Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Transporting Dogs in a Convertible

Need to take your dogs to the kennel in your convertible on a day too pretty to put the top up? No problem. Just pop their leashes through the seatbelt positioner on the passenger side, loop it around once and you are good to go.

Dogs in a convertible.

Make sure the leash is short enough to keep them on the passenger side of the car but long enough so they don't dangle by their collars. If your kennel is more than half a mile away you might want to roll up the passenger-side window to help keep them from jumping out of the car.

Our dogs Cello and Jaxon on their way to the kennel while the Teleospouse and I attend our son's college graduation. Cello is the gray dog on the left.

Going to the Kennel

Monday, April 28, 2008

My Favorite Things at Trader Joes

Trader Joe's is a very trendy, Hawaiian-themed grocery store chain that opened up a new store in my town about six months ago. They offer an odd mixture of products for picky organic brown-ricers and other oddball stuff that their buyers found in out of the way places that they can buy in quantity and sell cheap. Most of the items I buy there fall in that second category. Here are a few examples.

Trader Joe's Pinjur comes from Bulgaria. It's a mildly hot red pepper sauce/spread/relish that is good with a bit of Hummus on a slice of toast, or on pasta, or as a cooking sauce for chicken or pork. I really like it. But, based on some news stories that Google provided, they appear to have had some quality-control problems with this product and it's been discontinued. *sigh*

Red Pepper Spread
Trader Joe's Red Pepper Spread is sweeter and smoother than their Pinjur. Not as spicy and, candidly, not quite as good. But I like it. It has a pimento-and-cheese flavor that is good on Toast and makes a nice addition to a tomato-based southwestern soup, or a pinto bean recipe. It is also from Bulgaria, comes in the same kind of jar as the Pinjur and probably comes from the same manufacturer. It was around for several months after the Pinjur was pulled but it, too, appears to have been discontinued. ...oh well.

India Relish
Trader Joe's India Relish is a spicy Tomato-Tamarind chutney that I bought looking for a substitute for the Red Pepper Spread. It is too spicy to be used as a spread but a few spoonfuls in a pot of lentil soup is wonderful. I found that I can make an excellent Indian-flavored seafood soup from 1 can of white tuna, 1 can of diced tomatoes and two tablespoons of India Relish -- just stir it all together, heat and serve. Really quite good and easy enough to make in the office microwave. But, sadly, the last few times I have been in... no India Relish. I guess it's gone.

I used to like this stuff, too. A dollop on a slice of crunchy toast and I have a quick and easy breakfast-on-the-go. Haven't seen it lately.

Are you starting to notice a running theme here? Me too. Trader Joe's business model does not reward product loyalty. They buy things in lots, sell them until they are gone, and then look for something else to sell. If you have developed a taste for that oddball Bulgarian pepper relish while they have it -- tough. I get the feeling that they have spies that follow me around taking notes on what I buy. If I buy the same product more than twice they discontinue it.

Based on that theory, here are the next few products to get the ax.

Citron Honey
Trader Joe's Citron Honey has a rather disappointing label. Picking it up you expect that Citron Honey would be like Orange Blossom honey or Clover Honey or Sourwood honey and that Citron would be what the bees used to make the honey. But actually, Citron and Honey are two ingredients. It is chopped citron mixed with ordinary honey. But, if you get over than disappointment and buy it anyway you will find it very useful. It tastes like orange marmalade except that is tastes even more like orange marmalade than orange marmalade does. It goes great in oriental salads and sauces. Stir a spoonful into your coleslaw dressing or throw a blob into your stir-fry. I like it a lot. It's days are numbered.

Update: 8/4/08 See comments section for reports that Citron Honey may be getting hard to find and some discussion of alternate sources.

Trader Joe's new flavors of Hummus are really quite good. The ones to look for come in the one-pound tubs. They have other varieties that come in smaller (10oz?) tubs and aren't as good.

Update: 25 May 2008. The Red Pepper Spread seems to be back. I bought two jars today.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Green Math

While shopping at my local Whole Foods supermarket I noticed a couple of signs that made me go hmmmmmm. I'm sure the typical Whole Foodie type would find the signs unremarkable. They would just glance at them approvingly, letting the words resonate without actually, you know, reading them. As a service to my Liberal readers I though I would post some impressions from a more Republican viewpoint where the resonances of the words don't altogether drown out their meaning. Here's one sign ...

Multimedia message
Blurry cell phone photo. Sorry. The sign reads as follows:
The United States goes through 100 billion plastic shopping bags annually. An estimated 12 billion barrels of oil are required to make that many plastic bags.

-- The Wall Street Journal

... and here's the other sign ...

Multimedia message
The second sign reads, in part,
U.S. households dispose of of nearly 100 million shopping bags annually. By reducing plastic bag consumption by just two bags a week, you'll throw away at least 100 fewer bags per year.

The first thing to notice is that the number of bags doesn't agree between the two signs. Apparently, the American public "goes through" 100 billion bags a year but only "disposes of" 100 million of them. 999 out of 1000 of them are just stuffed in the bag closet. While it's tempting to believe this -- because it would mean that I am way below average on the clutter factor -- I can't manage it. At least one of the figures is wrong, probably the "100 million bags" part. I know that I throw away a plastic bag more often than once every three years and I suspect my 300 million countrymen do too.

The next thing that struck me is that there are real efficiency gains to be made in the manufacture of plastic bags. If it takes 12 billion barrels of oil to make 100 billion bags then that means that the yield for a barrel of oil is only 8 1/3 bags. With oil at a hundred bucks a barrel that means that the plastic bag you put your organic brown rice into cost $12 to make just for the oil.. On the other hand, if the process could be reversed -- if we could figure out how to get that oil back out of the plastic bags -- then my bulging plastic-bag closet could power a Prius for a trip to Uranus.