Friday, March 29, 2013

Homemade vegetable beef soup on the fly!

Making vegetable soup is almost as easy as getting it from the can, that is, if you have a slow cooker and just a little bit of time!

First off, there is really no 'correct' way to make vegetable beef soup, other than having a few veggies on hand to throw into a pot or slow cooker. Obviously, having some chunks of beef cut up into bite-sized pieces would be nice also. Other items that are required (for my version of this soup anyway), is a can of petite diced tomatoes, a carrot or two, a small potato, celery, green beans, corn some spices and a cup and a half of water. The only precooking required is to braise the beef chunks in a medium hot skillet for a few minutes.

Otherwise, just cut every thing into small pieces and dump it all into the slow cooker. For the spices, I like to use Lite Salt (50% fake salt), pepper and a smidgeon of cayenne pepper for  some added bite. I add all these at the same time, replace the lid on the slow cooker, set it on high for three hours and then reduce the heat to the low setting for another three. Voila! Soups on!

That's all there is to it! Other than to go and enjoy the soup, that is!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Email tax coming soon?? If so, I can't wait!

Well, it was only a matter of time, wasn't it? It seems a California official is breathing new life into the argument that ‘since most everything else is taxed’, why then he asks, is email exempt!

Berkley City Councilman Gordon Wozniak brought up taxing emails during a recent council meeting. His thinking was that the taxes collected could be used for stuff like saving the local post office. Gordon is currently suggesting that the tax be tiny, initially at least.

There have also been suggestions that this seedling of an idea could be rapidly expanded to tap into all data that a person uses including heftier amounts in the area of e-commerce. Sort of like a sin tax without the sin.

His plan is not really new. It was addressed back in 1998 and resulted in the passage of the Internet Tax Freedom Act, which bans Internet taxation. However, that law is set to expire in November, a fact that our cash strapped Federal Government is well aware of.


Personally, I think this is a great idea as it would allow for Washington to find some much needed relief for programs that the Sequester Act has currently slowed down. If the amounts of taxes for data could be raised high enough, then perhaps some of the monies could be used to form a new entitlement program or two, who knows. In either case, taxing a person by the volume of data they use would hopefully slow down those who overuse the Internet for personal gain while slowing it down for the poor who don’t use it as much. And, that not fair or very progressive.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Iceberg lettuce at $2.59! And, even higher prices to come?

These romaine seedlings will be ready for harvest in 60 days!
As I am already jittery and primed to panic after watching hours and hours of doom and gloom on the TV media outlets, I did a double take at the local grocery store when I saw a head of iceberg lettuce going for $2.59!

Was it time for me to panic and begin throwing stuff into my basket willy-nilly? Was ugly inflation finally taking a serious hold? No, to all the above. Blame the price increase for this and other veggies on cold temperatures that have ruined crops from California to Arizona and beyond.

Retail and wholesale prices for everything from iceberg lettuce to asparagus are soaring because of shortages and crop damage. Warning signs have gone up in some supermarkets. Price hikes are also hurting restaurants, where some vegetables have more than doubled in cost. Want some fresh asparagus? Don't even think about it.

In the winter, about 90 percent of vegetables consumed in the U.S. are grown in Imperial Valley, Coachella Valley and Yuma, Ariz., according to the Irvine-based Western Growers Association. About 25 percent of leafy greens grown in that region – such as romaine and iceberg lettuces – have been damaged, the association said this week. So, get ready to pay higher prices, at least until the spring growing season cranks up - or - do what I'm doing by growing your own!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Punxsutawney Phil to get a 'special' party!

CINCINNATI (AP) -    America's most famous groundhog might want to go back into hibernation.
Punxsutawney Phil is facing a "criminal indictment" for falsely predicting an early spring. Tradition has it that winter will end quickly if the rodent sees his shadow after emerging from his western Pennsylvania lair on Feb. 2, an annual ceremony that dates back to the 19th century and was immortalized in the Bill Murray movie "Goundhog Day."

The novel that’s the talk of Asia!

'I guess every man has a secret somewhere in their lives. Mine was a woman, a mail order bride if you will, who came into my life speaking a language I could just barely understand and who began demanding things from me that are unspeakable to describe to this day... 

Her name was Niamomnni and I guess in her native tongue it meant ‘endless talker’, for from the day she arrived, Nia (my name for her) wouldn’t stop talking. Ever! I’d arise in the morning to her endless chatter, none of which I had even the vaguest idea of what was being said. And, I would go to sleep at night with here lips constantly moving next to my ear. All mostly gibberish.  In fact, the only English she ever seemed to pick up, for the years that she was with me, was ‘visa card please’ and ‘do washy washy’ when she needed money or the laundry done. But that wasn’t the worst of it, that wasn’t what caused me to begin plotting her death…'

Unfortunately, this book was banned in America due to the President's new 'Safe Reading' initiative.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

More unintended consequences! Now we’re running out of ammo!

