Public Transportation and the apathy thereof

I work downtown, in Syracuse, NY, part-time. My diatribe on parking will have to wait for another post but, it is the main reason I do not drive to the City.  Since car-pooling isn’t really an option, I have discovered that Centro (our bus service here) has provided me with the means to work and be productive. Now, I’m sure you’re wondering what the big deal is.

Most half-way decently sized Metropolitan areas have some sort of public transportation and I highly prefer that to trying to find a parking place, trying to find a decent taxi or trying to figure out the fastest way to wherever I want to be. Of course, patience is essential with public transportation but you also gain a lot of practice in planning.  That said, I wondering, how come there are so few of us who have figured out that it’s easier to take the bus?

According to 2013 (latest I could find) census data, Syracuse (and its environs I assume) has a population of 144,669 people (every size, shape and color included).  [http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/36/3673000.html] Of that, according to a bunch of smarty-pants researchers who work for The City, only 3% use the bus. That’s 434 people and a crying shame.

Are we so enraptured with our vehicles that to avoid using them would cost us dearly? Are we so uneducated that we can’t figure out the bus schedule? Are we so intimidated by the thought of riding with strangers? Really folks, it isn’t that hard. The website for our buses is: http://www.centro.org and contacts a “trip planner.” That has saved me a lot of time and trouble to say the least. Just plug in your starting point and destination, and bada-bing! bada-BOOM, you’ll be told which bus to catch at what time, whether or not you have to transfer, and what time you’ll arrive. Not that hard…Then again, any effort beyond starting a vehicle seems to be much too much for people around here.

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More Kitchen helps :)

Yes, Yes, I know! It’s been awhile since I’ve posted anything but Creation did not happen in a day, neither does my creativity.  That said, I’ve discovered a few more tips to help folks out with various items.

First off, one of my favorite gadgets:

Strainer

The Mini-strainer.  If you don’t have one, get one! This comes in handy for all sorts of duties. I like to sprinkle sugar, cinnamon, paprika or any other powdery item with a lot more control than my fingers. It also stands in well for scooping out whatever from soups, etc. when you can’t find your slotted spoon. Think of it as a small sifter. Of course, this you need to find and, since it’s not quite popular amongst the general population, allow me to move on to items that are already in your kitchen

For instance:

PastaConsidering I’m married into an Italian family, having pasta around is a “given.” Considering there are a million places on the web on how to cook or prepare noodles, I will save you from the umpteen recipes but, fear not! Aside from adding to your waist-line, this stuff also comes in handy for all sorts of jobs.

I use long pasta a lot for testing bake goods but, this last December, I came up with another idea. Trying to light Luminaries is a lot easier (and CHEAPER) if you light up a piece of Spaghetti.  Takes a few tries but it works just as well as those gadgets they sell to help you light funky candles in tall containers.

FoilAnd, last but not least, Foil. This one gets credit from Cook’s Magazine but I thought I’d share it with the rest of you.  One of the things I always have stocked in my refrigerator is Celery.  It goes well with a myriad of dishes and every kind of protein you can imagine. Base on that, I’m always in need for it at one time or another.  Problem is, after a week, that which WAS Celery has become mushy, brown and just plain funky.  To solve that problem, Cooks came up with the nearly-perfect answer to preserving the stuff without sticking it in an old mayonnaise jar filled with water.

When you get home from the grocery store, take it out of the plastic sleeve, run it under some cold water then wrap it up snugly in foil—make sure you just enough foil to wrap it closely, Then, two weeks down the road, Voila! You will still have fresh, crunchy, worthy of any dish, Celery.  I have found that it lasts for up to 1 1/2 months using this method.

Well, that’s it for now.  If you’d like to share your ideas, please do! Since the Economy is still in flux and we’re all trying to manage with less, any frugal, cheap or fun ideas are always welcome 🙂

Where would we be without friends?

The song that comes to mind is “He ain’t heavy, he’s my Brother.” Over the past few months I have been challenged with a number of struggles that most people would collapse from. I didn’t give any thought to asking for help, I just tried to figure my problems out by myself.

Cancer? I have a bunch of Doctors and a lot of research. Child problems? More research and asking a lot of  questions. Finances? Dig, Dig, DIG to find an answer (including Lottery tickets…). All these problems/questions I tried to figure out on my own but, somebody upstairs said, “Hey, STUPID! You’ve got buddies galore! Ask for HELP!” (A blog on my spirituality but dislike of organized Religion will pop up at some point).

Now the average homo sapiens would yell, “HELP!” but, me? I started paying attention to all the letters, notes, cards, texts, emails and phone calls from all the people who know me as a friend.  You’d think I would have given in and said, “oh please!” immediately but, no. Instead, I muddled in and tried to solve my problems. Then things got a little harder to ignore.

