email: cavebear2118 AT verizon DOT com

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Gardening 2

Well, it was my favorite weekend of the years last weekend.  Its the day I start seeds of some of my favorite crops.  8 weeks before average last frost day...

It was TOMATO DAY!  And bell pepper, broccoli, cabbage, radicchio, celery, and "some other stuff" day.

I love fresh heirloom tomatoes above all individual foods.  Right from vine to mouth, sides on the dinnerplate, in salads, as snacks.

But the last few years, my heirloom tomatoes have not produced well (even for heirloom tomatoes) in spite of good care.  So when I read about grafting heirloom tomato stalks on disease-resistant hybrid roots, I got interested.  Well, almost all grapes grown for wine are grafted on disease-resistant roots, s why not tomatoes?

I planted 2x my normal number of heirlooms (Brandywine, Cherokee Purple, Prudens Purple, Aunt Gertie's Gold, and Striped German) and as many of the hybrid Big Beef to use as hybrid roots (plus 4 to grow for themselves as backups).

The idea is that you cut the tops off the heirlooms and the hybrids and attach the heirloom tops to the hybrid roots.  I bought small silicon clips to hold the 2 together.  It may be tricky to do (I have shakey hands from teenage DDT exposure), but I will give it my best try.  And I've planted enough of the heirlooms so that, if the grafts fail, I will have enough regular heirloom plants for the garden.

I will take LOTS of pictures so that I can look back on the points of success or failure.

There is good news on the previous weekend flower plantings.  There are SEEDLINGS showing!  That is encouraging, because the seed packets said "germination in 7-21 days" and I'm seeing some at 7 days.

I bought a mini greenhouse today.  And I mean "mini-mini".  Its a steel frame with metal mesh shelves and a vinyl cover with zippers that allow you to adjust how closed/open the cover is.  Its for hardening off plants outside before permanent planting, a transition I have always had difficulties with.  It's kind of simplistic, but at $30, worth a try.  I found it at Lowes.

The other gandenng project I keep working on is an enclosed garden surrounded by chicken wire to keep the squirrels from tearing up the seedlings and eating the ripe veggies. I made a fast and crude attempt last year and it "sort of worked".  But not well enough and it was a real effort to harvest anything through the barriers.

I looked up "enclosed gardens", and found a decent design.  But it was small and had flaws.  I've been thinking of improvements.  Thinking of improvements even in my dreams at night...

I think I have something easier to construct, easier to build larger, and sturdier.  I won't give out all the details right now (they are changing daily), but basically, its a 20'x20' grid of 1/2" metal pipe built of 10' pipes and connectors, covered all around with chicken wire and chicken wire extended out from the bottom at ground level about 3' to discourage animals from tunneling under.

I'll show pictures when I settle on the design.

I will have a busy early Spring to deconstruct my existing framed beds in early April (falling apart after 25 years) before the planting season starts in late April.  But it is either then or not and I want to have a garden free of the evil squirrels.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Niece Wedding

My sister's oldest daughter got married Saturday.  The wedding was in a fancy old victorian house.  I'm told the food was great (I didn't attend - too long a drive, a late ceremony so an overnight stay at a motel was required, etc).

The bride was beautiful. 

The couple was thrilled.
So they left the ceremony to go on their honeymoon to the Dominican Republic.  At the bottom of the stairs outside, Danielle stepped on a very small patch of ice and fell.  She fractured her fibula!  What a sad way to end a wedding...

Goodbye Dominican Republic honeymoon!!!  She will have a cast on that leg for 3 months.

I plan to send her a card with an letter enclosed.  Finding a card may be a challenge.  How many "Sorry you were injured on your wedding day" cards do you suppose are available?  I may have to make one myself.  But my newly updated Photoshop Elements is baffling me at the moment.

So you have a couple days to leave sympathy comments that I can include...  Personally, I am going for the light-hearted ("How many brides does it take to screw in a lightbulb?  Depends on how awkward the cast is" and I have a good famous one I can adapt rather weirdly to a bride in a cast (no dirty thoughts allowed).  OK, OK, I'll work on better punch lines.  And feel free to suggest some.

Friday, February 21, 2014


Last week, I became obsessed with cleaning the garage and basement.  Now, I'm not saying that you would look at either place and go "Oh Wow"!  That's because you wouldn't have seen how bad they were before I cleaned.  Seriously, all cleaning is relative.  Your cleaning compared to your mom.  your mpm's cleaning compared to HER mom.  Your floors compared to a new developement model home compared to a hospital operating room compared to a science lab.  There is always something cleaner than you.

