Cast Iron Rust

My girlfriend’s sister’s girlfriend has had these two cast iron Dutch ovens — magnificent Dutch ovens, to boot — for well over 10 years (as well as two sauce pans). Since my girlfriend and I have only been together less than 3.5 years, however, I don’t know much more about these Dutch ovens other than the fact that they have been neglected and stored outside for, at the very least, a year — and in the ten years she has owned these cast iron Dutch ovens, she has not been noted to have used them once. Over the past 6 years my inquiry about them fell by the wayside several times until finally, just yesterday (4-27-2014) I was allowed to bring them home!

How lucky I was to have been eyeballing them yesterday when she was in a good mood, too! It appeared that a black widow had made a home in one of the sauce pans, but since those two sauce pans don’t even have handles I decided to leave those alone. At some point I may come back for them, but my primary purpose now is to restore these two magnificent Dutch ovens to their original luster. But, how rusted they have become — woeful. The entirety of the 3 years of their known existence by me have been spent outside in the open elements. I took to applying some salt and vinegar to some steel wool, but that didn’t really work. I think it’s time to call in the big guns here.

My intention, sometimes considered a last resort by some, is to allow the pans to soak overnight in some ammonia. There are very many multiple methods of cleaning cast iron, but the advanced stages of rust are forcing me to take some heavy-handed action. Sure, salt and vinegar work just fine on new, lightly rusted spots. The rust on these pans (pots?) is all around the entire surface. I attempted to clean a lid last night to no avail.

My reason for posting this, though, is that I’m EXTREMELY happy that I was able to obtain these two Dutch ovens for myself. Normally, one might have to search for yard sales, flea markets, and eBay for excellent deals on cast iron. The Lodge cast iron Dutch oven alone, brand new, is more than $50 (http://www.crateandbarrel.com/lodge-cast-iron-dutch-oven/s171867?a=1552&device=c&network=g&matchtype=&gclid=CIacz5uQg74CFU5afgodInoADw)I’m not sure what brand the other one is, but it’s larger so I assume I obtained well over $100 worth of cast iron for absolutely no cost to me — I just have to take the time to remove the rust and restore their luster. No big deal to me!

Anyhow, I must keep this post short. My point is this — some cast iron is left by the wayside. With a little persuasion they can be yours for a VERY little amount of money, or putting the work in to restore and season something that you may use for the rest of your life, your kids’ lives, and perhaps a couple more generations beyond that!

What to Do When You Don’t Know What to Do

It’s very unsettling that the human mind can become bored with certain activities. But I can explain it to you in a layman’s terms. It has to do with gaining new information and over-exerting your synapses and nerves. Of course, there are plenty more reasons why boredom can happen at any given time — you’re low on cash, you’ve already gone to the mall three times this weekend, you’ve already eaten that left-over dinner item. So when you have eaten it all, slept it all, seen it all, and done it all — what do you do? I might have a few tips which can be of some assistance.

1. Learn A New Hobby

Any hobby can be a fun and entertaining way to keep yourself interested in something new. When I was going to college, I was making flutes out of clay. I had never done it before, but I managed to sell a few and earn a little extra cash on the side. I’ve since learned something about collecting coins, collecting Zippo lighters, reading lots of books. If you happen to be interested in the history of something, you will almost undoubtedly learn other affiliated pieces of information. As an example, I have a few coins made the same year my grandmother was born, which was also six years before a local ice cream parlor had opened during the Great Depression — and is still open to this day!

2. Play An Instrument

I cannot really stress how excellent it would be to tote around a random instrument which you have taken the time to master on your own time, whip it out in public, and start improvising in the same exact key that someone may be singing or playing with another instrument. Busking in a city or near a beach would be an ideal setting to show off your accumulated playing talents. Seed money can start the process of earning tips, but it would help to know some contemporary music as opposed to Bach or Beethoven. (I’m not saying that they shouldn’t be in your repertoire, but I do believe that those eras of music which far surpass our own generation in terms of talent will help you to improvise in an expert manner). This way, you perhaps would be joined by a beat-boxer and an accordion player and make something of worthwhile value to take the normalcy away from a monotonous routine for others.

