Dehydrating Food Is An Art

Dehydrating food caught my interest. After viewing many dehydrating machines, I selected one that has nine trays, stainless steel shelving, digitized timing and heat selections. And of course this machine also had to meet my budget. There are many different price ranges and purchases of trays that can drive up the cost. Luckily I came upon one that provided everything in a bundle.

My first attempt at dehydrating fruits was interesting. Upon reading the manual,  I discovered that the dried food in the grocery store has preservatives and this gives it the color. And it tastes different too. At first, I did not have the proper cutting tools and sliced the strawberries very thin. After watching a video one woman suggested an egg slicer to cut the strawberries so I will be trying that out! Although, slicing the strawberries thin makes a great crackle topping to yogurt. The bananas that I purchased were old bananas at discount and very wet. Next time I will just purchase bananas that are ripe and believe that it will dehydrate better, less chewy. The organic pears were delicious and now that I have an apple, potato core hand machine, the slices will be consistent and should dehydrate better. A few days before dehydrating I picked some organic parsley from my garden box and sandwiched it in-between two paper towels for drying. I decided to place the parsley onto a tray and into the dehydration machine and it was amazing how it turned out. I just picked up a handful of organic parsley and it crumbled right in my hand to a very rich consistency. So far I am very excited about trying out other herbs, fruits and veggies and creating fruit rolls. As I explore this dehydrating process it makes sense to share my experiences storing food and dehydration tips on the blog. Hope you enjoy it. Pictured below is fruit crackle on top of yogurt and the fresh organic parsley from my garden box. Dehydrating Food is another form of art where you can be creative!

 

FREE or TRASH

Free or Trash – by Elizabeth McLaughlin

Upon my return trip from the antique store by bicycle at the curb was a tattered cardboard sign that read ‘Free or Trash’. The printing appeared fine but strong. The message caught my interest, therefore, I took a capture, and decided to write a short tale on how I thought it ended up on the side of the road-side. Unfortunately, nothing remained related to the sign, though about a quarter of a mile on the opposite end of the street, I discovered a blue vacuum cleaner and receiver. . .

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It was a beautiful summer day, however, Mark could not see the bright blue sky, puffy white clouds, wild-flowers, green forested trees swaying in the breeze or listen to the sparrows chirping in the thickets. Mark’s mind was fogged and raced in a multitude of directions. He lost his executive sales job at the pharmaceutical corporation over two years ago and financially it became impossible to make ends meet. Mark worked long hours to provide a luxurious home with customized rock masonry pillars and black iron fence that his wife Darcey dreamed about owning. Both held career jobs and became able to pay off a good deal of the mortgage and thought that life would be a breeze. They decided to take out bank loans to improve the estate by adding a swimming pool, luxury patio for outdoor private parties and a pool house attached to the four car garage. Even though their friends lost jobs, Mark and Darcey continued to live with a false sense of being. Only until it happened to them, the economy along with their lives rattled to reality. The American dream became a busted nightmare. The last straw for Mark happened when he sold his luxury automobiles and then the antique Ford pick up truck with tools. He resorted to using his mountain bicycle to make trips to the grocery store. And then the taxes on the property devoured any savings along with the purchasing power to fulfill the basic necessities such as food, electricity, water and insurance. As each month went by the family was slowly being stripped of possessions, automobiles, family heirlooms and even clothing. The trips to the food pantry became embarrassing to Darcey. “This is not fair and criminal. We worked so hard for twenty years to be comfortable but now it’s impossible to purchase a gallon of milk.” Darcey said. Mark was not in the mood to listen, jumped on his bicycle and snapped back, “Remember, you had to have the oval shaped, tiled, swimming pool and were just thinking about yourself and not the needs of this family.” The bicycle disappeared down the long black-topped driveway and Mark could hear Darcey screaming back, “I looked everywhere for a job doing anything, so don’t talk to me about not trying!” At this time, nothing made much sense to the impoverished couple. Luckily, their daughter, Trish attended an international college at the United Kingdom and had no idea about the situation that faced her parents. Mark and Darcey always explained away the holidays to the fact that they would be traveling for business or taking a cruise. Yes, they took every effort to conceal their financial collapse even from Trish. At the end of the driveway a silver Mercedes pulled up to greet Mark and out stepped Dana, a very popular successful realtor from the village with Country Club connections. Her elegant fragrance was familiar to Mark. She confidently planted a exotic leather, high healed, designer shoe firmly on the ground . The scent was Dana’s trademark, and she used this to perfection as a tool to seal the deal. “So sorry the house did not sell Mark, care to relist? We could surely find a buyer of this fine property with another reduction in price. All the realtors and their clients really adored your French Tudor Manor.” said Dana. She paused, with shapely flirting leg in place, for a response from Mark and then reluctantly, slowly, pulled the bright yellow sign from the picturesque landscaped lawn, placed it into the car trunk and drove off leaving her alluring scent wavering in the air. Mark knew that even with a drastic price reduction, the upgrades, excellent desirable location, people could not afford it. And, they have run out of time. Dana brought around bargain hunters, wanting a pre-foreclosure preview or shuddered at the thought of paying such high property taxes. Obviously, they were out of market and miss-marketed for this upscale piece of real estate. Across the road Mark could see their neighbor, nodding his head back and forth, silently pruning his royal red rose bushes. Usually, Spencer, a retired physician was friendly, generally waved but instead he continued to snip at the thorny stems as if Mark did not exist on planet earth.

