A Household Hint
I've been made unemployed again (my contract expired at the end of last month - if you're hiring admin staff in Western Australia and need someone three days a week, let me know!) so I'm spending a lot of time at home. This is (fortunately or unfortunately) currently coinciding with a bout of rather nasty pain from my right temporo-mandibular joint, which means I'm currently drinking one heck of a lot of tea in an effort to keep things from getting entirely too painful. Plus, of course, it is SPRING in Australia, and it's been about three years since the rear courtyard and steps of our place were sprayed with weed-killer. So in order to be dealing with the combined problems of a) boredom; b) too many weeds in the paving; and c) no money to spend on weed-killer, I've been using what I call "the poor person's glyphosate" on the weeds in the rear paving.
What is the poor person's glyphosate? Boiling water. To kill weeds in paving, pour boiling water over them until they start to either a) wilt; b) smell like cooking greenery; or c) both. If it's a really big, bushy weed, pour the water over the base of the plant - kill that and you'll get the rest of it, trust me.
This has several advantages over commercial weed-killers. Firstly, it's entirely non-toxic to the rest of the garden (and to the gardener, for that matter). The thing which is killing the weeds is the heat, not the chemicals - the water itself is entirely non-toxic to the garden when it cools down past boiling point. Secondly, it's not toxic to animal life (if you have pets or fish, you can use this particular weed-killer with no problems whatsoever - just keep them out of range for about five minutes while things cool down). Thirdly, it's also a nice, non-toxic way of dealing with the ants in the paving (pour boiling water down an anthill to give the ants the hint you're not interested in having them excavating Right There). Fourthly, it's cheap and easy. Or at least, it's certainly a lot cheaper and easier than buying commercial weed-killer and using that would be.
Essentially, what I've been doing is each time I boil up the kettle for a cup of tea, I've been taking the remaining hot water out the back door while the tea brews, and pouring it onto a clump of weeds. So far I've managed to clear the back steps, and I'm getting started on the paving nearest the door to the house. At this rate, I'll hopefully have everything cleared by about the end of the next week or so. Then I can get started on the front paving, and clear a bit of that.
 Long story short-ish: the temporo-mandibular joint is inflamed, which refers pain to the nerve on the right hand side of my jaw, which means if I'm not taking regular painkillers, I wind up with everything from my wisdom teeth to the front edge of my right incisors aching like blazes. Including the upper pre-molar which was removed a few years ago. It's a bit annoying, to put things mildly. (Actual joint pain: about a 2 - 3 out of 10. Once the teeth get involved: easily a 6 - 7 out of 10, if not higher). This only gets worse if my right ear or the right side of my jaw get cold. Hence hot liquids as a palliative measure.
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Five Things Make A Post 04 OCT 2018
1) ( Potentially distressing content under the fold )
2) In my other class, we're studying Foucault (a quick introduction to Foucault, discourse, and so on), and one of our readings is bringing up examples of current events (current at the time of writing/publication for the reading ... which was published in 2000) in US politics. Things like the Anita Hill case, the Clinton impeachment and so on. I was reading this yesterday and thinking "damn it, Brett Kavanaugh can't stop getting into everything". I'm hoping the rest of my readings this week won't be so... inadvertently synchronisticly appropriate, damn it.
3) One of the things I was asked to listen to for a previous weeks readings for one of my classes was "Four Chord Song" by Axis of Awesome. Which means I'm now hearing the chord structures and bass line of a lot of what I'm listening to these days, and thinking about the ways that various chord patterns are used and re-used to create music. There's the standard four chord song, the twelve-bar blues, the Romanesca (aka "that one in Pachelbel's Canon") and so on. So that gives me a bit of something to think about when I'm busy listening to music to block out the extraneous noise while I'm doing my uni readings.
4) As a side effect of stress, I am currently dealing with a complete lack of spoons for actual sensible cooking stuff. Which means I'm eating a lot of stuff which can be cooked by throwing it into the oven and reheating it. (Yes, I know this isn't healthy in the long term, but unless someone else is volunteering to come and cook for me for free, I suspect I'm going to be sticking with this for a while). One thing I have worked out is that it is cheaper for me to buy a $2.90 box of Coles plain brand frozen chicken nuggets, and re-heat them at home, than it is to get one of those "24 nuggets for $10" deals from KFC or Maccas - for $10 I can get three boxes of Coles nuggets, for a total of 66 of the little bastards, and all I have to supply is the oven to reheat them. Plus I can have my choice of dipping sauces (at present, the winner is Fountain Hot Chilli sauce) rather than being stuck with the options of watered down Sweet Chilli Sauce, or watered down Sweet and Sour Sauce or whatever. So, that can stand in for my reviews of recipes. I'll do more of them when I have the time and spoons to cook again.
