just make mine vanilla

Love ice cream.
I let myself have that about once a week.
Vanilla.

Tim Tebow


(three old shots from back in 2013 when I was first making my vanilia extract–the longer it sits,
the better it gets…just add a new bean or two over time and top off with the sprit of choice)

I like to cook.
This much we know to be true.

I use to post a good bit about my cooking exploits but over time I’ve obviously shifted my
focus and attention to issues I find more pressing…
issues like those concerning Christianity
and the practicing of our faith in a post-modern, post-Christian era.

However, I will still raise the battle cry over other issues I think pertinent to this good fight
we call life…

Take today for instance…(or yesterday if you’re reading this on Saturday)

I ran to the grocery store to pick up a few items.
I needed some cat food and Grapeseed oil so while I was over in the cooking oil aisle,
I decided I needed to check out the spices.
I needed to peruse the spice area as there seemed to be a mental list somewhere nagging
in my brain, begging me to remember something from this particular section that I needed…

I grabbed some Adobo chili powder.
I’ve never used it before but I’d seen a recipe for slow-simmered chicken…a recipe for chicken tacos…remember, I’m trying to reduce the iron content while looking for foods that will avert the absorption—spicey things supposedly help.

While still perusing, my eyes stopped on a bottle of Vanilla beans.

Ahhh, the mental alarm clock sounded.

Yep, I needed some more beans as I’d used the last two I had in the recently poached pear recipe.
(also a tasty recipe I once posted)

I grabbed the bottle.
There were two measly beans in the bottle.
Vanilla beans are a precious commodity.
But why companies are so chintzy I’ve never figured it out.

I looked at the price—they are usually costly as I’ve paid almost 10 bucks a bottle before,
but I was wondering just how high they might be now.
I do prefer ordering my beans in bulk as it’s cheaper but I needed to have at least two on hand.
One never knows when an unctuous creme brulee is calling…

What to my wandering eyes did appear but a 2 and a 5 joined together…as in
25 dollars for the bottle!!!!!!

WHAT?????

Is this a misprint??? my panicky brain wonders.
I march myself, with the bottle in hand, over to a gal at a register.
“Is this price correct” I practically screamed at the unsuspecting cashier.
She scanned the bottle.
“Oh my gosh” she practically screams back.
“25 dollars for Vanilia beans???? she nervously screams again.

“That’s what I thought” I reply almost exhausted from our heightened sense of distraughment.

I use vanilla beans a lot.

I’ve actually made my own vanilla and bourbon vanilla extracts, a recipe in which
I’ve shared in prior posts from back in 2013.
A homemade vanilla extract is the best of the best!! And it lasts forever.

Making the extract required my having to buy a bunch of beans…
beans I had actually ordered from Amazon–
I used Tahitian and Madagascar beans as each offers a different floral warm scent and taste.

Once home from the store, I decided to go check out the Amazon site,
just to see what they were currently selling my bulk bag of beans for as I was going to order
a new batch just to store for when I needed them—

Immediately I see that 5 beans, just 5 little beans, were going for a whopping 27 bucks.
Which did, however, beat the grocery store’s two beans for 25 bucks.
My regular ordered batch of shrink-wrapped beans was going for…
sit down before I tell you…
1/4 of a pound of beans at $115.00 while a full pound of beans listed for $400!!!!!!!!

For a batch of homemade vanilla extract, you need a good 15 to 20 beans…
of which maturate in a bottle that is large enough to contain them with enough vodka or
bourbon poured over to cover…as they are left to steep until a deep rich brown color
appears and the heady spicy aroma of delicious warmth wafts from the uncorked bottle.

WHAT IN THE WORLD IS GOING ON????? I practically wail.

I immediately race to the trusty all-knowing Google to type in ‘vanilla bean prices’
and sure enough, I found many articles and news stories regarding the exponentially
skyrocketing prices

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/vanilla-bean-shortage-madagascar-drives-up-us-prices/

A precarious commodity that is a fragile commodity.
A product that is prone to drought, fickled growing seasons, poaching, farmers who don’t
allow the pods to fully mature in a race to get the pods to a demanding market and finally
it is simply a matter of time…for it takes three long years for a plant to produce a pod.

