Saturday, August 25, 2012


Hurricanes are a hot topic around here right now. We're all watching Tropical Storm Isaac, and it happens to be the twentieth anniversary of Hurricane Andrew. I can remember Hurricane Andrew, but because I was living in the Midwest, it didn't mean much to me. In Miami, though, it feels like it didn't happen that long ago. When we first moved here, some people remarked on my husband's name, because they had different associations with "Andrew" than we did.

Hurricane Andrew was a category 5 storm when it hit Florida two decades ago, and right now there's only a Tropical Storm Warning and a Hurricane Watch. That's enough to make us double-check our hurricane kits, so we stockpiled some extra cat food, candles, batteries, and fuel for our camping stove. I'm told that what we're mainly preparing for is the possibility of days without electricity, so our general preparations include making sure we have food that doesn't need cooking, spare cash, and enough gas in the car. For me, the spectre of boredom looms, so I made a trip to the library this week, too.

When you're preparing your house, the primary focus is on the windows.  In new or renovated houses, people have hurricane-proof windows; otherwise, they board up or shutter the windows. In the past, our landlord boarded up the windows in our house, but now he has extra shutters, and so he's installing shutters today. The shutter system is quite efficient - you install a long line of screws on each side of the window, and those are left there permanently. When a storm comes, the you place the shutters over the windows and secure them with a series of wingnuts.

So, more or less, I feel ready. The university has already announced that it won't be open on Monday. As an academic, there's always work I can do, so that probably just means I'll be working at home instead of on campus.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012


I decided that I would like a bench in my office. Officially, it's to provide seating. But I also think it's nice to be able to nap in your office. The problem is that benches are surprisingly expensive - unless the problem is that I'm excessively frugal. In any case, Andrew went to Home Depot and loaded up the car with wood. He had to put the top down to get it all to fit in.

And in one weekend he built me a bench. The cushion actually took more work than the construction, because I had to find a foam supplier. Voila, office furniture!
Some of my coworkers have said that they plan to sneak in and use it when I'm not around. But I have a defense against that: due to limited space, I made the bench almost precisely my height. Since almost everyone in the U.S. is taller than me, they will be out of luck if they try to sneak their own naps.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Cook and freeze. Repeat.

I've talked here in the past about stocking the freezer with premade meals. The school year is approaching, and even though I don't teach this semester, I know that there will be much less time for cooking. Why? Because dance and choir start up again; a person has to make time for hobbies, you know.

The website that got me started on this project is Once a Month Moms. I use recipes from the vegetarian menu, but not all of them - grilled cheese rolls with American cheese are not exactly my thing. So I make a mix of recipes I find there, and my own, adapted for freezing. The great thing about the website recipes is that they come on a spreadsheet for easy scaling, so I have to do more math for my own recipes.

Once a Month Mom suggests that you can make your month of meals in one long cooking day. This presumes that you shop the day before (which I did). Below, the results.

The proteins: "bacon", "meatballs", and paneer.

My old standbys: roasted vegetable tomato sauce, pumpkin bread, black pepper- cheddar biscuits.

The Indian meal: naan, mango chutney, and butter chickpeas.

Everything else: stir-fried rice packets, spinach-mushroom empanadas, and a dog who was as tired as I was.

The verdict: it took me just a bit longer than one 12-hour day, and it was exhausting. I was on my feet all day long, and collapsed at the end of it. I certainly won't try a whole month's cooking in one day again, and I don't know how these Once-a-Month moms do it. Maybe moms are tougher than me?

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Riding the rails

This weekend we visited the Gold Coast Railroad Museum because they have no entrance fees on the first Saturday of the month. One of my secret frugally-styling tips is that I note all free days for museums or parks on my calendar, and then if I feel like doing something that weekend, I just check my calendar.

Andrew is a big fan of trains, and I am a big fan of history, so it was a fun for both of us even though it was rather hot.

The car I'm siting in here is one of the cars that explicitly shows the evidence of segregation. There were two identical compartments, each labelled with a sign indicating either "White" or "Colored." The White section was always the first one in the car. When the train did its return trip, the car was oriented in the opposite direction, so they just flipped the "White" sign to "Colored" and vice versa. The fact that both groups sat in each identical section, just at different times2 really illustrated the artificial nature of the separation.
I was surprised that every sleeper berth had its own sink and toilet. (You can see part of the metal fold-down sink on the left side of the picture below.) It would be kind of nice to have a sink in my compartment, but I think I would prefer not to have a toilet 6 inches from where I'm sleeping.
There were cars with seats and sleeping berths for one, two, or  three people. Here, you can see that the top berth has been folded down, but the bottom berth (made when the two seats facing each other were folded down) hasn't been made yet. If people truly fit on those berths, then it was clear that they were much shorter and much thinner than we are today. I could sleep on those berths, but I don't think my size is that of an average American any more.