3. Learn A New Language

Wouldn’t it be so cool to be visiting your favorite vacation spot which doubled as a tourist trap, and be able to communicate with strangers from Norway or Germany? During what can be considered a substantial portion of human existence, the ability to communicate with others for bartering has been a very important notion. These days, however, monolingual folks such as myself are astounded at the difficulty of mastering a new language, but very much awe-inspired that another language can be spoken right in front of you and there is communication being made. Those are exceptionally amazing talents of the human mind. A computer has difficulty with such processes, and people who are multilingual in five or more languages seem to have the ability to switch at will. It would make for a nice conversation with a family from a foreign country about lifestyles and arts and music, but it would make for an even better time when you travel about knowing a little history and gaining perspectives from locals at the same time.

4. Learn to Cook a New Dish

I posted a recipe here not too long ago. It was not the first time I had ever made it, but I mentioned that people really liked and wanted more of it — that is the kind of satisfaction I wish to have when making new dishes. I’m not a chef by any stretch of the imagination, but learning recipes for multiple dinners is never a bad idea. Kids not eating spinach? Perhaps hiding it away with some soup or stew will give then that Popeye strength. Rice? It’s difficult for the beginner, but it’s an excellent addition to any chicken dinner. Learning how to make new dinners and lunches, in varying combinations, will guarantee that microwave won’t be your primary heating source. And think of the possibility of maintaining your own garden to grow your own food! That would be some savings, I tell you! Savings! And it will positively make for some nice full bellies, to boot.

5. Test Your Typing Skills

I’m not exactly what one would consider a typist by trade, but a few months ago, I tested my typing speed and I was clocked around 45-50 words per minute. This qualifies me to do any beginning data entry job with the exception of a stenographer. But it was a random test, to be sure. I didn’t have any idea what my typing speed was when I was job searching (I may be searching for a new job here soon, myself, being unhappy with my place of employment) but my surprise was pretty well acceptable. You can use this for any skill, and not just typing. Adding and subtracting quickly in your head, as well as multiplication and division, can both be highly useful for receiving the correct amount of change in any transaction. Also, by some stretch of the imagination, you never know when you’ll need to know the lyrics for an obscure song with your skill of rapid access to seemingly unnecessary information…

This isn’t exactly a comprehensive list of things to do when boredom happens to strike out of nowhere. But it does, in my opinion, certainly seem to be a far better list of items than simply sitting on the couch watching mind-numbing television shows or reruns, or playing the same games over and over again. Think of some new ideas and tasks which you suit your needs best! I should be clear about cleaning — that is a necessary evil. Fewer things in the household will result in fewer cleaning tasks. One may become bored with cleaning, but hey, I wouldn’t want non-human squatters in my house, either! Even if you’re not one to become bored so easily, it never hurts to have a hobby or three.

Dreams

Sometimes, when I sleep deeply enough, I’ll have a dream so vivid that it almost seems lifelike — that is to say, almost lifelike. One small detail which separates my dreams from reality is the fact that none of that which appears in my dreams follows the laws of physics or the known sciences of animals and plants. Perhaps on a subatomic level, these kinds of things can happen. What I seem to fail to do every time I recognize that I’m dreaming is to acknowledge my dream state and begin to experience my own lucid dream.

Lucid dreaming is a goal of some metaphysical students. It shows that you have a strong connection to your subconscious mind, and not randomly flashing images in motion picture sequence style. I’ve never experienced lucid dream state, but then again, I’m not a dedicated student of the metaphysical studies, either. Not that there are any set deadlines for it, mind you. There is, absolutely, a method that each person utilizes to record their dreams, attempt to find some symbolism or cross-reference to the world which allows you to read this, and figure out whether they can take control of their own mind.

