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My Mobile Home Gourmet Blog

Wednesday 2019.5.22

Another Quiet Week

Other than my archive consolidation project, my focus has been on my yard. I'm working in the side yard now, trimming the Dymondia a little each day. I probably won't be done until some time in June, but there is no hurry.

I'm hoping the neighbor with the barking dogs will be gone by the end of June. End of May would be better, but I'm keeping my expectations low. As far as I know, the sale is still in escrow and supposedly property sales take six to eight weeks to become final here in California. I check the real estate listing occasionally and it continues to say "pending."

With the neighbor and her dogs gone (I include the freeloader live-in boyfriend among her dogs), I want to enjoy my yard again. I anticipate summer afternoons sitting on the deck with a cup of coffee and my laptop computer or tablet with me. When I was growing up in New England, one of the summer pastimes was sitting on the porch in warm weather. We kept deck chairs out there all summer. I haven't been able to enjoy my deck for many years — since she moved in 20 years ago.

Check Online Price

Something satisfying happened yesterday morning. For a long time I've been thinking of a rug shampoo machine. I bought a cheap one at Costco about six months ago and brought it back almost immediately. It didn't work well. This time I decided I wanted a really good one — buy cheap, buy twice — a Bissell Big Green Machine.

After checking the closet to make certain I'd have space to store it, I went on line and compared prices. They were all the same, $399.99. The four-year extended warranty at Best Buy was $74.99. Normally, I don't purchase extended warrantees, but I wanted this one because I had read about some problems in the reviews. At the store the prices were $412.99 and $89.99 respectively. Thankfully I had checked online prices. The clerk at the store was able to look at the Best Buy web site and confirm the advertised prices. I saved $28.

One major reason for the purchase was that I was able to buy it locally and bring it home the same day. If I had ordered it from Amazon, I would have waited a week to ten days because I won't pay for Prime.

Shampooing

During the early afternoon I tried my new rug shampooer for the first time. Okay, yes, I'm ashamed of the color of the water that poured out of the dirty water tank. I knew my carpets needed deep cleaning, but I had no idea how dirty they really were.

I only did half of one room, as there was furniture to move, which I moved to one side. And I know the carpet will need to be done again. That's okay. The machine is here in my home. Like my portable washing machine, I can use it as often as I want. I'm pleased with this purchase.

I opened the windows wide and ran the window fan. With 25% humidity in the air, it didn't take long for the carpet to dry. The room smells nice too.

Organizing

Another project I need to return to is reorganizing the shed. The archive project is on hold for a while until another stack of Blu-ray blank discs arrives.

Sunday 2019.5.19

A Quiet Week, Mostly

It has been a quiet week for cooking, and actually a quiet week in general. I attempted nothing new, although I did make Cheddar Broccoli Soup again with a variation. I substituted some of the broccoli with chopped celery. There are recipes on the Internet for celery soup and I saw one that included a head of broccoli; so I knew I was on the right track.

The soup is delicious. I don't plan to write it up as a new recipe for this web site, but you can easily make it using the Cheddar Broccoli Soup recipe. Substitute about half the broccoli with chopped celery. Everything else is the same. And, for a little more variation, you can stir in some chopped ham when you stir in the cheese and cream.

The only other highlight of the week was watching the Tour of California cycling race.

My Consolidation Project

The archive consolidation I started about a week ago has yielded some discoveries. So far, I found two videos that were never uploaded to YouTube. That helps because I've been wanting to scale back on the cooking a little. Each year as I see the interest in my Mobile Home Gourmet channel on YouTube ebb, I feel like doing less. My interest in cooking typically increases in the fall with cooler weather. So those forgotten videos are being edited again and uploaded as "From the Vaults." This week's Stuffed Lamb Chops is one of them.

Today I'll finish emptying the second box. That will be a total of 387 archive DVDs backed up onto 54 Blu-ray blank discs. It's time to order another stack of blank discs, or maybe two stacks.

Wednesday 2019.5.15

Unusual Weather for May

Tonight and tomorrow it is supposed to rain again. This time the weather people are predicting a 100% probability tonight and 60% tomorrow morning. More rain is predicted for the weekend, and another storm might be shedding rain again next week. This is unusual for May. We'll take it. It waters the landscaping.

We enjoyed a little rain last week. There was even a little lightning and thunder and a very short period of very small hail. This next storm, if it rains long enough, should soak the ground well.

