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... optimising
January 21, 2012
2:23 pm
Halifax, UK
Gnoll
Forum Posts: 365
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June 5, 2011
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Gnolls, I don't "do" New Year resolutions, but I do have a goal for the year: to optimise in all areas.

I eat well and my activity is quite sufficient, fun and more than necessary. My food is great, varied, fun, fresh and I don't have any issue there.

I do want to optimise, though …

First, I want to get rid of non-stick pans. I have a ceramic hob and it does not take well to cast iron. This, I am addressing – in a couple of months (hopefully), we'll be moved, just a mile away over the valley to a smaller house (which has been great to slim down "baggage" in advance) which has a gas hob. Yay! A fresh set of cast iron will be my moving in present. I'm also getting some new ceramic glaze oven dishes since mine are kippered, the glaze cracked and flaking.

I use Pyrex a lot – is this okay? Anyone know of any health concerns using Pyrex? I take food to work in a Pyrex dish to microwave. It has a silicone sealing plastic lid, but so long as that does not come in contact with the food and I don't cook it, I guess that's okay?

What else? I have some silicone spatulas. I don't use metal because I have non-stick. Is metal okay to use with cast iron? If so, I'm there! I'll get more metal utensils. Wood, I guess, is fine?

Next, what I get my food in. I buy fresh meat from the butcher and packaged meat from the supermarket. They wrap in plastic, both of them. Is that okay, or should I ask the butcher specifically to use paper? Is there some paper I can buy to have him use?

Cheese, I buy from a Cheesemonger who wraps up in paper. I have a plastic box in the fridge, but doubt the plastic touches the cheese. I will get a Pyrex dish.

I buy very little canned food – it's fish and tomatoes. Canned tomatoes come in cans which almost always have BPA lining. I have started buying these in cartons which is working out fine. Luckily my preferred supermarkert (Sainsbury's for UK gnolls) is taking this seriously.

We eat on china plates with stainless steel cutlery. Is this all good? Any refinements there? Water, wine and spirits are all drunk from good glass. Again, any refinements possible there?

Food I keep in the fridge (leftovers and the like) are kept in ceramic glazes ramekins or china bowls. Anything to refine there?

I might well be scraping the barrel here, but I want to optimise – I think removal of non-stick, being able to use cast iron and getting shot of the last silicone utensils will be a big release.

What else cooking, kitchen and ingesting-wise can we optimise?

We want to use our house move to start afresh, cutting off past ways and enter the next phase of our lives with a streamlined house geared towards fun, relaxation and socialising; and, it is ideally placed in my "playground" (a hidden valley of fields, paths, woods, rivers, bogs and … a pub … which I have shown here before, but we're moving right down there now) for lots of outdoor fun.

The garden is good, too, and along with a chalet (which I'll build in due course), there'll be room to eat outside, socialise outside and an area we can use for lifting with a great view! Inspiring! Oh, it's way off the main road, so quiet … we've lived on a main road for a decade now and while the room is blacked out, the traffic is noisy. This will give us better sleep, I'm sure.

Anything else we can be looking at? What else lifestyle-wise can we trim down, build up or refine?

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Living in the Ice Age http://livingintheiceage.pjgh.co.uk
January 25, 2012
12:59 pm
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Paul:

A cast-iron skillet works fine in the oven, too.  You'll only need the oven dishes if you want a different size or form factor.  Having used one for a while now, I should write a guide to cooking and maintaining cast-iron skillets...

You'll definitely need metal spatulas/scrapers for cast iron: silicone will do nothing.  If you're used to treating nonstick like fine china, it's refreshing to scrape your skillet with force!  Remember that you don't wash cast iron except in extremis: usually you just scrape the gunk off (note: easiest to do while still warm/hot), wipe it with a paper towel, and smear a bit of oil on the surface if it's dried out.

Pyrex is great!  BPA-free plastic is generally OK for watery things: as I understand it, it's the combination of plastic and fat that you want to avoid.  I still have some plastic leftovers containers, but I'm phasing them out and generally only use them for taking cold food with me.

I wouldn't worry about paper at the butcher...it's usually plastic-coated on one side anyway.  As I said, the main problem is hot fat.  That being said, I always rinse and dry meat before I use it, because it came from the packing plant in a big plastic vacuum pack no matter how your butcher wraps it.

China and glasses are personal preference so long as you don't have something antique with lead glaze.  I like Corelle because it doesn't ever chip (it's the china version of tempered glass) but I don't know if they have it in the UK.

I still have one non-stick skillet around, which I use occasionally because it's very tricky to get eggs to not stick to cast iron.  But if I'm doing scrambled eggs, or adding them as part of a stir-fry or scramble (which I do most of the time) I just use the cast iron.

JS

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January 25, 2012
1:36 pm
Halifax, UK
Gnoll
Forum Posts: 365
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June 5, 2011
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That's given me a lot of confidence J, thank you. I've been on a ceramic hob with non-stick for well over 10 years.

I know I'll get on with cast iron. I use a couple of 8" and one 10" frying pan pretty much every day, so getting three such cast iron pans going will take no time to have them fullt seasoned. I'll season and bake them myself initially, probably a few times.

