05 February 2016

Cost Of Living Aboard Our Boat | December 2015 & January 2016




We've been tracking how much it costs to live aboard our boat, S/V Tickety Boo, at Indiantown Marina in southern Florida, where we were initially laid up during hurricane season and where I'm now living while Scott is working overseas. While Scott has been in Scotland, I've been staying on our boat and slowly ticking things off of our project list. So, our live aboard costs are pretty much just that - cost of my daily living aboard our boat and occasionally buying stuff for Tickety Boo to keep her happy.

You can find links to other cost updates from ourselves and others on this page. If you want to know how much we spent over the past two months, have a look below.

Cost of Living Aboard | December 2015 & January 2016

Overall, we spent $2,175.21 during December and January which is down around $900 from the previous two months. I had a look back to see how I saved so much money during the past two months and it pretty much comes down to not spending much on stuff for our boat and having fewer out-of-pocket medical expenses.

Before we get into the nitty-gritty details of what we spent, here are a few things to note:

  • All costs are in US dollars. 
  • Not all expenses are included - here's what we've left out:
1 - We don't report how much we spend on alcohol. I remember reading some horrible, judgy comments in a blog post a few years back about how much someone spent on booze, so I left it out when we first started tracking our cruising costs back in New Zealand. For consistency's sake, I've continued to leave it out when tracking our cruising and RV costs. 
2 - We haven't included costs related to storing our Scamp travel trailer ($21 per month) because we track the cost of our RV and cruising adventures separately.
3 - We've also left out our costs for medical insurance. We didn't think it made sense to include insurance costs as they can vary so widely depending upon your nationality, where you cruise, what level of coverage you want and can afford etc. In case you are curious, while we're back in the States, we do have insurance through the health insurance marketplace (aka Obamacare), primarily to protect our assets and cover us in case of a catastrophic medical condition. After spending a pretty big chunk of change for health insurance during 2015, we were in a bit of a quandary about whether we should go ahead and get coverage for 2016 or take the risk and pay the tax penalty for being uninsured. In the end, after weighing up the potential tax penalty, possible tax credits and risk of being uninsured, we ended up getting insurance for 2016. If you want to know more about our health insurance options and quandary for 2016, check this post out.
  • Scott has been in Scotland taking care of some work projects and tending to some other matters, so grocery and entertainment costs are less than they would be normally.
  • I've included any shipping and taxes we've paid in what we report. Florida has a 6% sales tax. Boo.
  
GROCERIES | Total = $456.42

This category includes everything we put in our bodies in terms of food and drink (excluding booze) that we prepare ourselves. It doesn't include things like paper towels and ziploc bags, which I know some people would classify as groceries. Sure, you could probably eat them, but they wouldn't taste very good.

I spent about $130 less on groceries in the past two months than I did during October and November. This is due in large part to the fact that I've run out of places to store food. I had been spending more on groceries in order to build up our food stores. Although we aren't heading out on the water anytime soon, I do like the idea of having a few months of food tucked away just in case of financial hardship, natural disaster or alien invasion. 

If you saw our Extreme Penny Pinching post last week, then you'll know that I've decided to try to get the grocery spend down even further by challenging myself to spend only $4 per day on groceries during February (that's the amount that SNAP/Food Stamp recipients get). Check back next month to see how it goes. 

PERSONAL & HOUSEHOLD | Total = $37.72

This is the category where we include household things (like paper towels and ziploc bags) and personal hygiene items (like soap and shampoo). We also capture items for the "home" here - like storage containers.

ENTERTAINMENT | Total = $118.71

One of the great things about hanging out in Indiantown is that there really isn't all that much to spend your entertainment dollars on. It's a pretty small town and things are really quiet at the marina, so there's not a lot of temptation.

In terms of drinks and eating out, this includes everything we don't prepare ourselves, even if we get something to go and eat it back on the boat. We also track how much we spend on books, magazines, movies etc. in this category (like the new Star Wars movie). I also got caught up in the Powerball hype when the jackpot was at astronomical levels and bought two tickets during January ($4). I consider this entertainment. You can probably tell that I didn't win as I'm still tracking how much we spend.

