Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Things that consume my time lately

Any time I can find something to prevent my doing actual work, I grab onto it, and just when I think I've discovered all the time-wasters I can ever use, along comes something else.

For instance, Words With Friends, which is an online form of Scrabble (sort of).  I've always been horrible at Scrabble for the same reason I'm awful at most games:  I don't have the patience to think out my moves and make the best possible choice.  This has made me almost an untouchable if I play any card game that requires a partner, because obviously most folks don't look at a "game" like I do:  to me, something that isn't important in the vast scheme of things. Throughout my life I've found that most card players are dead serious about their game.  My mother was one of the first people I recall having this (to me) ridiculously messed-up idea, and if she ended up as my partner, she'd go into frequent spasms of shock at my ineptitude.

So, after making a weak attempt long ago at playing Words with Friends, I got tired of feeling like a total loser and put it behind me.  Recently, though, I saw my daughter playing the game and decided to compete with her; my daughter wouldn't make fun of my lack of skills, at least not to my face. She won the first several games.  Since she was my only opponent, I had plenty of time to consider each move and started taking my time, thinking out all the various moves; finally, I won a game!  Well, winning for a change felt pretty good, so I started playing with random people suggested on the site... but at first I made sure their average word score wasn't any better than mine, which was 14 points.  I started winning about half my games.  Winning so much got sort of boring, so I began choosing competitors whose average word scores had a higher average than mine .  Lo and behold, my game improved, because I was taking more time with my moves and learning a few tricks.  Wow!  What fun!  I don't win even half the time, but I DO win some games.  

And what a time-waster.  But perhaps I'm keeping dementia from my door.  Yeah, that's as good a reason to play a game as any other.  

My latest fascination is with my new Instant Pot.  I had decided long ago not to step on that particular bandwagon because, after all, I have two sizes of pressure cookers handy and I'm not afraid to use them.  Unfortunately, they are recent models, and it came to a point where if I was going to pressure-cook anything, I had to re-screw a loose handle back on, or even sometimes call Cliff to the kitchen to help me get a lid on.  Let's just say the newer models aren't even close to being as sturdy and well-made as the old ones like my mom and aunts used.

Then the six-quart Instant Pot went on sale again, and I caved.  It arrived Thursday, and I went on an experimenting binge the likes of which would be the envy of Madame Curie.  First, I pressure-cooked water.  I think they tell you to do that just so you'll learn how everything works.  My water turned out fine.  I joined a Facebook group, "Instant Pot Community", where I could get my questions answered and find recipes and suggestions; one of the first things I laid eyes on was "perfect, easy-peel hard-boiled eggs".  I can always use boiled eggs, so that was my second trial.  Indeed, they were unbelievably perfect with no green ring around the yolk, and they peeled easily; I told Cliff, "I've purchased an eighty-dollar egg cooker!"  

Next project, split-pea soup, which we love.  Never mind that we had plenty of food around without making soup, I had to try it.  Unfortunately, the turkey broth I used had been in the freezer way too long, and that was the ruination of my otherwise perfect soup.  We both ate some, but I decided to chalk it up as a learning experiment and toss it.  This reminds me I had better go to the deep freeze right now and get rid of the other couple of bags of turkey broth (but yesterday I made some nice chicken broth in my Instant Pot to replace it).  Sunday I cooked a rump roast.  It was satisfactory, but after reading a lot of articles, it seems to me that chuck roast comes out better in the Instant Pot than the dryer, blockier beef roasts.

Next I found a recipe to make in a slow-cooker and wanted to see how good a job the Instant Pot does with that.  This was the only experiment that was a total failure.  People on the Facebook group warned me that the Instant Pot doesn't really do great as a slow cooker, but did I listen?  Nope.  I ended up finishing the barely-cooked dish in the microwave.  Oh well, I have two slow cookers anyhow.  Also, one lady in the group said if the dish was similar to a casserole, you have to set it in the Instant Pot over water.  I think I'll just use my old Crockpots.  
I made a single poached egg that came out perfect.  I had a taste of it, then Cliff happily ate the rest, smiling all the time.  I had a small oven-proof dish to put the egg in, inside the cooker.  But there was only room for the one dish.  Since we both love poached eggs, I purchased a couple of trivets ($7.19 for two).  They will both fit in there at once and we'll eat poached eggs together.   There's another thing I'm learning about the Instant Pot:  It will make you buy other stuff so you can use it in various ways.  Go ahead and buy the pot on sale, but don't expect all the things that go with it to be cheap.

This morning maybe I'll make steel-cut oats, which I've been making in my double-boiler all this time.  

I think you get the picture; that's all my drivel for today.  


Monday, September 11, 2017


I found another farmstead on the steam thresher grounds that seemed to be from an earlier era, before tractors, and it drew me like a magnet.  This portion of those 210 acres dedicated to past farming methods was the most peaceful yet, and I was lost in the past.

I would love to have ridden on this thing, but I never figured out where they boarded.  

 Time for this steed to go to work.

 These guys have work to do also.

 On the other side of that team of horses, people were sitting on the ground.  After the rain of the previous day, I hesitated to join them on the grass, but a guy assured me that the sunny areas were already dried out pretty well, so I down I went.  I did have my cane-chair with me, but on hilly, uneven ground, it's a little "tippy".  I knew I wouldn't be very graceful getting up off the ground, but I always manage; and I'll never see any of these folks again, so who cares?

It was at this point I remembered I had a husband somewhere and decided to check in.  For one thing, it was getting close to noon and I was starting to get hungry.  So I decided to call him.  As I opened up my phone (yes, we still use flip-phones), I noticed it had very little battery left and felt a slight stab of panic.  It took about three tries to even get my phone to ring through, but finally he answered.  He was watching a parade of steam engines, he said, not far from where I had left him.  I had no idea where he had been when I left him; I'd just been meandering wherever my feet carried me, counting on our cell phones to keep us connected.  I tried to explain my location to him ("Remember where we got on the train yesterday?  Right across the tracks from there, at the red barn").  He was clueless, but was going to try and find me.  I was to stay right where I was.  And by the way, his phone, he noticed, didn't have much battery left either.  He'd try to find me.

Well, I was obviously stuck in the horse-and-buggy era for awhile, so I noticed another old farmhouse I hadn't yet visited.  While this one looks really old, it was actually built fifty years ago by a member using plans from over 100 years earlier. 

This handsome little boy almost managed to distract me from the fact that my husband was missing.

The "lost" situation became worse:  Apparently there's only one cell tower in the boonies of Minnesota, and the closer it got to noon, the more difficult it got to get any call to ring through.  People were trying to connect with their loved ones so they could eat together, and I was using up what little battery my phone had left in failed attempts to call Cliff.  

He finally got through one last time, and said, "Meet me where we got on the train yesterday.  Stay there.  My phone is almost...."

And that was that.  Poof.  No more cell phone conversations.

I think at that point he made his way to a tram stop, asked if they went to the train depot, and was on his way.  It felt like I waited for at least an hour on Main Street, sitting on a bench where the people were lined up for the train.  But we DID finally get together again.

I want to go again.  Honestly, we each had more fun when we were each on our own.  We've been married 51 years, but our interests aren't always the same.  Once we got together, neither of us saw as much of what we wanted to see, and we missed seeing a lot of interesting displays just wandering around.  If we do fly up there sometime and rent a car, which IS the only way to go unless you're a seasoned truck driver and love driving long, boring miles on I-29, we now know we have to set a time and place to meet, because when it gets near meal time, cell phones are useless.  We might even remember to charge our phones before we arrive.