It was the last day that Darcey and Mark would spend in their luxury paradise gone wrong. Boxes of stuff lined the circular driveway and down to Cardinal Way. They had many yard sales, and at Dana’s suggestion even hired a professional to manage it but no one had the money to spare to spend on frivolous items. Many were found in the same situation and also lost their homes to the bank or County. Mark took out a black, fine pointed tipped pen from his camel-hair coat pocket, printed on a piece of torn brown cardboard, the words, ‘Free or Trash’. With the usual traffic the sign ended up floating in the gentle breeze, landing face-up, at curb-side. Holding hands the couple stepped back to take one last look at the house where they had years of cherished memories and then promptly vaulted into Darcey’s sisters Jeep. They would live with her until a job could be found. Mark tried to be optimistic but knew in his gut they would end up seeking living an alternative lifestyle. The household items sat for weeks with people passing by the opportunity to pick-up unique artifacts, expensive, furniture, lamps, carpets and fixtures. Then groups of poorly dressed locals from surrounding towns arrived to consume metal for scrap. Eventually the neighbors asked a town road-side crew to clean-up the weathered mess. One worker did see the worn out cardboard sign, he glanced down at it, sighed, flipped up his broom and walked away. And this is how ‘Free or Trash’ sign ended up on the side of the road.

Fed Up Moving

Fed Up Moving by Elizabeth McLaughlin

The other day while out on the road with the bicycle taking in nature, I stopped at a crossroad and looked to the side and there scattered on the ground was a blue vacuum cleaner and stereo receiver unit. How horrible it is to find such stuff just tossed onto the side of the road.  Again, it became another interesting road-side display that I could craft into a short story on how I think it ended up on the side of the road.

Tracey worked for a local retailer in a small town and diligently kept the specialty gifts immaculately clean and appealing to upscale shoppers. She enjoyed her job, especially when the owner would permit her to use new concepts for featured displays. In order to make ends meet Tracy worked long hours and also had to bounce from one job to another  to make living costs to cover rent, food, car payments and toddler support. Tracey lived on a quaint old street, lined with established maple trees. Her favorite tree on the street had huge roots that bulged up above the gray granite stone sidewalk. It had such a unique appealing natural quality, a smiling face etched in bark. The neighbors were great and Mrs. Teabody, a retired school teacher took care of Thomas during the day and into the early evening. It was the perfect situation for a working single mother to find these days. After all the nightmares experienced in renting apartments and juggling expenses, questionable day care centers, Tracey finally found an affordable cottage in the back of the Peterson’s huge soft green painted Victorian mansion with bright white trim. A lovely family that did not take advantage of people in need of housing. Here she could feel a strong sense of security and stability that she already benefitted from for two years. Upon moving in Tracey eagerly white washed the wooden clapboard on the front porch and loved finding at local yard sales decorative antiques that added a warm inviting comfortable touch. She always wanted a garden, and planted beautiful bright blue, purple, red and yellow flowers from the local garden nursery. It looked like the perfect tiny home that one would find in a Country Magazine. Thomas also had his own nursery, decked out with a French antique wooden crib, dresser, toy box and shelving for all of his plush stuffed animals and story books.

