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Resolutions [27 Dec 2009|01:47pm]
Being jobless and poorer than I have ever been before, going into this new year, I am making two resolutions:

1. Cut my fast food / restaraunt budget in the new year by at least 90%.

Fast food was killing us this year - we were, at one point, averaging in excess of a hundred dollars a month between Long John Silvers and McDonalds, and that's [i]using[/i] the dollar menu. Working at West didn't help, as I often abused my one hour lunch to make runs to Church's, Popeye's, and the little diners in the area. At our worst, between michelle and I, we likely had a month or two where we spent in excess of 300 dollars between restaraunts and fast food. It's a bad habit - esp. for someone such as myself who is capable of cooking a cheap, filling meal in minutes. I've got good knife skills and an inventive culinary mind, there's no reason I should be blowing this much money on restaraunt food when I'm perfectly capable of making a good meal at home.

2. Clip coupons.

Being this poor has taught me that we waste a lot of money at the grocery store. We've spent the last two weeks living on eggs and rice, and I'd like to add some other things to that rotation, but when it costs 3 dollars for a small jar of grape jelly it's hard to rationalize purchasing that over 2 dozen eggs. We constantly hear about people saving hundreds of dollars a year clipping coupons, and it's time we started doing it ourselves. It costs 2 dollars for the sunday paper, so we just need to make the trip to the store on sundays to pick it up. Manufacturers will mail you coupons if you ask as well, and lots of places have online, printable coupons that you can download. If we can shave 20 dollars or 30 dollars off our grocery bill here and there our food stamps will take us all the way through the month instead of two weeks into it.

In addition to #2; clipping coupons goes hand and hand with saving in other areas - we've started buying corn tortillas over flour for example, buying marked down /past sell by bread, etc. Bulk rice is a great purchase, always, and I think this month we're going to buy some beans. We've also been buying frozen chicken legs - 49 cents a pound is a great deal, and if we can get that reduced with a coupon we can walk out of the grocery store with a lot more food in our cart and have meat with many more meals. So I'd also like to cut out pre-assembled and convenience food from our diet as much as possible - the convenience of a frozen pizza is nice, but for the 3-5 dollars i spend on that I could easily just make a pizza for a fraction of the cost. Canned beans are a cheap item, but in terms of a cost to weight ratio canned beans cost WAY more than just buying the beans dry and soaking them.

[23 Dec 2009|04:14am]
[ mood | empty ]

My dad died last night. I found out about it a couple of hours ago. It's surreal; I've been expecting this to happen for a long time, but it just does not seem to actually be happening. I'm basically completely detached for this emotionally. I don't know if that's a bad thing or not.

He had a lot of problems. The father that I knew and loved died ten years ago when his wife left him and he decided to give up on being a decent person. He was consumed by drug and alcohol addiction and lived his final days in misery, living in his father's spare bedroom in a mobile home and suffering from severe withdrawal because he was too broke to buy drugs. My brother tells me he was really trying to get clean again - he'd stopped going to his doctor because he knew he couldn't control himself with pain meds. I know it wouldn't have lasted, but it makes me happy to know that he was at least trying.

I suppose I stopped mourning for the father I loved a long time ago - my dad was the smartest person I knew, one of the strongest. He worked a hard, mentally and physically demanding job, and did it without complaint for my entire life. When mom left him he gave up on drugs and booze hoping it would win her back - when it didn't, he moved on. I understand that he still had periodic problems with pain meds and took methadone for most of his adult life, but he was mostly sober - enough that we weren't constantly seeing him at his worst, like we had when mom was leaving him and he was going through rehab.

When Leah left my dad, she more or less took his soul with him. I guess he couldn't do what he did when mom left - he couldn't fix himself again. It just took too much out of him. The last time I spoke with my dad it was more or less on bad terms. Dad was lit the night before and he'd called me when I was at my mother's house up in Michigan last month. He was really shitty with me, insulting, I could tell he was off his rocker so I hung up. The next day he apologized - kind of. He wanted me to call him back and I blew him off. I feel bad about that. I'm not exactly dwelling on it, but I wish I hadn't given up on him like I did.

My biggest regret is that my soon to be wife didn't get to meet my dad - I wouldn't have wanted her to meet the drug addict, but the tool and die worker dad that I knew during my adolescense, who tried his best to stay clean and be a good father. He screwed up a lot of the time, but he was trying - that's all I ever wanted out of him. Knowing that he was trying to fix his life again when he died at least gives me some peace. His misery is at an end.