COMMUNICATIONS | Total = $160.00

Our cell phone is actually one of our biggest non-boat related expenses. I have a $60 monthly GoPhone plan with AT&T which includes 5GB of data and unlimited calls and texts. Normally, 5GB of data isn't enough for us, but we have a WiFi adapter/antenna gizmo which helps us get the marina Wi-Fi at our boat and minimizes the use of our cellular data. Lately though it's been hard to access the marina Wi-Fi as there are so many people here, so sometimes I end up buying additional data. While Scott is away, I've also added on a $10 monthly international call plan so that we do our daily phone call.

BOAT FUEL | Total = Nil

Because our boat hasn't left the slip, we haven't needed to spend anything on diesel or gas.

LPG | Total = Nil

I've been primarily using our microwave and crock pot for cooking, so haven't needed to top up the LPG tanks.

MARINA COSTS | Total = $1,160.70

Keeping Tickety Boo in a slip is one of our biggest expenses. The monthly cost of a slip with electricity at Indiantown Marnia for a 34.5' boat is $572.40. The guys at the marina will also come pump out our holding tank on demand - $5.30 for each visit.

BOAT STUFF | Total = $38.11

This category is for all the stuff we've been buying for the boat. We've got a long list of stuff we need to get for Tickety Boo - some upgrades, some maintenance related items, equipment etc. I'm trying to spread the costs out because I simply find it too painful to spend so much money all at once.

During the past two months, I really haven't spent much at all on poor Tickety Boo. I did get her some boat cards and lithium grease. That should keep her happy for a while.

In case you're wondering why there aren't any charges for boat insurance, we paid these up front for the year in April (you can see the details here).

TRANSPORT | Total = $26.37

This category is for costs related to our vehicle, mostly for gas to keep it going and drive into the nearby "big city" of Stuart for errands. Gas is so cheap these days that I've really been able to keep these costs down.

If you're wondering, we paid our car insurance up front for the year in April, which is why you don't see it here ($909 for liability).

MEDICAL EXPENSES | Total = $54.75

This category includes medical expenses outside of our monthly insurance premium (which aren't included here - see section on exclusions above), like over the counter medications, prescriptions and things for our medical kit. It also includes the costs of doctors visits and medical tests which aren't covered by our insurance.

OTHER | Total = $122.43

In this category, we break out how much we spend on clothes (like $4.33 for some flip-flops) and travel expenses. We also include a catch-all miscellaneous group for stuff that doesn't fit neatly anywhere else - things like laundry ($3.25 for a wash and dry at Indiantown Marina), new earbuds which actually fit in my abnormally small ears, a crock pot ($15), label maker and batteries.


So there you go - $2,175.21 will buy you two months in Indiantown Marina and a few things for your boat! Did we spend more or less than you would have expected?

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03 February 2016

Musings On Personality Type & Writing Style (ISWG)



Back when I worked in the HR team in corporate la-la land, one of the things I did was put people into boxes. Not literal boxes – that would be weird, even for me. And cruel – unless you put air holes in the boxes.

Instead, I helped people figure out what personality type best fit them using a variety of psychometric instruments, including the Myers-Briggs Personality Indicator (MBTI). One of the things I like about MBTI is that you can put yourself into a tidy little box based upon your personality type. Orderly grids appeal to me – probably a reflection of my own MBTI type (INTJ by the way).

MBTI draws on Carl Jung’s theory of psychological types and provides a way to understand your own personality type based upon four dichotomies:

  • Favorite World – Do you prefer to focus on the outer world (Extraversion) or your own inner world (Introversion)?
  • Information – Do you prefer to focus on the basic information you take in (Sensing) or do you prefer to interpret and add meaning (Intuition)?
  • Decisions – When making decisions, do you prefer to to first look at logic and consistency (Thinking) or first look at the people and special circumstances (Feeling)?
  • Structure – In dealing with the outside world, do you prefer to get things decided (Judging) or do you prefer to stay open to new options and information (Perceiving)?

