Friday, August 24, 2012

My Jaccard and Widget Phobia

All right, I had this big plan to talk about the fun I have shopping at Amazon and to add products here and there that I've enjoyed. These are things I hadn't seen elsewhere. Well, actually I can't go elsewhere without paying for it in pain and suffering.

But I visited the widget page and I can't figure out how to work the damned thing and get it onto my sidebar. So for the moment to heck with it. I'll wait till the sugar clears from my poor system.

Yesterday we had an exciting trip to the dentist to have our teeth cleaned. Our togetherness knows no bounds...

On the way back, I noticed a new Asian food store. Nothing would do but that I had to stop there and see if they had the kind of ginseng that one of our readers had recommended. So I got that, but then I remembered coconut milk, and -oops- almost out of cloves and fennel, and then there was cleaned frozen squid, who could resist? I didn't exactly stride down the aisle, but...well, I passed the palm sugar on the way to the jasmine rice. Oh heck, why not tell you what really happened: yes, I actually had to find someone and ask where the palm sugar was.

Palm sugar for me is like Jack Daniels is for an alcoholic. If my head didn't hurt so bad from eating the stuff, I'd bang it on a nearby wall. Much of one jar is almost gone and the other will be delivered out of here to someone who can drink eat sweets responsibly. Definitely not in my skill set.

However, that binge happened later. Long before I broke into that jar we went to Marshall's, a discount clothing store I used to love. It was always full of things I didn't know I needed until I saw them.

This time, however I DID need an oversized man's shirt and a pair of slip on shoes.

With fibromyalgia I need very lightweight footwear. Weightless ballet slippers would be best but they're an arm and a leg. Instead I looked through the clearance section till I found a faux-snakeskin pair of flats that will go with black or brown. They actually fit! Are they lovely? Nah. Serviceable, though.

Since I've lost some weight (despite that binge with the palm sugar) I needed to find some casual pants that didn't fall off, or I didn't have to bunch at the waist to make them stay up. The oversize shirt covers those problems mostly, but a pair that actually fit was a nice find.

I do love Amazon, but I can't afford the clothing there. Marshalls? The pants were fifteen dollars.

I also found a heavy denim shirt in clearance for the future Baron. It's black and will go with his tan chinos. I'm working on pulling him into the modern world and out of his proclivity for Mormon missionary attire. That wasn't his intention originally - in his early teenage years he saw a Cat Stevens' picture and decided that was for him. But it's not really "him" because when he dresses like that he looks like a Mormon when in reality he's an Episcopalian tenor who just happens to play a 12-string guitar. So I'm nudging...and worry warting: he's too thin in my humble opinion so I bought him a lunch box. Mothers never quit.

And so passed the day: the dentist and two stores. Which might have been doable had I eaten at all in between times. But I didn't think about it. By the time I dragged my aching carcass to the car, I was light-headed and in full-mode PAIN. Partly from trying to stuff too many activities into a few hours and partly from inadvertently fasting.

What did I do to fix the problem? Why I opened that damned jar of palm sugar. Just a bite. And then another bite. By today I was in binge mode. The Baron looked at the remains in that jar and went into sugar shock himself...

That lovely jar with the brown sweetness and the red top is but a memory...umm...Not quite. My body is still muttering imprecations, all of which I deserve. I have no idea what he did with the jar but I no longer care. Uuggghhh...

But back to the widget phobia. I went to the Associates page, planning to use one of those thingies that will let you profile several products at one time. I liked the skyscraper version for the design of this blog, and I wanted to keep my purple hose whilst adding another favorite product. But I couldn't get it to work. So my beloved lightweight purple hose will have to live here for the moment, while I put another product on the sidebar in its stead.

Water Right PSH-050-EP-4PKRS 50-Foot x 1/2-Inch Polyurethane Lead Safe Ultra Light Slim Garden Hose - Eggplant

The new offering - not new, exactly; I've been using it for about eighteen months or so - is now on the sidebar in place of the hose.