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[02 Jun 2009|11:45am]
[ mood | bored ]

This new job is a little heavier on downtime than I had previously expected; I am considering writing a novel between orders. The question is how to go about it; I understand the whole structure and notes thing that you need to go about if you want to make a successful book - the longest stories I've written are in the 30-40 page range, which is obviously a lot less than I'd want to go with.

I might start with some short backstories to support a larger plot. I was planning to wait until NANOWRIMO to do this, but to be quite frank, November is a long way away and I can't keep wiling away my time on dailykos and cnn reading the same articles seven times a day.

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[28 May 2009|03:49pm]
I once heard that The Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath was a lovecraft story either hated or loved by the fans of his work, with no variation between; I have now figured out why.

As those of us who own cats know, there are only two kinds of people in this world. Those who love cats, and those who don't. If you don't love cats, you won't enjoy The Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath and that's all there really is to it.
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Sup [03 Apr 2009|10:20pm]
[ mood | tired ]

Found a new job; going to be working for West on their Qwest contract. I'm kind of fuzzy on what I'm actually going to be doing, but it seems to involve filing reports and filling out forms all day. The quintessential desk job. The starting pay is amazing (12/hr for this area is pretty high for nonskilled work) and the job looks pretty engaging. I start in two weeks.

If I can ever remember to update this livejournal I'd like to turn it into a cooking blog. To be perfectly honest, cooking has become one of my passions since I moved out of my parent's house and it's something I like sharing with others. The fiance and I are foodies to a point and we eat a wide variety of foods from all cultures. We've also taken plenty of attempts at cooking those foods. We're even collecting vintage cookbooks now, if only for the retro humor of it. (Hot dog crown roast, tomato aspic, cooking with diet shasta)

Since I lost my job I really learned how to tighten my belt and most of my recent cooking projects have been focusing on low-cost meals that are filling and interesting. The key weapon in this fight has been whole chicken, by far the cheapest per pound meat you can buy in this part of the country and easily the most versatile. We'll buy 2-3 whole chickens from the grocery store, butcher them down to individual parts, and then use those parts in whatever we're cooking over the course of that week. I usually use 1 whole chicken per meal, but if we needed to cut costs even more we could cut that down to 1 whole chicken per two meals and still eat well.

The culinary applications of a whole chicken, are, of course, limitless. Grind the chicken and make patties for chicken burgers, cut and chunk the chicken for curries and soups, boil down the carcass for stocks and bases, roast the whole chicken and use the drippings for gravy or yorkshire puddings, (my gravy is amazing, btw.) cut the chicken into quarters and braise in an Adobo, grill, broil or sear marinated thighs and breasts, cut the breasts into thin strips and stirfry for any number of applications (the tastiest being hunan chicken!) I could go on and on. Of course, butchering the chicken into managable pieces is fucking gross; this is an understatement, to be perfectly honest. I feel horrible if I'm not wearing gloves, the shit is slippery, slimey, and there's always the knowledge that you're one eyepoke away from horrible styes and salmonella. Having said that, paying 75 cents for a pound of whole chicken, or paying 4 dollars for a pound of chicken breasts ; the choice is pretty fucking obvious.

Of course, chicken gets boring, fast. I learned this when I lived with my dad, I got tired of chicken really quickly and couldn't handle eating it as often as we did. We did a lot of chicken wings and roast chicken and to be honest I was so tired of whole chicken that I never wanted to do it again. When we moved in here I shied away from roast chickens and whole chickens because of that, which is a shame because I feel now like I missed out on a lot of potentially good meals. The truth is, the only thing that makes food boring is eating it the same way all the time. If you shake it up a little you're going to have a lot better time. If we start to get bored, or want to do something different here, we just google up some new chicken recipes. We tried adobo recently and it was amazing ; Adobo, if you're unfamiliar, is a Filipino dish made up of soy sauce and vinegar. You braise the chicken in it for a reasonably long time and serve with rice. The flavor is amazing, the salty sweet flavor of cooked down soy sauce mixed with the tang of vinegar. An amazing dish that we can add to our rotation to keep chicken interesting longer.

