Monday, November 27, 2017

ookey turkey muffin recipe

This post is not really about how to make frozen ookey turkey muffins for your dog, even though what I'm about to do is to describe how I made frozen ookey turkey muffins for my dog.

No, this post is really about adapting knowledge from one area to another, or about adapting use of one object to do an unusual task.  I love doing this kind of adapting; it's super for frugality, and it's super for brain creativity.  Hence, this post is really about double-awesomeness.

But the post begins with ookey turkey treats.  As in, after Thanksgiving is over, I toss the turkey carcass in the stock pot, cover it with cold water, and simmer for 12-to-36 hours.  This broth produces a concoction that I separate into 4 parts:
  1. the broth itself, which I pressure can for use in future soup.
  2. the nice meat, which I add back to the broth before pressure canning.
  3. the bones, which I used to feed to my old dog . . . the vet says not to do this, but Miser Dog happily ate turkey bones for years with no problems.  With our new dog Prewash, I am reluctant to feed the bones to her . . . yet.  When this new dog gets old enough that I feel she's past the "warranty" stage, I just might try bones with her, in spite of veterinary worries, because she's so like Miser Dog that I hate to deprive her of a potentially awesome treat.  But for now, I'm ditching the bones.
  4. the ookey meat.  Which I freeze as special treats for my dog.
As regards to #4 (the ookey meat), the question arises . . . how to freeze it?  Amy Dacyczyn (one of my heroes -- author of The Tightwad Gazette) described a method of freezing little meatball-sized pieces in plastic bags . . . but I try to avoid plastic bags.   For several years, I'd used ice-cube trays (see this old blog post, for example), which I still think of as an awesome technique.  But we got rid of our ice cube trays when we got a refrigerator with an ice-cube maker [a total frugal mistake -- but that's a subject for another post].  

So, how to freeze ookey turkey?   My Answer-Du-Jour:  muffin trays.

Are you jealous?  Frozen ookey turkey muffins!

The larger issue is how to freeze Lots-of-Something when you're going to want to use only a bit at at time.  When I freeze kale for future use, I freeze it as one (or several) large wads and then leave it in that wad, because that's how we eat it.  But when I freeze bananas or watermelon slices or even ookey turkey, I freeze it in a different way than I'll store it.  I freeze bananas or watermelon slices all spread out on metal baking pans, so I can take out one banana or one frozen watermelon triangle at a time (yum)!  This year, I froze ookey turkey in muffin tins.  But once they were frozen, then I could consolidate.

How to consolidate once the stuff is crystaline?  Ziploc bags is the go-to answer for most people who use freezers.  For me, those bags are unattractive for two reasons -- (1) they're soft plastic, which I'm trying harder and harder to avoid; but even more pragmatically, (2) if I *do* buy those bags for my own use, my sons tend to take them for their own lunches and such, so the bags disappear before I actually need them.   So even if I wanted to use ziploc bags, I can't count on their being around when I need them.

A bunch of storage jars, together with pressure canners,
waiting at the ready.
Enter giant plastic jars.  I have started stockpiling gallon jars (both glass and plastic) for storing lots of stuff -- water for emergency use, and also bug-proof storage for bulk-purchased oats and flour and soy flour and other dry goods.

I've discovered that the gallon-sized plastic jars make great freezer containers.  I used one for storing a bunch of bread cubes that were destined to become the basis of Thanksgiving stuffing, for example.  Better yet, these jars also work well for storing ookey turkey muffins, (pre-frozen, of course).

frozen turkey muffins in a gallon plastic jar.
The lid is about to go on.

So now my dog has a jar of frozen turkey pops.  yay!

Recognizing new possibilities in everyday objects.
Why do I like this so much?  It's not just because I have a frugal way to get dog treats from leftover turkey (well, not only dog treats, but also a dozen quarts of soup stock -- so the basis for twelve more family meals -- awesome!), but also because the whole process involves frugal co-opting. It's like Ariel discovering she can use a fork to comb her hair.   Well, I'm no mermaid, but I can use muffin tins to freeze dog treats.  And I'm no Amy Dacyczyn, but I can use gallon jars to store those treats.

