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Ride the Bus; Conserve $$$$

In the January, 2010 issue of Today's Woman (Zion Publications LLC, Louisville, KY, USA), columnist Kimberly Krum has told of her venture into serious budget-tightening. Prior to this, she mentioned, "My idea of saving fuel is cruise control. My idea of saving money is the sales rack at Von Maur [department store]." But she pinched her nose and squinched her eyes shut, and plunged into the depths of savings:

She rode the city bus for the first time.

Kimberly Crum, I salute you.

"I am a pampered woman with good credit, disposable income, and an automobile that will get me where I wish to go." she said.

But she journeyed far outside her comfort zone to take advantage of a service she pays for in part anyway: some of our local tax dollars go to support public transportation; only 14% of the cost of their operation is covered by fares. She rides once a week to save on gas and carbon dioxide.

Kimberly Crum, thank you for being a leader and showing others the way. Thank you for writing about it in Today's Woman. When you haven't ridden the bus before, it can be daunting. But it is well worth it.

When you get used to doing it once a week, you might consider doing it every day. Then you can stack up the savings times five!

And more! If you leave your car at home instead of driving it to work, you don't have to pay for parking. You don't have to pay for gas. You even have the option of using your "little ticket"--the Stop and Go bus transfer to stop at the grocery on the way home and pick up a gallon of milk and a loaf of bread. That eliminates another trip by car. You do get up to 2 hours of transfer time on your transfer, and that gives you time to browse as well. How many of us really take more than 2 hours at a store without our eyes crossing?

Kimberly Crum described her experience: she watched geese fly overhead and then saw all the drivers looking straight ahead while on their cell phones while she indolently imbibed her own Diet Coke and read her magazine. You can't sip a Diet Coke and read a magazine in a car. You can on a bus and leave the driving to the bus driver.

When I first rode the bus seriously (that is, when I didn't have a car anymore), the transition was hard. But over time I noticed something: life slowed down for me. I no longer have to rush anywhere. When I wait on the bus, I don't get anxious about when it comes (most times). While I'm on it, I don't worry about the time, because the bus is on a set schedule, pretty well guaranteed to be on time. The bus service is always tracking the time it takes to go from one major stop to the next, so in this way they continuously plan the bus itineraries to make them more true to the traffic. So while I'm on the bus, I don't have to look at my watch wondering if I'll make it on time. Either I will or I won't. If I get the right bus, I will. If I don't, I won't.

I like not having road rage. There's nothing to road rage about. The bus driver takes care of it all. With 10,430 Kg (that's 23,571.8 pounds--or 11 tons) compared with a mere 5 tons for an average car, you really don't have to worry much even about a crash if, Heaven forbid, it should happen. No car would really survive it, while the bus would probably hardly feel it.

Besides: the bus drivers are excellent drivers. Much better than you or I.

I figured it out one time that in order to park my car, I'd be paying $4 per day (insurance). To drive it, that's probably $30/wk for gas and $0.25/mile wear and tear on the car. Then $25 per quarter oil change at the Valvoline, and maybe $50-100 maintenance each year besides (just guessing). How much was that I was paying? (I figure I'd drive about a thousand miles per month--just a guess.) Let's see, I came up with a figure about $361 per month.

$361 per month is a lot of money. That's some families' grocery budget.
A lot of money for convenience and status. A bus pass is just a little over 1/10th that cost. ($42 at present.)

At the end of a year, if she didn't have a car, she could have saved up enough for a downpayment on a small house. Or a home improvement loan.

Kinda makes you think.

Online Food Resources, continued

There's No Substitute for Good Cooking!

However, there's a great site for substitutions!

http:www.foodsubs.com is the site of The Cook's Thesaurus, an online database full of food information: how to cook it, and--most useful to me--how to substitute one food for another.

Sometimes I find it very hard to cook a recipe because I don't have the specialized ingredient. (Or several!)

A consummate cook might always have a bottle of sherry on hand for flavoring (and maybe other things) or a baker a flask of rum, but I don't keep alcohol around my house, and if I did, I don't use it regularly like--say--the Cooking Cajun might.

I've been looking at my book, Everybody's Wokking by Martin Yan (of Yan Can Cook on PBS), and I wanted to do some red cooking. Fortunately, a lot of the sauces Yan uses are usable for many different occasions. Red cooking sauce can be gathered up after cooking one meat and used to cook another meat. Some sauces even gain more character and flavor the more they are used. (This is assuming they don't get used up!)

But I didn't (and don't have) dark soy sauce. I don't have sherry. So I paged through the book to see if there was something else to do. I got one or two ideas, but even they were a bit out of reach.