We're not so poor that we're limited to chicken of course, and I owe a lot of this to our neighboring grocer. They frequently mark down meat far below the original sale cost, and as a result we're still eating beef more than two months after I lost my job. Beef isn't quite as versatile as chicken, of course - I don't believe in braising beef tbh and Michelle and I aren't roast fanatics. We still use beef for a lot of our cooking though. Stir fry has become one of our best weapons in combating hunger because it injects veggies into our diet and a small cut of beef, such as a single round steak or two petit sirloins can make up a huge, incredibly filling meal. For two bucks we can feed ourselves stupid, which isn't half bad all things considered - it's certainly cheaper than paying 12 dollars for beef and broccoli takeout. And while I'm not confident enough in my chinese cookery to say it's better than our favored takeout place, it's certainly not half bad and you can't beat the price.

Then of course there's the other meats. Pork is cheap as always, but we don't cook with it as much as beef and chicken because it's not as versatile. I really wish this wasn't the case, but most pork chops can really only be served as chops or occasionally added to stir fry. Pork as a whole is too lean and what fat is on the pork is usually inedible rind or the glue-like fat in pork loin which I find unappetizing to the point of inducing my gag reflex. Our best culinary weapon in the pork department is unsurprisingly bacon. I use bacon (or one of my big three cooking oils, bacon grease) in a lot of my dishes, most notably spaghetti and chili, and usually use it to flavor bland or bitter veggies like Asparagus, Broccoli, and Green Beans.

Lamb in this part of the country is... prohibitively expensive to the extreme. 90% of the lamb in tulsa is new zealand imports and as a result is never really fresh and always, always overpriced. We can usually get shoulder chops for relatively cheap, and that makes for a fairly good curry, but leg of lamb usually goes for nearly ten dollars a pound, and I've seen loin chops sell for more than Beef Fillet and Tenderloin. That seems ridiculous to me, given the vast expanses of grazing land in Oklahoma, and knowing that there's a large sheep farm in the greater Tulsa area! I'm sure there's some meat markets around town that carry lamb for relatively cheap, but I'd have to do some looking and I don't know if it's worth it. Lamb is not bad - I find the taste to be like richer, gamier beef - but to be honest, I don't feel that lamb is deserving of a price higher than fine beef.

Last but certainly not least is fish. We love fish, but this is Tulsa. Fish is fucking expensive. The cheap shit is 6 dollars a pound. Fish and chips and blackened catfish are favorites, but rarely enjoyed because of the prohibitive cost. Oh, how I long for the coast.

I find my cooking venue to be more restricting by the day; We really need to find an apartment that's more accomidating to our cooking needs, specifically, a kitchen with a LOT of counterspace. Additionally, I'd like an apartment where we can go outside to do some of our cooking. I'd like to try a hand at cold-smoking my own bacon, as well. Obviously we can't do either of these in our one bedroom upstairs apartment, so sadly our options are limited. See also grilling. No patio, no grill. We have a balcony, but the management have told us no grilling, and to be honest we're not going to make waves. We've been month to month on our lease for half a year now without a rent increase (they're having trouble filling the apartments and don't want to give us reason to leave) and the last thing we want is to damage that situation. Wherever we go next, I'm aiming for a BIG kitchen. Hopefully we can get that kind of setup.


whoops lol i had one of these [27 Mar 2009|06:37am]
since october, I found a job with Gannett Media. They're a newspaper company that runs a lot of the papers in the states, including USA today and the Detroit News + Free Press. That lasted about three months. I don't think I've ever seen a company so poorly managed in my life. They're falling apart at the seams and their focus on both employee and customer retention leave something to be desired. The building I worked at, it felt like a lot of the upper management got put there because they were friends with the site director; as a result, when I had issues with another employee on the floor (specifically, being threatened with a severe beating) nothing was done and the problem continued until finally I felt justification to quit. They were probably going to fire me soon for missing work during an ice storm anyway, but I felt like I got the last word.

Having said that, I'm now two months out of work. Finding a job is a lot harder than I thought it would be. I'm working on getting employed with West, which is another subcontractor CSR job (like my job at Alorica was) as an activations specialist on their Cricket contract. If you're not in the midwest, Cricket is a regional cell-phone company that operates like MetroPCS does in the greater detroit area, flat low rate for unlimited minutes. Does a lot of work on voip and I understand they buy tower space from other CDMA networks. Having worked on contract with a larger cell phone company the small companies make a lot more sense; Big companies have to build towers in lower income areas just to be able to say they cover more ground than their competition, but the truth is, most people in low income areas tend to default in 2-3 months because they can't afford their 200 dollar phone bills. this means big, expensive cell towers serving relatively few customers. sprint/verizon/etc can recoup the costs of running the towers by renting out their remaining load to a cheaper regional company. This is of course how I assume it works; I haven't gotten hired on necessarily yet (though my chances are very good) and will likely find out more about the inner workings of their network once I actually get hired on and trained. My interview is on the 1st, and given when it was scheduled I'm crossing my fingers here for a group interview. Alorica did group interviews, and that means that as long as I can write my name on a piece of paper, I've got the job. The hiring people were very impressed with my customer service skills and typing, so I think my chances are good.