According to Wikipedia, vanilla is the second most expensive spice coming in right
behind saffron.
And gathering a ready pod is extremely labor intensive because these pods of
this particular species of the orchid family are each hand pollinated…pod per pod.

Vanilla, just plain old vanilla.

Consider its humble base taste…it is often the brunt of those who refer to things as
just being average..as in vanilla, as in plain jane, as in generic, as in nothing special,
as in the bottom of the list.

Yet vanilla is a great building base—a needed and important humble building block.
Imagine Chocolate chip cookies without that added splash of vanilla.
Think vanilla bean ice-cream, sour cream pound cake, pannacotta, rice pudding,
milkshakes, protein shakes, puddings, eclairs, cookies, candy, yogurt, chewing gum,
cosmetics, perfumes, aromatherapies…the list is nearly endless….
all without their needed vanilla.

There are four main types of vanilla beans used in our consumption: Tahitian, Indonesian,
Mexican and Madagascar

http://www.foodandwine.com/blogs/4-kinds-vanilla-beans-know

There are however those purists out there who do indeed favor the unadulterated flavor
of that simple, smokey, sweet, floral flavor of just plain old fashioned vanilla.
No swirls of caramel, no colorful sprinkles, not bits of cookie or peppermint or toffee,
or chocolate syrup or diced fruit…just simple, plain old vanilla.

So I suppose I might just have a little problem…a little expensive problem…
As we might all just have a largely flavorless problem…

Here’s to hoping the current growing crop thrives…
hopefully in time for this summer’s long-awaited and even yearned for home-churned ice cream…
because it just won’t be summer without a bowl of fresh homemade vanilla ice cream!!!

There is gold and abundance of costly stones, but the lips of knowledge are
a precious jewel.

Proverbs 20:15

dubious

Jove weighs affairs of earth in dubious scales,
And the good suffers while the bad prevails.

Homer,
The Odyssey, Book VI, line 229. Pope’s translation


(a problematic flock of geese, Mackinaw City / Julie Cook / 2017)

Last night, as I was fast asleep,
with sleep being a relative term at this stage of age in my life,
my credit card mysteriously crawled out of my wallet and teleported itself
miraculously to Europe…
And of course with a few jaunts back and forth between the US, the UK and greater
Europe…all for good measure and long before I ever woke up.

It even made a stop in Luxembourg—

I’ve always wanted to visit Luxembourg.
I’m so glad one of us has gotten to go.

I discovered this near mythical adventure upon getting up this morning.

Bleary eyed from my usual tossing and turning, I stumbled into the kitchen to
start the coffee.
I picked up my phone and noticed a copious amount of messages regarding my
credit card.

Huh?

Rubbing my eyes and adjusting my glasses I grabbed my computer and pulled up
my email.

Sure enough…24 messages reporting suspicious activity on my card with
purchase after purchase being declined,
thank goodness…

A dollar here, a pound there and even a euro or two …
all of which was a dead trigger…

But then it became bold and went onwards and upward of $300 bucks to such places
as Domino’s pizza somewhere in Austria, some sort of FaceBook virtual store in Germany, nintendo of Europe, netflix somewhere in the UK….

As it seems as if my credit card was having a mid-life crisis and was attempting to
live someone’s youthful abandon all on another continent…
or perhaps in reality it was something more inline with sorry wonton
wastefulness….

I’ve ridden this merry go round before—seems like I just wrote a similar post..
but that was my debit card—this is now my credit card…
so we are officially 2 for 2.

And no, I don’t buy a lot nor do I order all that much on-line….

I called the nice folks at the credit card company.
She ran me through the gauntlet of security before I delivered my
tale of woe. And from her end, she could see just how busy my card had
been in its jet set ways.

She verified my last purchase—three books from Amazon…hummm I now wonder…
Next it was to all the latest 24 bizarre or so “traveling” purchases,
all of which had been declined, and were now seen for what they truly were—
stealing.

She canceled the card and has issued me a new one which will be arriving
post haste.

After we hung up, I continued receiving notifications that whomever was
out there playing me, hadn’t given up yet…
I don’t know, maybe it would take 30 tries before this idiot figured
declined meant declined.

