Wednesday, December 23, 2015

That oh so irksome home budget!

Unlike our officials in Congress, where the spending goes on 24/7 and with wild and uncaring abandon, I quickly learned the truth about personal finances; that there's gonna be no bailout for me should I get into trouble....

Home budgets are a little like living healthy life styles. You want them to stay lean and mean and be ever so frugal. (It's all basically an exercise in another form of restraint, I realized as I took in my enlarged torso)! Just like my stomach, my wallet always wants to possess all it sees. (For me, a great afternoon would be sitting at my computer shopping the net. I wanna buy until I drop)!

That was then, and now is now. I'm older, a little more wiser and was fully aware of the need to create a budget and then hold to it come hell and high water... (and usually both will pay me a visit at some point during the coming year). So, I got down to business and threw a few figures down on paper. That's also about the time the serious drinking commenced. Just kidding, my beer budget went out the window along with my frequent forays to local restaurants, early on in the process. A fixed income will do that to ya. There's always way to little coming in and a flood going out.

Interestingly, a budget can quickly be divided into to major categories; fix expenses that must be paid and two other categories that you might have at least a little control over. For me personally, I divided them up as follows:

Fixed and no control – Mortgage, Home owner fees, phone, insurance, Internet and TV!
Some control – Electric and water/trash bills!
Flexible and therefore cuttable – Groceries, entertainment, discretionary spending on junk you don't really need.

Very quickly, I came to realize that the largest elephant in the room was my enormous grocery bill. At $400 plus per month for one person, it seemed kinda high and was the one area in my life I felt I could make some inroads into. So, I merely listed the other items on a piece of paper, knowing the amounts of some and estimating the others... leaving the grocery column blank to see if there was anything left.

For me, I came to the realization that for month to month living, I would have to forego shopping the net or going to the local strip malls for the foreseeable future. If I just had to buy something (like socks), that money would have to come from my meager savings. A somewhat sobering thought. But, if I could manage that, I'd have about $300 to spend on food! So, at least I had a goal! Now it was time to take a hard look at what I had been buying to see where that area could be trimmed down by a hundred dollars or so...
Item A

Fortunately, I like to keep fairly detailed records of exactly what I purchase. I employ a self made 'form' that helps me to stay on track whenever I get to the local store i n my area. (See item A). I took that information for an entire month and entered it into a data file so that I might break stuff up into categories and thereby derive a percentage for each. My categories were common sense; meats, dairy, breads, etc. I thought that by looking at my expenditures in this fashion, I might spot opportunities where I could cut back a little. Below is a simplified pie chart that made it very clear to me on some areas I might want to consider cutting back on. Gee, pop and snacks might be one area. And, all those TV dinners? Maybe I could cut some of these out and buy a few more vegetables... just saying...

The bottom line to all this budget thing is the fact that they can help a person like myself to see not only where the money was going, but also how I might be able to improve my life in the bargain. Now, if I could just get the government to go along with a similar concept....

Monday, December 21, 2015

Critique: Banquet's Chicken Parmesan entree!

I had thought that by now I would have covered just about all the buck a meal offering from the Banquet folks. Well, I was wrong! This meal offers a chicken breast languidly swimming in a sea of Rigatoni pasta!

When I purchased this dollar meal, I did so because I'm fond of chicken and pasta. The only visual that gave me some pause, however, was the message on the front of that package that declared that the meal was 'now made with 100% natural chicken breast with rib meat!' There was just so much that was wrong there. I mean, it begged a number of questions! Was the meat somehow NOT NATURAL before? And, how much was not a hundred percent? Then again, the concept of 'rib meat' also gave me some pause. I had the mental image of a line of Chinese workers meticulously scrapping the ribs of a chicken carcass with tiny little knives... The thought made my sphincter clinch up! So many mysteries and so little time...

That said, the directions were typical Banquet. If you are a slug and don't like to move much, these meals are for you. Directions: Take out of box, stab the plastic foil with a knife... nuke for a few, stir the contents and then nuke for another two minutes. Gosh! Even I could figure that out!

At this juncture, I normally skew off tangent and bemoan all a meals short comings. I've had few Banquet offerings that I was very impressed with. well...this was one of those very few that actually had a lot of stuff going for it! The calories were a modest 320, the sodium only 630 milligrams (an unheard of amount in other meals) and even the cholesterol and saturated fats were low! and the biggest kicker? It actually tasted pretty darn good! Mein gott! I thought I'd died and gone to heaven! 

The bottom line is to go out and grab this meal up before the people at Banquet realize what they've done!

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Winter, winter dark and blue!

This post was written back in November and had lost a lot of its intended meaning as the temps were hitting the sixty degree mark with regularity....

Thursday, December 17, 2015

A little taste of spring!

Sure, it's late December and months and months of winters await. Well, here was a little bit of video of a snow that occurred some years ago in April!

