Saturday, November 20, 2010

Espresso Stout Vanilla Float at Full Tilt!

This evening we stopped by Full Tilt in White Center. While pondering which of the dozen delectable ice creams to try, we noticed one of their taps (...yes, this is an ice cream parlor that serves locally-made beer...) was Two Beers Espresso Stout.

We ordered an Espresso Stout Vanilla Float.


This is what good little lattes become after they die and go to heaven.
Two Beers Brewing, Seattle WA!

This combination is highly, HIGHLY recommended! It has ALL the important food groups: ice cream, coffee AND beer!!

It is deeply satisfying; the stout is full-bodied, with a little espresso zip all carried by the milky goodness of the top-rank ice cream.

The only downside is that henceforth every milkshake and every latte will seem thin and lacking.  Be warned!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Null Space Cowboy Microgardens!

Null space - those unused areas in our new house - presents a fun challenge. Since we plan to be here 40 years or more, it makes sense to convert every aspect of the place into long-term value. Many such conversions require saving in advance for a few years, since we don't want to go deeper into debt; for example, our green roof, grey water, and electricity semi-independence initiative all require significant up-front costs. We'll get to them but not today.
Right now, however, we can put those null spaces to work. Making any nondestructive use out of something that currently has no use is a good thing, and we can start with uses that have minimal front-end expenses!
Let Us Indoors!
Today I started an experiment with growing lettuce indoors. I took few rectangular clay pots in which the last lettuces were stubbornly holding on against the onset of winter - not dying but not growing either. I put them near a window, where there is no foot traffic except the cats (who ignore the lettuce outdoors; let's find out if they do the same indoors.) The lettuces (and their future neighbors mint) will not get a huge amount of light, but they will get some from our normal, everyday use. Also they will be at room temperature without any extra effort on our part. I am curious to see whether over the next five months they will grow appreciably, using light and heat that otherwise would have gone to waste.
I added a few seeds in the pots that had room. Let's see if they sprout - there's no hurry - if they take until Valentine's day that'll be fine. Imagine the joy of a fresh, homegrown salad at the end of winter!
I took a few precautions. First was careful inspection to remove any pests. I'm not really squeamish, and in the normal course of events, a few bugs get indoors on our shoes and whatnot, but I felt obliged to examine the pots carefully and flick outside a tiny native slug who probably wouldn't have enjoyed being indoors anyway. I also set the pots on a bit of scrap cardboard to protect the floor; I don't think the pots will leak but you never can tell. Finally, I ... wait a minute ... the "Writer's Rule of Three" urges me to come up with a third thing in the series, but really, there isn't any. There's just pots on the floor, out of the way; it's not that complicated!
Visually, these pots are just as attractive as an indoor cactus - more, really, depending on your attitude toward barbed exotics.
I was inspired to try this in part by this week's Change the World Wednesday Challenge:

This week, plant something edible indoors (in your homes, offices, schools, etc.). Some ideas are lettuce, herbs, spinach, kale, and even tomatoes.
Microgardening - raising food crops in null spaces - may never make anyone wealthy but it promises to be cheap fun and extremely thrifty! Seeds, dirt and pots are all very cheap, and the space is just going to waste, so why not give it a try? 

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Up Front about my First Time (... at a Thrift Store)

My first memorable find at a thrift store was a battered copy of Bill Mauldin's Up Front.
"Up Front" by Bill Mauldin
It's a treasure that can never be surpassed in my heart, even though I've since learned that it's a very common item, with hundreds of thousands of copies in circulation (and probably as many now returned to wood pulp.) It was my first find, and it's a great book besides: highly recommended!

I found it at the Volunteers of America store in Everett, Washington, where I'd probably been dropped off after working as a counselor at their summer camp in Sultan and was waiting to be picked up to go home. That basement bookstore was my first, and as such, remains the standard by which I measure all other used book stores: crowded, chaotic, fun!

Today, when I want tools, clothing, books or housewares, the source of choice is a thrift. While there are some things you just can't get there, and I'll also buy new if I'm in a hurry, for most things it makes no sense to buy new when for a lot less money you can get them nearly new (...and sometimes actually news; more than once I've gotten clothes with the original store's price tag still on it!)

For example, my collection of a dozen Hawai'ian shirts was very inexpensive, yet brings great joy to me and is very practical - you can wear a Hawaiian shirt almost anywhere, if you have the right attitude!)  I also like to get hand tools at thrifts. I recently got a wrench that was probably as old as I am; it was made of real, solid metal all the way through, not the cheap pot-metal that cracks when you crank on it. I have every confidence that this wrench will outlast me ... and when I go, I don't want it buried with me. Give it to a relative, or donate it back to the store!!!

I also like the random nature of the assortment of goods at thrifts; you find odd things that you just can't find anywhere else. You have to be open to the opportunity when, for example, a cigarette lighter in the form of a golf-club head appears. That turned out to be the perfect gift for my father-in-law, a man who can pretty much get whatever he wants or needs for himself, but who quite naturally likes to be thought of during the holidays; this very idiosyncratic gift was all the more perfect for being not available elsewhere.

One of my favorite items that you can count on finding is baking pans. Why pay full price for something made cheaply when, with a little patience, you can snap up solidly built pans that served proudly for more than a decade and, with a little care, will serve you just as long? Some pyrex baking pans, a red clay cooker, and a couple of cast iron pans make our kitchen completely well equipped for serious food, and all for the cost of one pan, new!

From time to time, I discover that something I bought at the thrift just doesn't work out at home. I can be tempted by a gadget the same as anyone else, but if it sits on the shelf for a year, at some point I have to admit that I'm never going to use it. But this is No Problem because it was so inexpensive in the first place, I don't mind just re-donating it where I bought it! Shopping at a thrift can mean that even when you screw up, you don't have to suffer monetary regret.
But that's not a primary motivation. I love saving the money, and I am happy that I'm contributing to a good cause, but mostly ... I love the hunt!

Today's post was inspired by this week's Change The World Wednesday Challenge:
"This week, visit a local thrift/2nd hand store. Browse around to see if there are slightly used items which you could buy rather than purchasing new. After all, the environmental costs of creating the goods sold there have already been paid, so they are really light on the planet (that's the reuse part). To make this trip even more meaningful, bring something to donate (that's the reduce part).

Or ...

 If you are a thrift store/2nd hand shop connoisseur, tell us about some of things which you have saved from a "landfill death" ... and any tips/ideas you might have for shopping at these venues."
Now, I love shopping Thrift stores. Mostly, it's the thrill of the hunt; you can always go to a normal store and pick up what you're looking for - the downside is that you pay full price. But a thrift store stocks only what people donate, so it is impossible to predict what you'll find. You have to keep your eyes open, and also your mind!