So my point is that I am WAY cleaner in the basement and garage than I was last week.  And in some cases, maybe for 25 years.  I used my shop vac BEHIND the water heater and I think that is the first time EVER!

Hey, I've been a bit clutterred since I moved in in 1986.

[Funny story:  The first thing I did when I moved in was nail the metal pan that held the fruit my sister sent me as a house-warming gift onto a basement frame board.  It's still there]

But anyway, I went into cleaning mode.  I spent 4 hours  moving stuff around so I could vacuum.  I brought stuff to the trash can, I brought stuff to the recycle bin, I brought stuff to a box of hazardess materials.  I folded up yards of that brown paper they use for shipping (great weed-reduction stuff between plants), I collected odds and ends of board scraps and piles of sawdust in buckets for future fires, I sorted out all the various odds and ends on the top of my workbench, etc, etc, etc.

My basement space in increased by a 1/3 and that's a lot if you think about it, and my next effort will make equal gains.  For example, 5 years ago, I bought an oval maple table at the Salvation Army store that needed "only" some sanding and refinishing.  If I don't actually do that work THIS YEAR, I'm giving it back to them.  And I have other projects too.  The attic needs plywood flooring so that I can fill it with sturdy boxes for when I more "someday".

I want to allow for fires in the fireplace too, finding space to move the fancy tablesaw out of the way of the fireplace heat.  And I need more space for woodworking tools and less for boxes of newspapers kept for years do be mulch in the compost pile I have yet to build.

I will solve one problem in the basement each week, and finish one good project in the upstairs twice a week!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

First Seeds Of The New Gardening Season

I am glad to say the new gardening season is underway.  Well, I suppose you could say it started when I ordered new seeds, but it doesn't really count until a seed meets dirt!  I started on Sunday.

Does it seem a bit early?  Yes.  But many annual flowers can be planted indoors 10-12 weeks before the average last frost because they are slow to germinate (7-21 days) and grow slowly at first.  And in fact, Sunday was 9 weeks before average last frost, so I am late.  So I planted impatiens, salvia, dusty miller, butterfly weed, forget-me-not, and wave petunia.  I also planted a dozen leeks, so the veggies are started too.

I love the lighting stand I made from a storage shelf.  It originally had five 2'x4' thin plastic-coated wood shelves on a steel frame.  I added 1/2" plywood under the top 4 shelves and attached 4' fluorescent fixtures under each plywood shelf (4 tubes per shelf).  I can fit four 11"x22" planting trays on each shelf if I want, but I start the trays 2 to a shelf lengthwise to get the maximum light at the start.

It felt SO GOOD to get into the potting soil and fill the cell-packs, read the planting requirements for each seed, and PLANT THEM!  The earliest seeds to plant are usually the trickiest.  Those are the ones that are tiny, need light to germinate, and are fussy about moisture.  

Things will  be more traditional this next weekend.  -8 weeks before last average frost is the time to start the major veggies.  Tomatoes, bell peppers, broccoli, lettuces, will get planted.  The tomatoes are always my favorites.

I'm trying something new with the tomatoes this year.  In past years, I've grown mostly heirlooms (Brandywine, Cherokee Purple, Prudens Purple, Aunt Gertie's Gold, and Tennessee Britches) with a couple hybrids like Big Beef for backup if the heirlooms do poorly.  Over the Winter, I read about tomato-grafting.  It's just like grafting grapevines; you put a good fruiting top on a healthier rootstock.

With the tomatoes, you put an heirloom top on a hybrid root.  Tomato Grafting—side technique

The plants are more productive because the hybrid rootstock is larger, and the plants avoid many soilborne diseases because the hybrid rootstocks are resistant to them.  I've seen comparison pictures of heirlooms alone grown along side of grafted heirlooms and the apparent production differences are impressive.  And I mean pictures from agricultural sites, not scammy commercial advertisements.

You can buy the grafted plants from catalogs at high prices, but I am going to try doing the grafting myself.  I bought some small soft clips designed for attaching the heirloom tops to the hybrid roots.  I just hope I'm adept enough for the effort.  I don't have the steadiest of hands (DDT exposure in my youth), so my efforts may not work out.