5) Latest book up for the Farewell Re-read treatment is "The Ultimate Dracula" - a collection of short stories on a rather predictable theme, edited by Byron Preiss.
 In the words of Neil Innes: "I've suffered for my art; now it's your turn."
PS: I was serious about the Twitter thing. If you see me on Twitter any time before this whole thing has simmered down, remind me to get the fsck off there for the good of my blood pressure.
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This is a list of things which are currently a bit of a luxury for me; things I'd like to be able to afford, but currently can't.
- When I'm grocery shopping, and I have the choice between buying the store brand, or the named brand, I'd like to be able to buy the named brand.
- I'd like to be able to buy pre-grated cheese without having to argue with my conscience about it.
- I'd like to be able to go grocery shopping without needing to take a calculator along.
- When the weather turns cold this winter (as it's already starting to do) I'd like to be able to turn on the heater the first time, rather than reaching for another jumper, jacket, scarf, gloves, blanket, thicker socks.
- I'd like to be able to wear two layers rather than three.
- I'd like to be able to afford clothes which weren't skimpy as all blazes (at present, my main shopping site is Best & Less, and while they're good for cheap clothes, their winter-weight stuff is only really winter-weight in Darwin)
- I'd like to be able to afford shoes that didn't leak, and kept my feet warm.
- I'd like to be able to afford to own/run a clothes dryer, rather than using a drying rack inside the house, and hoping I can dodge around it for long enough for things to dry out.
- I'd like to be able to pay for some of the online news services I use.
- I'd like to be able to take time off from the housework.
- Attn: The minister for Social Security and the minister for Human Services: I'd like to be in a financial position where an extra $10 per fortnight wouldn't make a discernible difference to my state of mind and standard of living.
PS: This is more a meditation on the nature of luxury, and the ways it can be defined when money is tight. It isn't actually a request for help, although I would like to thank those people who did offer assistance of a financial kind. I am more grateful for it than I can say, even though I'm also not likely to take you up on it.This entry was originally posted at https://megpie71.dreamwidth.org/119368.html. Please comment there using OpenID.
Easy Fried Rice
The name is something of a misnomer, as fried rice is definitely easy in all its incarnations. This is the version I make when I have a bit of leftover rice as a result of overdoing the cooking in the week previous.
I tend to start with steamed rice, and if I have two takeaway food containers worth (or about four serves, in other words) then I have enough for frying up.
My usual ingredients for fried rice:
2 - 3 eggs, made up into a bit of an omelette (slice the omelette thinly once it's had a few minutes to cool - I'll generally make it first out of everything).
250g bacon rashers, rind removed and chopped up.
1 onion, diced finely
1 - 2 sticks celery, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed or very finely chopped
1 tablespoon or so crushed ginger (as in, the stuff you get in a jar)
2 cups frozen peas, corn and carrot mix
approx 1/4 cup soy sauce
approx 4 cups chilled steamed rice
Optional extra ingredients:
* Tinned champignon mushrooms (either whole or sliced)
* Chopped cooked chicken, beef, lamb, pork etc
* 1 tablespoon or so crushed/chopped lemon grass (the stuff you get in a tube)
* 3 spring onions (green onions), sliced
* Chopped chives
* Chopped coriander (cilantro, for our American friends)
* 1 - 3 tablespoons lime juice
Start by making up your omelette - break the eggs into a bowl, mix them up together and add about 1 tablespoon or so of water per egg. Mix together a bit more, then pour into the bottom of a greased frypan or wok (I don't own a wok, so I use a frypan) over a low heat. Slosh the egg around so it covers as much of the surface as possible, then scrape the cooked bits into the middle until you run out of runny egg (tilt the frypan to ensure the runny stuff doesn't clump into the middle of the omelette). Let it sit until the top looks mostly solid, then flip and cook the other side. Don't worry if your omelette breaks up at this stage, because it's only going to get chopped up anyway. Flip all the bits over, cook for about 1 minute on the other side, or until you're pretty sure it's cooked through, then pull it out of the frypan and put it into a spare bowl to cool.
Now, put the chopped up bacon into the frypan, and cook over low heat until it's starting to render up its fat. This is a good way of using up cheap, fatty bacon, because the grease gets used to cook everything else, and the meat just melds into things nicely.