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It was a quiet Wednesday evening, and Tracey was preparing Thomas for bed. Rocking in the chair, reading fairy tales became a cherished moment that they could gaze into each others eyes and cuddle. The phone rang at the downstairs kitchen wall telephone and Tracey gently placed Thomas into his crib to sleep. She dashed quietly down the narrow carpeted stairs and picked up the mellow yellow colored telephone. “Tracey it’s Liz, sorry to have to call this evening but I was wondering if you could open up the store tomorrow. I really need your help because my daughter Betsy has a doctor’s appointment.” Tracey sat on the Costco red metal kitchen stool and replied, “Yes, don’t worry, not a problem, I understand.” As soon as she hung up the phone it rang again. Tracey picked up the receiver slowly and answered, “hello.” On the other end she could hear static noise. “Hello, hello, stop calling here or I will call the police”, Tracey said. For weeks that phone would ring at odd hours of the night but no one responded.

The next morning Tracey woke up at the crack of dawn to prepare for a very hectic day of work. She walked down the gravel driveway toward the main street to collect the mail that she neglected picking up the previous day, and the thoughts of the extra work money would come into handy savings for emergencies. After sifting through the mail she noticed a hand written envelope with just her name on it. Upon opening the letter she read two printed words, HELLO, HELLO. “Now this is going beyond a prank phone call and the person knows where I live.” she cried. The mail collected dropped to the ground and scattered onto the street. Stacey fumbled to gather it up and out of nowhere a speeding car screeched by only to disappear into the thick morning mist. And, all she could notice seeing was a dull black sedan. The Peterson’s bedroom light partially lit up the front lawn and Mr. Peterson opened up the large pained window and screamed. “Are you okay Tracey? That car sounded like it hit you!” Tracey responded, “I have no clue Mr. Peterson, perhaps it was a kid trying to be smart. I will talk to you later and have to get to work early.” The window slammed shut and all that Tracey could think of was not to have created any bad feelings with the Petersons. After making Thomas his favorite oatmeal breakfast and dropping him off at Mrs. Teabody’s, Tracey drove her cream-colored van down main street to the early period stone clad store. A black and white police car was parked at ‘The Flying Flamingo Cafe’ and Tracey could view Vince through the window making his to go order at the front counter. Little did Tracey know, Vince was attracted to her when he places his order to her at his night shift and was still seeking the courage to ask for a date. Tracey drove to the back parking lot of the store where employees parked, walked up to the back entry only to find the metal door not locked. She decided to enter and flipped all the light switches on and proceeded to the front of the store by walking to the main reception room. Footsteps creaked the floor boards coming from the second floor and Tracey froze. A muffled familiar whistling tune filled the air, and then Tracey relaxed, yelled up the stairs, “Jasper is that you!” Jasper responded, “yes mam, just finishing up waxing the floors for Ms. Lizzie.” “Well that is a relief, I thought you were a break-in”, said Tracey.

The morning hours flew by because it was unusually busy with customers. The director of the Women’s Rotary Club made an outstanding order for the groups Derby Days luncheon benefit and show! Tracey worked hard to complete the order as directed and knew that Liz would be pleased with the sale. Liz arrived at noon and before Tracey could explain about the sales, she headed up to her office with a look of distress on her face. Within ten minutes the intercom telephone buzzed at the main sales counter and Liz asked Tracey to come up to her office for a meeting. Tracey closed the register drawer, handed over a customer purchase and headed to the elegant pine staircase that led up to the office. Liz sat at a massive intricately carved cherry wood partners desk and directed Tracey to have a seat. The veins in Liz’s neck began to bulge as she blurted out as if in pain, “Apparently I had a very disturbing encounter this morning with Wendy, the director of the Women’s Rotary Club. She explained to me in detail about the unprofessional shopping experience received today at the shop. Please tell me how this could possibly happen in my shop?” Then there was a brief silence and Liz continued, “I was totally mortified in front of a lot of people. Tracey, I assured her that this type of service cannot be tolerated and I would ask that your service be immediately terminated. I will have Jasper bring your things and paycheck.” Tracey’s mouth quivered and she could not believe what she was hearing. As soon as she opened her mouth to speak Liz lifted up her hand and raised a trembling finger to her lips. At that point Tracey got up, walked out of the room, closed the office door, quickly ran down the stairs and past a startled waiting customer. All she could hear in the distance was a sobbing crazed woman.