I don’t really have a method, but some dream researchers have told me throughout my life that a popular method of finding out the meaning of your dreams is to write every detail that you can remember about your dream, find dream meaning sources to extract the purpose of your dream and how it pertains to your recent or personal experiences, and figure out a path which will lead you to eventually discover the meanings of your dreams.

I remember dreaming about gemstones one night. Just out of nowhere, a tourmaline of sorts with a strange name that I can’t remember had been for sale at some outdoor flea market. This gemstone was special in that it acted as embers — it crackled and popped, but was not hot to the touch. It possessed a fiery appearance but I could not purchase it for some reason. When I awoke, the first thing I did was try to remember then name of the stone I had seen. I looked through many pages on the internet to find something which looked as close to the dream rock as possible. I found two which resembled what I had seen: raw orange tourmaline (http://thumbs.dreamstime.com/z/tourmaline-polished-slice-9155486.jpg) and fire agate (http://www.mineralien-hueller.de/english/webyep-system/daten/29-3-1-gl-Galeriename-8726.jpg).

Since I had a very ferocious night terror for a week straight, several years ago since, I had grown tired, both of the dream and from physically only getting less than 20 hours of sleep in that week — tired enough to go on a somewhat side journey of figuring out the metaphysical properties of minerals. Mind you, I’m not religious in the LEAST! But I am spiritual. I know that, beyond our physical graves, we never die. I know that more strongly than I believe in a deity or group of deities, so perhaps that doesn’t make me a total Atheist since I still have positive morals. (A digression — I don’t cuss in front of children, I don’t drive after a single drink, I quit smoking, and perhaps on an unrelated level, I have also given up the drinking of carbonated, sugary drinks.) I do have the belief that, under some tough skin, everyone is inherently nice and has desires, just as I do. Some people don’t have the filtration to hinder their acts, which is unfortunate — but they still have dreams and wants as we all do.

Right, so back to my points. Metaphysical properties and healing and gemstones began to appeal to me, but on a very small scale. It took a while for me to pick it up because I didn’t actually go out and get any gemstones until this year. I picked up some black tourmaline, a soda-can-sized chunk of quartz, hematite, gold sheen obsidian… I became particularly fond of selenite. They say that selenite is representative of angelic energies. I placed a somewhat large piece of selenite I picked up from a local gem show last month. It sits under the mattress near my head. I get some pretty cool dreams, but I sleep better, too. And since I have it in conjunction with my obsidian, it seems as if each dream, though still ever so strange — haven’t really been bad lately.

So as a small reference, I think it would be nice to recommend that you pick up a selenite egg, palm stone, or tower (whichever you prefer) and place it near your head either under the pillow, under the mattress, or on the floor — and use it with a grounding stone such as tourmaline. White and black balance out. If you have dreams that you do not yet understand, write it down. Take notes of each element. See if a search of dream meanings online are representative of anything happening in the real world for you.

I should note this, too — there are so many dream sites out there that I wouldn’t list any of them here. This is on purpose! You see, there are differences between dream meanings for each site you visit, so if you want to start decoding your dreams I would suggest you find a list of 5 to 10 dream sites which you can book mark and refer to if you have a particularly pleasing, distasteful, scary, or happy dream. You may discover something about yourself that perhaps you’ve been ignoring or had been otherwise unaware.

Chicken Alfredo

There comes a time in every man’s life when he wishes to enact his power of cooking not over a barbecue, but in the kitchen. And so, when my girlfriend and I decided to attempt a pasta dish, what we had started was a flavor revolution in the house beyond what we had ever experienced — people liked it. People really wanted it. Since our first couple of dishes, I have since taken over every aspect of this dish, but sometimes I’ll let my nephew help with cutting the vegetables, or dumping the sauce into the pan / pot. But what is it that we did? Well, I’ll tell you here.

