away.


Lunch of the Week

Instead of making lunches at lunch time, or even the night before, it’s so much easier for me to prep a few containers on the weekend and grab one to go throughout the week. I LOVE deli salads, and the hot weather makes them perfect for nutritious chilled meals. These ready-to-go options help me up my veggie intake, too.

This week’s meals: Chicken-Cabbage-Peanut Sauce Slaw, and Roasted Summer Veg and Seafood Jumble. Short names? No. Lots of flavor? Yes.

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