The Jaccard is an ingenious kitchen tool. It tenderizes meat, crushes fruit, and is extremely useful as long as you learn to clean it. Back when we ate bread, I used it to crush very stale slices. Days of bread and sugar are gone. Well, mostly gone.

I use my Jaccard on less-than-tender cuts of beef, on venison hunters give us in exchange for using our woodlands, or chicken breasts, pork slices, or veal (if you can afford i). First I sprinkle on whatever herbs, spices or marinade I'm using and then I push that thing all over the steak, turning it over and doing the other side. It saves long hours of marinating, and the meat cooks in about a third the time. I've also use it to pulverize fruit, especially strawberries for yogurt.

Now that I have those squid from the Asian store, I'll see if they benefit from a few mashes with the Jaccard. Can't hurt and it mighr prevent the rings from toughening when I cook them. Squid is a temperamental flesh.

The Baron loves my Jaccard, too. Men generally like gizmos, though he's more resistant than most. However, there's nothing like whacking slabs of meat to get one's testosterone flowing...

...we both learned the hard way about cleaning those 48 blades. Unless you're careful you can stab one of them into a finger as you're attempting to move them to reach a fiber of meat. But it takes only one carelessness and you're cured - of being careless, I mean. Now I use the hose attachment at the sink and quickly rinse off any meat shreds - they're aren't usually very many. I think the blades plunge in and out so cleanly that they don't take any meat with them. When done rinisng the Jaccard under the hose, I plunge it into a waiting pan of soapy hot water to which I've added bleach. It stays there, soaking, until any other utensils I might use in preparing the meat are ready to be washed - e.g., the pan used for marinating or the trimming knife.

Given how quickly cuts of meat that have been Jaccarded cook, I'll bet this thing has paid for itself by now.

NOTE: When I bought mine it came with a sturdy plastic sleeve which covers the blades. Both pieces are in shrink-wrapped in plastic. You could get by without the sleeve but I hope it's still sold that way. For the sake of Jaccard's liability insurance premiums if nothing else.

I've been thinking: I got this gadget because I could no longer use my meat pounder - tha't a fibromyalgia thing. I should do a Listmania for gadgets that make living with this DD - "damned disorder" as they say on some of the forums - a bit easier.

So far, by coincidence I have talked about two of them. The "eggplant"-colored garden hose that looks like a snake in the grass and this well-designed Jaccard.

Who knows, this could be a trend.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Why I Love Amazon, Chapter One

Okay, I'll grant that my politics and those of Mr. Bezos, the founder and CEO of Amazon, don't mesh. But fortunately, he's built a wonderful organization - ironically, one which appears to operate quite at odds with what little I know of his political beliefs. The man is an entrepreneur extraordinaire so it’s okay by me if he chooses to be a mugwump – i.e., his mug being on one side of the fence while his wump is on the other. I don’t care because the company he founded – Amazon - has benefitted my life immensely.

Whether the working conditions in his shipping warehouses are the best is a subject for another post and one I’m certainly willing to address when I have better information.

In the meantime, my paean to Amazon…

I call Amazon "the Wal-Mart for Shut-Ins" and so it is – that and much more. In addition to the obstacle of my physical infirmities – they make long drives difficult - we live a right good distance from “real” stores – things like Target or the Pottery Barn or Starbucks. It’s twenty-one miles to the nearest latte, but that's progress; in the old days it was a forty-mile haul.

Before fibromyalgia claimed me for its own, I commuted sixty-five miles (or more) round trip every day of the work week for many years, not to mention traveling back there to see a movie or eat at one of the Indian restaurants…or theatre occasionally, or concerts. Not to mention the variety of stores where I could get whatever I needed, from garden supplies to toiletries to the herbs and spices I couldn’t get back in our third world county. Zipping through store aisles wasn’t a problem, either. While I was never much of a shopper – walk in with a list and get out a.s.a.p. – those kinds of errands weren’t a hardship back then.