Next, add the onion. If you're doing this like me, and prepping things as you go, you'll be chopping the onion as the bacon is rendering, and lo and behold, just as you've got the first half of the onion chopped, the bacon will have yielded enough grease to ensure the onion doesn't stick to the pan! If you're prepping things first, cook the onion until it's starting to turn transparent before adding the next ingredient.
Next up is the celery. Again, if you're prepping as you go, the onion will be just starting to get transparent as you add it. You want this to cook until it's just starting to soften a bit, so about 3 minutes.
Next, add the garlic and the ginger together. If you're adding lemon grass and/or meat, now is the time to put them in as well. Stir well to make sure everything is blended together.
Next, stir in the frozen vegetables. If you're adding champignon mushrooms, make sure you quarter the whole ones, and throw the liquid in as well. This stage is going to take about 5 minutes, because you're wanting to make certain the vegetables are all cooked (as well as breaking up any frozen lumps of them that have slipped in).
While the veges are cooking, start looking at the rice. If, like me, you don't rinse your rice before cooking it by the absorption method, what you'll have is a bunch of solid lumps of starchy rice sitting in your containers. The easiest way to deal with this, and get the grains separated is to rinse the whole lot under HOT running water in a sieve, breaking up the lumps by hand if necessary (just squeeze gently under the water and they'll fall apart). Also, take a few seconds to slice your omelette (thought we'd forgotten that, hadn't you?) reasonably thinly. Basically, you're looking at bits of egg about the size of everything else.
Add the soy sauce to the frypan now, and stir well. Yes, it looks like a lot of soy sauce, but don't worry, the rice will soak it all up.
Speaking of which, now is the time to dump in the rice. If you want to be careful, add it in spoonful by spoonful. If you don't mind wiping down the stove later (who am I fooling? You'll be wiping down the stove even if you are careful), just dump it all in at once. Stir well to combine and heat through. You'll notice the rice goes a nice brown colour, which it's supposed to.
This is the point where you add the omelette (as well as the sliced green onions, the chives, the coriander and the lime juice if you're using those). Stir briefly to combine and heat everything through, then turn off the heat and serve. The recipe I've listed makes about four to six servings, and keeps well in the fridge overnight if you want some for lunch tomorrow. (I've no idea whether it lasts longer than that, because it usually doesn't in our household!).
The frypan you use for this recipe needs to be BIG, and even with a large frypan, you'll still probably wind up wiping rice off the stove and its surroundings - this is a recipe which gets everywhere. But it's fun to make, and it's a useful way of using up leftovers. (Incidentally, my other favourite for using up leftover rice is kedgeree, but it requires me to have some smoked cod on hand in the freezer, and also Steve doesn't particularly like it. Fried rice he likes).
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I'm F I N E...
... and we all know that stands for Freaked out, Insecure, Neurotic and Emotional, right? Right.
What's stressing me out 15 MAR 2013
* Have to go to Centrelink and hand in paperwork - don't want to deal with bureaucratic bullshit
* Scared we're not going to be able to get enough money from Centrelink between the witholdings for the debt and everything else to afford food and rent simultaneously.
* Scared this is going to count against us when we're looking for accommodation
* Deadline for accommodation is coming up faster and faster
* Behind on assignments
* Haven't been taking meds, because taking meds falls off the bottom of the list very early on when I'm even vaguely stressed
* Don't have enough meds to last more than about a fortnight
* Getting more meds would entail going back to the doctors and I haven't been since about mid-December
* Don't want to go back to the doctor and have to explain why I haven't been taking meds, why I haven't been back to see them since December, and why I didn't book that blasted ultrasound
* Don't want to have to go through the whole rigmarole of explaining why the hell I don't like making phone calls (eg to book appointments for a thyroid ultrasound) because I know it sounds insane and stupid and idiotic and pointless.
* Don't want to have to damn well get back on the medication-go-round for the depression because I know it won't work more than temporarily.
* Haven't done anywhere near enough work on my assignments and study for uni
* Haven't done anything about looking for new accommodation since about Monday
* Haven't been keeping up with the housework
* Feel like I need to be keeping up with all of these things and I haven't got the energy or inclination
* Didn't eat anything yesterday apart from that sandwich and the spring rolls and the coffee
* Don't want to be scolded for not having eaten
* Don't want to cook
* Suspect my period is starting
* Nerve in my right shoulder/upper arm/forearm is trapped *again* and it's giving me gyp
* Scared I'm breaking down again
* Don't want to be homeless, and really can't see how we're going to avoid that at this point
* Steve doesn't seem to understand any of this, so I'm getting next to no support, and what support I'm getting isn't really the useful stuff
* Feel isolated and crazy.