That's why I've been working every morning, trimming the Dymondia. The entire front is done. Now I'm turning the corner and starting the side. That area is larger. The biggest area is the back yard. That might take several weeks to complete.

Doing as much as I can in anticipation of rain gives the plants a good watering, helping them to recover from being trimmed. In many areas the sandstone slabs are completely covered. One neighbor commented that the yard actually looks pretty good with the ground cover all filled in. I agree, but I didn't spend several thousand dollars to have the stones hidden from view. I think the yard looks much better trimmed. When I get a lot older, such that it is too difficult to work in the yard, I'll let the Dymondia go.

Meanwhile, gophers are still a problem. Again I'll ride my bike into areas where I've seen gopher snakes in the past. Around sunset seems best. Perhaps this summer I'll catch one and give it a new home. I know where the tunnels are because as I trim the plants I can tap the sandstone and hear the hollow sound of tunnels underneath.

Consolidation Continued

I continue to consolidate my cooking videos to Blu-ray blanks. It is making a big difference. As of his morning, I had consolidated 240 discs into 33.

Technology Addiction

I'm not alone. I am one among many who used the Microsoft Trackball Explorer for years, and loved it. Nothing lasts forever. I've worn out two of them in the past. And, sadly, they're not available anymore, unless you want to pay hundreds of dollars for one. I saw one on Amazon for $575, free shipping.

Maybe I should explain why trackballs are important to me. I have carpal tunnel syndrome, that pain in the wrists from too much work on a computer. I used to wear braces on my wrists for one week each month to help the swelling and pain to go down. Since I switched to ergonomic keyboards, the pain has become a thing of the past. I haven't worn braces in years. The MS Trackball Explorer was equally good for my wrists (my right one anyway).

I've tried other trackballs. Kensington and Logitech are okay. I have some of those out in the shed. I don't use them because they aren't good enough, but I kept them because they'll suffice in an emergency.

As I explained in Sunday's blog, this past week my third Trackball Explorer finally died. I tried a wireless keyboard and mouse combo I bought at Best Buy. It works okay, but like those trackballs out in the shed, the mouse just wasn't good enough — not when I'm doing detailed work like editing a video and I need the cursor movement to be precise. I'll use the combo with my laptop computer.

I found something new on Amazon — an Elecom "Huge" trackball. I read the reviews. Many were written by former MS Trackball Explorer addicts like myself. They shared a similar sentiment: "Finally! A trackball that rivals the Explorer in comfort and functionality." Some photos might help.

This is the Microsoft Trackball Explorer:

The ball is large, 1¾ inches (about 4.5cm). It rotated easily and the pointer control was appreciably accurate when working in drawing programs or when editing photographs. Although not visible in the photograph, there is a scroll wheel located between the two thumb buttons. It's a wonderful trackball.

What about the replacement? Here is the Elecom:

The configuration is a little different, but it's very similar. The overall size is almost exactly the same with a comfortable area to rest the heel of the hand. The ball is about 2 inches (5cm) in diameter. The thumb buttons and scroll wheel are in the same place. There are more buttons, and therefore more functionality. No installation software is necessary. Connect the trackball to the computer and it installs its own driver. There is software for download that can be used to assign functions to some of the buttons. I haven't changed anything. I didn't need to, so far.

I ordered two of those trackballs from Amazon, one for each desktop computer in my home office — one wired and one wireless. The problem with two wireless input devices in the same room is when I use one to do things on one computer, the clicks do something on the other computer.

Sunday 2019.5.12

Happy Mother's Day

Hopefully you got your mother something nice for today, or maybe you're planning to take her out for a nice dinner. My mom is gone now, but I remember some of the gifts I bought her. She used to collect tea cups with matching saucers. One year I bought her a sewing box (in which she stored her favorite photographs instead) and another year I bought her a handsome wood jewelry box.

Archive Consolidation Project

On Friday the new stack of blank Blu-ray disks arrived. While I waited (it took a week for Amazon to ship it — I refuse to pay for Prime) I prepared by cleaning up the archives, deleting unnecessary files to reduce the size. Those files aren't gone permanently. I have a second backup on hard disk drives. This project is to reduce the amount of shelf space occupied by boxes on a bookshelf unit in my home office. I'm hoping to consolidate those five boxes down to two.

Landscaping

Meanwhile, I continue to work in the yard, doing a little each day. I have nearly the entire front trimmed. I quit when the trash bin was nearly filled with trimmings, leaving only enough room for my trash. The trash was picked up on Friday. Now with an empty bin I can start working again.