Based upon your preference for each dichotomy, you can decide which personality type best fits you and climb into your own box, which is labeled with a handy-dandy four letter code. For example, I’m an INTJ – I prefer Introversion, Intuition, Thinking and Judging. {Note: The code for Intuition is the letter “N” as the letter “I” is used for Introversion.}



Lately, I’ve been happily sitting inside my box (complete with air holes) on the upper right hand corner of the grid, munching away on Oreo cookies and reflecting on the link between personality type and creativity, and more specifically how being an INTJ affects my writing style and finishing the draft mystery novel I’ve been working on. Here’s some of the things I’ve been thinking about – maybe some of them ring true for you too.

1 – I really can’t talk about it.

My husband will often ask me how the writing is going and want to chat through the characters, plotline etc. I’m really lucky to have someone who is so wonderfully supportive, but I just don’t have anything to share with him – yet. One of these days, I will. But not just now. I think this is due, in part, to the fact that I have a preference for introversion. I like to process things internally. I need to figure absolutely everything out in my head before I can talk about it. Until then, I’m not really able to articulate anything because things are still evolving.

I was one of those people that wasn’t really great at brainstorming exercises at work. You know the ones where everybody has to shout out their ideas, no matter how random or ill-formed. We were all supposed to feed off of each other, build on each others’ ideas to create something fabulous together. Yeah, that’s not really how I work. I’m much happier creating everything inside my head by myself. Then I’ll be happy to share.

2 – I don’t really want to hear what you think.

The downside of an introverted approach can be that once I’ve figured everything out, once my characters are fully developed and my plot is fully formed, then I have closure. I’m finished. I’m done. Things are neatly tied up with a pretty bow. I’ll happily present my ideas to you, watch you untie the bow, open the box and await your feedback. Provided your feedback consists of “Well done!” and “It’s perfect!”

That’s where my preference for Judging comes into play. I like closure. I like to have things decided and done with. Once I’ve figured everything out, then I can have a hard time opening myself up to new ideas and input on how to change things for the better. Intellectually, I know that all novels go through a gazillion rewrites and what you end up with can be markedly different then what you started out with. I also know that getting feedback from others will help immensely. But, I know this will also be a struggle for me because I don’t really like to change things once I’ve finished them.

3 – Do I really have to spell it out for you?

One of the strengths of INTJs can be their ability to weed out information and detail that isn’t useful. However, sometimes this can result in a narrative that’s too sparse. Writing that’s sparse can be wonderful – it’s crisp, to the point, keeps the action moving forward and allows the reader to fill in the detail with their own imagination. But, at times, it can leave the reader at a loss. There isn’t enough of the right kind of detail for the reader to engage fully with the story.

In rereading some of my earlier drafts, I’ve noted a tendency towards a bit too much sparseness, especially when it comes to describing where the action is happening. My novel takes place at a marina and involves some mysterious happenings on a sailboat. Readers that know a thing or two about sailing and boats probably don’t need too much detail to understand what’s taking place, but non-sailors will probably be clueless. So, that’s something I’m currently working on – providing enough detail to engage the reader, but without becoming tedious and distracting from the story line.

****

Well, that’s probably enough reflection from inside my box. I’ve run out of Oreo cookies and the air is becoming a bit stagnant in here, so I’m going to get out, go for a walk around the marina and get some inspiration for my next writing session.

If you want to learn more about MBTI, check out the Myers & Briggs Foundation. If you’re interested in exploring your own preferences, you might want to check out one of the free questionnaires available on the internet, such as this one and this one. For a deeper understanding, you might want to use the official MBTI instrument administered by a qualified MBTI user who can help you understand and interpret your results.

Want to have some more fun with MBTI? Then check out this list of MBTI types of famous authors and this post about MBTI and character development (it also has a fun Star Wars MBTI type table if you’re so inclined).

Do you know what your MBTI type is? How does it affect your creative pursuits, everyday life and approach to work?

