Monday, September 29, 2014

Contemplating a big life change

I'm thinking seriously about selling my car, and doing without. At my age (64), this is scary. I live alone. Usually people my age are clinging tenaciously to their car keys, sometimes even in the face of actual, factual, decline in their ability to drive safely. It's famously one of a family's hardest moments: taking Dad's car keys away.

But you know what? As a car-owner, I think I'm in the tiny minority of humans who own a car. Really - there are billions of people who live their entire lives without possessing one of these metal and plastic and fossil-fuel and money-guzzling monsters.

I've stayed in my home past retirement because 1)  Good GOLLY I don't want to have to go through everything a down-sizing move would require, 2) almost everything I need (except a grocery store, and that may be changing somewhat even as I write) is within easy walking distance in Benson (a tiny old former small town that was engulfed two generations ago by Omaha), and 3) I have a great neighborhood with great neighbors. Having experienced life with horrible neighbors, I do not sell that feature short.
But now here I am, overweight, too sedentary, with some health exam test results I'm not very happy about. Here I am, I seldom leave the house more than twice a week for errands, and occasionally for social occasions, and my car, a 2001 Hyundai Elantra I bought new in July 2001 when some asshole rammed a stolen car into the trunk of my innocent Ford Taurus parked outside my house, is showing its age. It won't be long before the upkeep becomes too expensive. And here I am with a granddaughter, thinking about what global warming is doing to her future. 

I started thinking about all the alternatives to driving my own car that I have or could have. I can certainly walk, though not as far or as painlessly as in my younger days. A bus is one or two blocks away, and while Omaha's bus system is not ideal, they're working on it and if I plan ahead I could get most anywhere I need to go. I'm retired, so time isn't a problem (I can always knit on long bus trips). And I'm eligible for a bit of a discount for senior citizens now. We have taxis. And if I want to consolidate a lot of errands all over town into one day, I could rent a car. I hear one company delivers the car to your door, and will take you home when you return the car. And I checked - not having car insurance (because lacking a car) does not prohibit you from renting their cars. You can buy insurance for while you're driving it.

So I looked at how much not having a car would save me. Not a lot, it turns out. But probably enough. Dropping my car insurance would result in my losing a $300 a year discount for carrying both my house and car with the same company, but that still would save me about $80/month. And since I haven't been driving all that much, I figure I only put about $35 - $40 worth of gas in it per month. So that's about $90, let's say to be conservative, per month I could use for bus rides, taxis, and/or rental car. I can walk to the nearest full-blown grocery store - and it's all downhill! and could have a taxi take me back home for about $13 - or if I didn't have a huge bulky bunch of stuff to take home, I could ride the bus for much, much less.

And that doesn't even take bicycling into account. I'm thinking with what I could get for my car now, I could maybe get a decent used bike, helmet, and elbow and knee pads - not going to do without those!  Having a bike would greatly expand the boundaries of my carless world. Omaha buses all have a bike rack nowadays (yay!) so there's that.

It would be stupid of me to just sell the car without further ado. Therefore, I'm going to pretend during next month that I don't have a car, and see how I do. Maybe I'll have things to blog about the experience. In any case it's a good experiment! And I'd welcome tips you may have on how to live without a car.

Edited later to add: There IS a new grocery store just 4 blocks from my house! It's a tiny, storefront type place, carrying locally produced meats and vegetables and cereals, eggs, cheese, milk, handmade pastas - all kinds of goodies. It's a little pricey but I need to eat *better* and *less* so that's probably a good thing. Very friendly clerk. I got some organically-grown beef brats. Can't wait for dinner!

Friday, September 26, 2014

Getting ready for Fall

After seeing the movie "Ratatouille" a few years ago, I came home and hunted for recipes online, and found the very one they invented for the movie!

Smitten Kitchen's photo

I've never even tried to make it as gorgeous - I was looking for the basics. And what I found just upended my favorite, spaghetti sauce.  Mine is more of a vegetable stew. The past couple of years I've made large quantities to freeze over the winter. It's cheap, delicious, nutritious, and versatile. The more authentic recipes, I think, use very few herbs or spices. Some thyme, maybe. So it's a great base for just about any ethnic variation you like: Italian, French, Near Eastern...

Anyway, I took myself by surprise yesterday when I got done loading the car trunk with grocery store groceries and as I got in and fastened the seat belt, thought: "Wenninghoff's." That's a multi-generational family produce farm in the north central area of Omaha. So I drove on out there and guess what, came home with eggplant, zucchini, red and green bell peppers, onions, plus a buttercup and butternut squash, a small box of tomatoes, and some little red potatoes. The squashes and potatoes will go into homemade TV dinners that I'll freeze, some with roasted chicken portions, others entirely vegetarian, to add some variety in the winter. Here's what I got:


This saves me incredible amounts of money in the winter, and makes sure I'm eating a  lot of vegetables. And oh my, do I love ratatouille! It's good just with garlic bread and some parmesan on top, or over noodles, or rice (I dislike the idea of having it with potatoes, for some unknown reason), or some cooked lentils mixed in. Some ideas for variations:

