Friday, December 31, 2021

The Last Day of the Year

It's the last day of the year.  Tomorrow is the last day of the cold arctic air flowing into this area.  That will be good.  It's been really cold.

We walked up the hill today.  For some reason we thought there wouldn't be that much snow, but apparently we were mistaken.  It was so steeeeenking cold, however, that the snow was pretty firm, so we weren't sinking in too far.  Putting the snow shoes on would have been better, they keep your feet elevated from the snow.  Live and learn.

The sun was out, which was very nice.  Look at the blue of that sky.


We wore the new mittens today, they are better than the gloves we got at Carhartt.  It was 20F and my fingers were still cold, but they didn't reach that burning/stinging stage that they had last time out.  Oddly enough, they were warmer without the glove liners than with.  My theory is that the glove liner defeats the purpose of wearing a mitten.  Once we get back into the 30s, which is Sunday, things will be more comfortable.

In news of the sad, Betty White died.  She was such a hoot and did so much for animal welfare.  She'll be missed.

Other than wishing us all a better year, I got nothing!


Thursday, December 30, 2021

More Snow, More Clothing

It snowed yesterday, it is snowing today.  It will probably snow tomorrow.  It snows often here, fortunately not a lot at a time.  In 1954 12.7 inches of snow were measured at the airport.  Personally, I'm voting for frequent, but not a lot. 

There are things to be learned about living in cold country, and yes I know it's worse in Montana or Wyoming but I would never be there.  Yesterday we made pot roast in the slow cooker.  When we slow cooker we like to put it outside so we don't have to smell food all day.  It was about 16F (-8.88C) when we put it on the front porch.  At the time we wondered how that would work.  As it turns out, it worked badly.  After leaving the poor thing out there for 4 hours we brought it in to where it was warm, and it cooked like a champ.  The plastic you see in the picture is a crock pot liner, which is one of the great inventions of our life time.  Pull it out, close with a twist tie and clean up is done.


We bought mittens yesterday.  They are very furry inside and are large enough for glove liners and hand warmers.  They're water proof, wind proof, and are insulated with DownTek, which is a water proof down.  Here's hoping they do the job for the finger tips.  I think merino wool long underwear will be next on the list.  We knew this year would be shockingly expensive given the addition of winter, but next year will not be so bad.  Our REI dividend will be noticeable.

We have not had wet snow thus far.  Here is Jim with the leaf blower removing snow from the driveway.  It's like sand.


This is a very short video I took by mistake because my fingers were on the wrong button.


Last night there was a pretty good sunset.   The camera could not see it, but there was a column of sunset.  It wasn't big, but it was impressive going from the ground up into the clouds.


Today we had planned to drive over to Walgreens for a rapid Covid test, since we can not buy them anywhere.  However, today's snow fall convinced us to cancel.  At this point it would have been moot, anyway.  Last week, 10 or 11 days ago actually, we were both feeling kind of punk.  Today was the first appointment we could get.  According to this graphic, it would have been wasted effort.  A PCR test would have been worthwhile, but they're scarce.  It's sort of like The Hunger Games.


We do have nice neighbors, here is one out doing the sidewalks.  The landscapers apparently no longer consider it as part of their job description.


It's currently 15F, so it's not likely that there will be snow shoeing.  Jim has a pair of furry pants like the ones I bought, so perhaps I will break down and hem them today.

From the department of things could be worse, this is a jack knifed semi blocking all lanes of east bound I90 south of Spokane this morning.


That's it!  That's all there is to report.

Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Snow Shoveling and Shoeing

Yesterday was warmer than today.  The high was 18F (-7.8C), today it was 17F.  Snow removal was in order yesterday.  It was only about 3 inches, but we have the teeny tiny snow blower, so we need to keep up with it.  Here is Jim, doing the front walk.  Notice the cloud of dry snow being thrown off to the left.  He also had to do snow/ice removal from the hedge on the right.


I decided that I needed to participate in removal as well and did the back deck.  It was good, there was a lot more snow accumulation back there than we thought.  My technique is to get a shovel full and then push it out the gate.