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01 February 2016

January In Numbers

Clockwise from upper left: (1) Look, another Moody 346 at Indiantown Marina!; (2) Another gloomy day at the marina with tornadoes and high winds on their way; (3) The farmers regularly burn the sugar cane fields which leaves ash everywhere; (4) I got a little carried away with my label maker; (5) My favorite kind of alligators - the ones that don't move; (6) Why didn't anyone ever tell me how delicious Dark N'Stormies are - yum!


It's time for our monthly recap of what's been happening by the numbers. It's hard to believe we're already one month down in the new year - only eleven more to go until 2017. January was a pretty social month - a mix of meeting new people, reconnecting with old pals and getting silly with friends at the marina. We also had some extreme weather to contend with. Alternating between using my space heater and air conditioner in the span of one month seems a little surreal. 

  • 4 - Number of people I met in real life after connecting with them via social media. Stacey and Jesse (along with their dog Summer) from S/V Smitty and Laura and Hans (along with their dog Wilbur) from Knotty Cat Tales. Stacey and Jesse hauled out their boat at Indiantown Marina to do the bottom paint before resuming their way down south and off to the Bahamas. After "talking" with them via our blogs and Facebook, it was nice to hang out with them while they were here. Laura had contacted me to say that they would be at the marina getting their boat out of storage. It was fun getting to know her and Hans at the marina BBQ and potluck.
  • 3 - Number of Moody 346 sailboats at Indiantown Marina at one time. Moody 346 sailboats are not all that common in North America, so the odds of this happening are pretty rare. There was our boat, Tickety Boo, the Moody 346 that has been stored here for years and Guy and Sylvia's boat, Pura Vida. Guy and I had been in touch via email and we got to meet up when they passed through the marina on their way from the Gulf Coast to the Atlantic Coast via the Okeechobee Waterway. They're such a lovely couple and it was so much fun to see their boat and compare notes. 
  • 2 - Number of days of torrential rain. The kind of rain where you start to make plans with your marina pals about gathering up the animals in pairs in some sort of modern day Noah's Ark flotilla. I called dibs on the cats. There was no way I was going to be responsible for saving the alligators. 
  • 1 - Number of tornadoes that formed just to the east of us. We had a couple of days of tornado watches and warnings along with wind gusts of 50+ miles per hour. Scary stuff, especially when you realize there is absolutely no place to shelter nearby if a tornado did touch down.
  • 38 - The lowest temperature during January. Sure, this is nothing compared to what people deal with up north, but this is southern Florida. It just doesn't seem right to have to wear two pairs of socks and leggings under your jeans in order to stay warm.
  • 7 - Number of adorable goats that I wanted to adopt at the South Florida State Fair. They're so cute! I had a fun outing to the fair with some pals that Scott and I met last year when we were camping in our Scamper. Pig races, cheesy bands and greasy fair food - a good day out.
  • 4 - Number of batches of pretzels I made for potlucks at the marina.  
  • 1 - Number of French coffee presses I broke. It was a tragic moment when I accidentally knocked it over into the sink and it shattered. A day without coffee on Tickety Boo can be unpleasant for everyone. I did manage to Macgyver a makeshift coffee press out of a plastic cup and the salvaged plunger from the broken one which will see me through until I can find a replacement one. I'm thinking plastic might be the way to go for this next one. 
  • $21.17 - How much my Dremel hot knife cost me on Amazon. I tested it out with Michele from Sailing Wind Spirit and it works just fine for cutting Sunbrella fabric. Compare that to the Sailrite one, which goes for over $100, and I think we've found a winner.
  • $225.29 - How much I spent on groceries last month. I'm determined to cut this amount drastically during February as part of my grocery challenge. 

Hope you had a great start to the new year during January and have an even more wonderful February. Don't forget it's a leap year - 29 days of fun to be had during this coming month!

In case you missed them, here are some of our favorite posts from January:

A Different Kind of Doorway | The Quirkiness of Boat Living
Extreme Penny Pinching
It's a Long Story

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29 January 2016

Extreme Penny Pinching


Could you go without shopping for non-essentials for an entire year? Could you refuse to buy anything new, instead only reusing what you already have or buying previously used items? Could you survive on $126 a month for groceries? How extreme could you go when it comes to penny pinching?