French: thyme, basil, rosemary, bay leaf; with of course a baguette hot out of the oven and butter, and a green salad
Mexican: Mexican oregano, a dash of chili powder, a teaspoon of cumin seeds, some fresh cilantro and shredded cheddar on top; serve with corn bread or tortillas
Italian: a tsp or 2 of fennel seeds, oregano, basil, and bay leaf with parmesan on top; over spaghetti or penne, garlic bread side with a lettuce & tomato salad
Near Eastern: I am not very well versed in this, but I do know that za'atar - a flat bread with lots of thyme (here is David Lebovitz's blog post that turned me on to za'atar) and sesame seeds and sumac - goes very well with it indeed, even my poor imitation of za'atar

Next month is soon enough to start thinking about sealing the house up with plastic over the windows. I dread that, for eventually the house air seems stale and I start getting stir-crazy. But, it makes a significant dent in the gas bill, so there ya are.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

I feel so cheated

I went to a showing of the documentary "Mercedes Sosa: The Voice of Latin America" tonight at Filmstreams. I only found out about her 4 or 5 years ago, through a duet she did with Francis Cabrel on one of his CDs quite a few years ago. I immediately knew I had to find out about the woman with this astonishing voice. I got a CD -- but I've drifted away from listening to a lot of music in recent years. Seeing this film tonight has got me scrambling for more Sosa.

That voice! That face! That golden heart! If you get a chance to see this movie, see it. Find her music, listen to it. She was famous and loved around the world - except in the US. I'm sure the lack of Mercedes Sosa music here had to do with politics, plus mainstream white America having no interest in the music of "furriners." This would fill me with rage - except Sosa was not about rage, not at all.

The Spanish language web sites I found via Bing aren't very accessible to non-Spanish-readers like me. I recommend reading the wiki article  and look on YouTube - I'm listening to a jaw-dropping duet with her and Joan Baez right now. Maybe if enough US folks start buying her music, we'll get better English web sites? So more can find her?

Monday, September 22, 2014

One little project finished!

Last week I finally finished Sock Number - well, what number is it, anyway. Way back in the deeps of time, like at the end of 2012, I started a pair of socks in Malabrigo Boticelli sock yarn, a lovely blend of reds. This would be the third pair I will have made, so Numbers 5 and 6? I finally finished the first Boticelli sock (#5) last month.

(The reds are a bit deeper than this photo shows.)

In the meantime, in February of this year, I started another pair of socks, from Trekking 474 sock yarn in a lovely scrumptious variegated colorway. 

It will be the 4th pair I will have made (anyone remember the multiplicity of tenses one alien species practiced in Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy at this point?), so Numbers 7 and 8? Except I finished # 7 before # 6. So which should have which number?

It's not important, right. The important thing is, I finally finished the 4th pair! And they're the first that really fit! I'm so chuffed.

There is something very powerful psychologically in finishing something, for me, with my chronic Startitis and unfinished projects of all sorts all over my domain. It makes me want to get busy and finish something else! Well, er, um, really it makes me want to START something else LOL, just what I need. However, at this point, I do have that second Boticelli sock to start, so that will scratch that itch.

This weekend I bought a lovely set of four tan linen napkins and seven autumn colors of DMC floss, and I'm on the hunt for nice autumn leaves embroidery patterns to decorate the napkins with. I'm sticking to SIMPLE patterns so there is some remote possibility of these napkins getting finished before I die.

Monday, September 01, 2014

A lovely, slow summer doesn't make for exciting blog posts

For anyone who may wander over here occasionally, I apologize for being even more boring than usual. I've been enjoying a pretty serene summer, which means there's not been much of interest to blog about. How's this for excitement: I've been making a real effort to read more!

*and the crowd goes WILD*

I know how annoying it is when you keep going to a blog hoping for something interesting and new to appear, and it's the same old weeks-old post sitting there decomposing. So I finally bestirred myself to find and install a "Follow by email" widget on this blog. It's over in the right-hand column. If you put your email address there, whenever I get around to making a new post, it'll show up in your email. That way you avoid the irritation of seeing the same moldy old post alla time time time.

ETA: When you enter your email address, the program will send you an email to confirm that you really want to subscribe to emails from this blog. You can decline or accept; if later you want to unsubscribe, there will be an Unsubscribe option at the bottom of each of the emails. As far as I know, I don't get a list of who has subscribed, but even if I do, I won't use your email for anything at all. The subscription provider handles all the addresses and only uses them for this one task.

Yes, this is what passes for thrills around here. I like it because I dislike drama. Had enough of that, ready for peace. Oh, okay, here's something new: I made another personal journal last week. I covered this one with denim from an old pair of jeans. It's even less perfect than the first one I made, because like an idiot I thought I knew all the steps so I didn't bother to go over onto SeaLemon's YouTube channel and review them. Oops. It'll serve, but I've put a memo in the back of the new journal to go consult SeaLemon before tackling the next one!

Mistakes: used too few pages; the front and back boards are too wide for the text block; the bookmark ribbon could be 1/2" longer... 

general lack of precision and accuracy in cutting the boards and pasting the text block in.  Pluses: well, it serves, doesn't it? It's comfortable in my hands and

I had fun using old maps for the endpapers and

  I found some photos from catalogues of some space
 flights and auroras to doll the pages up a little.

Here are the videos I referred to:

How to make a text block

How to make a hardcover book

SeaLemon includes in-video links to skills used in each video that you may not have run across, such as creating your own book cloth for binding.

And here's a page that has all the basic bookbinding video links in a list.

I really like her bookbinding videos and I've bookmarked them because I'll be making various kinds of notebooks and pads in the future.