So that's how I make frozen ookey turkey muffins.  Even dog treats can be a subject of philosophy, economy, and sustainability, I suppose.

Prewash the Dog approves this blog post.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Miser Family Update: Family^2 edition

The Miser Family at Thanksgiving
 Life continues to be rich and full in the Miser Family household . . . and "family" has really been the operative word this week. 

Sunday was N-son's 18th birthday, marking a huge day for him as well as for me.  Woo-hoo!  I've successfully raised all my children to adulthood!  Where's my medal/trophy!?!?

N-son played drums in church, and he rocked it.  And then at home, we raked leaves and played in the yard.  N-son put his culinary skills to good use, making fried chicken, french fries, and grilled brussels sprouts for his parents, two of his sisters, and his niece A-child.

So what else?  Monday I taught my calculus classes, sent almost all of my students home for the holidays, and then on Wednesday I met up with J-son for a bit of work on some legal stuff he needs to deal with right now. 

And then on Thursday, we had 18 people for dinner:  all but one of my kids, my dad and his wife, and eight students.  It was cozy and festive gathering: the countries represented around the table included the USA, Kosovo, Vietnam, China, and Pakistan. The states included Pennsylvania, Maryland, Texas, Minnesota, Florida, New Jersey, and California.

My dad and his wife, with some of my students and children.
In the "Dang it!" category, I wish I'd remembered to take a picture of my dad and his wife together with me and my kids and my granddaughter.  Having four generations together is such a blessing.  But I did take a few photos of the gathering, with the back and side of my dad's head.  Sigh. 

After dinner, I drove J-son to his former foster mom's house for the weekend.  She continues to be an awesome presence in his life, and I can't even begin to express how grateful I am to have her as part of my extended family, and how glad I am for J-son that she is bulldog-style tenacious when it comes to keeping him on the right track.  We're all lucky to have her in our lives.

Then, the day after Thanksgiving, we went downtown for our city's annual tree-lighting ceremony.  I-daughter and N-son sang with their choir, and then the mayor lit the tree, and then we got to hear many tubas joining in harmony to play Jingle Bells and other Christmas carols.  By "we", of course, I mean I-daughter, N-son, K-daughter, and A-child -- because my husband boycotts the tubas, declaring the event to be the sound of "synchronized farting".  But I think Tuba Christmas is so much more than that.  It's Joyful music.  Cold people congregating to sing.   All that.

And that's the news from the Miser Family, who continue to be prosperous in our adventures.  May you and yours be similarly wealthy.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Miser Family update: Othello victory version

Life continues to be rich and full in the Miser Family Household.

Let's start with some yay-hooray-happy news:  N-son applied for a post-secondary spot at a nearby culinary institute.  (He did this through Squash Aces, a super-wonderful after-school program that combines exercise with academics, a mens sana in corpore sano kind of program that's been a huge blessing to him and to our family).  And he heard back that he got in!  He's thrilled.  He knows he has options for next year, after he graduates from high school!   And to pile icing on top of the cake, he ended the week by actually playing a few squash matches, and actually winning them both.  He turns 18 tomorrow; what an awesome way to close out his seventeenth year!

Here's some more good news (of the genre that falls into the "it could have been worse" category):  my husband continues to not need surgery.  Yay?!?   He's still very achey, but a series of MRIs and x-rays says that his bulging disk is fixable with pain meds and physical therapy.  I have to admit that every time he talks about his back and his bulging disk, I think about this poem, which I first read when I was seven years old:
Algy met a bear. 
The bear was bulgy.
The bulge was Algy. 
[From "The Moon is Shining Bright as Day".  If you only own one book of poetry, this is the book you should own.  Go buy it right now if you don't have it.   Seriously.  Then get Sing a Song of Popcorn.  And then you can go back to the rest of your life.]

Also, we got a visit from K-daughter and A-child one hectic night, and we got to eat dinner together, and give each other hasty hugs, and say "good to see you!", before we sped off in our various directions.  Three cheers for having a family who loves one another in busy times.