Maybe you’re saying to yourself, “But, I don’t need to pinch pennies or track my spending. I’ve got enough money to pay for everything I want and save for the future.”  If that’s the case, well done – that’s awesome! But, not everyone is in that position. Perhaps they’ve got overwhelming debt they need to get out from under. Or, they’ve got enough money to cover their monthly expenses, but don’t have any savings to cushion the financial blow that a job loss, serious illness or other unforeseen event might deliver. Or, they may even want to chuck it all in and go off adventuring – to experience life while they still have their health, energy and freedom.

Those are the types of people who might need to pinch their pennies. People like us. After many years working in corporate la-la land, making a decent salary and generally enjoying my work, it was time for a change. Scott felt the same way – running his own business was great, but he wanted to explore the world now, rather than wait until it was too late. So, we took stock of our financial situation and starting pinching pennies so that we could go adventuring sooner rather than later.

We had both seen too many people whose lives had been cut short long before they should have, as well as people who had lots of things, but weren’t really fulfilled by them. That wasn’t going to be us.

There are a number of ways you can pinch pennies. One of the easiest ways is to stop buying stuff. That’s what Cait at Blonde on a Budget is doing. She’s in the middle of a two year shopping ban and, except for things like groceries, kitchen supplies, cleaning products, toiletries and a few other items, she has committed to not buying anything new. Her shopping ban has enabled her to increase her savings, kick bad shopping habits and develop a more conscious consumer mindset.

Katy’s approach at The Non-Consumer Advocate is to use it up, wear it out, make do or do without. Katy isn’t ashamed to pick through free piles and reuse what others throw away. Her family’s frugal lifestyle helps them pinch their pennies for what’s important – like putting their children through university.

Taking on a shopping ban or choosing to do your shopping at Goodwill instead of Neiman Marcus is one way to pinch pennies, but it isn’t always enough. For some folks, it’s about downsizing and taking a more minimalist approach to your life. What possessions do you really need? What things really make you happy? What can you get rid of? For some, downsizing is dictated by the type of life they want to lead and the adventures they want to go off on. What can you really fit on a sailboat, RV or in a backpack?

When Scott and I decided to chuck it all in, instead of buying new clothes and knick-knacks, I started selling what we already had or giving it away to charity shops. You can find tons of other examples of folks who are getting ready to set off adventuring who are in the midst of doing the same thing. My bloggy pals Melissa at Little Cunning Plan and Cheryl of Mid-Life Cruising are great examples of this. They’ve been downsizing like crazy. It’s definitely painful at times, but they have their eyes on a bigger prize.

Now that we’ve all briskly set off down the path of 2016 (yes it’s the end of January already), I decided to have a look back at our expenses for 2015 and see if there were areas where we could pinch some more pennies. To be honest, I didn’t find too much else to pinch. Or rather, I didn’t find too much else I wanted to pinch. If I had to, I could cut costs some more, but I’m generally okay with our expenditure. (You can see details of what we spend on this page.)

For example, on average we probably spend about $100 a month for the two of us on entertainment which includes going out to eat, takeaway food, movies, going to events like the rodeo and fair, books and the occasional lottery ticket. That seems pretty reasonable to me. There are enough “outings” and treats to keep me entertained without breaking the bank. The other area I thought we might be able to cut back on is clothes, but we only spent $211 in that category last year.

About the only area we really spend money on these days is our boat and she’s not cheap. We knew when we bought her that there would be a number of things we would need to purchase for her and upgrades we would have to make. That’s just the way it is with boats – they cost you money. We do however prioritize what we spend on her and look for bargains when we can.

I did find one area where I could possibly trim some fat. And it might just trim some fat from me as well. That’s our grocery budget. I’ve been averaging about $230 a month on groceries just for me while Scott has been working overseas. Granted, a fair bit of that spend has been in building up our food stores, but I bet I could cut that back a bit. When I read how people in the States on the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (“Food Stamps”) get only $126 a month for food, I have to say I was a bit dubious that it was even possible But then I talked to some friends of mine who spend around $120 a month per person on groceries and their tab also includes things like shaving cream and kitchen supplies, so I guess I can do a bit better than $230 a month.