There was some scooping and lifting over the railing, but not a lot.  Hopefully it will not snow too much before the warm up because I have blocked my path of snow egress by piling it just outside that far gate. 

Later, the landscapers' truck with the snow plow attachment came and did the streets.  The guy driving does this a lot.  He headed up the hill rapidly, and then backed down the street just as fast.  Here he is entering our cul de sac.  The plow part moves up and down and side to side.  He was sculpting the pile of snow that's in the middle of the street.  The trash truck will need to be able to get around that.

Today we got a wild hair to go snow shoeing.  It was 17F.  It actually was not too bad.  I had on an ear bra and a polar fleece/acrylic watch cap, long underwear top under light weight fleece pullover, my lycra capri pants (from the gym days) under jeans, a scarf, a shelled fleece jacket, wool socks, insulated boots, and gaiters.  The parts that were perishing were my finger tips.  They are a problem, they were very painful.  Towards the end I was losing my grip on the poles.  I was wearing my Carhartt gloves with glove liners, but those puppies were COLD.  We also ended up putting on surgical masks to keep the chins warm.  We have to do something better for the hands.  Today was cut short due to the fingers.  Here is Jim putting on his snow shoes.  That's the only picture I took outside because I didn't want to take my gloves off.


Later we saw this very attractive contrail in the setting sun.


It's 5:25 Pacific time and it's 10F.  We're moving back to the downstairs shower because it's warmer than the upstairs shower.  Upstairs has a window in the shower stall for some inexplicable reason, and it transfers too much cold air in.  Downstairs has no windows and two! count them two! heating vents.  It's like a sauna in there.

That's it!  That's all I've got.

Sunday, December 26, 2021

Boxing Day

A Christmas miracle occurred on Friday.  The snowblower finally showed up after innumerable phone calls to the vendor and the delivery company.  It works well.  Jim is relearning cord management and to be aware of the wind direction when you start throwing snow. 


There was enough wind to knock over the inflatable snow man.  He spent all day on his face, poor snow man!


Christmas was fun.  The weather was not terrible as it had been forecast to be.  We decided we should get the snow shoes out since we will soon be under a severe weather advisory.  Here's part of it.  "Dangerously cold temperatures will impact Eastern Washington and North Idaho Sunday night through at least Thursday with the arrival of an Arctic air mass. High temperatures will only warm into the single digits and teens. Overnight lows will likely drop into the single digits to below zero. Wind chills of minus ten degrees or colder will be possible in some of our wind prone areas."  It's going to be really cold, some of the nights will be below 0.  The rest of the country is unseasonably warm.  It's not fair!

When we got back from snow shoeing, we decided that we should make dinner rolls.  We used this recipe.  The first package of yeast we had was dead.  So much for organic yeast!  The Fleischmann's instant yeast was quite energetic.  The hand mixer we got to make cookies also has dough hooks.  It worked like a champ, I never realized that you just beat the dough longer with the hook and that replaces kneading.  After an hour in the warm part of the basement, it had doubled.  We cut it into 16 pieces and made rolls.   They had a second rise and got puffy again.

Et voila!  After baking we have dinner rolls.

These are so good when they are hot.  Jim and I split one and he made the mistake of walking away from his last bite, and I ate it.   They're also good cold.

Today was good, we took four pairs of shoes back to REI and two pairs of jeans back to Fred Meyer and managed to get it all done before the stores got crowded.  It was good to get them out of the house and back where they came from.  I still have a jacket under consideration.  It's sort of suboptimal, but finding a warm coat now is nigh on to impossible.  REI's shelves were picked clean, especially the wool socks racks.  I may end up keeping it, even thought it's not exactly what I wanted.

Other than this paltry offering, I have zippity doo dah to say.

Saturday, December 25, 2021

Christmas Day

Merry Christmas!

Well, this was not quite the year we all hoped for.  Here's wishing you good holidays and a better 2022.


Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Bread and Stupid

Greetings Earthlings.  How are things with you?  We're good, so far cabin fever has not set in.   It hasn't been too cold, although there has been frequent snow.  Next week, we'll probably get hit with really cold temperatures.  One model says Seattle will get the sub-zero temps, the other says we'll get them.  It will be the first time since March 2019 for below zero temperatures in Spokane.  That tells us that March can still be really cold, despite what the seasonal weather averages suggest.  It looks like the Farmer's Almanac was right, it's going to be a long, really cold winter.  Yay!!!!

So, yes, it's been snowing.  Jim has been shoveling the drive way because we STILL do not have the replacement snow blower.  As you no doubt recall, it left Tacoma, went to Seattle, then on to Reno.  It has arrived in the Spokane facility, but it's undeliverable.  When Jim called about returning the bent blower, he gave the guy at Snow Joe our address.  The Snow Joe employee proceeded to tell Jim that he'd given an incorrect address, and that it was Avenue, not Lane.  No, it's Lane.  The employee proceeded to tell Jim that "they have to use Google maps."  No, what they should be using is the USPS database, which most e-retailers use.  Anyway, the replacement went out without a valid shipping label.  Jim has been trying for 10 days to get this fixed.  Snow Joe says they'll take care of, and they don't.  OnTrac has the address in their system, but can't apply the label to the box without authorization from Snow Joe.  At present Jim is sitting on hold while OnTrac talks to Snow Joe about putting a label with the correct address on the box.  It's out at the airport facility, but they won't let people drive out and pick up their undeliverable packages because they're too busy.  This is just stupidly ridiculous.  Success!  Snow Joe has finally retrieved Jim's account, authorized changing the address, and OnTrac has created a label for the package.

Jim has made bread again, this time it was a success.  We changed recipes, and this one is better.  You can find it at this website if you're interested.  In the recipe they indicate that one will produce a "dry shaggy dough."  They're right, it is dry and shaggy.  There is the added benefit of they don't want you to put an empty pot in a hot oven for 30 minutes. 

Then it went into the small part of the basement that has a heat duct.  The entire basement has heat, the small enclosed area is good for yeast. It's very warm in there.  After two hours it looked like this.  It spent the night in the basement.

We found a really good website that explained how one converts that wet, gooey shaggy dough into a ball, and how does one know when one is done.  Remember, no one here bakes, this is a foreign country for us.  At about three minutes into the video he talks about slapping the dough around until it will let go of the work surface.  Then you start tucking until it forms a skin.  That knowledge helped immensely with getting it into a ball.

Here it is out of the oven, it sort of looks like a turkey.

Here is the inside.

So, we've done that and realized that we don't eat that much bread.  I think dinner rolls and pizza dough may be next.  I found an article on NYT about how no-knead bread entered the lexicon, apparently the method has been around for a long time.

Today was not cold, it was 40F (4.4C).  We decided to go snow shoeing.  It's still fun.  We're still working out the details of the bindings and exactly how do the gaiters go on.  It's a process.  After I took this photo, the sun came out and things looked better for awhile. 

I got this tray to deal with snow covered boots.  We haven't needed it for that, plus leaving boots out in the garage means they're going to be really cold the next time they're worn.  However, it's a great place for the snow shoes to de-ice.


I follow a lot of nurses on Twitter.  Things are not good.  Morgue trucks are arriving daily to store the dead.  All of the health care workers are stressed to the gills, many are leaving and not enough are in the pipeline to replace them.  In addition to having to deal with enormous levels of death, they're being abused for not getting things done fast enough to suit the families.  People are actually keying their cars and slashing tires.  It's difficult to comprehend the level of stupid out there.  Someone posted this adaptation of Hopper's painting, The Nighthawks.  It speaks a lot.


Saturday, December 18, 2021

First Time Out on the Snow Shoes

We went snow shoeing with the neighbors.  It was really fun, the best part being that no one fell down and got covered in snow.  Getting the snow gaiters on was also a first.   Here is Jim, demonstrating the snow shoe wardrobe.


The gaiters are good, they keep the bottoms of the pants out of the snow, so they're not wet and cold.  I think next time we may try the black hiking tights, they will probably fit in the gaiter better, but then again I've got the tops of mine cinched as tight as they'll go.  So, maybe a process improvement, maybe not.  It was fun, really fun.  The weather helped, it was 35F (1.7C) so it wasn't all that cold.  I did wear a scarf and was very happy about that.  It was good to be outside.