Outside of that, I haven't been doing much; Being unemployed has been stressful, but to be perfectly honest, at the same time quite relieving. My last job was awful; Don't work for a newspaper in this day and age, even if (or especially if) you're on the customer service end. The job was a nightmare and I've never had an employer treat me so poorly, and I've never seen a company so eager to go bankrupt. I'm convinced they're ramming their stock prices into the ground just so they can yank the remaining shares and take their company off the stock market. I often came home from work in tears at how much I hated the job, nearly had a heart attack on the floor at one point, and the sheer boredom and dissatisfaction made me more depressed than I have been in the last decade.

[02 Oct 2008|08:29am]
i got fired :(
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[23 Sep 2008|05:31pm]
I got a new kitty! :D
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[13 Aug 2008|07:53pm]
I felt better pretty much as soon as I left work last night; Rolled down my windows, cranked some Zepp and went for a drive around town. Feeling the breeze blow through my hair and listening to some tunes rather than the whining of a guy suffering severe entitlement syndrome greatly helped relieve the stress of the day.
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[12 Aug 2008|06:09pm]
[ mood | pensive ]

I had a dream last night that I'd seen an old girlfriend who, in reality, I'd never actually had. This was a person I loved very much and the relationship ended very badly.

I awoke with a tremendous sense of loss that follows throughout the day, despite this person having never existed.


[07 Aug 2008|10:27pm]
man why do kilts have to look so comfortable

god damn kilts

[30 Jul 2008|12:42am]
Yes, your phone number. What the fuck ELSE would I ask for, you stupid fuck?
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[15 Jul 2008|10:59pm]
Home-made chicken korma last night with jasmine rice and naan. So fucking good.

If you haven't tried indian food yet: give it a shot. Seriously.
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[13 Jul 2008|06:00pm]
In WoW: we drug lady vashj behind coilfang resevoir and put a bullet in her head. Drops were triple defender, shitty durid shoulders, plate dps chestpiece. Just a note; triple defender helms is kind of like double stormrage, which if i recall is the drops i saw on my first onyxia kill. Ha haa.

In life: fuck I wish I'd taken some charcoal caps before I came into work. My gut is bubbling like a pit of acid and molten hatred and I feel like I'm going to be sick. Probably going to call it after lunch if this does not get any better.

[06 Jun 2008|12:42am]
Anybody have some interesting recipes I can make for relatively cheap?

I have access to most produce, chicken, beef, pork, and any fish you can buy frozen for 3-4 bucks a pound. Fresh fish is an inaccessible commodity in this part of the country. I'm also having a lot of trouble finding duck and lamb in this part of the country; duck I can understand, lamb I really can't, but it's nowhere to be found.

This is beef country so it comes relatively cheap; we've gone through the basics, burgers, patty melts, hamburger helper, steaks, etc. We're still looking for good Moussaka and Meatloaf recipes, so feel free to provide any if you know any. I'm also on the lookout for good indian food ; recipes for chicken tikka masala, vindaloos and any standard curry are cool in my book.

One last note; I don't have a grill or a smoker. I can semi-replicate a griil with my broiler, but otherwise not a huge option there, so.
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My birthday! [17 Mar 2008|06:04am]
Tonight's dinner was mushroom risotto.

I started by slicing about 10 Shitake mushrooms, 10 crimini mushrooms and about 5 white button mushrooms. Softened them in a pan with some green onions, garlic and olive oil. Set those aside, and went on to the rice. I used a cup of arborio rice, which I cooked to golden brown in butter and more olive oil, with some additional green onions and fresh basil. Then I went through the process of adding in 4 cups of chicken broth, one half cup at a time. Thirty minutes of standing in front of my oven and stirring later, I added the mushrooms into the rice and served.

