Midwest Tour, part 2

Day 3: Lakewood, OH > Rockford, IL
States: Ohio, Indiana, Illinois

We hit the road early to cover the 7 hour drive to Rockford, stopping for bagels before driving through a torrential downpour for basically the entire state of Ohio.  We listened to NPR as long as we could, quering Twitter for information about stations along the way.  Once through Ohio, the rain lifted, and we carried on to Three Floyds in Munster, IN, for lunch and the acquisition of still more beer.  As we passed through Indiana, we wasted a solid few minutes watching our phones to see how quickly they would catch up with the switch from Eastern to Central time.  My phone won, just for the record.

Three Floyds provided us with a great opportunity to see how many business can begin with ‘Munster’ – and also a delicious plate of sausages and pickled things.  Shane was excited to have Dreadnaught and to try the Apocalpyse Cow, while I stuck with the always solid Robert the Bruce.  We got a case of Gumballhead plus 22s of Dreadnaught and Apocalypse Cow, which required a side trip to another business whose name started with Munster.  Back on the road, we carried on to Rockford, skirting Chicago traffic and stopping for a dip cone somewhere in the north suburbs.

That evening was my sister’s not-bachelorette party, so after a quick nap, we picked Jenn up and headed to the Irish Rose for dinner.  Not-bachelorette meant that boys were allowed, so Shane and my brother were there, along with Cassie, her boy Nate, and Robyn – plus Joes T and O who met us out later.  After a very tasty dinner, we rolled on to Carlyle and Swilligans, where Shane and I left the party in order to SLEEEEEEP.  It was just the right amount of boozey and fun as far as I’m concerned, but then I didn’t have Jenn’s hangover in the morning.

Day 4: Rockford, IL
States: Illinois, Wisconsin

I did, however, have some excitement in store for me.  I got up early in the morning to prep for my web-based interview that would be taking place at 8am Central time.  When I rolled into Mary’s Market, though, I discovered that my wallet was missing.  Cue much swearing and freaking out, as well as no delicious Market breakfast.  I went home, searched the car and suitcase, and then gave up and did my interview.  Fortunately I had my ID and checkbook and also fortunately we bank at a national bank, so I was able to get cash before my nail appointment (bright red!).  A few phone calls later, and MIRACLE OF MIRACLES, my wallet was located at Swilligans, where we picked it up en route to the  rehearsal later in the evening.

At this point we’d gone 24 hours without acquiring any more beer.  Can you believe it?

My parents took us out to lunch at Jester’s, a local Greek place they like a great deal.  Shane managed to mystify the girl at the counter by asking for his gyro to be made spicy – apparently they haven’t heard of harissa – but our food was solidly good with GIANT portions – something I haven’t missed from the Midwest, though the Mid-Atlantic’s not much better.  We kicked around the house for a bit, showered, then headed down to Klehm for the rehearsal.  Mark did an impressive job of wrangling the bridal party and family, including two very cute and spazzy ring bearers and two very funny flower girls.  The gardens were beautiful, and the rain held off until we packed into cars to drive 45 minutes north to the Rockton Inn for the rehearsal dinner, hosted by Bill’s parents.  These sorts of occasions are always interesting – it’s rare to actually know everyone in the bridal party, so there’s a lot of sitting around awkwardly and just talking to the people you know.  We chatted with Mark and watched Bill’s nephews, my cousins, and Belah run around and hang off Bill.

Since we were already almost all the way to Wisconsin, we decided to take a quick trip across the border in a classic Midwest thunderstorm to get my beloved Spotted Cow, which isn’t distributed outside the state.  The first stop was Cub Foods in Beloit, my go-to spot for Wisconsin beers, only to discover that it CLOSED!  From there we went to Everett’s, where we discovered Port Pizza Hop 15 and Shark Attack, some beers from Lost Abbey that we didn’t buy, and also that Everett’s is actually not in Wisconsin.  A third stop at Woodman’s provided us with a 12 pack of Spotted Cow, a wine bottle of Raspberry Tart, and Dancing Man Wheat, one of many New Glarus beers that I hadn’t seen before.  I look forward to being closer to Wisconsin if only so that I can sample these more often!

Another stormy drive home, and we crashed for the night in hopes of getting enough sleep to make it through the wedding day.  We wisely removed Gypsy‘s collar, resulting in a quiet fuzzball sleeping between us for part of the night.

