Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Direct hit

In the summer of 2011, Oscar and I had a near miss with a skunk. Fortunately there was no spray involved.

Last night Oscar wasn't so lucky.  He evidently found a lurker in our backyard when I let him out at 11pm.

By the time he came in it was clear there was something amiss.  Quite clear.

If it had been a summer night, at that late hour I might have considered putting him in the garage for the night.  But as it was well below freezing, there was nothing to do but bring him inside.  I did some surface cleaning with warm water and dishwashing liquid, which helped reduce the smell a bit, then told him goodnight and went upstairs to bed.  Because he's afraid of stairs, the only way Oscar gets upstairs is if I carry him.  Even though he slept on his living room bed last night, I was still aware of him, as the forced air heat wafted top notes of skunk through the ducts. 

Today I had to be in the city for the day, and the groomer doesn't open before I had to catch a train (and was unlikely to be able to take him anyway with her busy schedule) and would be closed when I got home.  So I went to a large chain pet store this evening to see what kind of product I should buy to bathe Oscar.  I got some great advice from one of the groomers.  "Don't tell anyone you got this from me, but use baking soda, hydrogen peroxide, and dishwashing liquid."  And she recommended a rubber-tipped scrubber to help work the solution into his fur.

I had seen a recipe along those lines on the Internet but wouldn't have tried it if she hadn't suggested it: a ratio of a quart of hydrogen peroxide, a cup of baking soda, and a tablespoon of dishwashing liquid (I used about a quarter of these measurements). Mix and apply, being very careful around the eyes; leave on for 3 to 5 minutes, then rinse and wash with a pet friendly shampoo.

 Lying between my feet while the hair dryer is employed

 Almost dry

Oscar was pretty well behaved during the slow process.  After a long session with the hair dryer, he's looking almost himself again.  And smelling much, much better.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

More improvement

While I'm off enjoying my weekend with my sister Carlie and other family, here's my latest electric usage graph:

Last time my electric bill showed me using 5% less electricity 
than my efficient neighbors.

This time:  25% less electricity than my efficient neighbors.

My only guess is because this date range of late November to late December falls in the Holiday Lights season, my use of LED warm white lights outside and inside is what is driving this bigger difference in energy use.
Most houses in the neighborhood were still using strings of 
conventional incandescent lights.

I'm curious what next month's bill will show.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

My Monopoly partner

A serious game of Monopoly
with my older and younger sisters

My older sister is arriving at my parents' today for a weekend visit.

Always organized, she suggested two different weekend dates,
one to be a back-up if the weather on the first date
proved unsuitable for the five hour drive.

Lucky for us the sun is shining, so she is on her way,
and we don't have to wait until next month for her visit.

Can't wait to see her!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

My Valentines

In 2008 I wrote about the first Valentine I got from Gerrit, 
20 years earlier.

And this year is my first Valentine's Day without him.
It's harder than I expected.

Oscar doesn't realize it, but he's my Valentine.

And last night, after I got home from picking up Oscar 
at my parents' house
where I had left him while I was at church,
I found this waiting for me in my in-box.

My wonderful dad, my not-so-secret admirer,
makes the cards he and my mom give for birthdays
and other special occasions.

I wouldn't be surprised if everyone in the family got this image.
Which doesn't take one iota of love away from this one.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Cold brewed coffee

There is a lot of info on the internet about cold brewing coffee
(most related to making it for iced coffee or to have an acid-reduced cup of coffee), 
so after reading and video-watching, 
I've come up with a process that works for me.

My goal was to stop buying instant coffee
(since I couldn't find a fair trade version 
without a lot of packaging)
to use in my morning milk/coffee/chocolate drink.

Because I need something concentrated, 
I turned to cold brewing.

And because I didn't want to a) invest in more equipment (grinder, special cold brewers, filters, carafes), b) produce something in great volume (I only need it for my breakfast), or c) end up with stuff I had to throw away (like cheesecloth) rather than compost, I started with ground coffee and equipment I already have on hand.

The grind of the coffee should be suitable for a drip coffee maker, not a fine grind used in an espresso maker.  From what I've read, the finer grind produces too much bitterness in the cold brew process.  And if you're using a Toddy (a brewer specifically for cold brewing), you must use a coarser grind (like for a French Press) or it will clog their filter.

Weigh 4 oz. ground coffee into a container.

Add 2 1/4 cups (18 fluid oz) filtered water and stir to fully mix.

Cover and store in the refrigerator 12 to 15 hours.

Spoon into a coffee filter set into a funnel over a container...

and let drain 15-30 minutes.

At the end of the draining time, 
press the grounds with the back of a spoon
to extract as much of the coffee concentrate as possible. 
(Then the paper filter and used grounds can be composted 
with your other kitchen scraps.)

 Store concentrate, covered, in the refrigerator 
for up to 2 to 3 weeks.
I use an old salad dressing jar - 
it's glass and the right size.

I found 3 Tbsp or 1 1/2 fluid oz. of concentrate to about 8 oz. of skim milk gives me a similar flavor to the tablespoon of instant coffee I had been using.  However, everything I read suggested a more generous ratio of 1 part concentrate to 3 parts water or milk (hot or cold, depending on what you are making).

These measurements make about 24 Tbsp of concentrate which lasts me for 8 days.

It's definitely more expensive than the premium brand of French Roast instant I've been using - about 25% more. And a pound of ground coffee doesn’t produce as many cups of cold brewed coffee as hot brewed, so I wouldn’t use this process to make hot coffee for a crowd.  But for now it’s my best option to have fair trade coffee in a concentrated form.

The best video info I found here which I adapted for my needs.

Thursday, February 7, 2013


Chicken vegetable soup
My friends who came for lunch were amused.

Multicolor carrots were included in one of our December CSA boxes of vegetables.
Besides orange carrots, there were also yellow and purple ones.

It didn't occur to me that the purple carrots
might bleed into the color of the soup.  
After all, adding orange carrots to chicken vegetable soup
doesn't tint the broth.  
Or the chicken.

Purple ones do.
Be warned.