Monday, March 23, 2015

Fareway My Way

One day this week after work, Andy was telling me about a conversation he had with some coworkers about my organizational skills which borderline obsessive compulsiveness.  He was sharing how I plan meals and snacks weekly every Friday, make a grocery list and shop once for the whole week.  His coworker replied that she too made a weekly list of groceries for shopping during the week.  "But do you have a template that you write your grocery list into that follows the layout of the store?" he replied.  "Um... no".

My grocery list template is organized by product type (produce, canned goods, meat, etc), in order of the grocery store aisles.  I plan what I will make for diner each night as well as a few snacks, lunches and breakfasts throughout the week.

My grocery list template which was made on Word using tables and shading.  Feel free to steal/alter/etc.

This grocery template is really organized to my local grocery store (it reeks havoc when I try to use this list at Trader Joes in Rochester) which got me to thinking that we have never shared one of our new loves of small town living- our local grocery store, Fareway.  Fareway is a midwest chain of 100 or so grocery stores, in operation since 1938 and is the choice grocery chain of most the small surrounding towns in our area.  Larger towns can boast a fancy Fareway complete with a bakery (we are not so lucky).

The outside of the store is modest and unassuming; a single story stand-alone building featuring the recognizable yellow and red logo.

Note that all the pictures in this post were "taken on the sly" since I felt like a crazy person taking pictures while grocery shopping... which resulted in hilariously clear sneaky photos.

On my first few trips to Fareway, I was unimpressed and used to large grocery stores like Jewel and Hy-Vee which have every product imaginable, each with multiple brands and varieties.  Though Fareway keeps things simple, stocking one or two brands of the most traditionally purchased foods, I have come to appreciate the fresh produce, great prices and ease of shopping in a much smaller store.
Walking in you will find yourself in the produce section, trying to help your toddler collect groceries in his special red cart without inevitably catching your heels

The meat counter is especially fantastic with an abundance of meats and cheeses.  They don't stock any pre packed meat (like Purdue chicken breasts). This was something that was a stumper to me on my first shopping trip but now I love bellying up to the large counter to be waited on by one of five or more friendly staff members in really adorable little paper hats, white shirts and black ties.

There are no "take a number" tickets found here because there is never any waiting.  Here, you will not find fancy meats like veal or usually any fish (unless it is Lent), but you will find every cut of beef and pork imaginable as well as specialty bratwurst. If you don't see the cut you want they will politely ask you to wait and then rev up the band saw in back.

As I troll up and down the aisles, checking things off my crazy, computer created grocery spreadsheet, I enjoy waving to and catching up with someone I know that I inevitably run into.  When we first moved here from the Chicago suburbs, I was totally freaked out at how often I would run into someone at the store, but now I am shocked when I don't see at least one person I know.  Granted, I would still rather avoid running into my doctor or one of my student's parents when I am bathed in sweat from an exhilarating Zumba workout but usually I am not so lucky.

Since it is such a small store and able to keep prices so low, there is usually one or two things off my list each week that I have to make an extra trip to to health food co-op or to the dreaded Walmart but I like shopping at Fareway so much, it is worth the extra trip to another store for me.

Checking out is also a super pleasant experience.  No matter the time of the day, they always have several checkers and will call for back-up the minute there is any sort of line.  I actually sometimes wish they were less "Johnny on the spot" with extra checkers so I could catch up on frivolous tabloids while waiting in line.
Standing at the checkout with the trashy magazines
I like to play "stump the checker" picking out the most unusual produce I can find but rarely do they even miss a beat and never have I seen them flip through a book of produce to find a product number.

Conveyor-less check-out straight from cart to scanner.  E is unloading her little cart while L waits inside his carseat in the big cart with groceries piled all around him

After paying, way less then you would expect, you are escorted to your car by a 12 year-old cart boy (or a retiree during school hours).  Seriously, they won't let you push carts or carry more than a few bags out of the store... a bit awkward for the 30-year-old body builder but so convenient for a mom of three with one-to-few arms.  While chatting cheerfully about the weather, your personal bag boy takes your purchases all the way to your vehicle and helps load the groceries in the car.

I can't help but think how in the Chicago suburbs, if you needed any assistance with purchases out to your car you had to drive your car right up to the entrance for fear that you would try to snatch the bag boy away with you.  Not in small town Iowa.  I'm pretty sure if I asked, the bag boy would hop in the car with me, drive to my house and help unload the groceries there.