If it were not for the likes of President Obama and some of the others comprising the Far Left, the current incredible run on guns and ammo might never have transpired. As it is, Americans everywhere have bought so much ammo and so many guns, all based on fears concerning new laws, that even many enforcement agencies are now facing their own shortages!

This shortage has also affected the Department of Homeland Security which has announced that it wants to buy more than 1.6 billion rounds of ammunition in the next four or five years for it own ‘training programs’. (This would be somewhat more that the estimated 470 million rounds that were used to fight all of the last Civil War)! And, all this pressure is sure to have at least two other effects; 1) the cost of purchasing ammo will increase dramatically in the near term, and 2) Obama will be soon seen as a real asset to gun and ammo manufacturer’s everywhere! Heck, they may even give him some sort of award!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Does the threat of snow cause altered behaviors!

After all the early media coverage of an impending snowfall that was originally publicized by the National Weather service as a ‘snowstorm’ on Tuesday, maybe people in the Forsyth area were perhaps a bit over primed for what was in reality going to be a very minor snowfall. Or, maybe it would be nothing at all…

After arising early, I made my way over to the local Country Mart where breakfast is served from 7:30 AM to 10:30 AM most every day. As I ordered, one of the ladies in the Deli area asked me what I thought. She had one eyebrow arched and was about to add a heaping pile of scrambled eggs to my plate.

I answered, ‘About what?’

‘The weather, of course', she retorted. (It seems my reputation for being a weather nut had preceded me).

I told the lady that I felt whatever snow did mange to fall would more than likely melt once it came into contact with the road surfaces. And, I couldn’t help adding, ‘And, gee lady, are ya scared of two measly inches?’

As those words left my mouth, I had reason to immediately regret it as she gave me a much smaller portion of scrambled eggs than I was used to….Hmm, I thought to myself, maybe sometimes brevity really is bliss.

After eating, I got up and did my shopping. It was just after 8 AM and yes, I wanted to get it done early…just in case we got actually did get a boatload of snow.

As I exited the store, a short time later with a bag of groceries in tow, the sun came out and it turned out to be a fine day after all.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

There were a few warm days in March of 2013

March 2013 was not all cold days. Here is a picture of some people camping at the River Run Park in Forsyth, MO on a pair of days that were warm and which gave the promise of better days ahead.

Critique: Banquet’s Chicken Pot Pie

At .92 cents (plus tax) circa 2013, the Chicken Pot Pie from Banquet is still somewhat of a bargain. Amazingly, that’s pretty much what they cost back in 2011 when I did a similar review.

So, here we are in 2013 – and moving ever so rapidly into Obama’s concept of Changing America. (It’s a Progressive thing or so I’m told)! Nothing much has changed these past four years – my friends are mostly still out of work or on some form of entitlement, so we all have to shop around for ‘cheap eats’ we like on a regular basis. Pot pies fill that bill nicely.

One of my favorites is the ubiquitous Chicken pot pie, a product that has been around in one form or another ever since I was a small tike. (When my parents couldn’t afford decent food, they could always shell out a quarter or so for a pot pie). As I remember, we had them quite often back then. Even today, these products from Banquet do go on sale – I just recently picked up a bunch that sold to .59¢! Not bad considering…

Today, the pot pie has come a long ways. They’re ‘nukeable’ now and so don’t require a hot oven to be cooked in. Just 4 to 5 minutes in a microwave does the trick. The smell, however, is unique to this dish and hasn’t changed very much over the years. Heavenly!

On the bad side of the eating coin, pot pies are high in salt and saturated fats (see label) and so I don’t make eating them an everyday thing. Still, for a fast hot meal, on the go, they can’t be beat!

A weather web page for Taney County Missouri!

I’ve recently launched a web site ( that has weather as a primary focus. While it’s intended to cover the Taney County Missouri area, there are elements that might be of interest for people living in other parts of the US.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Random Thoughts for March 17

Making it last longer in the slow food lane!

One way to make it all work in this dismal economy while still socializing has to do with eating out. My personal thing is to get up early and to go out for breakfast. Something I do about twice a week. It gets my day going on a positive note or failing that, it at least gets me out of bed.