For good measure I called the credit card company back letting them know I
was still receiving their fraud notifications—
of which they told me not to fret–
the card was no more and the notifications would stop when our rocket scientist
friend figured such out…as he, she, it would then most likely move on to the
next stolen card number…

In all the gallows humor here, there is a seriousness that really leaves me
angry because I loath those who steal…
particularly information, numbers and identities…
because if the truth be told, all of that is really lazy man stealing.

Sit on your arse as it were, hiding behind a computer screen,
trolling and taking….

Nice and neat, or so it would all appear.
No one is physically hurt.
Or so our arse sitting thieves would assume.

What’s a little free Dominos pizza somewhere in Austria or
some Facebook virtual-store crap in Luxembourg??
Or things I don’t even know of in New York???

So before I had even had my first sip of morning coffee, I was mad.

Like you, I try to live life as I would expect others to live theirs…
work, earn, pay….

But life is not easy like that.
Not everyone buys into doing the right things in life.

There are bad people, lazy people, violent people, bad lazy people,
bad lazy violent people…
People who would only sneer at my desire that we all do what is right
by one another.
Think psychopaths, think gangs, think MS13…

As in there are dubious and nefarious individuals who do not consider life
to be a gift, who do not hold love nor honor in their hearts and
who prefer only to serve a darker and more sinister side of life.

And as we now que those out there who will sing the song of lamentation
that this behavior is due to a poor childhood, a less fortunate history,
a lack of this or that, an unbroken cycle…….

The bottom line is choice.

A choice to do what is right and decent
or
a choice to do what is wrong and bad.

And it is those more sinister and heartless out there who scare me.

They scare me because they remind me that darkness continues to walk this earth.
That there is indeed a deep spiritual battle that rages all around us—
whether we are awake or asleep…it rages.

For despite my best efforts at keeping my little world nice and neat,
tidy and safe…
Satan and those who do his work, are busy.

We either choose to serve Light or we choose to serve darkness
It’s as simple as that.

Others would disagree.
There will be excuses…
There are things like victimhood…
and cycles, and disadvantage…
but in the end…
none of that matters because when we choose one over the other…
that choice is on us and us alone.

For no one is telling us which to choose…for the choice,
despite our circumstances is still up to us….
so perhaps then such poor choosing just makes us all victims does it not..?

A troublemaker and a villain,
who goes about with a corrupt mouth,
who winks maliciously with his eye,
signals with his feet
and motions with his fingers,
who plots evil with deceit in his heart—
he always stirs up conflict.
Therefore disaster will overtake him in an instant;
he will suddenly be destroyed—without remedy.
There are six things the Lord hates,
seven that are detestable to him:
haughty eyes,
a lying tongue,
hands that shed innocent blood,
a heart that devises wicked schemes,
feet that are quick to rush into evil,
a false witness who pours out lies
and a person who stirs up conflict in the community.

Proverbs 6:12-19

Birthdays, Ice Makers, and Medicare? part II

“I predict future happiness for Americans, if they can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people under the pretense of taking care of them.”
Thomas Jefferson

DSCN6605

Okay, so yesterday we left off with the rant of a poor husband who had just turned 65 and found out he had to pay for something he was forced to sign up for, against his better wishes, with no option of opting out–aka–Medicare.
The whole choice but no choice scenario
And we were left with the laughter of a thousand far off voices when he mentioned he thought Medicare was something the Government did for free for it’s “seniors”—not that he’s a senior.

And just as we begin to recover from his near apoplexy over receiving the initial Medicare bill, we pick up right where we left off. . .

I quickly call me aunt.
When all else fails, always call Martha. . .

“Yep, you pay”
“If he was drawing Social Security, it would come out of that, but since he’s not, hence the bill.”
We thought it was a free service.
Hysterical laughter now from the receiver of the phone.

The following morning, the bill was gone. My hope was that he carried it to work in order to pay it, otherwise I suppose I should be looking for us a new home, say in, Argentina or Bolivia. Isn’t that where you go when you need to hide out?