This is up by the water tower.


Our next door neighbor, he's really nice.  This morning he came over with his battery powered snow blower and helped Jim finish the drive way.

Speaking of the snow blower; the replacement for the bent one they sent us.  It originated in Tacoma, WA, went north to Seattle.  From there it went to Reno, NV.  The shipper has added 1500 miles to the trip by doing that.  One wonders when it will arrive here.  Jim is fairly exercised about this.

Here are the two Lodges, sitting next to each other on the pantry shelf.  When we arrived here I looked at that pantry and thought there was no way we'd fill it up.  Nah, we're already considering what we can take out of it to free up space.  It's funny how that happens, and how little time it takes.


So, now Jim has a bread pot of his own, and the baking can commence.


Friday, December 17, 2021

Snow on December 16, 2021

It snowed pretty much all day yesterday.  It wasn't a hard snow, but it was steady.  Temperatures did not rise above 29F degrees, so it was able to stick.  Based on what we saw on the local news last night, Spokane drivers are not much better than Seattle drivers when it snows.  They go too fast, tail gate and in general are stupid idiots.  The last time it snowed, we were going up a slight grade to leave the neighborhood, there is a round about on the way.  A UPS truck, with chains, had slid into the curb, unable to negotiate the round about.  So we stopped to give him room to back up and recover.  An idiot in a 4 wheel drive truck started to pass us.  Where did he think he would go?  After UPS cleared the intersection, we went and noticed in the mirrors that the truck hit the curb and slid down the icy street below.  Schadenfreude at its finest.

Yesterday the snow let up about 4pm.  All of the neighbors popped out of their houses to remove the snow.  The one on the left lives there by herself.  I've watched her shovel before, she can lift a shovel of snow as high as her head.  Yesterday it was time for the blower.  The one on the right lives up the street, he did part of the sidewalks and then came over to help her with the driveway.


Here is Jim, wearing his new fuzzy boots.  I really wanted a pair like that, but my feet hate them.


Here they are up close.  They're really good, the bottom black part is waterproof, and the laces start fairly high on your foot.


Last night the local weather heads were saying we would wake up to ice fog.



Clearly they were mistaken.

Something walks through the yard at night.  We have not determined what it is.

Could be deer, there are moose here, so who knows?

We cooked today, we made stoup.  It's browned chicken, carrots and sweet potatoes.  Stoup is a portmanteau Rachel Ray used to describe meals that are thicker than soup, but not as thick as stew.  Anyway, the question for me is how much liquid do I need.  Refer to the next picture.  The arrow is pointing at the level of liquid, about 14 ounces of wine and stock.  It's just below the vegetable layer.


I chickened out, added more stock.  Too much!  It will be fine, but one of these days I'm going to get a thicker consistency.  Please make a note of this, 14 ounces is plenty and I should stop there.

During the cooking, Jim's new bread pot arrived.  It is so cuuuuuuute.  It's a Lodge 4 quart.  It was really nicely packed, box within box.  The lid, which you can't see had two layers of cardboard.  The two Lodges will be so attractive lined up on a pantry shelf.


The furnace guy came out this morning to have a look.  It's good, it should work all winter.  Later the glass guys came out and installed the new shower enclosure door.  It fits, there are no scratches and we are done.  Happy we are about that.  They weren't wearing masks and one wonders if they are vaccinated.  The labels on the glass are telling us how to care for the inside of the enclosure.  It's treated with a compound that prevents build up of crud as long as you squeegee after each shower.  Abrasive cleaners are forbidden.


So, that's what's shaking in Spokane.  It's currently 23F. 


Wednesday, December 15, 2021

More Detail on The Bad

I appear to have become fixated on Direct Contracting (DC).  I've been reading about it today, and want to preserve some links.  

Here are two vocabulary words for you, if you choose to read with me. 

capitation:  Capitation is a fixed amount of money per patient per unit of time paid in advance to the physician for the delivery of health care services. 