I've read that if something does stick, don't worry, just boil some water in the pan and it will come clean. Re-season and put away.

We're taking this house move as a means of cutting out any part of our past that pins us to anything negative. I'm do like some things which might be called heirlooms - I had my grandfather's desk and my paternal grandmother's dining table. That table is very rickety now and really needs chopping up for firewood. My father is a good woodworker and I think it would be really good to work with him making a new table, creating a new heirloom to pass on for the new house. My grandfather's desk will sit upstairs with a commanding view over the valley - that will be where I think, where I write and where I can be creative.

You can tell, I can't wait ...

Simplification is our aim, yet retaining "things" which bring us joy to look at, joy to own and which make a home for us and for the people we invite in. The next phase will be a lot more social - the house format lends itself to that, and once the garden chalet is built, more so.

Stripping back and only carrying forward that which is important, useful or sentimentally good is the focus. Buying only thing then which will enrich our experience of life is the line we want to follow.

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January 25, 2012
1:45 pm
Halifax, UK
Gnoll
Forum Posts: 365
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June 5, 2011
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Actually, cars were an interesting one ...

We have a 20 year old Classic SAAB 900 convertible used daily (my wife's runabout), and until last year my daily ride was a 25 year old Classic SAAB 900 turbo. I've replaced that with a ten year old SAAB 9-5 Aero, which has a larger engine (2.3) and a shed load more power! I figured that buying in new cars with smaller engines and more energy efficiency would not have a pay-off for many many years, environmentally or cost-wise.

Re-using old cars maintained and in perfect running order is something I think is right.

There was a fun study carried out in California some years ago (which was weighted towards proving a point, but ...) where a SAAB 9000 was driven around and it was found that the air quality from the exhaust was better than the air going in! Something to do with high temperature turbochargers burning off toxins and when running right very efficiently burning fuel.

We are thinking of a 4WD car/truck ... any recommendations? Being in the UK, we have the Classic Land Rover, modern Land Rover, Range Rover, Vauxhall Frontier and all the Japanese utility vehicles - Nissan Patrol, Mitsubishi Shogun, that kind of thing, even Jeep Wrangler. Any direct experience of a smaller 4WD? Something more than ten years old, anyway ... it galls me to pay more than a couple of grand for a car when there are so many old cars that are just so good for no money.

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Living in the Ice Age http://livingintheiceage.pjgh.co.uk
January 31, 2012
2:54 am
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February 22, 2010
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You don't even have to boil water in a cast-iron pan to get the guck off if you've seasoned it first.  Just put a bit of hot water in there (or heat up the pan a bit) and scrape the worst of it with your metal spatula. You can use a plastic dish brush to really clean it out if you want.  Then dump out the water and guck, wipe clean and dry (paper towels make it much easier), and smear a tiny bit of coconut oil, bacon grease, or other room-temperature-stable fat on it to keep any exposed bits from rusting.  (There shouldn't be any if you've seasoned it properly, but...)

Usually, though, unless you made something sticky, you can just scrape it, wipe it, and put it away.

Moving is a great opportunity to ask yourself "Did I ever really use this -- or am I just carting it around from place to place?"  I've been steadily accumulating a large pile of clothes I simply don't wear anymore and which will be given to charity...

And yes, it's absolutely better to keep an old car maintained and running than it is to buy a new one.  The environmental impact of building a car far exceeds the marginal increase in gas mileage unless you're replacing an old 12MPG SUV with a Prius...and even then the payback isn't for many years.  As I've said before, the greenest product is the one that isn't made and you don't buy.

Unfortunately the vehicle models are quite different in the UK and the US, and the names are different even if the model is similar.  Are you looking for an offroad vehicle, or for better traction in ice/snow?  That'll determine whether you need a high-clearance trucklike vehicle or a car/wagon/hatch with AWD...

JS

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January 31, 2012
3:23 am
Halifax, UK
Gnoll
Forum Posts: 365
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June 5, 2011
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We get snow only a few days a year (although the last couple of winters prior to this one were very harsh with prolonged snow/ice on the ground) and the main roads are almost always kept clear - it's the side roads which never see grit or salt and are literally impassable on non-snow tyres.

Where we live now is quite high, compared, and so we're used to swapping over to winter tyres. I think that will do for the snow we get - usually, its just how wet it goes very quickly leaving surfaces which are literally worse than ice.

Where we're moving to is out in farming country, the roads covered in mud, water from the fields which can turn to slush and ice in winter - I think the notion of a 4WD is more for a bit of fun and bravado than anything else.

Looking objectively at it, we're affected for maybe a month with threatening weather, 5-7 days actually, and maybe only one or two of those where the roads grind to gridlock, where I just park up and walk. Snow tyres don't help when nobody can move ...

It's not like there isn't a main road, bus route and shops within walking distance. I've figured out a safe enough "snow day" driving route to the main road which is little more than a mile. The the odd days a year that vehicles are grounded, it's just a case of walking.

As I said, an idle curiosity, but information and experiences are always worth collecting.

