Chili Time

Wendy's Chili

For a few years, I’ve been making Wendy’s Wendy’s Chili, my crockpot variation of a recipe that is similar to the chili served at Wendy’s fast food restaurants. The recipe relied on canned beans, tomatoes and green chilies. Since I had a stock of fresh tomatoes, tomatillos and hot chili peppers, I used those for my latest batch. Wendy’s Uncanny Crockpot Chili was great! I simmered the beans for a half hour and then let them soak for two hours before adding them to the crockpot. I diced 8 medium tomatoes, 10 small tomatillos, two green peppers and four hot peppers. I toasted and ground cumin seed fresh for the batch and added standard chili powder, smoked paprika, salt and pepper. I would have put in onion but I didn’t have any handy from my CSA and hadn’t made it to the farmers market the past two weekends. The result was great chili without any cans in the trash or worries about BPA in the can lining. I didn’t have any local grassfed beef, but I used Moran’s Natural Beef from the grocery store.

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New Park – L.L. Stub Stewart State Park

LL Stub Stewart State Park

One of the newest state parks in Oregon is L.L. Stub Stewart State Park. We enjoyed a hilly volksmarch walk there last weekend. Map and photos of the L.L. Stub Stewart State Park Walk . “Stub” Stewart was a local lumber company owner who served on the Oregon Parks and Recreation Commission and died in 2005. This is a bun-burner of a hike on wide trails. The Banks-Vernonia Linear Park rail trail passes by the park. My walking buddy Will and I explored this park last year when they were still building the camping spots. Of note is that the trailer campsites are larger than my house lot. And you could fit in two of the row houses they are building just south of us!

For locavores, there are farm stands along Hwy 47 and Hwy 26. Take the time to stop, enjoy a corn maze at Jim Dandy Farm on Hwy 26 and have some fun!

Old Park – Local History

Stone Hearth at Lewisville Park

Last weekend I hiked in one of the newest state parks in Oregon and one of the lovely old parks in Clark County. This photo is of a stone hearth in a log picnic shelter at Lewisville Regional Park, Battle Ground, Washington. The park structures were built by the Civilian Conservation Corps during the Depression. Out of that economic despair, we got lovely infrastructure. The stone railings lining many old highways and these structures in state and local parks are classic Northwest to me. I love them so much that I tried to choose rock trim for my house that recalled the stone highway railings.

I hadn’t been to Lewisville Park for several years. The walk there is a real “keeper” for regular training as the wooded trails provide wonderful shade, you enjoy the river and a new trail through the woods.
Lewisville Walk – Map and Photos

Wordless Wednesday Blogs

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Playing With Your Food – Pumpkin Cannon

We enjoyed a volksmarch at Heiser Farms, Dayton, Oregon. Here is my AllSportGPS map of the walk. They have a Pumpkin Patch attraction each October and the walk is held about every other year. We enjoyed the flat walk on this elbow of farmland in the Willamette River. At the end, we chowed down on pumpkin pie and bratwurst and teased the animals in the petting zoo. But the big attraction was the Duck Hunter pumpkin cannon. Painted in OSU colors, it lobs pumpkins as far as 1500 feet! While it easily took out the closer target pyramid on the first try, we watched as five or more shots didn’t take out the far pyramid of blue barrels. One pumpkin exploded in midair.

Pumpkin Cannon 1
First, the near target.

Pumpkin Cannon 2
Success!

Pumpkin Cannon 3
Next, load another pumpkin and raise the aim to the tiny, far off blue barrel pyramid.

Smoking Pumpkin Gun
Smoking Gun!

Pumpkin Ammo
The ammo wagon is full of pumpkins, but no success on the far target this hour.

A visit to Heiser Farms Pumpkin Patch can get kids and adults excited about farms. It’s out in the wine country, and I stopped in at two wineries on my way back to pick up my quarterly wine club shipments.

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Tightening the Belt

After a couple of months of listening to books rather than podcasts, I was back to catching up with the Clark Howard personal finance radio show podcast. This came just in time for the economy to really tank. But I am feeling more in control than ever.

First, I signed up for Mint.com because one of Clark Howard’s producers said “It changed my life.” I’ve been comfortable enough that I have been lazy in really tracking my finances and not really budgeting. Rich and I both pay off our credit cards every month and are maximizing retirement savings. But beyond that, I am lazy.

Mint.com is meant to be used with all of your bank accounts, credit accounts, loan accounts, and investment accounts. When you open it up, it checks them all and downloads them all onto one ledger for easy budgeting. It’s smart enough to know the vendor and assign a default category. You can also view each account separately. Voila – easy budgeting! No excuse for the lazy!

With banks and insurance companies crashing all around, I took a hard look at my accounts. I immediately identified the following to reduce or eliminate:
1. US Bank online access charge: I questioned why I was being charged $5.95 a month when their web site says online access is free. I had to pick up the phone and call them. Turns out this was an old fee for using Quicken or Money to access your account. I had it eliminated.
2. Weight Watchers Online: I’ve been using Calorie Count Plus instead, so I canceled this $11.95 per month.
3. Walk Styles subscription: This is for online downloads of a pedometer they sent me to test. I was lazy in not canceling it after the testing period. $5.95 per month.
4. I keep an Earthlink account active to be able to keep my original email address, and rarely use the dialup as a back-up. But $26 a month is excessive. I went into an online chat with their sales people and had it reduced to $14.95 per month.

These are small potatoes, too small for me to care about for years in some cases. But they add up to $35 a month, over $400 per year. That is real money. I was wasting it. All together, this almost pays for my CSA farm subscription for 2009.

We were privileged to go to the Clark Howard night at Pearson Air Museum on Friday. We got free tickets by registering in time with radio station KPAM. They served an optional $8 pasta dinner that was super. You get great value with Clark!

Clark is cheap. His appearance was the evening that Congress passed the bailout bill. He had many reassuring comments, but plenty of advice on how to protect yourself in tough economic times. The questions from the audience were excellent.

First, live within your means. That sounds easy, but I know it isn’t for most people. Rich and I have never spent more than we earned. We have avoided debt other than car payments (now all paid for) and the mortgage. We resisted buying more of a house than we could afford. It still would be a stretch without our additional income from web projects, and so I am focused on saving for any future downturns in income.

I have saved a large amount of expense this year by getting the CSA subscription and cooking at home rather than going to restaurants or bringing home prepared food from the grocery store. I used to look forward to eating out. Now I look forward to what I am cooking at home.

I tried to stop by a local restaurant for lunch today and it was closed. Many small local businesses will be going under, especially those which are luxuries rather than necessities. I think it is our duty to support our local CSAs through these times. But I also want to give some business to the local restaurants and local produce stores.

I am dedicated now to budgeting and going after those small savings that I ignored for so long. When I want to be charitable, I’ll do it intentionally!

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