MSSP:  Medicare Shared Savings Program.  This is part of the Accountable Care Organization (ACO).  It seems to return money to hospitals that save money.  I can't tell if it's good or bad.  It has been around for nine years.

So, what is Direct Contracting.  It's a new fangled ACO.  DC started in 2019 when Jared Kushner's old dorm-mate was appointed head of the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation, also known as CMMI or the Innovation Center.  The dorm-mate (and former owner of a start up), Adam Boehler came up with the idea.  DC appears to be a way to shovel tax payer dollars to Wall Street.  There is a 10 point explainer here, which discusses the differences between ACO and DC.  This is a short read and worth your time.

What are the origins of DC, the ethical quagmire it presents, and why we are likely to be stuck with it.  The Intercept has written a bang up article on how it came to be, why it's unethical (shoveling tax dollars to Wall Street) and why it's the first step on the road to privatizing Medicare.

In May 2021, four Congress people sent a letter to Mr. Becerra (director of HHS) expressing their dismay over DC.  You can read that letter here.

Who is the lobbying arm for Direct Contracting, and what are they saying to Xavier Becerra.  See their letter here.

The Washington Post finally woke up and wrote about DC.  There is an informative op-ed here.  It's not a long read, and benefited from better editing that the last piece I put up. 

The fundamental question for which I still do not have an answer, is can I, the individual, opt out of this if I want to.   A person gets sucked in to it because their Primary Care Physician signed up to be in a Direct Contracting Entity.  They don't tell you they did it, you find out when you get an ambiguous letter from the government.  The letter from the lobbyists to Becerra suggests that the individual can opt out, but they again they are lobbyists and their job is lying.

It does not appear that President Biden is going to end this.  His deputy director of CMMI, Liz Fowler, is a supporter of Direct Contracting.  Several members of Congress are not.

Currently the thing is supposed to go into production in January.  So, there you go.  

Sunset last night.

Frost on the blow up snow man this morning.


In news of the good, Jim and I were both able to find new Levis we like today.  I have given up on women's jeans, too much spandex.  The mens' have much less.  The back pockets are a little big, but the fabric feels better.  New jeans for the win!


Monday, December 13, 2021

Cookies

Happy mid-December to you all.  Recent days have been moving slowly.

There has been walking up the hill.

The gas log fire place is fixed, we're very happy about that.

Jim and I both got new warm fuzzy pants at Fred Meyer.   It's owned by Kroger's and their big stores have everything.  There is clothing, kitchen stuff, some hardware and food.  These pants are fairly warm.  However, they're really long.  I finally got mine hemmed using the sewing machine.  I have given up on ever getting my serger to work.  The pants are warm, and I do like the Mandalorian.

 Cute, eh?

Fortunately, I have Jim to provide content for the blog.  Today he made Spritz cookies.  I got out both cookie presses and decided to use the newer one.  The new one has a trigger pull that pushes out the cookies.  This is the box the old one lives in, I think this dates from the 1950s.  Notice the spelling of cooky.  My Betty Crocker cook book is also from the 1950s and they spell cooky with a y, as well. 


My old Sunbeam mixer died, and no one would fix it.  I did keep the mixing bowl which we are using today.  Steeper bowl sides are good.  Jim has completed creaming the butter and sugar together and is adding egg yolks.


We do not own a metal spatula.  There used to be many, but they were jettisoned during the great purge of almost everything we owned in 2008.  Notice the cleaver in Jim's right hand.  It works well to pick up the sifted flour and level off the top of the measuring cup.


Extruding the cookie dough.


The top nozzle is the good one.  The bottom one did not work so well.  It made exactly one Christmas tree, the rest were round with dots on their top.  Also, I turned the nozzle over so it extruded less dough.  Please make a note of this.


We packaged up all of the cookies and took them to our neighbors.  One house has brought us bread, home made jelly, and cookies in the past.  We're trying to catch up now since we bought a mixer.  I did not get a picture of any of them, the ones we made with the top attachment were much better looking.  Maybe next time.