If we ever move away from our little farming paradise, I would jump at the chance to shop at a Hy-Vee again but damn, I'm gonna miss those cart boys. Im sorry, but there is no way to state my enthusiasm without sounding like a creeper.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

The Outdoor Shower 2.0

This is one of those posts that I have been saying I need to update for a while, and per typical fashion have not. The time has come not just because the weather is now permitting me to use it yet again but I am laid up on the couch for the next three days after, dare I say, a necessary but uncomfotable procedure that stops the spread of the Peterson name any further in these parts.  If you chuckle and wink at me the next time we meet I'll know you read this post.

Although she might not think so, Megs IS a champion gift giver. She not only listens to my ramblings throughout the year, she is capable of off shooting from my main idea and coming up with brilliant sub gifts in the same vein. This years Christmas... lumber yard scented beard oil, a 6 way photo light panel and a new bike helmet. A little random but damn if she didn't nail 3 awesome gifts. The outdoor shower, however, is her crowning achievement. Even through her plumbing was piped to near freezing well water, the thoughtfulness and mechanical achievement was awe inspiring.  Read about her outdoor shower design here.

I did try it out immediately with freezing hose water

It was so inspiring I immediately took the whole thing apart and re-plumbed it so a mammal not solely suited to the arctic could enjoy it. My first task was setting the 4x4 support in concrete to add stability. I was able to dig down about 2' until I hit the top of the bell shaped cistern and could go no further. A little rock in the bottom of the hole  to level out the 4x4 and 2 bags of fast setting Quik-crete completed item number one.

My two assistants helping me mix concrete in  their wheelbarrow

The next goal was to plumb hot water. The spot Megs chose was perfect because in addition to being over the old cistern, it was very close to the hot water heater and subsequent plumbing in the basement. I headed to the store to pick up some Sharkbite T fittings, exterior hose barbs, and 1/2" fittings and pipe to match what Megs had constructed. We had just recently bought a new washing machine for our rental house in Illinois so I had an extra set of rubber water supply lines that would be perfect for joining the shower to the house.

Easy hose connections

Once cleaned and teflon taped up, all the pipes and valves were ready for pre-assembly. I finished the installation step by using metal pipe hangers/ straps to attach the plumbing to the support pole.

The next step was to tap into the basement plumbing and run lines to to the outside of the house. The plumbing in our house is a mix of copper, black pipe and PEX (thanks to me), but luckily the area that was most convenient to tap into was copper. I made quick work of cutting and installing the Sharkbite fittings, however getting water through the old sill was going to be a challenge.

I had purchased a 3/4" spade bit for a past plumbing project and was able to utilize the right angle head attachment on my Rigid Jobmax to get up between the joists with little difficulty.

Due to space constraints, I had to drill as
far as I could and then add an extension
My biggest concern was chipping or breaking the exterior siding which is an old slate style fiber board...aka nightmare plates as I think of them. When I re-sided the house a few years ago I tried various techniques to drill through is stuff and make a clean hole without cracking the whole plate. Without a masonry style hole saw it is nearly impossible. I didn't want to spend ~$50 for the size I needed so I set to work with a regular bi-metal hole saw, some water and very minimal pressure. The first hole went off without a hitch... or crack. Then I got cocky and cracked the plate on the second hole. AHHHH!

Ah well, nothing that can't be patched with some caulk and paint. I then finished connecting the two new hot and cold hose bibs to the T Sharkbite fittings inside through the sill and tested the connection. With pressure holding and no leaks, the only thing to do was get naked! I was initially planning to make a screen for it but due to geography and a well placed pine tree, there is enough notice of a car coming down the road from the north to at least grab a towel as they pass. When I shower at night I don't even bother.

After a week of showers, I realized it that the waste water wasn't really making it down into the cistern as much as creating a muddy mess of the surrounding grass. Also, standing on a rusty metal cistern cover wasn't that comfortable so I created a small deck. I had a couple of pressure treated 5/4 x 6 deck dotards left over from Megs raised garden box project so I set to work. The metal cistern cover is 2' diameter so I decided to make the deck 30" square which would span the opening allowing me to leave the cover completely off.

I used Tap-cons to secure the desk to the cistern so there would be no possibility of our curious little ones moving the deck and taking a swim.

We use this shower every single day and I really had a hard time moving my cleaning rituals in the house this winter. It is a rush to have freezing rain and snow come down on you at the same time as steamy hot shower water. I can only picture potential home buyers reactions to this amazing sight. I can imagine a woman wondering who in their right mind would use such a thing without a privacy screen as a man starts to undress in the background all ready to try it out.