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Midwest Tour, part 1

(or: 7 days, 8 states, 1 wedding, 2 families, 1 apt, and 2 tired librarians)

Day 1: Alexandria, VA > Lakewood, OH
States: Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Ohio

After a very full day of Important Work Stuff, we loaded up the car and set out at 5pm, basically the worst possible time to drive anywhere in any metro area.  The first 15 miles of our trip – from our apartment to the Beltway – took a full hour.  Fortunately we had NPR and various forms of jerky to get us through.  Carrying on, we encountered the Pennsylvania turnpike, which lacked rabid bears but did contain some pretty epic construction and/or accidents that significantly slowed us down.  Shane was a trooper and carried us through to Lakewood, Ohio, where we arrived at his mom’s house at around 1230am, completing a 6.5 hour drive in about 7.5.  Shane’s momma (and the cats) welcomed us with a lot of whispers, and we almost immediately crashed the hell on out.

Day 2: Lakewood, OH
States: Ohio

Despite getting in LATE, I was up at 9am to test the web conferencing software I would be using for an interview later in the week.  We kicked around the house, then went to the farmers’ market and Discount Drug Mart (which, apparently, ‘saves you the run-around’) with Shane’s momma, then stopped in to Rozi’s to pick up the first of OMG SO MUCH beer.  Throughout the trip I referred to these stops as our Smokey & the Bandit operation (sans pesky sherriff).  According to Shane’s tweets, he picked up DFH Sah’tea, Jolly Pumpkin Bam Bière, Nøgne Ø Sunturnbrew, and Southern Tier Back Burner.  This was a portend of things to come.

We met Shane’s BFF Steve for lunch and GOOD LORD MORE BEER.  Steve gifted us with five six-packs and a three-pack of underfills from Great Lakes.  They’re all anonymously bottled, so we’ll see how we do on figuring them out, especially because Shane kept getting confused by the conversation about the bottles, their provenance, and their actual contents.  We grabbed lunch at the Buckeye Beer Engine, a bar with pretty fantastic taps just around the corner from Shane’s momma’s house.  I haven’t really met any of Shane’s friends from way-back – just his friends from college on – so it was pretty hilarious from start to finish.

Both of Shane’s brothers had to work, putting us on a pretty tight visiting schedule.  After a quick nap (punctuated by Kittens Inspired by Kittens-type screaming), we had dinner with Orin and Shane’s momma at Luxe, in what is apparently an up-and-coming neighborhood that mostly appeared to be under construction.  Shane and I split a really fantastic charcuterie and cheese spread before Orin had to take off for rehearsal.  The rest of the evening involved hanging out with Travis, his girlfriend Kristen, Orin, Shane’s momma, and Shane’s aunt Corinne and uncle Chris.  At this juncture let me tell you that Shane’s family is great, but they are hella loud, god love ’em.  It was really fun to see everyone, though, as the only other time I’d met them was when we visited in 2006.  Unacceptable, right?  We’re both excited that we’ll be living 2.5 hours away instead of 6.5 (or 7.5, depending on the day) and will be able to visit more often.  Anyway, over the course of this evening I learned about “knee basketball” and that both Shane and Travis regard socks as “napkins on your feet”, among other interesting and informative facts.  We kicked everyone out at 11 so that we could crash before the next day of driving.

Revision

So sometimes you make plans.  And sometimes you unmake them.  And sometimes someone else unmakes them for you.  This post is about the last of those options.

As you all know by now, Shane and I are moving to Ann Arbor, Michigan, where Shane has accepted the job of Digital Preservation Librarian at the University of Michigan.  We don’t have a moving date or new address set yet (and I don’t have a job!), but we plan to firm up those details in the next two weeks, and to complete our move in late August.

As many of you have already commented, moving to a new state and starting new job(s) will make having a wedding in Virginia a bit difficult.  We had initially planned to go ahead with the previously announced plans – until an ACT OF GOD made us see the light.  Sometimes I’m prone to hyperbole, but this is not one of those times.

The park district office where we had booked our wedding site had a flood the day after I turned in the application and deposit.  The whole building didn’t flood – just part of it.  Which happened to be the part where our paperwork was at the time – not where it should have been, but where it was.  All of our paperwork was lost – the check for the deposit, the application for the reservation – all of it.

With that paperwork gone, our most significant financial investment in the event was eliminated, making it exceptionally practical to cancel.  After confirming that our guests had not been charged for hotel reservations, we decided to go ahead and pull the plug.

So in short: we’re not getting married in October in Virginia.  We are still getting married, but for the time being, we’re setting aside those plans in order to focus on our other major transitions.  We probably won’t start planning until we settle in A2 (as the kids call it), which means it may not be this fall.  We’ll definitely keep you posted, though!

Can it!

Shane shared this article on Google Reader tonight and it had what I imagine was the intended effect – getting me thinking about the small canning empire I started last summer.  The author argues that canning – in its current urban incarnation – is less about frugality and more about a bourgeois sense of connection to what we eat.  (Is bourgeois the right word?  I’m never sure if I’m using it correctly.  Anyway.)

