Thursday, December 18, 2014

Cherry Bounce, Part 3

Back in August we gathered chokecherries and used them to infuse some local rum to make old fashioned cordial called Cherry Bounce. Now that it's December and the cherries have been soaking away in alcohol for the last four months, the Cherry Bounce should be ready. Here's what it looked like when I brought it up from the basement, where it had been sitting on a cool, dark shelf: 


It's hard to tell in this photo, but the liquid is now a totally dark black-purple--the color of black raspberry juice, but barely translucent at all. I set up the bowl with the handle from the stand mixer with a mesh strainer on top to catch all the little chokecherries:


I was a little surprised at how dark the liquid was when I poured out the first jar. The dregs were even a little thick looking. The chokecherries now look soft, and their skins are no longer shiny:


I tasted a chokecherry first, and they are definitely spent: totally tasteless, and certainly nowhere near as tart as when we picked them. 

Once I strained all four mason jars, I put the chokecherries in the compost bucket and funneled the Cherry Bounce back into its original bottle, which I saved for the purpose:


But wait, there's more! Do you notice that there's way more Cherry Bounce than will fit back into the bottle of rum? There's about 16 extra ounces in that mason jar. The original recipe called for an extra cup of the water that the cherries soaked in, but that means there's still an additional extra cup of liquid here. It must be the juice of the all the chokecherries that is now part of the drink.

Anyway, I had my doubts about this stuff back in September. I tasted it when it was just a couple weeks old, and I think at that point it could charitably be described as NyQuil-esque. I wasn't holding my breath that this would be any good.

I am happy to report that Cherry Bounce is delightful. It is sweet without being syrupy, and the flavor is of real cherries, so it's not at all like cough medicine. There's also a hint of almond flavor, which must come from the oils in all those tiny chokecherry pits that finally were absorbed into the alcohol.

I can see how unsuspecting ladies and greedy bosom friends could get drunk on this very quickly, since you really cannot taste the alcohol at all. It will be delicious but dangerous on its own in a small cordial glass as it was traditionally served during the long, New England winters. I am thinking ahead to spring, though, when it should be outstanding in a cherry mojito when we have mint again. 

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Trim The Fat Tuesday: The Raise

This is a little bit of a cheat because I'm not technically making a cut in spending. After much haggling in our latest round of contract negotiations, though, we did end up getting a raise this year. I will therefore

Move all the extra income from my raise immediately into savings.

Photo courtesy of 401kcalculator.org

It's actually easier for me to consider this extra money since it wasn't in my check from the beginning of the school year. We usually use that amount for our annual budget, but now my suddenly higher checks will feel more like a bonus since our budget is already accounted for. The trick here is to earmark that cash for savings right away, before we get used to having it lying around, and before it just sort of disappears into the checking account where it could be frittered away on goodies from the local bakery or a pellet gun or something.

My raise comes to $902.29 for the year, which is $676.72 after taxes. Prorated out to 12 months, that's $56.39 extra a month to add to our savings. Not a bad bump, and one that I can easily trim right out of my paycheck and set aside each month.

Savings per month: $56

Friday, December 12, 2014

Squirrels Are Assholes, Part 673

I've written a lot here about how much I hate squirrels. They eat our fruit, dig up our bulbs, and now it looks like they are following me to work.

Ok, so I'm sure it's far more likely that our Newburyport Squirrels just called up their Brookline cousins to mess with me. They probably gave them my license plate number, because just look at what these assholes are up to now:


Have you ever heard of squirrels building nests in the engine block of a car? Me neither, but apparently it's a thing. 

Luckily for me, this is not my car. This is a co-worker's car, and this is the second squirrel nest she's had to dig out from under the hood of her car. It's happening to lots of other people who park under the trees at work as well. 

The squirrels must be fast workers, because this all happens during the course of just one school day, and when you smell burning leaves while you're driving home, you know you have a problem.

No tales of axe-murdering squirrel hitchhikers yet, but I think it's just a matter of time.

Assholes.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Trim The Fat Tuesday: The Gas Station

I've been watching gas prices lately (when you drive almost 100 miles a day, you start to take in the scenery). There's a pretty wide variety, but I think I can make an easy cut by planning ahead to 

Make the weekly fill-up at the cheapest possible gas station.

I typically hate stopping to put gas in the car, but I'll admit that it's been borderline-enjoyable for the past month or so. Each time I pull into the gas station, the gas is just a little cheaper than the last time:


This gas station is my preferred spot; the cheapest places I've found on the North Shore are in Peabody, which I drive through every day. Gas here along Route 1 is way cheaper than in Boston or Newburyport. I usually fill up during the commute.

But…sometimes I don't. And then sometimes we run out of gas on the weekend, which forces us to fill up at the expensive gas stations at home.

With a little advanced planning, I should be able to cut out those pricey Newburyport gas station trips entirely. The only trick is to fill up on Friday afternoon on my way home if the tank is any less than, say, half-full. I'll set a reminder on my phone and that will be that.

In Peabody, gas can be had (this week, anyway) for $2.71 a gallon. The two nearest gas stations in Newburyport are charging $2.95 and $2.99 right now, so it's about a $.25 per gallon savings. I put in about 9 gallons per fill-up (my car is tiny), so that's a savings of $2.25 each time. The 25-cent difference is pretty stead, despite the fluctuations in price overall.

The harder question is how many times per month I've been missing my chance to get gas in Peabody. After a quick discussion about it with Kirk, we decided that it's probably once or twice a month. Averaging that to 1.5 tanks of gas and multiplying by the $2.25 per-tank savings, the monthly savings comes out to $3.38 per month.

Not a lot, but not bad for something so easy to do. As always, I'll round it up.

Savings per month: $3.50