Monday, April 29, 2013

Beef Jerky Day

I make beef jerky, mostly for my wife, and thought I'd go through the process.  It's really easy and quite economical compared to buying the stuff in stores.  I start with the leanest beef I can find; usually that means Select grade eye of round roast.  First I remove all the fat that I can then slice it into steaks and slice the steaks into strips.  I want strips that are somewhere between one eighth and one sixteenth of an inch (1.5 to 3 mm) thick.  Uniformity is important of course so the strips dry at the same rate but I don't get too wild and crazy.
Being foolish I didn't weigh this piece of meat before starting to slice it however I ended up with two pounds three ounces (1 kg) of sliced meat.  It cost $3.99 a pound so I've got about $9 worth of meat here.  That isn't a very good price, I often find it for less but this what I could find today.  (Well, yesterday was when I actually started this process!)  You see how I take the fat off the outside of the steak.  I leave those small white pieces of fat in the slice unless they are considerably larger than the ones you see.  You don't want the fat because it will get rancid.  This is a nice size roast for me since my dehydrator has only five racks.  The most meat I can get onto it is about three pounds (1.3 kg). 

Next comes marinating.  I marinate the meat overnight in a Ziplock bag in the fridge; hopefully remembering to turn it over once or twice.  Here are my marinade ingredients.
You can check the internet for marinades; there are probably as many as there are jerky makers but this is somewhat representative.  Soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, liquid smoke, onion powder, garlic powder and red pepper flakes is what I use.  I try to have about three-quarters of a cup (175 ml) of marinade for this amount of meat.  It really helps if you don't spill the onion powder all over the counter and the floor like I did!  I squeeze as much air out of the bag as possible and let it work overnight.

This morning I loaded up the dehydrator and let it do it's thing.  Here I have four of the five racks loaded.  This is a Nesco dehydrator; it claims to be drying the jerky at 160F (71C) and has lower settings for fruits, vegies and nuts.  It works well but the racks are plastic and are just nasty to clean and pretty easy to break.  I usually add a grind of black pepper over the jerky just before turning it on; I like the bite the black pepper gives.

At the end of a few hours (three to five) we have beef jerky.  Some people recommend drying off the meat with a paper towel or something prior to drying it; I've never done that.  One of the things about making your own jerky is that you get it the way you like it.  My wife likes spicy so I use quite a bit of red pepper flakes and add the black pepper.  She also like it somewhat chewy so we don't dry it as much as someone else might.  Others might like it sweeter so they might add honey to the marinade.  Bottom line is that you get it how you want to make it. 

Here are the three baggies full of beef jerky.  I got twelve and three-quarters ounces (.34kg) of jerky from this batch.  That's not bad for $9 and a little time. 

Have a good one.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Water Works Wonders!

We planted a couple cacti in the yard about a year ago.  They weren't dying but weren't doing much living until recently.  We visited a place called Cactus Jack's over by Las Vegas.  You can guess their speciality.  The woman offered us some advice about how much to water our cactus.  Hmmm, they are lots happier now!  We may have to go buy some more now.

The other day we were out sitting on the back patio enjoying some nice weather.  Had a little friend visit.
I've got to say I'm pretty happy about our Canon SX210 IS cameras.  They were fairly inexpensive ($250), they have 14x optical zoom and are image stabilized.  The hummer was about 30 feet away; not bad for a point and shoot!  The only think I really dislike is that there is no viewfinder.  Seeing that screen is difficult enough for old fogies like myself but in the sun it is almost impossible.  Grrr! 

I've been trying to clean up my desk for days.  Why do I hate doing this?  A place for everything and everything is it's place means absolutely nothing to me.  I sure couldn't live in a van!  I can manage it in our trailer but nothing smaller.  I like reading about van living but I'd be lost in no time. 

