To the jenth power ...

I read the books. I watched the show. I unflinchingly wore a sunbonnet to second grade. What started as a childhood obsession has developed into .. well, an adult obsession. I'm going to visit some of the sites depicted in the Little House series of books. Go west, (not-so-) young woman, indeed.

Friday, September 29, 2006

I fancy myself Madam Curie. Or Martha Stewart. Or something.

Slow drain? Fruit flies circling the kitchen sink? Looks like it's time for the Brady Bunch Volcano solution! (Or BBV, as it's known in some quarters.)

Well, really it's more like the vinegar/baking soda solution, but it's so much more fun to pull a '70s sitcom into the equation, dontcha think? Besides, who knew that clearing drains could be such fun?

I guess that it's pretty common knowledge that if you dump some baking soda into the drain, then follow up with a little vinegar, you'll end up with crazy, fizzy awesomeness, but it's a relatively new discovery for me. Yeah, I could cloak this observation in a profound commitment to the environment and a lofty attempt to oust caustic chemicals from my home, but I won't lie. I just like playing mad scientist with the bathroom sink.

So why bother to write about it? No reason really, except that it's my awkward segue into my latest foray into prairie housekeeping.

I blame it all on Amazon's "Super Saver" deal; that is, if you order more than $25.00 worth of certain goods, Amazon will ship your order for free. It all began with the innocent purchase of a flannel duvet cover, and, before I knew it, I'd included a copy of The Little House Cookbook with my order. Please don't fool yourself into thinking that I'm some kind of culinary genius; I mean, I'm more like the Countess of Cup-O-Soup. However, even for devotees of *ahem* squeeze cheese and off-brand Triscuits, this book, written by Barbara M. Walker, is a great read.

The roast suckling pig and rye'n'injun bread, however, still remain unbaked. Shocking. I know.

Still, I think it would be fun to try a few of the things in the book. From reading it, I gather that the tastes and textures of the foods are very different from the things we're familiar with today. I also like to think that I'd get an appreciation for the day-to-day pioneer experience. If I take the time to create "Long Winter" bread sans the convenience of my breadmaker, I might have more appreciation for just how difficult the Long Winter really was. I may even try grinding up some of the grain in an antique coffee grider that I own ... although, to be honest, I suspect my enthusiasm will dim after a batch of two. Or even a spin or two of the crank. Heh.

I mean, if nothing else, it would be interesting, right? Yep, I'll keep telling myself that. I'll repeat it as a mantra while an ill-conceived attempt at sourdough starter begins to grow like the Blob, devouring both my cat and the local diner. Interesting. An experiment. Hoo doggies!

What especially caught my fancy? Vinegar. There's a recipe for creating my own vinegar. In fact, this is a rather important one to try, as vinegar was a staple, and modern store-bought vinegar has been pasteurized so it won't work properly with a number of the recipes. So, yes, I am considering becoming a vinegar alchemist. Who doesn't? I figure I'll either create a tasty garnish or a smelly, fermenting apple-core bomb. Only time will tell, I suppose.

At any rate, I could dump any shameful fermented outcome down the drain .... and test the limits of that Brady Bunch Volcano effect.

Days until trip: 291
Money saved: $245


Thursday, September 21, 2006


I have a phobia.

Now, I know that we all have our fears. Heights. The dark. Spiders. Some folks are terrified to cross bridges, and others can be thrown into panic at the very notion of a snake. I'm freaked out by some very normal things, too, such as lightning, large bugs, commitment and brown socks. My crazy, irrational fear, however, is this: I'm terrified of Philadelphia. Specifically, I live in fear of having to drive through it.

Sure, the city of brotherly love never did anything to me. After all, I've only really visited there twice, despite its proximity to where I live. However, I've traveled through it countless times, because it stands between my place of residence and the Jersey Shore. What this means is that I need to drive through it whenever heading to my beloved Cape May or other shore points. Well, I suppose I could circumvent it if I really tried, but I'd be adding hours to the already tiresome trip. So ... Philadelphia it is.