However! The Cook's Thesaurus showed me that I could substitute balsamic vinegar (I'll use balsamic vinaigrette) for the sherry.

It doesn't have a substitute for dark soy sauce (which Yan says has a different flavor), so at this point--til I can get to the Asian grocery--I will have to just do with regular soy sauce.

It's funny, but I don't have brown sugar right now. (I knew I should have got some yesterday at the grocery.) I do have white sugar. And I have molasses. These are the two products you get when you refine brown sugar. On The Cook's Thesaurus site, it showed me how I could proportion my molasses with white sugar to get the proper flavor.

And remember my previous post about using molasses to round out my rice pudding? Same thing.

So now I have the ingredients I need for red cooking. (And for some reason in all this I did have star anise!)

I took an excursion through the Internet to land on the site of this wonderful cook's tool, and it saved me a trip to the grocery, which can cost a person at least a dollar a trip (wear and tear on the car and exorbitant gasoline prices). It postponed the expense of the brown sugar ($2) and allowed me to skirt the sherry altogether. A bottle of sherry can be $10 while a (store brand) bottle of balsamic vinaigrette costs me sometimes no more than $1. I adore balsamic vinaigrette. It and basil make everything yummy. It pays to like the inexpensive stuff. I'll get these ingredients later on, but it does postpone them to the next pay day.

I milk the Internet for all it's worth to find gems like The Cook's Thesaurus. It helps me make the most of the odds and ends I have. When I can do that, I don't have to overspend for new ingredients before I'm ready.

Answer: none, but it sure sounds good!


Stomp’s signature piece with brooms



Who handles scores of trash cans at work but gets no garbage collected?

Answer:  Stomp
Here is their Signature piece with trash cans. Watch for the guy with the trash can lids! (2 parts)






Stomp is...

and here's one of my favorites: a piece with Zippo lighters: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TNUEbR6MSY0


Inspection Come and Gone

It's only a spot inspection, a HUD inspection. They pick several apartments, but they don't tell which ones they will pick. I spent all last night putting the final touches on my apartment so that if it happens to be mine, I'll be ready.

But the day of inspection has come and gone, and, as usual, mine was not picked. So I can sit back and enjoy a nice clean apartment, even though I didn't have to stand for inspection.

Bits and Pieces

I'm taking a break from cleaning my apartment for inspection tomorrow, and while I do that, I'll take a moment to list the things that are in my life, right now.

1. I am editing my novel and have 8 pages left to edit before polishing up the format for sending it to a publisher. I will do that last 8 pages tomorrow, while I'm waiting for the inspecting people to come. Since it is a spot inspection (no one knows what apartments will be inspected), then I will wait all day for an inspection that might not come. Perfect opportunity to get this done.

2. I have a new printer from HP that is light, compact, and "all-in-one." I have printed color and black and white on it and scanned a few pictures into it. It does very well, and the color is good.

3. I have a new camera, a Pentax digital that I love. It does much more than my last camera did at half the price of my old camera. When the weather lets up, I will probably have more opportunity to take pictures.

4. I found out that my grocery sells camera media as much as CD-R's and flash drives. I can go to the grocery and pick up a flash media with 1G for 1/3 the price I paid for 512MB. I can get--and have got--a 1G SD card for my camera for less than what I would pay in other logical places.

5. I'm almost finished with my crocheted shell blouse. It needs one more shoulder piece, and I will be ready to join the sides. I hope it fits. If it doesn't, I'll just have to start over with a different size.

6. I fill up on doctored-up rice when I need something to fill up, on. Right now, I've doctored it with chicken base, garlic, and peas. Sometimes I've put zucchini pieces in it.

7. I am going to make some Chinese dishes in the next couple of days from Everybody's Wokking, by Martin Yan of the show, "Yan Can Cook."

8. My newsletter is finished for the first quarter, and I don't start working on it again till February.

9. I stink at knitting.

10. I crocheted a very nice hat!

11. I know two songs on the piano for my church, now!

12. I want to learn Japanese, and I'm thinking of going to the cultural center called the Crane House to learn there. Cheaper tuition than at University.

13. I have a picture to put up.

14. My friend sent me a Webkinz stuffed animal, and I'm enjoying playing with her and her daughters!

That's all I can think of right now.

Talking about the Weather...

This is part of a weather advisory that came up for my area:

The National Weather Service in Louisville has issued a wind chill advisory...

