Monday, November 29, 2021

Too Good to Go: Seattle

Too Good to Go logo
For the last several weeks I've been using the Too Good to Go app to reduce food waste around the greater Seattle area. Too Good to Go has been a popular app in Europe for some time and is making inroads in metropolitan areas of the United States, and I thought I'd see what all the fuss was about.

How it works: Too Good to Go partners with various restaurants and other businesses that have surplus food at the end of the day, and allows them to offer their extra food to customers at a discount through the app. So: you download and install the app, tell it where you want it to search for available food, look over the options, pick an offer you want to reserve, pay in advance (there are several options for payment), then come to the restaurant, bakery or grocery at the agreed-upon time to pick up the food. Take home, eat, enjoy, repeat as desired. Since you're saving food that might otherwise be thrown away, you get the chance to pick up a meal (or foodstuffs) at a deep discount. And since you don't usually know exactly what you'll get in advance, it feels a little bit like adult trick-or-treating.

After a few weeks, I've formulated some general observations about Too Good to Go Seattle:

You will mostly deal with small, local businesses: single-storefront restaurants, specialty grocery stores, local burger chains, etc. The big multinational chains have their own corporate protocols for getting rid of food they didn't sell, so you won't see Massive Supermarket Chain or International Burger Joint on the app.

It's probably best for singles or small families. Scoring meals from the same location for more than about 4 people at once is going to be a challenge. And as the app gets more popular and more people use it to find meals, the likelihood of picking up more than one meal from the same location will go way down.

It's easiest for people with flexible schedules and a car. Different businesses specify varying times for pickup; some have wide time windows (say 11 to 5) and some have extremely narrow ones (7:30 to 7:45), so if you're booked solid during the week, you might only be able to schedule pickups on your day off. And a car makes pickup much easier. (It's theoretically possible, but I don't want to think about the logistical headache of trying to pick up more than one surprise bag using Seattle's public transit system.) If you reserve surprise bags from several companies in one day, try to keep the locations close together and batch your pickups around the business with the shortest time window to save time and gas money. And if you're going to drive more than a few miles, PLEASE check the establishment's rating on the app first. Look for four stars or better; you shouldn't fight rush-hour traffic or drive long distances for mediocre food. (Learn from my fail.)

It's also a better fit for night owls than for early birds. Most businesses don't offer early-morning meal pickup; they tend to schedule pickups from 11 am to near closing time, so be comfortable with eating a late lunch and dinner.

It's easier for people who are OK with imperfect food. Items you get in your surprise bags may be seconds, near expiration, menu items that aren't as popular, or large amounts of the same thing. If that bothers you, Too Good to Go may not be a good fit.

And it's easier if you have few dietary restrictions. Some businesses advertise what they offer (vegetarian/vegan, gluten-free, dairy-free, kosher, halal, etc.), but most don't. You agree to take whatever they bag up, including stuff you may not like or eat. (This household doesn't do coffee, and on a recent day when we picked up multiple surprise bags, we got mocha cookies, sweetened condensed milk with coffee, cold brew coffee and a slice of tiramisu. All from different businesses. Hey, this is Seattle. We just found friends who like coffee and passed the caffeinated goodness on to them.) You could also get foodstuffs to which you're allergic, so if you have a severe food allergy, be proactive and contact the business with your concerns before pickup time.

Forrest Gump might say that Too Good to Go is like a box o' chok'lits. (Sometimes literally. Yay Theo Chocolate surprise bags!) You never know what you're gonna get, and being comfortable with that uncertainty is a big part of enjoying this app. That food is so cheap because it's either a form of viral advertising for the business, an item that's perilously close to or past its Best By date, or leftovers that were prepped but not purchased. Sometimes you'll get a great value (like the aforementioned bags at Theo Chocolate) and sometimes you won't (three slices of lukewarm pizza from The Unnamed Pizza Joint, supposedly an $18 value--ha). In all cases, you'll reduce food waste and save money, but not every offering is equally stellar.

Got questions? Let me know in the comments.

Sunday, October 31, 2021

Buenas noches, señores

 Soy Doña Calavera.

Mucho gusto.

This year's Halloween costume was fairly haphazard and last-minute, but still pretty effective.

I wanted to take at least one good picture while holding Charlie, but as it turned out he was terrified of me. This was the only photo we got where he wasn't trying to squirm out of my hands and hide under the bed, poor guy.