It was amazing. I cooked the rice perfectly - they were al dente despite absorbing four cups of chicken broth and had both an amazing taste and an amazing texture. I managed to clean my plate in seconds. The fiance is more in savor mode atm. It was definately worth the work, I don't know if I'd make risotto a weekly thing but... definately a+ would do business with again.

all and all, a good birthday.
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[27 Feb 2008|07:33pm]
The last boss of Guitar Hero II is Freebird, as it turns out.
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[24 Feb 2008|03:34pm]
Made it to the flea market this weekend, as it was one of the rare occasions where michelle and I were up before 6 in the afternoon on saturday. We made a nice list of incredibly cheap purchases. Not all of them the wisest, but...

Lodge 8qt pre-seasoned OLD cast iron dutch oven - 30bux
Henckel Paring Knife - 1 dollar
Screw-on meat grinder - 5 bucks (buying for her parents)
Guitar Hero II, factory-sealed refurb - 17 dollars (!!!!)
Original copy of Clue, missing nothing except the Knife murder weapon - 50 cents
Handful of dishes + small casserole and mixing bowls - 2 dollars

We'll be coming back in the future. The flea market is mostly a bazaar of stolen goods, poorly manufactured bootlegs and painstaking, overpriced crafts intermixed with liscensed Frost cutlery sears katana vendors. I imagine it's like the ancient markets of Baghdad brought to the 21st century with more unofficial nintendo merchandise featuring mario and luigi, packing 9s, decked in bling, riding in their low rider.


Made it to sushi train on friday. We spent 45 dollars, which is more than twice what we've spent on previous trips, but it was very much worth it; We started with some dishes off the train, specifically a couple of plates of perfect ten rolls and the lady and I shared a plate of eel. We followed that with some nigiri: mackerel, albacore, maguro (bluefin tuna), and red snapper. The mackerel was terrible, our chef tried to warn us after we'd already placed our order, sadly. We found out how right he was. The mackerel could have been great to some people, but it was too fishy and the skin had an incredibly unpleasant texture, like nori that was too wet and wouldn't break. Thankfully we ate it first, and were able to soothe the taste away between the delightfully fresh snapper, which had a wonderful, buttery flavor and texture, and of course the Maguro which is my old standby for a reason. if I had one fish to live with the rest of my life, bluefin tuna would be it. It has a flavor and texture akin to beef tenderloin, without the heavy weight in your stomach. The downside is the cost in this part of the country, of course. When you're 1000 miles in any direction from a large body of water, fresh fish comes at a premium, and many sushi restaraunts in this area use awful, frozen fish and replace their stock rarely. Luckily, sushi train gets fresh stuff often, as does Fuji. I imagine they get their stock from the same place that Bodean's does, as I highly doubt Bodean's can maintain their operating costs getting fresh fish twice a day if they're the only ones ordering it.

We finished the night out by asking our nearest sushi chef what he'd put on a roll if he was making it for himself. Fried softshell crab, fried tempura shrimp, topped with yellowtail and maguro; We thought this sounded pretty good, so we asked him to make it for us. He was shocked, but when we insisted he set aside his other tickets and immediately went to work, improvising more ingrediants in as he went. The final product was the crab and tempura as before, with an additional bit of fried asparagus and topped with smelt roe. The yellowtail was fresh, as it usually is at this particular sushi bar, and the portions he topped the roll with were healthy to say the least. Roe has an odd, but not unpleasant flavor, and an incredibly unique texture. The yellowtail and maguro was really what was the centerpiece here, with the crunch of the fried food inside providing an incredible background flavor and texture. we'd been advised to do this by many sushi afficianados and more than a few cooking/travel shows, and we were glad we took that advice to say the least. The meal was lovely - the price was high, 12 dollars for the roll alone, but I suspect the roll would have been priced substantially higher if it had been on the menu, given the cost of the ingredients.

all in all, a good end to the week. And I gotta tell you, we NEEDED that sushi.

[21 Feb 2008|07:30pm]
I don't have anything to type right now so here's a picture of some delicious Maguro.

:( Michelle and I have been craving sushi really bad lately. Tomorrow's payday, so to Sushi Train we go.

[20 Feb 2008|08:12am]
So I've taken to cooking a lot more often lately now that I'm living in my own place. Mostly simple things so far, fried rice, spaghetti, etc. Always, always good though. Dinner tonight is a sirloin steak, which was marinated in malt vinegar, teriyaki and red pepper, served Rare alongside waffle-cut fries. The steak is topped with mushrooms and onions I cooked in a sauce I made by deglazing the pan with the marinade from the steak and a bit of white wine vinegar. Taste: Fantastic. Cost, in the end: About 5 bucks.

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