Thanks for stopping by.  Have a good one.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013


Well, they caught the Boston Marathon bomber kid.  I'm afraid he is sounding just like a normal passionate 19 year old who got hold of some nasty ideas.  Now to see what kind of 'justice' we will serve up.  Killing three and injuring so many more is going to make lots of people want the death penalty.  I’m kind of against that but throwing him in jail for the rest of his natural life doesn’t do much for me and turning him loose after three or four years isn’t where I’m at either.  Guess I’m glad I won’t be on the jury!

In other news, my favorite financial blogger, RandomRoger, has announced that he isn’t going to be blogging every day but only from time to time.  I can’t blame the poor guy, he’s been blogging almost daily for over eight years!  Still, I will miss him.  I’ve been reading him almost from the beginning and his ideas have influenced my investing style a  lot.  Fairwell, sir.

I have a list of ‘favorite’ blogs that I try to read regularly, I suppose most people interested in blogs have such a list.  I was looking at it this morning, surprised at the number that are no longer active.  Some have just disappeared.  It is an odd kind of feeling.  You read someone’s thoughts for a year or more then they disappear.  You can’t help wondering what happened.  An accident, jail, death, threw their computer through the window, moved to Argentina; like so many things in life we’ll never know. 

My wife and I have decided to visit Florida early this summer to celebrate a relative’s birthday.  This isn’t really news but it is kind of unusual for me; I haven’t been on a plane in over 10 years!  Since we lost our dog and the cat sleeps all day anyway, we have decided to rejoin the flyers of the world.  We’ll toss the cat in a kennel and fly away.  I’m reasonably certain it won’t be any more comfortable or healthier or even faster than it was 10 years ago but flying does mean I don’t have to hear whining about how long it takes to get across Texas.  We’ll see how it turns out.  Come to think of it, I haven’t stayed in a motel in at least 10 years.  Wow, a whole new world!

Today we are off to Vegas on a little shopping spree.  We (that would be my wife) need clothes for the trip to Florida.  I know it’s kind of early but there is this sale…..  Besides, we haven’t been in almost two weeks.  Can’t let the car forget the way, can we?  Have a good one!

Friday, April 19, 2013


Anyone who knows me knows that I'm not much of a tv watcher.  I don't watch the news except for the weather.  I seldom read the newspaper.  I've even given up looking at most movies.  Instead I waste too much time on the internet.  But I've gotta tell you, I've been glued to the tv coverage of the Boston Marathon bomber chase.  What an amazing thing. 

Here is this young guy who seems to be an absolutely great kid who for some reason apparently participated is this horrible and pointless bombing.  What the hell?  I sure hope he can be captured alive so we can learn more about what goes on in his head. 

Personally it's been a quiet week - well since I'm glued to the tv obviously I'm not doing much!  This morning we had 40F (4C).  Darn.  That is just not right.  We ought to be at 80F (26C) during the day.  Well, maybe tomorrow.  I may notice it if I can pry myself off the tv. 

Yep, ice from the bird bath this morning.  Brrrr!

I did start watering the cactus last month & it is doing what it's supposed to do.  We have growth!  All that green stuff is new in the last month or so.
Well, I guess I'm off to glue myself back to the tv.  Have a good one!

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Another trip to Vegas!

Friday we had another trip to the big city.  This time Number One Daughter was having a colonoscopy and needed some semi-responsible party to pick her up.  This getting up and driving to Vegas to be somewhere before 09:00 is a lot like having a job.  Jeez. Of course we were happy to do it and since everything turned out well it's happy endings all around.  (Sorry!  That just slipped out.)  Anyway, one time when she was anesthetized she had a tough time coming out of it; this time was just perfect.  In fact, when we got her to her house we got talked into putting some outdoor furniture together for her.  Obviously she was doing just fine.

Of course with al that excitement on Friday, we had to take yesterday off!  Our big accomplishment was to walk around the neighborhood.  It is getting warmer, mid-80's F (29 C), so we like to take our walk earlier in the day.  It looks like the total blight that was on the real estate market around here might be lifting a bit.  There is a house behind us that is receiving a small addition.  There is another that was empty for some time that now has new owners and they are doing a ton of landscaping.  Those are the big jobs but there are also smaller changes; a new fence here, some minor landscaping there.  It is great to hope that the valley might come back to life one of these days.  We have lost our favorite electrician; he was working out of town during the week but his family stayed here.  Now his recorded phone message says he isn't working in the valley any more.  It is all just heartbreaking.