Let’s switch gears for a minute.
Since there was indeed a birthday and a rather memorable one at that, we need a present right?
A good present.
Enter the ice maker.

We have an LG refrigerator. LG refrigerators are known for having notorious dysfunctional ice makers. I even wrote the president of LG, just after we got the fridge, complaining. I was told we could call in a service order to request a replacement, of which I did. Number two ice maker was equally as poor.

Each evening I hear the same litany regarding “that sorry ice maker” and how a refrigerator he had back in 1920 made better ice then “that sorry thing over there”
Over there is against the wall in the kitchen and as for 1920, I exaggerate just a tad

When I was mulling what to get for his birthday, I had an ingenious thought!
A marvelous thought!
As in the best present ever sort of thought!
Enter the small portable ice maker!
Genius!

I did my homework.
I researched all the little ice makers I could find information on, reading reviews and consumer reports. I settled on a Smart Plus (Smart + )
I ordered it from Amazon.
I love Amazon but that’s for another day.

In a couple of days FedX pulls up to deliver the ice maker.
I put a bow on the box and wait for the big day.

On that special day marking the 65th year on the planet, I bring out the big box with the big bow.
“I told you not to get me anything, we need to save money and here you are buying presents. . .what is it?” as a smile forms on now a childlike face.

He digs into the box like only any kid would and could.
He finally realizes what it is . . “OH WOW–AN ICE MAKER” (you should be hearing childlike glee as you are reading)
We read the instructions and I explain that I’ll need to thoroughly wash it out and run a couple of test batches first in order to get that “made in China” smell and taste out of the machine—as in yes, it is indeed made in China.
He’s happy.
I’m happy.
It’s a good birthday.

The following day, I run out to the store in order to buy a couple of gallons of distilled water as I understand that distilled water makes for clear cubes. And yes, this machine is to make the round tube like cubes, not the half moon things he hates out of the refrigerator.

I plug it in, add the water, set the controls, wait a tad—then woosh, the little machine churns out water.
Ok, maybe it’s not cold enough yet.
Again Woosh, again water.
I feel around inside the little ice making tubes.
They are not cold.
Hummmmm. . .
Not cold at all.
Aren’t things like refrigerators, freezers and ice makers suppose to be cold?
Again, I reset the numbers.
Woosh, water.
Again, woosh, water.

WHAT??
AAAGGGGHHHH!

Wait a minute.
When you plug in a refrigerator, large or small, aren’t you suppose to hear a motor? A motor like in a compressor??
The freaking compressor is not coming on.
Are you freaking kidding me!!!?
At this point I think I kicked the open drawer by my foot which was open and housed my mixing bowls. I now have 4 less mixing bowls.

When my husband comes home, I break the bad news hoping that he’ll know how to make it work. Maybe I’m not plugging it in correctly?
He pittles with it and declares it to be indeed a dud.
The compressor will not come on.

AAAGGGGHHHHHHH!!!

I’m furious.
“Can you get your money back” he asks almost pleading for the affirmative.
“Yes danmnit” as I sadly put the thing back in the packing styrofoam and into the big box.
I contact Amazon.
They issue a packing mailer and I proceed to write a “to whom it may concern” letter to Smart +
lambasting an ice maker made in China. . .why can’t an American Company produce a product in America, using American ingenuity, putting Americans to work, where American workers take pride in producing quality American products???? What’s happened to this country???!!!!

UGH!!!

The perfect present goes back from whence it came via UPS.
The following day, I go to the mall in order to buy a back up present–the standard boring dress pants and shirts. Same ol same ol birthday goods–with these high end dress clothes, from a very reputable and long established high end American men’s clothier–with their very high end clothes being made in. . .wait for it. . . Malaysia.

(Picture my head hung very low) UGH!

Oh and did I mention that the insurance company sent out a giant booklet regarding the birthday boy now being a part of Medicare. And no, I couldn’t tell you if it is A, B, C, D, E, or F. . .
Seems that since he is now enrolled in Medicare, he’s no longer to use the doctor, his primary healthcare doctor, here in our town, he’s been using for almost the past 25 years–as Medicare says he must go elsewhere.

AAAGGGGGGHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!

Bolivia eh???