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February 2, 2012
2:53 pm
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The problem with 4WD (and AWD...they're not the same thing) is you take a penalty on gas mileage and complexity/repair expense 100% of the time, even if you only use 4WD 2% of the time.  So you have to ask yourself: how often will I absolutely require 4WD to get anywhere, and is that worth the increased everyday costs?

Personally, unless you know you need a 4WD truck for construction work on your new home, I'd recommend waiting until after the move and seeing how much of an inconvenience not having 4WD actually causes you.  Then your experience will tell you exactly what you need.

In my experience, winter weather isn't a big deal by itself: it's the combination of snow/ice and hills that require 4WD/AWD.  (If the road is flat, you just muddle along.)  For all I know, that hill might be your driveway, or the street on which you live, in which case not being able to return home in a storm is a Big Problem. 

JS

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February 2, 2012
3:25 pm
Halifax, UK
Gnoll
Forum Posts: 365
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June 5, 2011
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You've come to my summary of the matter. When fully abstracted, we'll still be on "a road", tarmac, all the way to the main road. Given how our convertible plays on snow tyres, I'll get some for my car.

I guess I'm getting a little carried away. I've been looking at mini-4WD cars, like the Suzuki Jimny and the Toyota RAV4, and while they offer exactly what I'm after (on paper), so do just about every other car ... on snow tyres. I mean, our SAABs fair very well in Sweden on real snow ... on snow tyres.

Thankfully, I'll have the space to service my cars. Presently, our cars live on the main road and it does get problematic with articulated lorries flying past when the cars are up on jacks to do anything safely. Up, on my own land off the road will be a big bonus for me.

I did have a small fantasy about a classic Austin Mini on thin snow tyres, with fat slicks for summer. I may well still do that, but they are expensive! I'm a big fan of old(er) FIATs and may well just get an old Cinq, or better, a 127 BIS and turbocharge it for fun. I really do fancy something small and go-kart sized for terrorizing those country lanes!

Getting closer now, our structural survey has been completed and there's just a couple of small points to rectify before completion. It's within reach now ... 6-8 weeks.

Back to your comment J about not taking forward things which you don't need ... we are already both of us very pared back, but there are things I have carried (unwillingly and out of a sense of familial duty) since teenage years. I want shot! Mostly, it's books. Books and furniture.

Books - I can't read anyway. I have a really bad scotopic sensitivity which I know how to get around and touched upon when I picked up my copy of TGC. Reading on the slant or reading by not quite reading I can cope with. I have loads of books because my parents read, and read a lot. I don't. Time to get shot.

Likewise, furniture. Again, my family are big on heirlooms. Well, much of it is just plain old furniture ... old now; imbued more with emotional anchors and weights than real use. Functional furniture like a good dining table (tribal table) where much of our social lives revolve around is necessary and I want to build my own for the new house. The rest will get slaughtered for firewood! I know that sounds harsh, but we've got a good wood burner in the new house and ... well ... harsh, but it's not like our kids want any of it :)

Building something which has meaning, like my idea of making up a new dining table with my Dad and getting my lad involved will give meaning to the item. Yes, much of the furniture I have is from older relatives passed down, and it's good stuff, but it is old and getting past it. New pieces which are used for fun, family and for good times will give it meaning ... but down the line if it's no more use than firewood, I'll be happy for it to be burned up while good memories are remembered.

I want this to be a real change in our lives - to take us all, all our family forward, discarding the baggage and defining a new set of relationships founded without that baggage. Our fresh start (me and my wife) can spread out to our kids and to our relationships with parents, which can be the hardest to tackle and the hardest to rationalise, yet the best to resolve. Modern life really messes with what should be easy, natural relationships.

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February 3, 2012
5:54 am
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February 22, 2010
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In the American Midwest (which is flat), the standard "snow car" was an old Japanese compact with a 4" lift kit and oversized, studded snow tires.  Light weight + front wheel drive + high clearance + studded snows = deals with anything but steep hills and deep mud very well.  Rear wheel drive is not what you want.

It's easy to confuse the memories that your possessions remind you of with the possessions themselves.  I think this is behind the hoarding urge: simply seeing these things you've hoarded brings back memories, and getting rid of the thing can feel like you're getting rid of the memories.  Noooooo!

Fortunately, you don't lose the memory when you lose the old furniture.  One strategy is to take pictures of the old stuff before you get rid of it, so you can be reminded of the memories when you look at the pictures -- but you don't have to cart the stuff around with you anymore.

JS

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February 6, 2012
2:43 pm
Halifax, UK
Gnoll
Forum Posts: 365
Member Since:
June 5, 2011
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The Suzuki Jimny seems to be the current favourite - proper off-roader, small, easy, auto-box, hi/lo gearbox and looks like a lot of fun. My Mrs does not like the idea of a "big four wheel drive", but warmed to the Jimny when we saw one parked next to a FIAT Punto (which we've had a couple of), and it is smaller. She thought it was quite cute - on fat, more masculine off-road tyres and a 3" lift, it should be good for both of us :D

Let's see what the first winter in the new place brings and see if we need better or want more fun at the weekends.

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