Folk Thursday: Judy Collins and Ari Hest

I had to post this after seeing the list of Grammy nominees this week and discovering that Judy Collins and Ari Hest were on it for their recent album, Silver Skies Blue.

It delights me to no end that my beloved folkies refuse to slow down or retire. They just keep singing and writing and reinventing themselves and discovering new talent and making political statements and just generally being awesome into their 70s and beyond.

I want to be just like them when I grow up.

Emily

Mission accomplished

We finished paying off our dead Subaru this week.

*Breaks finish-line tape*

*Spikes football*

*Circles bases while pointing at sky*

*Does touchdown dance in the endzone*

*Sends a “Dear Subaru: t(-_-t) ” note*

Now that we’re all done paying off a station wagon that doesn’t run, we can pour those resources into retiring the loan we took out to replace the sewer line last year after the roots of the neighbor’s tree grew into it and clogged it up. (I still don’t understand why I am legally responsible for damage caused by somebody else’s tree, but I’d like a word with whoever made that rule.)

Emily

Tiny Tuesday: Over-the-door basket

Yet another product-review-type post: I was at the hardware store the other day and found a nice assortment of cabinet organizers of various types, including some fairly elaborate slide-out racks and trash bins and drawers that looked promising but way more expensive and elaborate than I felt like messing with just then. (File those under “worthy of further research.”)

I couldn’t spare the time or money to buy any of the fancy organizers, but I found a great little wire basket that hangs over the back of the cabinet door next to the stove, allowing me to reclaim yet another underutilized space. It’s not a huge basket, but it’s big enough to hold a couple of water bottles, my apple corer and slicer, and my small bamboo cutting board, which I use all the time. (It’s not in the picture because I’d just used it, actually.)

Reclaimed a little space with this basket and got those bottles up off the bottom of the cabinet so they'd stop tipping over and falling out every time I opened it.
Reclaimed a little space with this basket and got those bottles up off the bottom of the cabinet so they’d stop tipping over and falling out every time I opened it.

I got my basket at Lowe’s for about $12, but I’ve seen similar products elsewhere and can’t imagine one would really be much different from another.

Emily

Disclaimer: As always, I just posted about this product because I found it useful and thought somebody else might, too. Nobody paid me or gave me free products or anything.

Eco-Saturday: Use the right burner

If you own an electric range, here’s a way to use just a little less power without expending any effort at all:

Use the correct burner.

This seems like a small thing — and it is — but it takes zero effort, there’s absolutely nothing to be gained by not doing it, and if it shaves a penny or two off your power bill, why not?

Most electric ranges have four burners — two large and two small.

If you’re cooking something in a big skillet or stockpot, use one of the big burners. If you’re cooking something in a small skillet or saucepan, use one of the little burners.

If you’re not sure which size is best, before you turn on the stove, set your pan on a big burner. If you can see the burner sticking out around the bottom of the pan, move to a smaller one.

If you’re using a large pan, it makes sense to use a large burner. You want the bottom of the pan to heat evenly, and you don’t want to end up throwing food away because it didn’t cook right. But when you use a small pan on a large burner, you end up heating more of the cooktop than you need. According to the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy’s website, SmarterHouse.org, using a six-inch pan on an eight-inch burner wastes more than 40 percent of the electricity produced by the burner. (Bonus points if you can figure out how they arrived at that number.)

Food won’t cook faster or taste better if you heat an inch of empty space all the way around the pan. That hot surface protruding from under the edge of the pan just wastes energy and creates a hazard in the form of an exposed hot surface.

SmarterHouse offers several other good tips on saving energy in the kitchen, such as using an appropriately sized pan (putting a big pan on a big burner to cook a little bit of food is no better than putting a small pan on a big burner), keeping your appliances clean and well-maintained, and considering which appliance is most appropriate for whatever you’re making. I’ve touched on some of that in previous blog entries, but SmarterHouse goes into more detail. I think it’s well worth the time to click on over to their site and look around.

Emily

Vegetarian Friday: Quick apple wrap

This is sort of like an apple turnover, but much better for you.
This is sort of like an apple turnover, but much better for you.

This isn’t the prettiest thing I’ve ever made, and I’m not even sure what to call it, but it tastes good, takes about five minutes to make, and is loaded with fiber and various other nutrients that make it an excellent snack for refueling after a long run, a hard workout, or a day in the garden.

Ingredients
Apple
Whole-wheat, low-carb tortilla (I like the ones La Tortilla Factory makes — expensive but nutritionally excellent)
Cinnamon
1 tsp. caramel ice-cream topping or honey
Butter

Core the apple and cut it into thin slices (I use a corer/slicer gadget similar to this one to save time, then cut each slice in half).

Microwave the slices until soft (about 2 minutes in my microwave, but your mileage may vary). While the microwave is running, melt about half a tablespoon of butter in a skillet.

I used caramel sauce because I was craving a caramel apple, but honey or a little butter and brown sugar would work just as well.
I used caramel sauce because I was craving a caramel apple, but honey or a little butter and brown sugar would work just as well.

Place slices in the center of a tortilla. Sprinkle generously with cinnamon and drizzle with caramel sauce or honey.

I left this in the pan a bit longer than necessary and probably had the temperature too high. Cook yours on medium, and watch it closely if scorched spots bother you.
I left this in the pan a bit longer than necessary and probably had the temperature too high. Cook yours on medium, and watch it closely if scorched spots bother you.

Wrap up the tortilla like a burrito and fry gently on both sides. Don’t scorch it (as I obviously did) — you just want it in the pan long enough to warm it and pick up a little bit of butter.

If you use the fancy tortillas like I did, you’ll end up with a snack that’s got about 10 grams of protein and 17 grams of fiber, along with just a few simple carbs to replenish your blood sugar after a workout.

Emily

You keep using that word.

“You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”
— Inigo Montoya

Let’s talk about word usage for a minute. Specifically, let’s discuss the word “hack.”

Historically, it was appropriate and accurate to use the word “hack” if you were referring to …

1. … someone’s wood-chopping technique.
2. … the sound of a cough.
3. … a data breach.
4. … Judy Blume.

A fifth context arose a few years ago, when people started using the word “hack” to refer to the practice of disassembling something, making major modifications to it, and then reassembling it. The first time I saw it used in this context was sometime around 2007, on a website selling Holga camera modifications.

I’m not sure whether the term is meant to evoke chopping (“hacking up” an object to alter it) or cybercrime (“hacking into” something to improve it, as you might do with a smartphone’s operating system), but either way, it makes sense when you’re talking about making major alterations to something.

It does not make sense when you’re talking about using an item straight out of the box, with no modifications (e.g., hanging a spice rack in the bathroom to hold small items), using an item exactly as it was designed to be used (e.g., pushing in the little tabs at the ends of a box of waxed paper so the roll doesn’t fall out), or doing something sensible that anybody with any common sense could figure out (e.g., all of the tips listed in the “Five Hacks for Winter Running” article I saw the other day, which included such dazzlingly clever innovations as wearing several layers of clothing, putting Yaktrax on your shoes when it’s icy, and doing a few warmup exercises indoors before heading out to run).

“Hack” was a clever term about 10 years ago, but at this point, if you’re not using it to refer to a person who writes clickbait headlines for a living, I think it’s probably advisable to drop it from your vocabulary.

Emily

Sustainability on a shoestring