In fact, some of my work hours were spent shopping for those higher up on the income chain than I, people who had more to do than one person could possibly accomplish. As is often the case in life, we traded: my time and energy and shopping skills for their money; both parties were happy with the arrangement. So I would be the one to buy children’s school clothing, family groceries, party supplies – even taking children for their routine well-checks at the doctor on occasion. In other words, whatever my customers needed but were too pressed for time to do…and speaking of pressing, that included dropping off items at the dry cleaners with special instructions as to how they were to be treated.

In a world where both partners (and both parents) work, all too often the minutiae of quotidian tasks falls between the cracks, making life more fraught and frantic than it has to be. What drops into the oubliette of nagging “shoulda” can be picked up by enterprising gleaners…like me.

For many years I thought I wanted to save the world by doing crisis intervention. What I discovered though was the immense pleasures to be had in cleaning out my customers’ closets and organizing them in creative ways they’d never had the time to consider. I grew to enjoy hearing, “Oh my, you’re a genius!” when all I’d done was make the most out of a small space. At one point, I considered going into partnership with a good carpenter. We’d have created order and beauty; what could be more satisfying than that?? Building cathedrals? Maybe, but then you’re not going to live long enough to see your work finished and in our present cultural environment the ecology dictators would rob you of much of the pleasure of the process. Petty tyrants abound in our political institutions. Such a shameful waste of human energy.

But I digress…as I often do. It is the privilege of those of us with the vapors. Our wandering minds can be the bane of those around us. Oh well.

I was speaking of my great enthusiasm for Amazon. Today, after a long absence from this neighborhood, I was finally moved to come here to talk about the ways in which Amazon has improved my life. And as I move through other chapters devoted to Amazin’, I’ll be sharing the particulars of Amazon that have helped me.

Today I’ll begin with something I wanted, but wasn’t sure existed. I needed a lightweight, easy-to-drag-across-the-yard water hose. The ones we have I can no longer easily maneuver and I am sooo tired of having to ask the Baron to do these things. It’s not any one task I require, but the sum of them in a given day. Hose-dragging is just one of many…

So I went looking on Amazon, drilling down from the “Patio, Home & Garden” and restricting it to Amazon prime. In no time, I found just what I was looking for:

Water Right PSH-050-EP-4PKRS 50-Foot x 1/2-Inch Polyurethane Lead Safe Ultra Light Slim Garden Hose - Eggplant

The image is over on the side bar.

I got the eggplant color because that's what was available. Is it pricey? Yes. Enough so that I visited that page for a few weeks before I took the plunge and ordered it. It’s hard to get one’s mind around to accepting the hidden costs of being disabled. But that’s just the way it is: the things I need to make life doable cost more.

To go with it, I bought a present for the Baron:

Gilmour 528T Solid Brass Twist Nozzle

I haven’t included a picture for that but you can see it at the link.

By the way, I didn’t see this one immediately. It wasn’t on the presenting page. But when I pulled up the page of a brass nozzle that wasn’t covered by Amazon Prime’s free shipping, this one was on the side bar. I don’t understand why things sort like that but I’ve found it worth my while to click on second best, non-Prime, to see if what I really want is in some other category further down the page – e.g., the listings of what other people bought after viewing an item.

The Baron has been complaining for years about the cheap nozzles we’ve had. Can’t say I blame him, either. Back when physical pain wasn’t an issue, I didn’t mind my hands getting tired holding it open, or the bother of the little dingus you had to push against to make it stay open, or the fact that they always leaked all over me. With this nozzle, though, I can simply twist it open or closed. No fiddling with the parts. It doesn’t leak.

And my dear heart is very happy to have a heavy-weight nozzle again – “the kind my Daddy had” is how he describes it.

Of course, I always look at the reviews. They may be the best part of shopping on Amazon…

Bottom line: I love this purple water hose.

So does the man who came to fix our heat pump. He raved about it, wanted to know where I got it, and said that as soon as he got off work he was going to “get me one of them”. I hope he likes his as much as I like mine. Funny thing was he didn’t mind the purple color.

“Kinda looks like one of them harmless snakes in the grass, don’t it?” I looked at it bit harder, then unfocused my eyes a little. He was right. My purple snake hose.

Now there's a bonus for you: any herpetologists you know are bound to love this thing.