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Just another McDonald's Egg McMuffin!

On one not very memorable morning, I got up early to go get my oil changed at a service location which I found was closing. I had arrived there about twenty minutes before they were due to open and decided to use that time by getting something quick to eat at McDonald's!

At 7:45 AM on a Tuesday in late December, the Golden Arches was pretty busy with a lot of commuter traffic. The drive through line was crowded, although the inside of the store was sparse; there being just a couple of tables occupied by old people like myself. I had plenty of time and so, wisely elected to park and head inside where I could see there was not a soul at the order counter.

'Now this is what it's supposed to be like', I thought to myself as I stepped right up and ordered an Egg McMuffin and a small coffee from a young lady who was no more awake than I was. Fifteen seconds later, I had my food and angled (toddled?) on over to a small table in an otherwise deserted venue. (And, yes, there was a smile on my face)!

After I had myself seated, I opened up the paper wrapped around my McMuffin and dug in. The taste was excellent, if a little on the brief side. After all, you don't get much food for four dollars and change anymore. But, I was happy as the calories came in at only about 300, thereby granting me the opportunity for a more robust lunch later on in the day. I sat and ate like a contented cow might chew his cud. And, before I knew it, I was down to the last bite or two! 'Damn', I thought. Good food is a lot like great sex. We can never seem to get enough of something that, once found, don't last all that long!

A few minutes later, I checked my cell phone and saw that it was almost 8AM, the time when the Mobile One place was due to open. Hurriedly, dumped the now empty tray, grabbed my coffee and departed. After navigating through the line of cars still waiting for the drive through, I jumped into my Jeep and headed back to the oil change dealership.

Forsyth Mobile One closing, but will reopen soon!

The Mobile 1 Complete Auto Repair service located off Coy Blvd in Forsyth Missouri will be closing down on December 30th, according to Dennis Renteria.

I had occasion to get my oil changed at the Mobile One facility this date, only to learn from the owner that he intends to close down that location, but will reopen in a nearby facility sometime in January 2016! According to a statement by Mr. Renteria, many good changes will be in the works as he works to get the new location ready for business.

As soon as I have additional details, I plan to post them here and at!

Update: Jan 24, 2016 - I have not heard that this business has reopened which leave the folks in Forsyth only one other option; Carl's Auto Repair at 150 State Highway H, Forsyth, MO 65653 and I'm not even sure about those folks.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Don's Barber Shop in Forsyth MO!

If you've ever made your way over to the Forsyth Missouri Post Office, you've probably passed by Don's Barber Shop! A quaint establishment where Don Carr has been cutting men's hair for many years.

I stopped there to get my hair trimmed recently and found Bob to be a nice gentleman and profession barber. I was walk in traffic and he took care of me right away, although he does also take appointments. He offers regular men's haircuts and will do facial shaves by appointment!

The shop is located at 173 Shadowrock Drive in Forsyth and Don can be reached at 417-294-1984. His hours, at the time of this post, were T-F 8-5PM with Saturday hours being 8 to 12PM.

A medical situational heads up!

A particularly dangerous super bug, dubbed the "phantom menace" by scientists, is on the rise in the United States, according to a report Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

This super bug's strains belong to the family of bacteria known as CRE (Carbapenium Resistant Enteriobacterace), which are difficult to treat because they are often resistant to most antibiotics and can spread this resistance to other bacteria via little packets of genes known as plasmids. They are often deadly, too, in some instances killing up to 50 percent of patients who become infected, according to the CDC. Health officials have called CRE among the country's most urgent public health threats.

In a recent ProMed report out of India, most infections occurred when a patient got transferred to a rehab after suffering a medical problem. They then contract CRE from a careless healthcare worker who fails to wash their hands properly and thus transmit the bacteria. The patient then gets worst and is sent back to the hospital when another 'hand off' occurs and so the process continues. As, you might gather form this, most of those affected are elderly. But, this may not be the case for long. [A personal opinion - A copy of the ProMed report is available here]

Monday, December 7, 2015

No wonder I have few friends left!

'Seriously man', a friend confided to me, while squinting at my latest post on his iPad. 'Who wants to look at what the hell you ate for breakfast'?

I didn't have a really good answer to that question, and so I sat quietly at the bar next to a man with a scowl on his wrinkled face. I could tell his he wasn't finished lambasting me.

'I mean, we all get it that you like to eat', he intoned piously while glancing at my ample waistline. 'But, for Christ sake, why can't you post something a little more interesting? I mean who the hell cares about a plate of eggs, corn, potatoes and some ripped up bread'?

I turned my head slowly to face him more squarely. 'Well, you forgot to mention the gravy. That was pretty good, yes'?

Taking a last gulp of beer the 'friend' got up in a huff and left the bar. I sat there and looked quietly at my beer before taking a big gulp.... And then, I smiled at the memory of a meal gone past, but not forgotten!

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Left over steak, an egg and whatever~!