Here is a link to a town in Rhode Island that sounds much like Pahrump.  We have a regular policy in our house not to go to the stores for the first two or three days of the month.  People get their Food Stamp money and you can barely get into the parking lot.  Depressing doesn't begin to cover it.  We have EIGHT local food banks!  And this is supposed to be the richest country in the world.  Bah! 

Gotta go before I depress you all any more.  Have a good one.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Real excitement!

Yesterday we were just discussing where to go for lunch when my wife got a call from our daughter.  She was out of town on a business trip and her cat-sitter couldn’t get into her house to care for her cats.  In terms of emergencies, it was kind of low key but we have a key to her house so agreed to go in to Las Vegas and open the house for this gal. 

Off to the big city we went being really careful that we were in fact taking the darned key!  So we follow this pickup into the development and right to our daughter’s house.  Turns out she is having some concrete work done and this is the guy who does the work.  He said the power was out to all the exterior outlets.  But he did have the key to the lock to the back yard.  So we start looking for the breaker box.  Oddly, here they put the breaker box outside.  Hmmm.  And it was locked.  This isn’t looking good.

Turns out our daughter was smart enough to get two padlocks that are keyed alike so the back yard key also opens the breaker box.  Unfortunately none of the breakers were tripped.  Hmmm.  So now we are wandering all over the house looking for a tripped GFCI.  It took quite a while but finally, we found it!  Now we finally have power to the outside outlets, the garage door opener started working, all kinds of great stuff.  I didn’t realize how many GFCI’s were used in a modern house – 2 in the kitchen; one in each bath; and one in the garage.  (Huh, the garage?)  Who knows.  Anyway, the one in the garage was the problem.  What a trip!  Anyway we got an unexpected trip to the big city and got to meet some of our daughter’s neighbors.

Today we are just being lazy.  I’m catching up on blog reading and doing a few chores around the house.  I was in Home Depot getting a couple things and some woman, a complete stranger, says “When you get through with your wife’s ‘honey do’ list you can come work on mine.”  Huh?  What’s that all about?  Trust me, lady, I’m not that handy.  All I’m doing is putting up some shelves in the garage. 

That’s all the news that’s fit to print.  Have a good one!

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Excitement - in the slow lane!

We've been so darned dull lately that we had to do something!  Last week my wife found a notice in the paper about a cactus garden in Las Vegas sponsored by the EthelM Chocolate factory.  They have a free tour and a cactus garden that you can visit.  We waited until Monday to go because we figured there would be crowds over the weekend but we did go.  Amazing!  And it was quite fun.

The EthelM company was set up by one of the Mars family to honor his mother’s ability to make fine chocolates.  I’m hoping they are fine because they want $2 a piece (declining to $1 each if you buy a box of 48) for these chocolates.  Sometimes I’m really thankful my wife is trying to lose weight!  So we went through the free tour; it was almost overpriced at that but it was ok.  You walk this corridor staring through windows at the workers on the line.  Gee, there must have been six or eight workers making candy.  It wasn’t very exciting but then we got out to the plants. 

When we showed up it was almost mid-day so my photos aren’t great but the plants really made up for it.  You wander around on little paved paths looking at the cacti and their associated name tag.  I’ve no idea how many species were represented but they were mostly looking really happy.   Here is an ocotillo.

Since I am not much of a plant person, I decided to take a photo of the name tags too – like here.

This is an example of a really happy silver yucca.

The only real downside was this.

We were right under the landing pattern for McCarran International Airport!  Good place for a candy factory though.  I’m pretty sure it didn’t bother the candy at all.  Or the workers, I’m sure there is plenty of other mechanical noise to keep their attention.  Bottom line though is that I highly recommend spending an hour or so in this really nice cactus garden. It's not unknown; there were tour busses and vans around all the time so just be aware you won't be alone.

Have a good one.