As for me, I think I win the MAotW (Most Adventures of the Week) Award.  Does this come with a trophy?  I don't know . . . but if I get a trophy, here's why:

  • One of my colleagues has taken the local version of the flu and done it to an extreme, winding up for almost a week in the hospital.  So I got to go visit him several times.  I'm very bad at small talk, so I took one of my favorite board games when I visited him.  I whomped his butt twice at Othello.   Later in the week, when he was strong enough to beat me, the doctors decided he was well enough to go home.  Phew!  
  • A video my college made about me came out on social media.  It's 4 minutes long (longer than most of your favorite poems, but shorter than most of your favorite short stories).  I've had lots of my former students writing to me because of this, which is really, really nice.  
  • I gave an exam, preceded by the usual massive amount of office hours, and succeeded by the usual one-on-one conferences about whether to drop the class.  I hate giving exams.  I'm glad that's behind me now.
  • I took 11 students to a local math conference today, where we got to hear a series of kick-butt math talks, including one by my favorite free-lance math writer, Evelyn Lamb. Awesome!  It's so much fun to share what I love with the next generation.
And that's the news from the Miser Family Household, which continues to be rich in adventures.  May you and yours be similarly prosperous.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Decluttering with Dogs

I admit that I'm a bit of a stalker when it comes to online de-cluttering forums.  I love being a voyeur of how other people decide to clean out their spaces.  I read cleaning books just for fun.  I even argue with the authors of those books, the same way Najmama (our Hungarian grandmother neighbor) used to argue with the newscasters on TV, despite knowing full well that the authors and newscasters couldn't hear us or benefit by the wisdom of our words.

So I am totally familiar with the standard questions that experts urge us to ask, when we decide whether something belongs in our home.
  • Does it spark joy?
  • Have we used it within the past year?
  • If we didn't have this object, would we want to buy it?
Well, over the past six months, I've realized there's yet another question to think about:
  • Would the dog eat it?
Maybe that's not even a question, because the answer is pretty much always "yes".  For an example of everything edible, I offer the family toilet plunger:  it doesn't spark joy, we haven't used it this year, but we'd definitely want to buy one if the dog ate it, and it is apparently delicious to a dog palate.

Her tail is blurry because she's wagging it.  Yummy toilet plunger!
Prewash isn't really as destructive as many other dogs I've had.  But maybe that's because, in owning other dogs, I've learned to hide most of the things she'd want to eat, and my family has likewise picked up the habit of picking up after themselves and before the dog strikes.

Still, who would have thought a toilet plunger was edible?

Related question: wouldn't eating a toilet plunger make you sick?

Tail still wagging.  Mmmm!
[Answer: yes, yes it would make you sick.  Prewash responds:  And your point is . . . ?]

From the point of view of humans, though, the question about "would the dog eat it?" translates to, "Do I need to have a place on a shelf or behind a door for this object, to keep it away from the dog?"  Shoes, for example, don't stay on the floor next to my bed, not even overnight.  They go back into the closet pretty much the moment they come off my feet.

And the dog-eat-it test for decluttering makes me happier and happier that my clothes closet has lots of open space for the things I love or use or merely just want to own, rather than being a purgatory for all the things that I don't want to look at right now.

 Likewise, even though there's almost nothing in the bathroom closet that sparks joy, I'm glad I've cleared out duplicates and out-of-date bottles, and that I even have room in the closet for a little trash can.   (Because used q-tips and plastic packagings and such are insanely delicious to the dog, and therefore need to be kept behind closed doors).

I should have kept the toilet plunger there, too.  Well, now I know.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Miser Family Update: Back and forth version

Life continues to be rich and full in the Miser Mom household.

So full.  So full.  November is a month of Many-Little-Things-And-Some-Big-Ones.

Prewash likes stretching with me.
For me, my calculus class is getting super-intense as we get closer to the second midterm, and the paperwork for my fall committee is piling up so high that I almost fear an avalanche might bury me.  It's hard to share how much fun it is to teach calculus -- We're getting to optimization!  Woo-hoo!  My students sort-of seem to get the second derivative test!  Nonetheless, even though it's hard to explain the details to others, I'm having fun teaching.