The Ingredients

2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breast
1 green, 1 red bell pepper
8-12 white button mushrooms (or any mushroom you prefer), sliced
2 spears broccoli
Parsley
Seasoned Salt
Olive Oil
Garlic (Cloves and powdered)
Onion Powder
Ragu Classic Alfredo sauce, 3-4 jars
Pasta of your choosing

The Chicken
We decided that the chicken most properly applicable to this would be boneless, skinless chicken breast. My intention is to use free range, antibiotic-free chicken one day — but until then, store-bought is sufficient (it still tastes really good).

The Vegetables

Of course, having a chicken dish in one color is not very aesthetically pleasing. Green and red bell peppers would interrupt that plain look of chicken and sauce, and broccoli just happened to pop into my mind of things that would work. Let us not forget button mushrooms! Delicious little guys, aren’t they? And of course, two or three cloves of garlic finely chopped gave the chicken a very delicious flavor during the simmering stage.

The Seasonings

Our chicken alfredo dish included the usage of extra virgin olive oil, seasoned salt, coarse ground black pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, and a nice helping of parsley (trust me, that is beneficial).

The Pasta

Our choice of pasta is fettuccine, but you can use any pasta shape you wish to use.

The Bread

We have a local grocery store which bakes bread fresh every day. Whenever we wish to grab some bread, we go to this store. If you have a local place which bakes fresh bread, more power to you. If not, I’m sorry to say — it’s just not the same. Sweet French bread happens to be the number one replacement in the event our store sells out of bread, which has happened before.

The Preparation

Cut chicken into 1/2” to 1” cubes.
Slice bell peppers or dice them to your preference. The flavor profile is the same either way I have cut it.
Slice the mushrooms if you didn’t buy them sliced.
Oil the pan with the minced garlic, parsley, and onion and garlic powders mixed in evenly
You may use a Dutch oven if a pan is not sufficient in size.

The Cooking

My preference is to trim the fat during preparation, but that’s optional and not 100% necessary. I place the chicken into a cast iron pan which already has the mixed olive oil and seasoning mix. (Around this time I start water for the pasta.) Once I have cut it all up, it’s time to add heat. Anywhere between medium and medium-high is perfect so long as you stir to prevent the chicken from becoming stuck to the bottom of the pan (if you happen to not be using cast iron, that is).

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Cut the bread along its length to spread butter and garlic powder, and cut these into individual slots. The bread takes 10 to 12 minutes to finish, but your oven may be different from ours, so do what you need to do to adjust for time.

I don’t measure, but I cover the chicken pieces in seasoned salt and parsley until they look uniform. After I have tested that they are properly cooked through, I lower the heat to a low-medium heat and add the vegetables and mix them thoroughly, and let them steam for around 15-20 minutes before pouring the sauce into the pan. Once that is bubbling hot, you’re ready to spread it over your pasta and serve with some garlic bread. Here, we just take whatever serving we wish to have so we always have way more than enough for leftovers for five or six people. If the measurements for the chicken seemed a little high, that’s because that’s what I do to ensure everyone gets nice and full from pasta, garlic bread and chicken Alfredo.

Of course, I should mention that this recipe was extracted from a bazillion different websites available on the internet, so if this is your recipe, I should mention that the brand of seasoned salt that I use is called Raven’s. They are a local deli here in California which also makes their own brand of jerky and sauces. So it can’t be EXACTLY the same haha!

Thanks for reading. Enjoy. By the way, if this was hard to read, it’s because I have never written a recipe before. So my apologies for that.

About Me

This is my first blog and blog post, so I feel that it should be an introduction to my interests as well as offering a little background information.

So, my username has been around for a while — as far back as Myspace. It was a random word that I thought was unique until I learned that there was a city located on the East coast of the United States named Centralia, so it wasn’t as unique as I’d hoped. I’m a Navy veteran who served for four years as an electrician. Afterwards, I began working in a series of jobs ranging from janitorial to food service to manual labor, none of which have appealed to me on an informal scale which I had developed — I haven’t really enjoyed any of those industries.

