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Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Off Topic: A Moment from Teaching Paradise Lost

Oh, I know you may scoff at me and my students. After all, I teach at a state institution for average students. Among the least interested of my charges: the students in my REQUIRED survey of British Literature, for non-majors. Very few want to be there, needless to say.

I made my poor kids read big chunks of Paradise Lost. Perhaps it's more accurate to say I dragged them through it. Then, I had them do an assignment which involved writing out lines on certain topics (to prevent the dreaded copy/paste) and then saying what the lines mean.

This fellow presented these lines by the Son of God as he talks to God the Father.

O Father, gracious was that word which clos'd
Thy sovran sentence, that Man should find grace; [ 145 ]
For which both Heav'n and Earth shall high extoll
Thy praises, with th' innumerable sound
Of Hymns and sacred Songs, wherewith thy Throne
Encompass'd shall resound thee ever blest.
For should Man finally be lost, should Man [ 150 ]
Thy creature late so lov'd, thy youngest Son
Fall circumvented thus by fraud, though joynd
With his own folly? that be from thee farr,
That farr be from thee, Father, who art Judg
Of all things made, and judgest onely right

Noting that "most people don't know how life was for the Son before he came to earth" (true!), he went on to explain

Dad, I know u love your creations, so why not let me go down there and help them get on the right track before you go A Wall (AWOL??) on them in a sense.

That seems about right, don't u think?

I am so happy when they get even a little!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Happy Hour Food: Frugal Joie de Vivre

Mr FS and I are starting to go out to eat a bit more. Yes, one child out of college, the other almost out. We need to have more fun. The problem with going out to eat: it is expensive and sometimes it's bad. Frugal Son says that an occasional bad meal is an inevitable part of the overall experience. Unfortunately, we had a disappointing meal right off the bat at Brigtsen's, a New Orleans institution that gets ecstatic reviews on various sites. Oh well, but at over $100, I was miserable.

One good way to eat in restaurants without wasting $140.00 is to check out the Happy Hour offerings. We are going to visit Miss Em soon and she suggested we go to Happy Hour at Epiphany. The small plates are half price! Luckily for all of us, we have the metabolism of a 6 year old: we get very hungry very early and don't like to eat big dinners. This wouldn't work for a more European metabolism. I guess you could have a second dinner at 9 pm.

Check out the offerings. How will we choose? Have you found Happy Hours at your local restaurants? And--which 3 dishes would you pick?

Small Plates

Bread Service (Buhl, AL)
Whipped Berkshire Pork Butter and
Housemade Brown Sugar Bread
3(per Couple)

Steak and Eggs* (Cottondale,AL)
48 Hr Short Rib, Potato Hash, Rena's Soft Farm Egg

Pickled PEI Mussels
Basil, Warm Bread, Good Olive Oil

Housemade Local Berkshire Pork Sausage ( Buhl, AL)
Good People Brown Ale Mustard, Fried Brussels, Radish

Snows Bend Turnips (Coker, AL)
American Caviar, Tat Soi, Nori Powder

Oysters and Bacon (Appalachicola, FL)
Braised Bacon, Radish, Soy Caramel, Peach,

Snow's Bend Butternut Squash Soup (Coker, AL)
Red Curry ,Coconut, Apple, Bon Secour Shrimp

Organic Greens and Peach Salad (Coker,AL)
Benton's Country Ham, Coconut Milk Vinaigrette, Feta

Asher Blue Cheese Salad (Thomasville, GA)
Greens, Apple, Buttermilk Vinaigrette, Pumpkin Seed Oil

“Shrimp and Grits” (Bon Secour , AL)
McEwen and Son's Polenta, Dashi, Bacon

Rena's Farm Egg* (Cottondale, AL)
Farm Egg, Braised Bacon, Hon-shimeji Mushrooms, Kalamata Olive “Soil”

Baked Stones Hollow Goat Cheese (Buhl, AL)
Yellow Beets, Leek Ash, Purple Basil

Hay Smoked Scallop Crudo*
Cocoa Nib, Kumquat, Shaved Peach, Radish, Tat Soi

Oak Hill Beef Carpaccio* (Eutaw, AL)
Horseradish, Local Arugula, Salsa Verte

Local Cheese Tasting (AL)
Red Hill Cheddar, AA Creamery Cheeses, Warm Bread, Fruit

Local Vegetables and Sides

Katie Farms Roasted Sweet Potatoes (Coker,AL)
Berkshire Pork Fat, Kim Chi, Soy, Hot Sauce

McEwen and Son's Polenta* (Wilsonville, Al)
Rena's Farm Egg, Stones Hollow Goat Cheese, Maple

Miso Creamed Corn (Coker, AL)
Red Curry, Coconut Milk, Hot Peppers

Fried Brussel Sprouts (Coker, AL)
Snow's Bend Lardo, Peach, Soy

Local Collards (Coker, AL)
Ginger, Soy, Red Chili, Brown Sugar

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Etiquette Questions: Art Exhibits, Coffee Shop Performances

We're still bending under the weight of objects (from Mr FS's late parents) and obligations (hundreds of assignments to process and hundreds more en route). Still, we try to have a little fun now and then.

To wit. We recently received invites from two people who are midway between acquaintance and friend. The first is to an art exhibit, which will feature--in addition to the art--live music and probably refreshments.

The second is to a coffee shop performance.