I'd forgotten the panic that the drive inspires until I traveled to Avalon, NJ last week for a long-overdue vacation. Hoping to avoid the hordes and masses, I departed from Scranton at 3:30 am. At first, the drive was pleasant - I had the Turnpike to myself as I listened to long-forgotten tunes on the middle-of-the-night radio broadcasts (do they ever play "Timothy" any time other than at 4:15 am?) and smoked too many cigarettes. Sure, it was a little foggy, but the ride wasn't bad. I relished the space-age feeling of shooting through the Lehigh Tunnel before dawn. I liked sensing the flattening of the mountains as I headed southward, and having to yawn frequently to pop my ears. However, once I began to see indicators that Philly was creeping up ahead, my bowels began to tighten.

That, in a nutshell, is what that city does to me: it causes intestinal distress (as my mother would delicately put it). I actually had an, er .. attack once while traveling on the Schuylkill Expressway, necessitating a harried pullover and a search for any open McDonald with an functioning restroom. Okay, that's probably faaar too much information, but you get the picture. My innards roll like the mighty Mississip. At best, I get through that city as quickly as I can, white-knuckling the steering wheel and muttering shitdamnshitdamnshitdamn through clenched teeth.

Why this terror? I really don't know. I've driven through New York City, Boston and other major cities with nary a twitch. In fact, I tend to find the quickened pace and the challenge exhilarating. I've never even come close to a car accident in any Philadelphia treks, so that's not the source of panic. The most awful part is that it never gets any easier or less frightening for me, no matter how many times I do it. I sometimes think I might die there on Route 76 as a victim of a fright-induced heart attack or stroke, the worst part being that I'll most likely soil myself in the process.

Thank God the word "phobia" starts with a "ph" or I'd be forced to get all cutesy about my ... phear.

Interestingly, I turned to my old friend Roget while writing this because, well ... there are only so many readily-available words with which to express true horror. On of the given synonyms for fear is "unholy dread", which, I think, sums up the sensation quite nicely. Unholy dread, indeed.

At any rate, I had a wonderful time on my vacation. I spent plenty of time in Cape May, natch. I visited Cold Spring and saw a Revolutionary War encampment complete with the firing of cannons. I rented a bike and explored Avalon and Stone Harbor. I shopped too much and ate far too much fried food and saltwater taffy. Best of all, I spent a week with my best friend and her family, all of whom I love dearly. It was a wonderful week.

The trip back? Hordes and masses in spades. Bleh. Yuck. Cringe. Shudder. At least I was able to somewhat keep my wits about me. Or my shits, as the case may be.

Days until trip: 299
Money saved: $220.00


Wednesday, September 06, 2006

The Millinery-Industrial Complex

Boy howdy! We got us a sunbonnet!

Funny how things work. I looked for the bonnet. I craved some more travel stuff. I paced, I whined. I pissed and moaned. Then today - just when I was really feeling at loose ends - my mailbox contained untold riches! Well, all right. Okay. Maybe not untold riches. Rather, a Travel South Dakota! book (A book! With a command for a title!) and a spiffy manila envelope from the Laura Ingalls Wilder Memorial Society. It made my day, it really did.

So, natch, I immediately tried on the bonnet. It fit! It even looked rather fetching. I'd originally decided to order a red bonnet because I thought that it would stand out in pictures and even seem a little sillier than, say, a pink or lavender one. Now I'm glad I got it in red because of the patented H.A.R.D. B.A.R.F.Y.* theory.

(*This stands for "Had A Rotten Day? Buy Anything Red For Yourself!". I'll credit my mother as the wise soul who introduced me to this simple theory, and it's served me well over the years. It works like this: basically, if you're having a rough time of things, spring for something for yourself and make it something bright red. It doesn't necessarily involve much cash - the red pick-me-up could be as simple as a 99-cent tube of lipstick or even a cherry freezer pop. All that matters is that it be something red and something you don't buy/see/do every day. I mean, red is the color of confidence! Of panache! By motivating my miserable self to change the course of a somewhat unpleasant day, I can often rearrange my state of mind. And ... well, it's also my rationalization behind the burgeoning Scarlet-hued Fiestaware collection ... butanyway ...)

This can only mean one thing: time to fire up the camera! Just think - I'll be able to show myself in all my prairie glory on this very blog! I'm very nearly getting the vapors from the excitement of it all.

Days until trip: 307
Money saved: $245.00