It will be a bit of a personal challenge for me during February – how creative can I get with my meal plan on a budget? How many pennies can I pinch over the course of 28 days? I'll let you know.

What about you - are you a penny pincher? If so, what are your tips and tricks? And just because I'm nosy, how much do you spend a month on food?

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27 January 2016

South Florida Fair | Cheesy, Greasy & Good Fun

I went on an outing yesterday to the South Florida Fair in West Palm Beach. Yes, an outing. Life can be rather quiet here at Indiantown Marina, so I get rather excited when I get to go on an outing to someplace other than Walmart. I’m kind of like a puppy dog who wags its tail enthusiastically, jumps around excitedly and pees a little on the floor whenever someone says, “Want to go for a walk?”  

When a friend of mine asked me if I wanted to go for an outing to the fair, I wagged my imaginary tail enthusiastically and jumped up and down screaming, “Yes! Let’s go to the fair!” When he told me that he had a free ticket for me, I started running around in circles with joy. A free outing to the fair. What could be better? By the way, let’s just be clear – unlike a puppy dog, and despite my excitement, there was no peeing on the floor. Although, there are times that I wish I had a tail. I bet some of you do too.

I remember going to the county fair as a child. There were all sorts of farm animals to look at, greasy and sugary treats to eat, games of “chance” (chance being code for “we’ll take your allowance money and maybe give you a goldfish or a tacky stuffed animal in exchange”), rides that would make you a bit sick because you ate one too many corn dogs beforehand, and bands who were either dreaming of one day making it big or who had once been big but were now bitterly playing the county fair circuit and hoping for a comeback.

To be honest, I wasn’t sure what to expect from a fair in Florida. Surely, it would be different than the fairs I experienced growing up in Ohio. After all, West Palm Beach is a city on the East Coast, not some hicksville town in the Midwest. Turns out, I had nothing to fear. My friend promised me that there would be pig races at the fair. I guess even retired snowbirds like to see farm animals doing stupid things while they're sitting outside among the palm trees.

You’ve probably heard that pigs are smart. I can vouch for it. Do you know why pigs agree to run around a track for the amusement of humans? It’s because the winner gets an Oreo cookie. Even pigs are piggy. They like cookies so much they’ll race for them. Heck, I might even run a race for an Oreo cookie, provided it was a short race. There’s a limit to how much energy I’ll expend for chocolate.


We checked out some of the other animals at the fair. There were the usual cows, goats and sheep, but there were also some animals I don’t ever recall seeing at the fair when I was a kid. Like a zebra, camels, alpacas and some sort of South American rodent like thing which was cute as a button. Despite the more “exotic” animals on show, the goats were my favorite. I want one, but I suspect convincing Scott that we need a goat on board will be more of an uphill battle than my current let’s get a boat cat campaign.




There was a whole tent dedicated to rabbits. When I saw that on the fair program, I wagged my imaginary tail again and jumped up and down screaming, “Let’s go to the rabbit tent!” So many rabbits all in one tent. I had no idea that there was so much variety in the rabbit world. I even saw one that looked like a Siamese cat. I kind of want a rabbit now too. To be honest, I actually wanted to free them all from their cages. I can't imagine it's comfortable sleeping on a wire floor without any padding. If Scott doesn’t get back to Florida soon, there's a strong possibility that I'm going to turn Tickety Boo into a modern-day Noah’s Ark.


After getting our animal fix, we headed off to see all the shows. It kind of reminded me of being on a cruise ship, but on land. There were singers, bands, magic shows etc. to choose from. First, we saw a really cheesy band led by one of those guys who is big on audience participation. I’m always the person who cringes in the back when those types of performers hop down from the stage and start wandering through the audience. Please don’t pick on me. Please don’t turn me into the butt of your corny joke. Fortunately, there were plenty of snowbirds who were happy for a bit of limelight instead. They actually waved their hands in a bid to be picked. Go figure.