My question. If we go to the art exhibit, are we obligated to buy something? Can we just admire, listen to the music, and go home? We were once invited to an exhibit of work by a truly starving artist. We knew what was expected and--gritting our teeth because we didn't like the work very much (though we liked the artist a lot)--we bought a piece. This artist is a retired teacher married to a lawyer, so this is definitely not of the same category as the other invite. Plus we have not a bit of wall space available.

For the coffee shop performance--by a musical lawyer and her boyfriend--we know we are expected to buy some coffee and put money in the pot. Right? Does anyone know an appropriate amount?

Mr FS and I are clueless about so many matters of etiquette. It is truly embarrassing. Any advice will be much appreciated.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Moving Stuff: Fairly Cheaply and Safely

Yes, we have been busy. That's why we took a while to fix our broken door handle. Thanks to all for their scary stories and concern. We are usually not such slackers in matters of safety and maintenance.

The main event that got us behind on work and life was the necessity of going to California to help clear out the home of Mr FS's late--and missed--parents. Aside from the emotional stress in this case, moving anything is stressful PERIOD. I read that movers receive a huge percentage of consumer complaints--more so since the moving biz was deregulated and many companies practice scams. To wit: you get your estimate, the truck shows up at your new house with all your stuff and the movers tell you there is a $1000 UNPACKING FEE not included in the estimate.

While almost nothing in the parental home was valuable on the open market, almost everything was valuable to the 3 children: handmade furniture, fabric creations, eccentric collections.

Mr FS took on the research. He eliminated ye olde rent a U-Haul because we live far away and had already missed some school because of Hurricane Isaac. We eliminated the traditional moving van service because we got ridiculously low estimates and had read too many complaints about scams. We looked into Greyhound--suggested by a reader--but that would have involved many, many packages and trips to Santa Rosa. It is a good deal for a few bulky items, however.

The cheapest suggestion was to build a giant crate on a pallet and fill it with the goods. These would then be transported by truck. This was suggested by our brother-in-law who is a contractor. However, this involved serious logistics and heavy machinery. Too scary.

We ended up using a U-Pack service. A big truck rolls in. You fill your designated space--we had 5x6x8. A divider is rolled up. the truck gets the rest of its cargo and eventually the truck arrives at your abode, where you unpack.

I was skeptical. I kept telling Mr FS that we could only fit a few pieces of furniture in. Spatial relations are my low point on standardized tests and in life. Mr FS insisted that everything would fit in like a puzzle. He was right. It ended up being like the little car at the circus from which emerge 12 tall clowns. We could even take things that we thought we would have to leave behind: like the cast iron frying pans that belonged to the grandmother of Mr FS's father, who was born in 1918. Frugal Son, a committed cook, had requested them for his new apartment.

We used ABF U-Pack. The cost was about $1700.00. There were no surprises.

The best advice we got was from ABF. The rep said the cheapest way to move is to get rid of all your stuff and buy new stuff on arrival!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

My Broken Door Handle Saves me $8 a Day!

In our graduate student years of poverty, Mr FS and I would look longingly at some of our friends who were married to people gainfully employed: we would sigh, "I can't wait till we're in the middle class." And even many years later, we still can't believe our good fortune: here we are, in the middle class.

At the moment, we have a sub-middle-class car situation. Frugal Son--who is trying urban life sans car--borrowed our "new" (10 year old) car for a trip. We were left with our older car: a sturdy Toyota Camry circa 1998. We love it!

A few months ago, Mr FS opened the door on the driver's side and the plastic handle broke. With some duct tape, he managed to fix it. A few weeks ago, I opened the door on the passenger side and broke that handle. Sadly, Mr FS cannot fix it. We will probably get a new handle, but we have been busy.

We did wonder: was this a sign from the universe that we should get another car? I told Mr FS that many frugal types (our role models) believe in saving $250 per month in a car fund. That way, when you need a car, you have the money. We have managed to save for our next car. But--as in “O God, make me good, but not yet” (is that really from Evelyn Waugh?)--we are thinking "We are grateful that we have saved for another car, but we don't want to buy one yet."

I figured that each day we hold on to the old Camry, we are saving about $8.00. And how often does anyone sit on the passenger side? At most, twice a day, during our commute, which is only two days a week. Therefore, we are saving about $8.00, every day we hold on to this car. Think of how much money one would need to generate that kind of interest payment--especially in this day of ridiculously low interest rates!

Every time Mr FS and I go somewhere together--which necessitates opening the door with a screw driver--we say "Yes! We are in the middle class." We said it today in the parking lot at Whole Foods (Miss Em wanted to try the $2.99 wine), where we had by far the worst car, not even counting the door handle.

Do you ever put off a major purchase even when you've saved enough?

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

OWF: 1918-2012

We've been in beautiful Northern California, helping clean out the home of Mr FS's beloved father. Mr FS comes from a family of letter writers (and savers!), so we have--just to mention two pertaining to frugal subjects--a letter from his grandmother Faith to her husband (away on work?) just after the stock market crash of 1929 ("I know we can make it") and letters from his father to his own father enumerating his expenses at Harvard in 1936 (laundry was $6).

We also appreciated thousands of books, mostly poetry, sad that we had to leave most behind.

Death is the mother of beauty; hence from her,
Alone, shall come fulfilment to our dreams
And our desires. Although she strews the leaves
Of sure obliteration on our paths—
The path sick sorrow took, the many paths
Where triumph rang its brassy phrase, or love
Whispered a little out of tenderness—
She makes the willow shiver in the sun
For maidens who were wont to sit and gaze
Upon the grass, relinquished to their feet.
She causes boys to bring sweet-smelling pears
And plums in ponderous piles. The maidens tas
And stray impassioned in the littering leaves.