The route along a country road to home was picturesque maybe calming. The cream-colored van swerved around corners and then Tracey decided to pull over, get out of the vehicle and just run through a field of tall grass until collapsing. Hours went by and only upon hearing black birds cawing from a baron tree did Tracey come to her waking senses. There was no doubt that Thomas was waiting to be picked up at Mrs. Teabody’s but he would have to wait because it was important to stop off at the Peterson’s as promised. Tracey decided to pick some flowers from the front garden to make a bouquet for the Peterson’s. She knocked on the door, bouquet in hand and was greeted by Mrs. Peterson. “We were worried about you this morning, Tracey, and I think it is time that we had a chat.” she said. Tracey could only think about the horrific meeting just experienced with Liz and her knees started to tremble. Mrs. Peterson offered Tracey a cup of tea and thanked her for the lovely bouquet and proceeded to explain that Martha their only daughter was about to enter Med School. She described a great financial burden and said, “Today the costs are extremely frightening for Martha to attend a private institution and unfortunately we have to double the cottage rental.” Tracey said, “Mrs. Peterson, you know that it is impossible for me to afford such a high rent and I will have to move.”

Tracey picked up Thomas and explained to Mrs. Teabody her misfortunes for the day. Mrs. Teabody offered to inquire with friends about finding a new rental and not to worry. She said, “Just take some time off and rest dear, tomorrow is a new bright day, things will fall into place.” It is easy for people to say but to Tracey it seemed like a far off dream. At least she still had the job at The Flying Flamingo Cafe! A few weeks passed and by a small miracle so did the mysterious phone calls and a yard sale to eliminate most stuff. She decided to take Thomas with her for the drive down Route 206 to the local dump. It was quite expensive for garbage disposal and undeniably unaffordable for a single mom working part-time. Tracey came to an intersection stop and opened up the back door to the cream-colored van. The sight of Liz moving her finger to lip brought up anger as Tracey glazed over at the black receiver and blue vacuum cleaner. Tracey picked it up, tossed both items violently to the side of the road and guiltily drove off. Later that evening Vince appeared to make his usual order to go at The Flying Flamingo Cafe. He said, “Tracey so sorry to hear about your job loss, the shop closing and Liz loosing her daughter to illness. I know it’s not the right time but it sure would be nice to take you out to a fabulous night out on the town!” Tracey stood there feeling like a played fool, caught her emotions, and replied with a yes.

Record Player Revival

Record Player Revival by Elizabeth McLaughlin

It’s back! Lately, the record player and collecting of old vinyl albums is trending. The other day I took a bicycle ride to a local antique outlet and rummaged through large boxes that contained a variety of old albums. For just a few dollars a piece, I was able to start a collection of memorable favorites. However, it takes work to find one that you like in excellent shape without any annoying scratches. Do not be afraid of the condition of an album cover, you may be pleasantly surprised to discover two perfect discs in one album case. In case you’re wondering, yes, vinyl albums are on sale brand NEW but be prepared to spend more dollars. I could not wait to use my new red Victrola record player and enjoyed the experience of using the arm lift to gently place the needle onto the album surface. It’s wonderful to sit back and observe the graphics, art on the album and researching the history of the bands online. Typically, the lyrics to songs are printed on the inside cover or sleeve to the album.

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At the antique outlet, in one corner of a consignment booth there sat an oversized antique record player and it was housed inside its original wooden cabinet. A great find for someone who could bring it back to life, but for my purposes too bulky and heavy. I ended up with a new one that has a suitcase handle for ease of use, portability and light in weight for travelling. Although, the speakers are not the greatest, it did produce enough sound to fill up a room and I also used it outdoors at the patio picnic table. To boost up quality of sound, RCA outlets in the back of this player make it easy for portable speaker hookup. Lately the radio transmission for automobile and house in the area I reside has been on the static fritz but it did not affect the record player! Perhaps the electromagnetic problem was due to solar interference. Another great reason to have a record player on hand! Even if an electric power outage occurs this new record player operates on very low-wattage that most back-up solar panel arrays could handle.

Here is the line-up of my start-up album collection.

Bruce Springsteen – Album Title: The River

Ted Nugent – Album Title: Nugent

The Who – Album Title: It’s Hard

Bay City Rollers – Album Title: Rock N’ Roll Love Letter

 

A Few Flowers and Landscapes

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A landscape business down the road planted elegant bright blue flowers and I could not resist capturing these beautiful floral clusters. It certainly brightened up my day along with natures neighboring forested swamp.

Overcast Day

Sunday was overcast with rain in the forecast. The docks and lake take on a different hue and projects a unique rustic mellow mood.  Soon the beach will be open to club members and families will gather for swimming meets, fishing and boating excursions. The trails have fresh fine white gravel prepared for hikers, dog walkers and bikers. Throughout the woods shimmering sunshine tries its best to brighten up small wild daisies, leaves and casts its warm glow against trees.

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