That's why I will have 2 full sets of tomato seedlings!  One set will be let to develop naturally, as if there was no grafting intended.  The other set will be for the grafting experiment.  I usually plant 2-3 of each type of tomato outside but start 6 seedlings inside of each type anyway, so I don't even have to plant more than usual.

If this works I may be the happiest gardener in the county (just guessing I'm the only person trying to graft tomato seedlings in the county the first time this year). 

Monday, February 17, 2014

All That Trash

Re-reading the Wednesday post about the tubs of used kitty litter and bags of trash, I thought I should explain a bit.

I don't pay for weekly trash pickup service because I have so little.  I used to pay $40/month for weekly trash pickup, but since I only accumulated enough to bother putting it out once a month, they tended to forget I was on their pickup route.  THEY said to just put out my little one bag each week and the driver would remember I was a customer.  Still, that was only a 5 gallon bucket per week, and seemed not worth it.

I have so little "regular" trash other than the used kitty litter.  50% of my "trash" is recyclable.  Another 20% is "film plastic" (shopping bags and shrink wrap) which my grocery store recycles to make new bags.  Most of the rest is compostable (almost nothing goes down my garage "dispose-all").  The remainder is styrofoam that nobody will accept, and that gets collected in bags in the garage for months.

That leaves the used kitty litter.  I keep a half-gallon lidded plastic container lined with a plastic shopping bag near the litter boxes and scoop everything in there.  When filled, I tie the bag up tight and set it into one of the tubs the litter comes in.  So I have a tied bag, in a tub with a tight lid, in the garage.  You can't tell its there even after several months.  And just to be a "little" more environmentally friendly, I'm looking for small biodegradable bags to use for the litter.

The landfill charges a flat rate of $5 for all "household trash" you can fit in your car.  You can pay by weight, too (they weigh the whole car going in and then leaving and charge you by the loss in weight), but I found that after 143 pounds, flat rate is cheaper.  I usually accumulate about 300-400 pounds in used kitty litter every 4-5 months, plus about 4 large bags of styrofoam and other odd stuff I can't recycle.

So basically, I got rid of 500 pounds of trash for $5 (plus gas) by driving 10 miles to the landfill, instead of paying $160-200 for weekly trash pickup I seldom used and got skipped over most of the time.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Snow Removal

A neighbor removed the snow from my driveway while I was still in bed Thursday, and I'm annoyed!  I think I know who did it, and he did my next-door neighbor's too.  He is across the street and he's the only person nearby I've seen using a snowblower (and this obviously wasn't shoveled).

Why am I annoyed?  Well, I don't mind a kind neighborly deed.  I wasn't feeling my property rights were violated.  It was even nice to have a nice clean driveway even though I wasn't planning to drive anywhere.  I didn't even hear him doing it.  Well, I might have heard and ignored the snowblower noise, assuming it was his own driveway.  I tend to ignore extraneous neighbor noises.

But I have my own snowblower.  I bought it in Spring 2011 after the three 12"+ storms of the previous Winter.  And I hadn't gotten a chance to use it yet.  We just didn't get any snow until Thursday worth using it.  It sat clutterring up my garage for 2 years until I finally moved it to the toolshed last Spring.

Wednesday, the forecast was for 4-8" of snow, so I wrestled the snowblower around to the garage, gassed it up, made sure it started, and waited with some anticipation of finally using it.  I watched the snow fall and accumulate Wednesday night.  So when I got up the next day and saw the cleared driveway, I was a bit taken aback!  We had gotten about 6" of snow.

Then it snowed more after lunch, then rained most of the midafternoon before changing to freezing rain.  Then, in early evening, it changed back to snow.  By the time I went to bed Thursday night, we had another 4" of snow.  Hurray!  Enough to snowblow!!!

I got up early today to make sure my neighbor hadn't cleared my driveway again.  I got dressed quickly and went out to use my own snowblower.  It started right up, and I had a blast using it.  It worked pretty well.  With all the rain and freezing rain that had fallen on the lunchtime snow and more snow in the evening hours, it was heavy wet snow!  Nearly slush!

Toward the end, the slushy snow froze in the discharge chute a couple of times and I had to clear the chute with a plastic plunger that came with the snowblower.  And at the street where a plow had pushed up a wall of slush 2' tall, the wheels slipped a bit.