… Arctic air will bring plunging temperatures after midnight across our area...winds that will gust as high as 30 mph at times. Temperatures will fall…into the lower teens across the bluegrass area. Resultant wind chills will fall towards -10 degrees....

…Some sub-zero lows are possible across parts of the Bluegrass Region and Southern Indiana.

Al Gore, where are you when we need you?

Borscht Highs and Lows

I finally made my borscht, and it is a lovely, lovely beet soup! Ahhhh! Delicious and a half!

I have found, though, that not all veggies are created equal, and, for me, cabbage is not a dark, green, leafy vegetable. Indeed, the one I used was almost completely white. (They were all like that at the store.)

I love borscht, but because of the cabbage, it doesn't like me. And I'm desperately eating my kale (steamed, with balsamic vinegar--yummy!) to see if it cannot stem the battle going on inside me. I have been to the store tonight (where a bunch of kale is a thrifty $1.00!) and purchased reinforcements.

It's a matter of balance, y'know. I still have a significant amound of borscht left, but, like Alice, if I eat a little of this side and then a little of that side, I might meet a happy medium in the middle. (That is, if I jump from a Lewis Carroll book--Alice's Adventures in Wonderland--to a Madeleine L'Engle book--A Wrinkle in Time.)


I Made a Hat!

I have been losing my winter accessories all over the place!


I bought a new pair of blue stretch gloves and I lost one. I used my old pair of stretch gloves and I lost one of those! Then I lost my hat! So I am 3 for 3, now.


I’m hoping that my losing streak is at an end, now. It should be, now that I made myself a hat. It is the first garment that I have completed, and I thank Michaels craft store for putting out a book with it in there!


Here’s a picture of me in the hat:


Pretty cool, what what?
I used Lion Brand Homespun yarn, and the pattern is in
The Michaels Book of Needlecrafts, Lark Books,
New York, 2005.


It comes down over my ears, too!

I Have Gingersnaps, Now!

Well, I finally got a batch of cookies made! I made some ginger snaps--the first time for this recipe and this oven, and I burned about half of them trying to figure out how long to bake them. It calls for 10 minutes; they need eight.

When Dad made toast and it scorched, he just scraped off the top layer of black singe and ate the rest. It's hard to scrape a cookie.

No, it is not the instrument; it is the user. Whenever I try a new recipe or a new oven, I have to get the right combination. 10 minutes might work fine in a giant range; but in my tiny oven, it just doesn't. In fact, it seems most cookies I bake in it need only about 7-8 minutes. Oh, well; live and learn.

But now I have gingersnaps that I've been craving all month!   Next is a gingerbread house (unless I make gingerbread bears first). Do you get the idea I'm craving gingerbread?

But this will be the first gingerbread house I will have made. The houses are small and simple. No, I'm not making my own icing. Why make a mess trying to figure out how to dispense icing without a bag when I can get a ready-made squeezy-tube with a perfect tip? Why bother? I just want to make the house, not learn architecture cuisine.

So I am a happy camper tonight!

Plenty of Friendship

I have baked my first loaves of Friendship Bread. If I hadn't misread and put the oven temperature up 50 degrees too high (375 instead of 325), they would have been perfect. As it is, they are delicious on the inside with a "burnt-marshmallow" crust on the outside. Ha!

The recipe is forgiving, too. I waited a day later than I should, but it all baked out well.

So far, there are no takers on the extra starters I now have, so I put one in the freezer to see how that does in hibernation for later. The rest I'm taking care of for the next time or for when somebody wants a starter. I think at the beginning of the year I will have starter out my ears!

There is one thing that I did not anticipate at the store: the 2 small boxes of Jell-o pudding. I got the frosting for the gingerbread house I intend to make, and I got sour gummies for decorations--wreaths and all--but I forgot the pudding mix.

So I was on the phone and online to try to find out a substitute. It couldn't be hard; most of it was sugar. But I knew there was flour--or rather, I found out from my brother-in-law, it was corn starch. No problems. So he talked me through how his mom used to make it from scratch, and I took the ingredients down (mostly sugar!) to add to my mix.

The dry ingredients he gave me were:

1/2 cup sugar
2 tblsp cornstarch
1 tsp vanilla

(and these would go in 2 cups of milk)

So I doubled the dry ingredients (and cut back a little on the vanilla) and dumped it in. It worked very well.

Adventures in cooking!

My favorite health food store is having cooking classes (how to cook frugally! That ought to be good!), so maybe I'll learn to be a better cook.

What with this cooking class, the photography meetup, and the writers group meetup (and another group to follow up with, too!), I'm in the process of "getting a life!"

Wish me luck!



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