* If I go to the doctors to talk about not taking the meds, they tell me to take the meds, and when I explain I'd like to but my brain isn't processing the request properly they tell me to get Steve to remind me, except Steve doesn't seem to take his OWN meds regularly so why the merry hell would he be willing to nag me about mine, never mind my typical reaction to nagging is to run screaming in the other direction. So how this is supposed to help is beyond me.
* There's so much to be done with regards to packing and decluttering and clearing things out and all the rest and I have no idea how to deal with it all.
* I don't know whether there's a clothing reprocessing group (like Salvos or Sammies) which is likely to take the stuff which is piled up in the spare room - all the shirts and clothes I've worn through over the years - and be able to salvage the usable cloth from them, and I don't want to just chuck everything in the bin because there's still something that someone could use in there I'm sure and I don't want to waste it. So it sits there and doesn't get dealt with and sits there and reproaches me because I'm a bad housekeeper and I'm lousy at being useful and it's just THERE squatting in the corner like some kind of malign Buddha.
* Don't know whether the djembe and the bodhran would be resellable (presume they would) and don't know what a reasonable price to ask is, so I'm scared of over-asking and getting no offers, or under-asking and having people laugh at me, and if I just say "make me an offer" I'm going to look like a fool.
* Don't think we can afford to live on foodsicles and takeaway much longer (if indeed we can now) and quite honestly that's all I feel like eating because cooking means I have to cook and clean and shop and function and I'm not functioning and it's all too bloody hard and why can't Steve do some of this?
* I know I'm dropping my bundle, and I feel useless because of it, because I should be able to HANDLE THIS, DAMN IT. But I can't and I can't even make it an amusing post to put up on Dreamwidth because who wants to see me exploding into a billion pieces ... again?
* I haven't done anything for HaT since about the end of January, and the rate I'm going I probably won't do anything for them any time soon and I feel like I'm letting people down when I do that.
* I have no idea where to start with dealing with any of this. (Well, okay, I tell a minor lie - and I'm a horrible person for that, I know - I've taken my meds for today, and I've taken a couple of neurofen to deal with the pain of the pinched nerve). It's all just there and it needs to be dealt with and I desperately need to do some washing today because I have one pair of clean underwear to my name and and and and ... and I just want to go back to bed and hide.
* But I can't go back to bed and hide because I have to go to Centrelink today to hand in paperwork and I don't want to because I don't want to deal with the bureaucratic bullshit, and we're back where I started the list, time to go round again.
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From the News
Urgent call to increase the dole
ACOSS is asking the government to increase the dole (unemployment benefit) by $50 a week and to index it to wages. As someone who's on the dole at present (along with her partner), I stand by this request 100%. Here's why:
My dole payment per fortnight: $498.
My partner's dole payment per fortnight: $493
Our rent per week: $340
Our food and groceries budget per week: $100
The amount of money left over each fortnight after we pay for rent and food: $111
Out of that $111, we have to pay the electricity bill, the gas bill, the water charges, put petrol in the car (one tank of fuel costs approximately $50), pay for public transport fares, cover the costs of our internet connection, pay for our mobile phones, buy any medication we need, cover the costs of job search, and pay for any other incidental expenses which crop up (clothing, shoes, replacing household goods, car registration, car maintenance etc). Needless to say we're not doing so well, and the accumulated costs of living are nibbling away at our scanty savings all the time. We're now in a situation where one big bill is capable of cleaning us out financially.
Neither of us smokes. Neither of us drinks on more than an occasional basis (say, 1 drink every 6 - 8 months). We don't have kids, we don't have pets. Our entire recreational output is based around the internet, and the existing games and DVDs we own, because we can't afford new ones. We can't afford to go out either, so we're pretty much housebound. We go out to do the grocery shopping - that's our big excursion every week.
We've been living like this since about mid-January, and we're looking forward to living like this for at least another 3 - 6 months, because neither of us is the "ideal" employee, and as such, it takes us time to find new work. Now, the treasurer is busy saying that the government's aim is to get people back into work. Well, that's great. It would be even better if there were employers willing to employ us.
In the meantime, an extra $100 a fortnight each would help immensely with our situation. It would reduce the stress, and the constant dread of finding that next bill in the mail.
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Musings of a Chronic Accumulator
I'm an accumulator. I accumulate things. Every so often, I go through the pile of things I've accumulated and clear out the excess. And every time I do this, I think "I should be more organised".