When I later shoveled a path clear on the deck (for both myself and the cats), I found it nearly impossible to lift a whole shovelful of the stuff up and over the deck rails.  I think this was about the heaviest snow (by weight) I have ever encountered!  No wonder the snowblower struggled a bit on the driveway.

But it did handle the heavy snow well enough to assure me that regular snow will never be a problem for it.

Next time I talk to my neighbor, I'll ask if he cleared the driveway the first time.  If so, I will thank him very much for the kind act.  But I'll also tell him the story of waiting 3 years to use my own and we'll have a good laugh.  He's a genial person.

My snowblower is a good one.  I did a lot of research before I bought it.  It's a Troy-Bilt Storm 2620.  The number seems to mean 26" width and 20" high intake.  It it gas-powered (there are electrics), has powered wheels (because my driveway slopes up toward the house and there's no way I'm going to push a heavy non-powered piece of equipment up a slippery slope), separate controls for the blades and the wheels.  It even has a headlight.  But best of all, it has electric starting!  Not a battery, you plug a cord into an outlet, press a button, and then disconnect it.  I'm not 25 anymore; I appreciate all the powered help I can get, LOL!

I admire well-designed and user-friendly equipment...

So while I don't exactly hope for more snowstorms, it is sure nice to have something that will clear my 60' driveway in just 20 minutes.  If I had had to shovel that heavy snow manually, it would have taken a couple hours and I would have had to stop for a few minutes many many times and been utterly exhausted by the end.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

You Always Have To Do Something Else First!

I had to drive to the landfill today because the snowblower was in the toolshed.

That actually makes sense.  Allow me to explain...

I have a narrow but deep yard.  The toolshed is in the back about 200' from the garage and the snowblower is kept in there most of the year.  While we have had a couple of light snowfalls here this Winter, they weren't worth the effort of pushing the snowblower all the way around the yard and into the garage, so I just shoveled.  But we are forecast to get between 4-8" of heavy wet snow and freezing rain tonite and tomorrow, so I wanted the snowblower available.

But the only spot in the garage large enough for the snowblower was occupied by tubs of used cat litter and big honking recycling bin (bigger than any trashcan I've even owned).  The only place I could move the recycle bin to was where the golf clubs, a snow shovel, and a hand truck were stored.  The only place I could move the golf clubs and handtruck to was where there were bags of dry but uncompostable trash.

So, I filled the SUV with tubs of kitty litter and bags of trash (and accumulated junk stashed out under the deck) and drove to the landfill and returned home.  Where the trash bags had been, I moved the golf clubs and handtruck.  Where the golf clubs and handtruck had been, I moved the big honking recycling bin.  Where the tubs of used kitty litter and the recycling bin had been, I moved the snowblower.

And that's why I had to go to the landfill in order to move the snowblower into the garage.  LOL!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Humidifier Wiring

Frustrated with the poor/confusing installation instructions that came with my new humidifier, I emailed the company.  First, I have to admit that one of my questions had an error.  I asked about the wires coming out of the transformer when I meant the drum motor.

But the rest of the reply I received was of little help  and one part I think is factually inaccurate.  But, ONE thing that was mentioned (and not an answer to any of my questions) solved my whole problem!

The wires coming out of the heat pump blower unit were (I assumed) 120v and I was distressed to see 120v going through such thin wires.  The included transformer is supposed to reduce the regular household current from 120v to 24v.  The technician mentioned looking for a connection on the blower labelled "HUM" (which I assume stands for "humidifier"). I didn't find "HUM", but I did find a spot where regular household wired went IN and the thin wires came OUT.

EUREKA!  The current was ALREADY reduced to 24v; no need for the included transformer.  And staring at the instructions one last time, I realized that while the existing wiring through the humidifier control LOOKED different from the diagram, it was functionally the same. 

I used some doorbell wire I had (which is standard for 24v circuits) and attached the drum motor wires to the existing wires.

It works!

Darn good thing, too, because I called an electrician and was told it would be $90 for a service visit and $120 per hour after that (minimum 1 hour fee).  I sure hope the new humidifier works well, because the humidity in the house today is only 19% and I am very tired of all the static electricity!

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Wiring and Cabling, Part 2

Last time I mentioned the (eventually) successful connection of the new HDTV and video components to the old stereo system (with the fancy new tuner).  It's working great, even though it means I have 4 remote controls to deal with (5, if you count the "grampa remote" with the big buttons and few features).