I recently started working at Panera, and I believe that my slow speed is going to get me into trouble due to their fast-paced requirements. Being that I suffered a back injury in the Navy which rendered me eligible for 50% disability, I feel that food service isn’t quite suitable for having such limitations. And so here I am now.

I’ve always had a natural writing strength, which came out of nowhere almost literally. When I was around 3 or 4 years old, I was playing with a now-obsolete toy called a Speak And Spell. That led me to begin reading the dictionary and learning new words and phrases. That led to reading, reading, far more reading — magazines, books, newspapers — and when the internet was invented for the public, I spent a lot of time reading about everything that interested me. That was around 15 years ago (time really does fly, doesn’t it? They weren’t kidding!) and since then I have become a regular grammar Nazi. It is unfortunate, but it is true — kids who work at my place of employment are terrible with speaking almost strictly in slang and colloquial styles — far be it from me to speak as a professional myself, but my writing isn’t going to be composed of a whole lot of “uh, like you know, stuff and lol ur fun-e” and other shorthand phrases brought on by the advent of compressed and condensed, 160-character limit posts on Twitter and text messaging. So I have had a natural knack for properly writing to some extent for most of my life.

I went to college for a few years. In December of 2009, my local community college was holding a “rapid sign up” event. I applied and took the prerequisite tests and scored well enough to take a beginner’s English class. Within the first few weeks my instructor asked why I was even in that class. Apparently, I was far too advanced to even be in that class. The next semester, I had the same experience. This instructor was ultimately surprised by my attention to details, and the content of my projects were beyond college level; however, the few things I had to learn regarding writing, I applied and pretty much astounded him. (This isn’t an exaggeration!) The following semester, after obtaining A grades in both of my prior English classes, I was in a foreboding atmosphere — this instructor had not only a Master’s degree in English, but apparently a Doctorate in another subject. One would surmise that I had been in the presence of some kind of guru who would grade according to super-grammar-Nazi standards. Lo and behold, I did struggle. That semester I had one paper graded at a B.

My reasoning behind not graduating college is my lack of understanding mathematics on a level beyond Algebra. That’s right — I have unofficially diagnosed myself with dyscalculia (which is almost equivalent to dyslexia, but in the mathematical sense of being unable to grasp formulaic equations on an acceptable level). The college counselors have absolutely refused to grant me a waiver for the math class, so here I am, stuck with only 5 units (one class, that is) short of an Associate’s degree. I find it difficult to justify a denial with a grasping of almost every other subject thrown at me in my college stint, but alas, that is what seems to be the norm of education beyond high school.

I’m 29 years old, so I still have quite a bit of time left to hone and polish my writing skills in accordance with that in which I possess interest. And so it is (spoiler alert: syntax staccato ahead) — I am interested in so many different things which include: music, philosophy, politics, collecting silver, reading, lightly studying physics, M-theory, theology… I have read about laws, rules, morality applied to such, the Constitution. I’m currently in the process of reading The Iliad. I read about medicines, foods, natural cures, hair growth, cellular movement… I have a collection of knives, cigars, gemstones for metaphysical purposes as well. In other words, my interests have led me on a very long and jagged road, not specific to any one subject. I believe that the human mind is capable of storing very much information — so much so, in fact, that computers are still a few years off from accessing that amount of storage despite technological advancements in information storage, even here in 2014. It does help to specialize in one area, and as many subjects as I have read throughout my life, I don’t believe that is my purpose. I still don’t know what my purpose is, but I do know one thing — I know that I can write decently, and I have developed a very strong affinity for it without any formal training. I am a self-taught writer without the formal education to show for it.

That is me in a nutshell. I may post more later in the day, but it’ll be more open to discussion after this point. This is a very short autobiography of sorts, if one wishes to call it so — a brief overview.