Boys and Their Toys

I bought a new keyboard and mouse combination for this computer. The trackball (I love those things!) that was on this computer was slowly failing. I had to give it a good shake often to get it to work. Maybe something was loose inside. I didn't want to deal with it. Best Buy had a Microsoft ergonomic wireless keyboard with mouse combo on sale at $50 off. I decided it was time to upgrade.

I'll need to become accustomed to using a mouse again. This one is kind of strange — it's not flat-ish; it's round-ish, like a baseball. The keyboard is small with the extra function keys (home, end, insert, etc.) in a non-standard configuration. The number keypad is a separate piece altogether.

I did something else, which I know is tacky. I covered the keyboard and number pad in thin, flexible plastic. I had just spent a goodly amount of time cleaning the old keyboard and also the one attached to my other computer. With daily use, they get dirty quickly. Cleaning them is a nuisance.

I have remote controls for my TV and other home theater components. Many years ago some Chinese friends showed me how they keep their remotes covered in plastic to keep them clean. Each time I change the batteries I put new plastic on them and each time they look as clean and good as they did when new. I decided my keyboards deserve the same protection.

There is one little feature I really like: Both the keyboard and number pad have a button with a little image of a pocket calculator. Press that and the computer's calculator app opens. I use that when I'm writing a recipe, converting USA measurements into metric.

As for the plastic coverings, they work well enough. I can type without difficulty. The soft plastic bags available in the produce and meat sections at grocery stores are good. I like the ones at Costco best. The number keypad is heat sealed in the 6-inch poly tubing I use with my impulse heat sealer to wrap foods.

One more thing: I ordered a new wireless trackball for the other computer. The one I received is, so far, perfect. The size seems better suited for a man's hands and the ball is very large, well suited for fine detailed work, such as drawing or editing photographs. I'm loving that trackball.

Finally, Jerky

I received a congratulatory email from YouTube on Friday morning. My Salmon Jerky video reached half a million views. With that video doing so well, I wondered how Beef Jerky might perform. And that's how this week's feature recipe was decided.

Wednesday 2019.5.8

Preparing for Summer BBQing

On Sunday I made two dozen papier maché fire starters to use with my BBQ grill and split oak firewood. It's a somewhat tedious project, shredding and pulping junk mail advertisements and then compressing the mixture into briquettes to dry in the sun. But when you're retired you have plenty of time on your hands, and having a project keeps the mind occupied for a while.

Here is one photo:

It will take a few weeks for those to thoroughly dry out. Then I'll melt some paraffin in a little skillet I set aside just for that purpose. Drop a briquette into the hot wax and let it absorb until thoroughly saturated all the way to the center. Here is a photograph from last summer:

The briquette on the right is saturated with wax. How well do they burn? Here's another photo from last summer:

Placed under a few pieces of oak, the briquettes burn well enough and long enough to start the wood burning. Let the fire settle down some and we're read to cook on the grill.

I also learned something new in the process. Some people shred corrugated cardboard, pulp it in water, and then make their briquettes. Every time we receive something from Amazon or whatever, it usually arrives in a cardboard box. We put it into the recycling bin. Why not recycle the cardboard as BBQ starters. I haven't tried it yet, but I shredded some cardboard. I sense another video project. I'm ready.

Chicken Parmigiana

I have a sense that this week's feature recipe, Chicken Parmigiana, will do well in the long run. In it's first three days on YouTube it did better than the previous week's recipe did in 10 days. I can't say it will do as well as the all-time favorite, Salmon Jerky, currently nearing 500,000 views. That number makes me laugh. 500,000 views! But I'm thankful for every one of them.

Sunday 2019.5.5

Happy Cinco de Mayo

The holiday is a big one in Santa Barbara. Lots of confetti on the sidewalks from people throwing confetti filled eggs at one another. It's a day I don't need to be down in the city; so I stay home.

Still Building

In Wednesday's blog I wrote something about consolidating my video backup archive disks. I found a reason to start the project.

A while ago you might remember a hard disk drive on Computer 1 (that's how I name them) failed. It was the data disk and I was able to rebuild most of the data I lost. One file that still needed work was the database on which I store all the information about my videos and recipes — the recipe numbers, names, locations, etc. — in case I need to find something in an organized way. There was data missing. It wasn't a lot, thankfully, and it only required the better part of a day to rebuild it.