V and a few friends had a Halloween party here, so they handled the trick-or-treaters. Which is just as well, because this year we had the most trick-or-treaters we've ever had at this house. I guess it pays to sign up for the Teal Pumpkin Project. (We got smart this time and offered not only non-food prizes, but allergy-safe treats as well.) I think we'll do it again next year!

Saturday, October 23, 2021

Devil pepper!

I like making a few seasonally-appropriate dinners around Halloween. Usually it's pretty traditional fare -- Dinner in a Pumpkin or pumpkin soup served in a hollowed-out pumpkin shell or the like -- but this time I noticed a recipe for jack o' lantern stuffed peppers, presented by the inimitable Chef John himself. Everyone in our family likes stuffed peppers (yes, including Charlie, but he never gets any) and I knew orange peppers were on sale this week, so off to the store I went!

This time I pulled a mix-and-match recipe swap and filled the peppers with braaaains stuffed the peppers with another Chef John recipe (if you try it, be forewarned: this recipe creates enough stuffing to fill 8 peppers, not 4). Three of the four peppers were orange, and they made great jack o' lanterns, but I had a fourth pepper that was red.

It had to become THE DEVIL PEPPER.

Behold His Infernal Majesty!

The photo makes it kind of hard to see (yes, that's my glorious "Happy Halloween" bleach shirt in the background), but I created a couple of little devil horns from the pepper offcuts and stuck them on his head using toothpicks. They blackened up in the oven to create a nice, properly demonic effect.

Shortly after this picture was taken, Mr. Devil Pepper was doused in marinara "blood" sauce and scarfed with great glee.

So long, Devil Pepper. You were demonically delicious.

Oh yeah, and if you're stuck with more pepper filling than you need and wondering what you should do with it, may I suggest making Italian meatballs? (That's what we did. Super tasty!)

Friday, September 17, 2021

The Grammar Pedant: Nauseous vs. nauseated

Greetings, pedants! I didn't think I would do another Grammar Pedant post for a while, but I heard something today that made me twitch, so here we are.

Today we're going to talk about a useful, but widely misused word:

NAUSEOUS.

This misuse isn't limited to the Illiterati. I've heard far too many otherwise word-savvy people say things like, "I ate cold leftover pizza for breakfast and it's not sitting right; I'm super nauseous," or "I think I might be coming down with something; I've felt nauseous for the last hour." I always feel slightly embarrassed when I hear comments like this, because the primary definition for "nauseous" is "sickening, disgusting, or causing others to feel sickness." Barf on the sidewalk is nauseous. Dogs consuming their own poop are nauseous. People with furry green teeth and paint-peeling bad breath are nauseous. I sincerely hope that you are never nauseous to anyone.

So what's the word to use if you feel sick or disgusted by something? That word, my dear friends and fellow pedants, is

NAUSEATED.

The definition for this word is "feeling a sickness in the stomach associated with the urge to vomit," and it's the one you need if you are feeling ill. (Not if you're making other people retch and spew due to your funky oral hygiene and whatnot.)

So. "Nauseated" = "I feel sick." "Nauseous = "I make other people feel sick."

Marbled paper

One potential way to remember the difference between the two words is that "nauseated" contains the full root word "nausea" within it, while "nauseous" does not.

That's all for now, and remember -- the English language is a terrible thing to waste.

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Backdated posts ahoy!

Rewind icon

I know, there's been a dearth of posts lately. Just to be clear, I actually did do quite a few things in July; in fact I attended two family reunions, one for each side of the family. But as mentioned in the do's and don'ts of social media, one should not make it too easy for stalkers and burglars. So now that my travels are complete and I'm safely home again, I'll be posting information about various adventures on the days they actually occurred.

Anyway, prepare yourself for a spate of backdated posts!

Monday, July 05, 2021

The Arnold reunion - Day 1

I was up at 3:45 this morning. The less said about that, the better. CM kindly drove me to the airport, where I had one of the smoothest boarding processes since 9/11 using SeaTac Airport's Save a Spot checkpoint option (no, they aren't paying me to say this, though I wouldn't complain if they did). The Alaska flight to Sacramento boarded on time, but departed nearly an hour late due to some unknown mechanical issue. Thankfully we had no cases of Feral Human Syndrome aboard and everyone stayed reasonably chill. The flight itself was blessedly uneventful and I slept at least part of the way.