For my husband, there's the usual classes and protests, but what has loomed large in his life this past week is his most recent injuries.  The sore back turned into shooting pain in his legs, which led to his most recent MRI.  Here's the texting conversation that ensued:
MyGuy:  Good news.
MG:  Need therapy not surgery
Me: That's good for people who actually do their therapy.
MG:  LOL 😂
Me:  Is this therapy you do with a person hurting you, or by yourself?
MG:  Driving.
Okay, so once he got home and could safely talk, he told me it turns out he gets to have a professional torturer, plus he gets to try to do his exercises, all with the goal of fixing his bulging disk.  Let's cross fingers that the combination proves effective.

Meanwhile, N-son wins awards for thoughtfulness.   Here's the conversation that leads to the award, started by him on a day that was raining cats and dogs, and I was stuck in my office.  
N-son:  Would you like me to bring you your unbrella
Me:  I'm in meetings right now.  But if you wanted to bring it by at 4:30, that would be nice!  Thank you, N-son!
Me:  Actually, even better, could you pick up our CSA vegetables?
N-son: Yep
Me:  I need to double your allowance. You're awesome.
I think she's better at stretching than I am.
If you're interested in a little math problem, figure out what it means that doubling his allowance is the same as tripling it.  heh.  

N-son also took the pictures of Prewash doing these stretches with me.  And then he abandoned us to go on a church Youth Group weekend field trip.  I'm childless now, at least for the weekend.  Thank goodness I have a flexible dog to keep me company.

And that's the news from the Miser family, which continues to be rich in adventures.  May you and yours be similarly prosperous.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Miser Family Update: frights, fixes, and feelings version

Life continues to be rich and full in the Miser Mom family.

Many of us celebrated halloween on the front porch of I-daughter, who (dressed as Maleficent) handed out candy to 600 (yes, six hundred) trick-or-treaters.  She lives in a hoppin' neighborhood.  K-daughter and A-child stopped by dressed as Disney princesses.  N-son dressed in his dad's old army uniform, which fits pretty well actually, and he had a very earnest drunk spend a good bit of time thanking him for his service and commend him for all that he does for our country.  N-son, to his credit, held his best at-ease army pose, nodded his head seriously, and responded, "Thank you, sir."  I dressed as a cow.  Prewash came too, dressed as herself.  We hung a sign on the porch railing above her head saying "Free Dog Kisses", and many trick-or-treaters gladly accepted them, much to her wiggly delight.

J-son had his own adventures that I don't entirely understand and that, frankly, I worry about.  One consolation is that I have a birth mother and former foster mom and a boxing coach worrying along with me, so we're forming a good worry team.  That's some comfort, at least.

K-daughter had some adventures in home care, which came with a happy ending.  The drama of her adventures goes something like this.   Act I.   In which the protagonist realizes it's a bad idea to drop the toilet paper holder into the toilet.   Act II.  In which the protagonist realizes it's an even worse idea to then flush the toilet.  Supporting characters show up on stage with plumbing snakes, but eventually leave with little progress.  Act III.  In which the protagonist uses a combination of further flushing and coat hangars to retrieve the toilet paper holder from its hiding place, leading to much relief and celebratory arias via text message.  Kudos to K-daughter.

N-son had a squash match on Saturday.  It always amazes me that anyone can hit that tiny ball.  He's also been awesome this whole week at helping with dishes, which have fallen mainly on his shoulders because . . .

. . . my husband has been off in Minnesota, volunteering at a convention, which is why he hasn't made it into any of the adventure stories above.  He had a great time helping people move lots and lots of boxes . . . until all of a sudden he realized that his back hasn't had a lot of practice moving boxes in recent years.  Plus, maybe the injury he got from his previous trip (falling off of a rock in Galveston) hadn't quite healed up.  At any rate, his back aches like crazy, bad enough that he's come home one day early and already has a doctor's appointment on Monday to check it out.  Poor guy.

In the meanwhile, I've realized about a gazillion reasons that I've missed having him around.  The least sentimental of these reasons is that it's been really nice (when he's not traveling) to come home and have him in charge of dinner and child care, and this last week has reminded me of just how much a time-suck it is to be on top of all of that.  So even though my husband is flat on his back right now, he's flat on his back at home, and I'm very glad to have him here again.

And that's the news from the Miser Family, which continues to be rich in adventures.  May you and yours be similarly prosperous.