There are a couple of things I take issue with in this article.  First, the opening paragraph references the author’s ” $15 per pint, straight-from-the-Greenmarket, homemade and canned in Brooklyn, N.Y., macerated and simmered in unprocessed sugar, spiked with organic chiles and small-batch Kentucky bourbon strawberry jam” in her calculation of a $17 PB&J sandwich.  $15 per pint is a ridiculous figure for jam – I think we can all agree on that – but unless she ate the entire pint, her sandwich probably works out to more like $3 at most.  She makes an important point, though – you’re not saving money by canning when you’re paying more for the raw ingredients than you would the finished product in the quantities produced.

I started canning last year in the midst of an eating-local mania.  Over the course of the summer and fall, I canned around 2 dozen pints of tomatoes, 8-10 pints of peaches, and a lot of applesauce.  In addition, I froze zucchini, asparagus, roasted tomatoes, blueberries, strawberries, green beans, and roasted red peppers.  We’re still working our way through all the frozen stuff, though we exhausted the peaches earlier in the summer, and are on our last (I can’t believe it!) jar of canned tomatoes.

Has it been worthwhile?  Taste-wise, mostly.  The frozen vegetables didn’t hold up as well as I’d hoped, but the fruit was all great.  Always having tomatoes on hand is excellent, and the peaches were a treat long before they’d returned to the market.  Has it been financially worthwhile?  Not sure.

We buy most of our produce from the assorted DC FreshFarm markets.  It’s always a toss-up as to whether the market produce is cheaper than what’s at the grocery store.  Much of the time it’s comparable, and the primary gains from shopping at market are being able to select the specific quantity you need from higher quality products – in addition to the warm fuzzies that come from dealing with people who have first-hand experience with the produce, rather than a stockboy who doesn’t know what you’re talking about.

When I started thinking about canning, I realized right away that it was only going to be financially worthwhile if we could get the stuff to be canned very cheaply.  The author refers to putting up the bounty from a home garden – which is what my grandma did for years.  With no home garden to plunder, the only financially feasible option was buying 2nds produce – or going the you-pick route.  Whenever possible, we buy 2nds produce – things like tomatoes, apples, peaches, and pears that are still edible when less than perfect.  2nds produce is generally at least $1 cheaper per pound than the unblemished stuff, so by my calculations, it works out something like this:

10 pounds of tomatoes at $2 per pound produced 8 pints of tomatoes plus 3 pints tomato sauce.
Total expenditure on raw materials: $20

Cost of comparable store-bought items:
8 14 oz cans Giant-brand whole tomatoes @ $1.39 each: $11.12
3 14 oz jars Giant-brand Thick & Rich spaghetti sauce @ 1.25 each: $3.75
Total expenditure: $14.87

Does it work out to be financially worthwhile?  No.  Or at least not really.  This also doesn’t calculate in the cost of the jars and lids – a one-time investment in infrastructure – or the electricity used in the process.  At the same time, the oft-extolled “satisfaction of a job well done” is worth $5 to me.  I felt immensely proud to have done the dirty, sweaty work of canning.  I have continued to feel proud every time I open the cabinet to grab a jar of tomatoes at the last minute.  In the last 12 months, I can count on one hand the number of jars of tomatoes we’ve purchased – 3 at most, and those were because we were cooking in bulk for Obama volunteers.

Canning is not financially worthwhile at $16 for two quarts of strawberries, which is what the author paid – but then I guess if you can afford to pay $16 for two quarts of strawberries, the financials don’t really matter all that much.  Taking a $5 loss on something you enjoy doing is much more reasonable.  $5 would get you (maybe) two games of bowling or a skein of yarn or a single ticket in the bleachers at a baseball game.  Depending on where you live, $5 covers a beer or a Value Meal.

Last weekend I made 9 pints of Lodi applesauce – $16 for a peck of apples + $.07 for 1/4 C sugar = $1.78 per pint.  A 25 oz jar of Giant-brand Apple Sauce (Natural) is $1.69.  The price difference is about $.05 per ounce – except that Lodi apples aren’t usually available in the store.  They’re early apples, with a very short production season and a limited shelf-life.  They’re also the apples my grandparents grew in their backyard, so I grew up with Lodi applesauce, rather than the overly sweet or cinnamony stuff most kids had.  The extra $.05 per ounce is worth it for taste and – for me – nostalgia.

Will I be canning this year?  It depends on what’s available, and how much it will cost.  I’m volunteering at the  market this year, and as a result I get half-price produce.  Half price might be worthwhile.