Sacramento was a new airport for me; I wandered around a bit looking forlorn before finding the shuttle bus that took me to the car rental area. Eventually I got to the Thrifty counter, where they'd reserved me a cute little Nissan Versa *meep meep* car. After a few minutes of tossing luggage in the trunk, adjusting mirrors and turning down the radio which had been turned ALL THE WAY UP TO 11, I headed out.

It's about a two-hour drive from the Sacramento airport to the little Calaveras County town of Arnold. On the way, you drive through suburban sprawl, farmland and high desert. I stopped at a CVS in the little desert town of Valley Springs for a quick bathroom break and some road snacks. Past the desert, you begin to encounter the rolling "golden hills" and oak trees typical of rural northern California, and then start your ascent into the Sierra Nevadas on SR 4. Things change subtly, the oaks slowly shifting to evergreens, the underbrush becoming less dry and more green, the dirt by the roadside turning a vivid orange-red, and sweet peas blooming here and there. The road becomes narrower, more treacherous on the turns. Your car has to work at besting the incline, especially if it's a little *meep meep* car.

Somewhere between the airport and Arnold, Captain Midnight texted me to let me know that V had been in an accident and her car had been totaled. Fortunately, V herself was unhurt, nor was anyone else seriously injured, but she'd been badly shaken up by the accident and was very depressed at losing her transportation.

I describe Arnold as a "town," but according to the Census Bureau it is a "census-designated place" of about 3800 people. It's a typical little mountain town where the local cost of gas and groceries is so astronomical that most locals drive to Costco, nearly two hours away, to stock up every few weeks. I stopped first at Big Trees Market to pick up some late lunch (a mediocre stromboli and a banana) before checking into our rental cabin around 3 p.m. Since I was the first to arrive, I started up the air conditioner (it was unusually hot for the area, regularly getting into the mid-90s while we were there), then locked the place up and went for a drive around Arnold.

My mother's side of the family has been renting cabins and staying in Arnold for a week of summer vacation since at least the 1970s. One auntie now lives in the area full-time. (She wasn't there while we were visiting, but that's a story for later.) The cabin we typically rented when I was a kid, close to Blue Lake Springs, was still there -- but I didn't recognize it at first, as someone had bought it and added onto it to make it even larger. Some things were pretty much the same, though: the lake itself, the Giant Burger at the side of Highway 4, the twisty road that led up to Calaveras Big Trees State Park. My sibs and I didn't find a cabin close to Blue Lake Springs that was available to rent, so this time we picked a place nearby in the Lakemont Pines area.

I headed back to the cabin, took a nap, read a little Pride and Prejudice (yes, first time ever reading it; took me long enough, right?) and wondered where my sibs were. They had intended to drive out from Utah, and I thought they'd be in the area sooner than they were. Plus, nobody was responding to texts. I decided it would be better to get up and do something than sit around worrying, so I went for a pizza run. By the time I got back armed with pizza, the fam had showed up. So we sat around eating pizza, chatting about our various adventures getting there and deciding on who got which room. Michele and I decided to share the big king-sized bed and we bunked down for the night.

Sleep was... sporadic. I kept worrying about V and the accident. There wasn't much I could do for her from where I was, but I knew she had to be shaken up and unhappy, and rest doesn't come easy when you know someone you love is in a bad state.

Sunday, June 27, 2021

A little regifting tip

S

INCE it's nearing the end of June, a month where folks are traditionally more likely to get married, I thought it might be wise (and potentially entertaining) to offer a PSA about regifting.

In days of yore, when hubby and I got married, we were lavishly endowed with many gifts. (Especially from my dear departed maternal grandmother, who was so excited over the first of her grandchildren getting married that she went a little nuts sending us gifts on the order of one per week, but that's another story.)

Once we got back from our honeymoon, we started opening the wedding gifts we'd received. One of them -- and even at this remove, I won't tell what it was or who it was from -- came with a sweet little note inside.

"To [Danielle and Fred]*, congratulations and the best of luck in your new life together."

We are not named [Danielle and Fred]. The people who gave us the gift are also not named [Danielle and Fred]. Which means this particular item was regifted at least twice without anyone even bothering to open it and check out the contents.

So if you're going to regift an item, mayyybe give its contents a once-over first.

*names changed, obvi