Meanwhile, I started consolidating the backup disks.

Back in the early days of my making videos I was using an old and slow computer. To watch a video for proofing I needed to render it first. The rendering took up huge volumes of storage space. Here are a couple examples: My Tuscan Meatloaf archive filled nine blank DVD discs. After cleaning up the files, it filled only one blank Blu-ray disc. Another set of 14 DVDs required only one Blu-ray. In the first day of my efforts I was able to reduce 52 discs down to five. I ordered another stack of 50 blank Blu-ray discs from Amazon this week.

Later projects won't compress so well because I didn't need to render those. My new computers (actually built at the end of 2015; so not really new) are much faster.

And Some Really Good News

I mentioned in an earlier blog that my neighbor with the barking dogs put her mobile home up for sale. That was on April 1. I got word on Thursday of this week that an offer was made and a deal was finalized. The home is in escrow.

And That Leads Into…

Knowing that the dogs will soon be gone, I'm planning to enjoy my yard and deck again. It might be pleasant to sit out on the deck enjoying my morning cup of coffee, my laptop computer with me. Or maybe an evening after-dinner drink as the sun sets, especially on warm days when it's more reasonable to be outside in the fresh air rather than inside. So I started working on my yard again.

We received plenty of rain this past season. The latest report says we are at about 120% of our normal rainfall — not enough to cause any drastic floods or perilous mud slides, but enough to nearly fill the local lake (80% capacity) and (I think) officially declare the end of the drought. With freedom of conscience I can water my landscaping again.

With all that in mind, I've been trimming the dymondia. It grows well and covers the sandstone so much, some areas of my yard look they are nothing but ground cover. Here is what it looks like, before and after:

I've been doing a little each day because 1) there is only so much room in my trash bin, which is picked up each Friday, and 2) there is no hurry.

Wednesday 2019.5.1

Still Organizing

If you read my blog regularly, you might remember I started re-organizing and de-cluttering my shed back in February. I've been taking my time, which is obvious because it's May already. It hasn't been at the top of my priorities list because my shed isn't stuffed to the point at which I can't get the door closed. The shed is actually very organized and neat. I can easily move my bike out when I need it and soon I'll start using my Weber grill again. The issue has been more about keeping things I will probably never use.

Case in point: Many years ago I bought an extra-wide pasta machine. I never used it. It was made in China and I really didn't like the quality — an obvious cheap knock-off of the superior machines made in Italy. And now that I am on a keto diet, I have no plans at all to use that pasta machine. It went into a box with other items, including a book about pasta, that was dropped off at a local charity thrift store.

I've actually made three trips to the thrift store since I started de-cluttering. Other bits of organizing are more challenging. Papers build up on the desk in my home office. I pay the bills, but other papers accumulate. Mostly they're recipes I want to try but never get around to. Some of them have been around for so long, they pre-date the start of my keto diet.

This week a lot of paper went into recycling. Anything with my name and address on it was shredded. I'm looking at my bookshelf and I have two volumes of Roget's Thesaurus and three books titled Edit Yourself. The duplicates are because I used to do some publication editing in my former job and when I retired I brought those books home. The duplicates will eventually go into a box and be donated to the thrift store.

Documents are another issue. What should be shredded and what should be filed? Tax forms are easy. File. What about bills I paid? Bank statements? Cash register receipts? Business cards? A question I need to ask myself is: "How likely am I going to need this document in the future? If I do need something, can it be obtained from the bank at a reasonable fee or be found on the Internet? Shredding usually wins.

What about mistaken accumulations? They happen. This week I went to unlock my bike (at a restaurant) and the key wouldn't work. It looked at it closely. The metal was twisted, like it might break. If it broke off in the lock, I'd be screwed. I carefully straightened it out enough to unlock my bike and then I drove to a bike shop to buy a new lock (at $55). On the way home I remembered I have a spare key. I tested the spare and it works fine. What do I do with the new lock? I could bring it back for a refund, but I hung it up in the shed instead. I might need it someday.

Another issue is the boxes of video backups. I have five full boxes of DVDs on which I've archived my cooking videos. (They're also backed up on hard disk drives.) Each box holds about 180 discs. If I were to move those backups to Blu-ray blanks, a single disc might replace five DVDs. I could reduce those five boxes down to one. It's a future project.

So there is still much to be done. Maybe when I slow down my cooking schedule this summer I'll spend more time organizing.