The other wiring issue is only electric wiring, and not successful, and I am VERY frustrated.  Some background...  When I retired 8 years ago, I got tired of static electricity in Winter (I could half-turn-on fluorescent lamps just by touching them and stroking the cats caused sparks.  Taking clothes out of the dryer was actually painful) and bought a whole house humidifier.  The brand was Skuttle, and it had a cabinet attached to an opening cut in the main heater output duct.  In the cabinet was a tray of water and a sponge cylinder rotated through the tray of water whenever the heater blower was on.

I bought it locally and had it installed.  It worked great!  No static.  But a problem with the cylinder/drum humidifiers is that they get "gunky" (mold or something).  So when the sponge on the drum couldn't be cleaned anymore (yes I was too stupid/cheap/witless to just buy a new sponge drum), I did some research and found a different kind of humidifier. 

The new one had a honeycomb where water dribbled over the top and air blew through it to add humidity.  It had good ratings.  I installed it myself, but I needed an electrician to come by for a wiring problem I couldn't figure out (an outside humidity detector that adjusted the inside settings to the outside humidity - turned out it was a feature my model didn't have), but he did finish the basic wiring for me since I had paid for a visit).  But it has NEVER worked well in 3 Winters.  I couldn't get the inside humidity above 23%.  The drum type got it up to 35%.  At least there wasn't any static shock...

I should mention that I have a heat pump.  There are good and bad things about heat pumps, but one bad thing is that they dehumidify the inside air as part of the way they work.  Great in Summer, but not so great in Winter.  In Winter, I am fighting the design of the heat pump to dehumidify with a humidifier to improve that.  The condensation-collection container that pumps the collected water into the laundry tub works overtime in Winter.

So I decided to go back to the drum type.  I couldn't find a local retailer/installer, but I found a decent Skuttle brand of the same drum type on Amazon at a great price.

It arrived.  The required duct cutout was smaller than the current Honeywell honeycomb humidifier cutout, so I had to buy some sheet metal, cut a new smaller opening, and attach the sheet metal to cover the older larger hole.  Awkward tin-snip work and getting sheet metal screws holes drilled (never really easy work), but it only took 45 minutes (professional: 10 minutes; me, 45), and I covered all the edges with duct tapes.

I got the water tray and drum installed, attached the water supply, and adjusted the float that controls the water level in the tray (much like a toilet float that keeps the upper reservoir from overflowing).

The last thing was to attach the wiring that makes the drum turn when the heater is on. 

BUSTED!  I can't make any sense of the (undetailed and simple) diagrams in the installation manual.  I've stared at the unit and the instructions 4 separate times over the past 3 days.  As far as I can tell (and admittedly, electricity is NOT my favorite stuff to deal with), the diagram instructions are not only incomplete, but also completely wrong.

For example, electric wires are usually color-coded.  Red for positive, black for neutral.  Not these, they are both black!  Sometimes, electrical wires that are joined (like on a lamp cord) have one side that is smooth and the other ribbed for identification.  Not these.  The system uses a transformer that reduces standard 120 volt A/C current to 24 volt current to power the tiny motor that turn the sponge drum in the water tray. 

And they refer to "enclosing the transformer in the metal box" (for safety I assume).  No metal box, or any place to attach the transformer on the humidifier cabinet.  But there IS a 1" threaded pipe with a nut on it for attaching to SOMETHING. 

It is all quite maddening.  The Skuttle website provides absolutely NO information about installations.  There is a email address for "customer service".  I'll try that in a few minutes, but I don't expect it will be useful.  I'll probably have to hire an electrician to come by and try to figure it out.  Which probably means I could have just bought some other brand (of the same drum type) locally and had it installed at the same total price without any work on my part.

I am so completely annoyed I can't figure this out.  It possible the wiring choices don't really matter.  Immean, if I hook it up one way, the drum rotates clockwise and the other way it rotates counterclockwise and makes no difference.  But it could mean I burn out the whole motor unit.  I don't know enough to tell. 

If anyone who reads this has any guidance about the wiring, PLEASE leave a comment.  I hate to say it, but in my 60s, I'm starting to lose my willingness/ability to "just try it and see what happens"...

Friday, February 7, 2014

Wiring And Cabling

Darn I hate wiring and cable connections.  Give me a shovel and a pile of dirt to move anytime!  There's nothing complicated about shovelling dirt.

But I've had 2 run-ins with wiring stuff lately.  Both annoying, but at least one finally solved.  I'll mention the successful one today.