Today, as part of my standard thirty minutes of household chores, I cleared out the backlogged accumulation of glass jars in one of the kitchen cupboards. I pulled out about a half-dozen largeish glass jars with lids that I know I can find a use for, as well as all the small spice jars and the little dark glass ones that my medication used to come packaged in, and I put those into a plastic storage box. That about filled the box. Then I went through and started taking out all the other jars (and lids) and dropping them into our "items for the recycling" box. Once the "recycling" box was full, I emptied it into the recycling bin. I wound up making two trips to clear the backlog. Now, I have the storage box shoved into one corner of the shelf, and about a half-a-cupboard's worth of vacant space.
My next project is probably going to be the plastic stuff. Like everyone else who has any plastic storage stuff in their cupboards, my plastics store is a mess. So I'm going to have to do the standard sort through, find all the stuff, find all the matching lids, and figure out what I'm going to keep and what can be thrown out. I have a suspicion our recycling bin is going to be a tad on the over-full side next fortnight. My next project after that is likely to be the pantry.
Why am I doing this? Well, part of it is sheer irritation crystalised by the joys of having a rent inspection yesterday. Another part of it is realising that, to be honest, I can't find things in our kitchen. I know me. I know the way I work. If I can't find something when I want it, I get frustrated. If I'm frustrated, I get angry, and getting angry gets me depressed. So somewhere along the line, I have to take a step back and deal with the source of the frustration. At the moment, one of the sources of frustration is clutter.
I know why I have the clutter, too. I have the clutter because I'm coming out of a period of enforced poverty, where my instinctive reaction is to clutch onto everything that comes into the house with both hands, and attempt to save money wherever I can. I hoard things, and I'll buy up bulk and try to "save money" by attempting to reuse and recycle as much as possible. But the problem is, this hoarding is actually counter-intuitive, because I hoard so much stuff that I can't find anything. And if I can't find it, I can't use it. So how much money have I saved, really?
Something I need to keep in mind: if I keep something hanging around, but never use it, no matter what it is, it isn't cheap. It's expensive. It's taking up space, both physical and mental (the mental space is in the justification for why I'm keeping hold of it). If I buy food on special and wind up throwing it out because it passed its best-by date without being eaten, it was a waste of money. If I store something, and wind up buying three more of them because I can't find the original, again, it's a waste of money. Things are only economical if they're actually being used for a purpose. Otherwise, again, they're a waste of time, money, and brainspace.
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Christmas on a Shoestring
So, we're on the dole, paying about $300 a week (or $300 each per fortnight, out of about a $400 fortnightly payment) in rent, and trying to figure out how we're going to cover the cost of Christmas. Fortunately for me, I've been feeling full of energy since we moved into the new place (I think it's a combination of the other shoe finally dropping - we had to give up our old place after a couple of years of not knowing if or when that would happen - and the cheerful realisation that being woken up at oh-good-grief in the morning by the day breaking through the window seems to set up my biological clock for a good day) so I decided to give our immediate families (my parents and younger brother; Himself's parents) something home-made as a way of dealing with the whole "gifts" issue. So yesterday we did a big shop, and bought ingredients for about six different types of chocolate truffle (and I collected the extra bits needed for a seventh today) and I'm making them at approximately one recipe per day until Chrimble finally hits.
This involves a lot of melting of chocolate, and making small balls of various things, coating them in other things, and chilling them in the refrigerator until they're "done". So it's all heaps of fun right up to the point where I have to do the ball making, because despite having extremely poor peripheral circulation (to the point where my hands get cold walking through a supermarket freezer section in the height of an Aussie summer, and stay cold for a good hour or two afterwards) my hands don't get cold enough to roll balls of truffle mixture without getting extremely sticky. I also can't roll balls of choc-dipped truffle mixture between my palms without getting chocolate practically *everywhere*. Definitely something to get my younger niece involved with, I think - the messiness of it might appeal to her. On the positive side, I've just completed the second batch, which are chilling down in the fridge as I type this (all I have to do now is finish tidying up... ergh). Only another five to go. Then I get to make up the gift boxes I bought, find out whether we have any cards hidden somewhere near the surface, and do fancy tags for each one (it's amazing how useful my stationery craze can be at times - I have enough fancy-schmancy pens to sink a small aircraft carrier).
Oh, handy tip for those in the extreme southern metro region in Perth, WA (eg Kwinana/Rockingham/Mandurah) - The Spud Shed, on Kerosene Lane in Baldivis is a brilliant place to shop. They do fruit and veg, plus wholesale priced meat and fish, and a fairly good range of groceries too, and it's all at nice low prices. It's not absolutely brilliant quality - the fruit and veg is definitely the stuff Coles and Woolies reject (slight blemishes and marks on the fruit, veg is a bit smaller than average) but it's certainly edible, and for the price, it's well worth the trip.
Now, on to the dishes.
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