On my last outing, I ordered the steak and eggs platter from a local eatery. The cost was $9.54. But, rather than eat it all I one setting, I brought some of the hash browns and about half the steak home with me. The next morning, I cobbled together a rather nice repast that ameliorated the high price of eating out to some extent.

How many of you out there think that really bad times are ahead?

Show of hands! Now, I'm not talking about bad times in the sense that bread will cost $5 a loaf or bad times in the sense that unemployment remains high. No, I'm talking about a flat out AMERICAN REVOLUTION or even a CIVIL WAR where a whole lot of shooting will be going on right in your very own neighborhood. (That's usually the end result of a collapsed economy isn't it)? I mean, if (or when) the dollar becomes worthless, what do you all think is going to happen to our society? Do you think your government will bail everyone out? Or, will we all wonder where the heck all the public officials have disappeared to....?

You know, at a time when many of us don't even know our neighbors very well, something like a civil war can be a very scary thought. In the last civil war, we had the local community and church to fall back on. Yet I wonder, if things go really south, who will have my back today?

How can something so small, make me so miserable?

This picture was taken through my microscope and it shows pollen grains at about a 250x magnification. I collected this pollen from a nearby juniper tree of which there are about a billion near my home. I also happen to be very allergic to this pollen (among others). And those trees! They're all absolutely loaded with the stuff! (A fact that does not bode well for me over the next many weeks).

As part of my defensive plan, I've purchased a small HEPA air filter and have installed in into a small room which is where I shall retreat to if my nose begins to run. If this plan works out, I'll be sure to do a follow up later this spring. and oh, yes! Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Sesimic quakes that form lines...

I always wonder whenever I see an earthquake series in the same day that forms a straight line, if there is something else going on.

Call me crazy, call me paranoid; but please, just don’t expect me to visit California at this time.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Proper weiner handling! Then and now!

Back in the fifties, this was a question newlywed’s were often concerned about. They knew that men typically liked their 'dogs' served warm and juicy. Cooking them in a skillet would often dry them out! Uck! So, experts, back in the day, advised newly married housewives to gently boil her husbands wiener until it was just warmed through. And ladies! Those buns had also better be nice and hot too!

That was then....

Today, women have the microwave oven and cooking that bad old dog is no big thing! What I'd say?

Random Thoughts for March 13th

“If you’re not catching flak you’re not over the target” 

Are we living in a nation full of retards?

Bang! You're dead...

Are we all now so retarded that we allow the Media to emotionally push us in whatever direction they happen to choose? Take the ‘knives on planes’ debate. To hear the media talk, the TSA and their decision to allow small pocket knives onto planes again is very close to treason. Left leaning outlets like MSNBC and ABC would have you believe that the minute these small pocket knives are allowed back on board, some stewardess is sure to have her neck slashed! Give me a break. In a town next to me, the police recently stage a live shooter scenario at a local school. Even though the odds of such an incident happening are 1 in 143,000!  (I’d wager that kids are much more likely to be hit by some mom or dad who’s talking on a cell phone while driving through in a school zone). People! You need to quite letting these idiots on TV influence logical thinking processes. OK? Now as to the suspension of that young boy who fashioned a ‘gun’ out of a pop tart. Well, hey! That was more than justified.

Obama-Care will destroy the US Economy!

Who is saying such things? Is it those crazy old Republicans? I’m sure they’re still desperately clinging to the hope of saving all those rich Corporations at the expense of the poor and down trodden. Why just the other day, our President assured a scared Nation that everything is looking up! Obama has made it crystal clear that the only thing holding the economy back IS THOSE DAMN REPUBLICANS! Were it not for those insane Right Wingers, this country’s 17 trillion dollar debt would like vanish almost overnight. (And, we can all make sure that happens by voting a straight Democratic ticket in 2014)!

Once both houses are in the hands of the Democrats, our illustrious President can forge ahead with His plans to create a set of vast new entitlement bureaus that will allow his vision of Big Mamma Government or BMG to come to fruition.

Uh, hold one a sec – a friend just informed me that it was not the Republicans who said ObamaCare will wreck the nation; it was a statement issued by the General Accounting Office. Sorry, my bad….

OK, so how long will inflation stay away?

A key concept that underpins the many plans by Senate to deal effectively with the National deficit depends heavily on interest rates remaining low. The mantra in Washington is that as long as that continues; we can all ‘party on dude’.

If, or should I say when, those rates begin to creep upwards, a whole new reality will quickly settle over the land. Consider this. Last year our government forked over $220 billion (that’s 18 billion per month) just to pay the interest on our debt. That’s about $227 out of every taxpayer’s pocket. And, at the current rate of increase in borrowing, our nation will be looking at a staggering yearly figure of 1 trillion in interest payment alone with most of those payments going over to Asia. And, that is at current interest rates. We are in a trap and it’s a fact that as we continue to borrow more and more (above and beyond) what we make, the interest rates will begin to climb higher. And, even modest 1.8 percent increase would have potentially catastrophic consequences for our economy.