I've struggled to connect my TV to the stereo system a few times the past decade.  It has never worked. Mostly, the audio and video haven't matched up.  Watching people talk and having the sound even a half second off is disturbing.

Even with the new HDTV, I couldn't get it to work.  The wiring diagrams in the manuals showed wires from the cable box to the stereo.  I pulled the TV stand and the stereo cabinet out many times to look at all the possible connections.  And I don't mean to say that I understand what all those color-coded plugs mean.  But they ARE all labeled better than 20 years ago.  Or 10 years ago.

My Pioneer VSX-42 tuner is a wonder.  It allows more possibilities than I can even comprehend.  I don't even know what "pandora" IS, but I could access it if I wanted to.  Maybe I will soon.  But the problem was that "audio out" from the cable box did not match the timing on the TV picture.

So, I sat back there and stared at the back of the HDTV and stereo system for a while.  There JUST wasn't an "audio out" from the TV that I recognized.  Not even an modern HDMI  audio outlet   I stared, I fumed, I yelled.

But eventually, I saw a weird looking plug on the HDTV labeled "Digital Optical Audio Out".  No idea what that meant.  But I searched the back of the stereo tuner.  The print was so small even my reading glasses weren't enough, I had to crawl out to get a magnifying glass! 

Whoever thinks that it is easy to read orange print on white, or blue on green should be summarily executed.

But I did eventually find a similar plug on the tuner.  It was labelled "Digital Optical Audio In".  I immediately searched the manuals for the HDTV and the tuner.  66 pages of the Pioneer tuner and 35 pages of the Samsung HDTV (estimates) didn't explain WHAT "digital optical" was. 

But I figured, if there is a delay in the audio from the cable box through the stereo (and I wasn' getting any sound from the DVD player), if I could get sound direct from the HDTV to the stereo speakers, that would work for all components AND stop the audio delay.

Keep in mind that I had already spent $40 on various cables I THOUGHT would connect the HDTV to the stereo properly...

So I drove to Best Buy.  Explained the problem.  Asked about "digital optical audio"  He said "you need this" and showed me a cable.  I said "that doesn't look like the plug, and I even pushed the gateway open with a toothpick".  He said that if it has that gateway, this cable WAS the right one cuz that's the only one with a gate.  I bought it and went home.

The TV and the stereo cabinet were still pulled out for access.  I unplugged the red/white "component cables".  I attached the new digital optical cable and turned on the HDTV and the stereo.

And got NOTHING!  But the Pioneer tuner has many choices.  I rotated the knob (and remembering that the first time I got ANY sound from it took 15 seconds ).  When I turned the tuner knob to "TV", I GOT SOUND!  From the TV.  In perfect synch!

But only one speaker was giving sound.  GLOOOOM!

I dragged out the soundless speaker, and it immediately gave sound.  Oh man, just a loose wire connection!  I fixed that right off.

You want to know something odd about modern tuners?  They don't seem to have a speaker balance dial.  Matbe it exists and I haven't found it yet, but I've read and re-read all the "speaker" parts of the manuals.  OK, I pushed the chair, TV, and speakers around a bit, and NOW it is balanced.  It's almost funny, I adjusted myself an the TV to balance the speakers.

Oh and I mentioned previously that I couldn't find the remote control for the Pioneer tuner?  I found it.  Sitting right on top of the old tuner that died. Buried under other stuff in the computer room. 

But now, I am watching great TV AND listening to audio that matches the picture.  And since it comes directly off the TV, it works with all components I have.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014


Just some food thoughts that work for me...

Brussels sprouts cut in half or quarters, mixed with 4:1 ratio mushsrooms, steamed fer 4 minutes.  With simple butter, melted shredded cheese and milk, or cheese and a little lemon juice.

Or asparagus the same ways...  Or broccoli.

Or pork stew.  Boston butt cut into 1" cubes, simmered with cubed Yukon Gold potatoes, celery, carrots, and leeks for 20 minutes with a flour slurry or cornstarch added the last few minutes.  With crushed garlic and a lot of oregano.  Boston butt doesn't get tough.

Or hot italian sausage smothered in onion and green bell peppers.

Or chicken thighs sauteed in little olive oil covered so they sort of bake, but brown nicely.  Its hard to overcook chicken thighs.

I love thinking about food even when I'm not hungry, LOL!