I had cooked up a sirloin steak the day before but had not eaten all of it, sooo the next day I exhumed what had become a piece of cold and gray looking meat from the fridge. I held it up to my bloodshot eyes for a closer inspection and then sighed. It was a Sunday morning, I was hungover and not even Portnoy would have found this cold slab of beef very interesting...

I had to face facts! Resurrecting a day old sirloin would more than likely tax even the most powerful priest. I looked again at that listless piece of beef. There was absolutely none of the 'moist tenderness' that I had enjoyed just 24 hours before.
The day before!

Well, never you mind, I thought sourly. I tossed the meat onto a plate and placed it into my microwave. (Even if I had little hope of a holy beef redemption, I felt I could at least heat that sucker up a little).

That done, I then focused on the three other breakfast courses; an egg, 1/2 baked potato (baked the day before) and a piece of bread, that was soon to be toast! Since I was using a convection cooking top, I knew from past experience that the egg and toast would cook about the same time (4 min). I set the Duxtop Induction unit to level two, sprayed a bit of Pam into a stainless steel frying pan and then added the egg (sunny side up) with a dash of water. This was covered with a lid and I then moved over to the toaster and nonchalantly sent my Lilly white slice of bread and brown slab of meat into my convection oven where it could both toast my brad and reheat my steak.The potato was nuked in the microwave for a couple of minutes.

 A couple minutes later, I nuked the steak remnant on high for about 80 seconds. (Just enough to warm it without drying it even more than it already was). I then assembled the meal you see above.

Epilogue: Why did I even post this nonsense? Well, my doctor told me that writing about stuff that no one would be interested in would help me come to better terms with my useless existence. And, you know what? It helped!

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Mini pan convection oven Chicken legs!

I recently purchased a set of oven pans, mini oven pans as it turned out and planned to use them to roast a couple of chicken legs!

OK, so if you are a single person like myself and want to roast just a couple of chicken legs in your oven, then quite possibly the OvenStuff Non-Stick 6-Piece Toaster Oven Baking Pan Set  might be the right choice for you. (Personally, I could think of better ways to waste $17, but that's just me). I was game, however, to try and use these munchkin sized pans to roast up some chicken legs in my newly acquired convection oven! (In point of fact, I had purchased them and was now stuck with them)!

In addition, I had also purchased a Taylor Precision Products Digital Cooking Thermometer/Timer from When it arrived, it seemed to work, (although one of the magnets in the back fell out and had to be re-glued into place). Ahem. But, I figured it would help notify me when the chicken legs reached a safe minimum eating temperature of 165ºF. Thusly, I assembled everything as shown and cranked up the Breville BOV800XL Smart Oven 1800-Watt Convection Toaster Oven with Element IQ convection oven to 450 degrees set for 35 minutes!

The three 'clueless' chicken legs, by way of preparation; were washed, patted dry and then coated with just a dab of olive oil. They were then lightly sprinkled each with a combination of hot spices! [Hey! I like my chicken like I like my women... but I won't go there in this post]. Thusly anointed, they were hooked to the temperature probe, shoved into the 425 degree preheated oven, and roasted for the recommended 35 minutes! (Who exactly recommended that period of time has been since lost to me)!

Chicken now a roasting, I then sat back, eyed the Taylor display closely and cracked open a beer while plopped down on a nearby stool. Inside the oven, I could hear the fan softly whirring. Time passed, I opened another beer... the wonderful smell of cooking chicken now filled my kitchen. Then, that Taylor thing began to ding after only 28 minutes! I was suspicious and continued cooking for about 32 minutes. and, guess what? The chicken was not done! So much for digital thermometer technology. Like the pan purchase, I felt I'd also been a little bit screwed with the Taylor thermometer!

This whole mess was rectified by placing the legs into a Microwave set on high for another few minutes. After they were allowed to cool, they tasted fabulous!

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

A convection oven baked potato!

Baking a potato in my new oven seemed like a real snap. My only concern was the amount of power required to do it! I wondered, also, if a potato made in this manner would taste better or the same had I used a much cheaper (power wise) microwave for a mere 5 minutes??

A medium Russet potato with the short instructions:
Wash it!
Pierce it numerous times with knife!
Add oil and salt!

Directions: Bake at 375 degrees for 45 minutes for medium to large potatoes. Turn potatoes over halfway through the baking time to ensure even crispness and avoid darkening on one side. Remove from oven when baking time ends and cut or squish top of potato open. Garnish with desired condiments, sauces, butter, sour cream or spices.

I took a 340 gram Russet, washed, pierced it, oiled it and then salted it as directed and placed it into the oven set at 365ºF for 45 minutes. I used the lower temperature setting as a precaution against overcooking. I knew I could always nuke it for a few minutes if needed.

The potato came out perfect, and the power used was only .35 kWh! Not all that bad, assuming I don't use this device every day!