America, I sure hope you wake up soon.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Critique: Healthy Choice Lasagna with meat sauce!

For some reason, the folks at HC decided that they needed to placed the word 'BAKED' in super large words for some reason that is unclear to me. Isn't the dish, by definition, already pre-baked before it was frozen? I mean you don't really cook this entree in just a few minutes in the microwave do you? Sheesh! They also inform the buyer that the lasagna is made 'with meat sauce'! Well, what else would they make it with? Tofu fashioned to look like meat? Give me a break guys. Lastly, you'll note that they are obviously proud of the fact that there are 'No Preservatives'! Duh! That's because this is a frozen product and not a canned one.

Media version vs real thing!
OK, all that aside, I made the plunge and brought one home to try out. Check out the picture of this meal that they post of their web page with a side by side view of the real thing. Hmm. I think I'd like to choose what's behind curtain one...

Nutritionally, what you get for this 269 gram square of pasta, cheese and meat is about 280 calories. (Not a diet buster, that's for sure). And, there was really not all that much in the way of cholesterol or salt (15 mg and 380 mg respectively). Take note that these low levels of sodium and cholesterol are the reason why the Healthy Choice line of products was invented in the first place. It seems the owner of the company was looking for ways to survive his poor cardio-health while still eating what could be classified as 'junk' food. (It also helps to explain why the Healthy Choice logo'd products are generally more expensive than other brands that contain similar meals). In general the less salt there is in a TV style dinner the worst it's likely to taste!

So, it was with some trepidation that I popped it into my microwave set on high for about seven minutes after first cutting a slit in the film cover as directed. There was no stopping and stirring required which I really liked. After the required time had elapsed, I removed it to my table and prepared to dig in.

As to the taste... OK, I must tell you I've had great homemade lasagna in the past. A friend named Sharon Davidson used to made me some of the finest lasagna I've ever tasted. (A true culinary experience by which I judge all others that came after). This offer by Healthy Choice was no where near that! Was it edible? Sure. I'd give it a 6 on a scale of 10, to give everyone some idea of how I felt. Would I spend $3 buck on it again. Maybe...

Friday, March 8, 2013

Allergy season is definitely on!

Don’t panic, but if you take a careful look at the area cedar trees that grow all over southwestern Missouri, you’ll find them looking rather brown! That’s because they are just about ready to burst with loads and loads of airborne pollen. And, those tiny little particles can mean shear misery should you happen to be allergic to them. But, that’s not all! Hot on their heels are the elm and maple trees!

I happen to be allergic to all three, and seeing that graph of pollen levels for the next four days has gotten me motivated to set up and turn on a HEPA air filter I recently purchased for my home.  Last year, I suffered mightily as every surface around my place became coated with a greenish sludge. This year, I plan to have a retreat where I can go to for a does of clean fresh air. That’s the plan anyway. I’m banking on the fact that by limiting my exposure to fewer hours each day, I might just be able to skate by the worst of the symptoms!

I promised to follow up on this post later on in the spring. Wish me luck!

Friday, March 1, 2013

Sequestration: Day 1!

Gee Andy. It's awful quiet today!

Sequestration Day 1. Promptly, at 5 AM, I bounded from my bed almost like a kid on Christmas Day! You see, I was so excited to get up and get out to observe the chaos my President had promised on this, the first day of massive federal cuts!

After getting a quick shower and shave, I elected to dress into something drab and gray. No sense in drawing any attention to myself, I reasoned. I was sure that there would be rioting mobs on the main streets of my small town as many found themselves suddenly rendered unemployed by the mindless slashing of budgets everywhere. For sure, I reasoned, there would be angry crowds at the various government offices scattered around town. And I was also pretty sure that there would be unsettled knots of unhappy teachers perhaps with signs marching around the local school. So much for me to see and do and so little time to get it done…

You can imagine my surprise when a drive through town proved totally uneventful. Even the grocery store was pretty much business as usual for a Friday morning. I didn’t know what to think. After all the unpleasant things that the President had implied would happen, I was sure at least one group of angry citizenry would be out and about! Even a trip over by the courthouse proved disappointing after I observed some officers talking quietly next to a squad car. Hmmm.

Well, the President did say that it might take a while for the coming disaster to be felt. I’ll come back in a few days, to check and find out…