Friends came to my house, packages arrive in the mail and people brought gifts of every kind. They took charge of what needed to be taken care of.  After the last “rescue,” I realized that I must be the luckiest person on Earth to have such an out-pouring of concern. Was it something I said? Did? Didn’t do? Took care of? Helped out with? Gave counsel for? Some how I was blessed and awakened to the fact that a lot of people love me and I am forever grateful for all of their help.

Alittle help in the Kitchen

I have spent years in the kitchen cooking, creating and cleaning all sorts of stuff.  Along with that, I’ve picked up some unusual hints and helps from a myriad of sources. All of them are helpful, in one way or another, and they are all CHEAP and easy to do.

First up, my favorite vegetable, although I have some family members who actually avoid all food that contains them (genetic anomaly…).

Onion

Onions have long been sobbed over, and you can bet, any time I hear how to avoid smearing my mascara, I write it down.  For Onions, put them in the Freezer for 15 minutes prior to cutting—preheating the oven? finding other ingredients? trying to remember where that recipe book is? put the onion in FIRST.  Of course, if you can, I feel it best to just keep them in the refrigerator so I don’t have to remember the freezer.

Continuing on with vegetable hints, the next one is another one of those items that sits in your produce draw until you get a new definition of YUCK.

celery

Fear not though, Cooks magazine (umpteen issues ago…) did a lot of tests and figured out that if you wrap your celery (removing the plastic wrapping) in aluminum foil, it will last much longer.  I also cut off the top to encourage longevity but I don’t know if that helps or hinders.

And, now the last but my favorite of all veggies, Fungi.

mushrooms

Before I begin though, I wonder, does anyone know how to decide whether a mushroom is past it’s prime? I admit, I’ve fed my family some pretty funky mushrooms (no mold, but…) and I figure, if I cook them they should be ok.  I guess it depends on your fortitude.  That said, Cook’s magazine help again, save them in a paper bag in the frig. They last just a little bit longer and don’t turn into mushy, yucky, unrecognizable messes.

And, now, shall we move on to stuff you cook with? Utensils

First here, I have a collection of 15 different sizes, shapes and duties in my two knife blocks.  I also have a steel to sharpen them with.  The Can opener should be saved for JUST CAN’S and those hand-held gadgets don’t last too long.  Spend the $15 – $30 and you’ll never regret it.  Of course, small hint here.

Chef Knife

Never, Never, NEVER put your knives in the Dishwasher! They don’t link extremely hot water (Martha Stewart told me that back in the 1980’s). This is the one time you should use dish soap and your kitchen sink.  When you’re done with your knife, rinse it off and set it aside. Then, when you’re waiting for the meal to finish on the stove or in the oven, quick run over to the sink and get the knives washed.  You’ll both appreciate it. Besides that, wooden handles hate the dish washer too. The next item has to do with meal-prep but it’s more my opinion than anything else.

Spatulas

Spatulas! I have 4 different kinds and love them all. A lot of people have various wooden spoons, and all sorts of whisks, as do I, but the Spatula is what I use 98% of the time.  You can mix with it and scrap the bowl. You can spread things, cook things (as long as they’re heat resistant) and do all sorts of stuff much easier.

Ok, that’s it for now folks. If you have any hints you’d like to share, please feel free to leave a comment ’cause we’re all in this together…

 

In sympathy of calculators

I have been using math, in one form or another, for the past 46 years.  It all started with measuring insulin dosages (that’s another blog post down the road…) and I learned early on, numbers are my favorite thing.

Forever and always, 2 + 2 will equal 4.  There’s no semantics, underlying meanings or inuendos, just answers. What I find funny is that many folks are scared of math, somehow intimidated by a jumble of figures. I think the fear comes from not knowing what to do with those numbers, not knowing how to figure out what the answer is. My father was one of those people who could think on their feet and he wow’ed people all the time with facts and figures.  Of course, his progeny had to follow in his foot-steps so he told us, NO CALCULATORS until we handed him a Bachelor’s diploma.  Anyone can get a High-school diploma, but a Bachelor’s???  Need less to say, it took me 10 years to graduate (another blog post down the road…) and I got my first calculator when I turned 32.

Calculator

Did I jump for joy? Did I wear it out trying the addition, subtraction, multiplication and division keys?  No, it sat in the corner and collected dust for a long time.  I had already developed several methods or calculating in my head so to punch buttons almost seem redundant, wasteful. After college, I worked in Sales and wow’ed my clients all the time by figuring out costs in my head but I could never figure out why they were so surprised.  To me, it was easy.  Like I said before, nothing ever changes when you add things up so where’s the angst?

And to the world out there, is math something you hate? Is it something that scares you? Or is something you can handle without a lot of problems…?