Then it was off to see the Celine Dion impersonator. I don’t really get impersonators. This lady certainly could sing and she can pull off a short sparkly dress and high heels, so why does she spend her time pretending to be someone she isn’t? Maybe there’s more money in doing tribute acts than getting gigs as yourself. Well, I guess it works for her. The audience loved her act and I didn’t see as many people walk out on her as I did in the earlier show with the cheesy band.

Next up was the ice show. Yes, an ice show. I guess this is what makes county fairs in Ohio different from fairs in Florida. We had 4-H competitions and prizes for the best strawberry preserves, while in Florida, they get the glitz and glamor of ice skaters doing twirls and jumps. Fortunately, none of the girls got hurt while their partners were swinging them around in circles with their heads just inches away from the ice. Part of me always wants to yell out, “Honey, wear a helmet! You could get hurt doing that. And, while you’re at it, put a sweater on. It’s cold out there on the ice.”

No fair could be complete without greasy food – like Elephant Ears. I haven’t had one of these in years. They’re basically a piece of flat dough that is fried in a ton of oil and then sprinkled with an obscene amount of powdered sugar. Sadly, the one I had wasn’t as good as those I remember from my childhood, but I still managed to scarf down a good chunk of it.



Well, that’s the news from Indiantown, Florida. It’s pouring down buckets today, so I think I’ll work on an indoor project. Like converting our v-berth into our very own petting zoo complete with goats, rabbits and maybe an alpaca or two.

Have you had an exciting outing lately? What did you get up to?

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25 January 2016

Pretzel Lady

I post every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Except when I don't. Like last Friday. When my mom didn't see anything on the blog on Friday, she sent me an email asking if everything was okay. Moms always know when something is wrong. That's what makes them moms. Well, my mom's intuition was right again. Something was wrong. I had a tummy bug and pretty much stayed in bed all day. {By the way, living on a boat when you have a tummy bug = not fun.} Blogging just wasn't happening. But, I'm all back to normal, eating chocolate with reckless abandon, and we've returned to our regularly scheduled programming on The Cynical Sailor.

*****

I've got a few names at the marina - Ellen, the Crazy Cat Lady and the Pretzel Lady. Ellen is pretty obvious - it's the name my mom gave me. It's a good name. I like it. I'm usually the only one around named Ellen. So, imagine my surprise when I saw that someone had written down my name on the BBQ sign-up list a few weeks ago and said I was bringing dessert. I don't like being told what to do, so I crossed dessert off and wrote down pretzels instead.

Turns out there actually is another Ellen living on a boat by herself at the marina just now. What are the odds? I wonder what she thought when she saw that someone crossed dessert off and wrote in pretzels instead. I bet she doesn't like being told what to do either.

I used to always hate these potluck things because I never knew what to bring. Or, I've got a great idea for what to bring, but never have the required ingredients on board. But, now I've discovered pretzels and they've transformed my life.  

Okay, I know what you're thinking. Pretzels? Really? You might as well just slap a bag of potato chips on the table. That would be just as exciting.  

No, we're not talking about ordinary pretzels here. These are magical pretzels. They have the power to get people's attention. Sometimes, it's in a good way and they say things like, "Wow, these are great! They go perfectly with a beer!" Unfortunately, other times, they say things like, "Oh my god, what is on these! My mouth is on fire! Quick, hand me a beer to wash down the taste!"

Yes, they're spicy pretzels!

Super simple to make. You take a bag of ordinary pretzels. You know how pretzels are a great low-fat treat? We're going to change all that by pouring a lot of oil into a bowl. Then we add a package of ranch dressing mix, cayenne pepper, lemon pepper and garlic salt. Mix, let sit for a few hours so the spicy oil sinks in and enjoy. I use this recipe here.    

The last time I made them, I doubled the cayenne pepper and lemon pepper. What can I say, I like spicy food. Some people complained that they were too spicy. So, this last time, I cut back on the spice level. I'm sure some other people will complain this time. Too spicy for some, just right for others and bland for a select few. It's like Goldilocks and those bears all over again.

Just so that everyone knows what to expect, I labeled the container - "Spicy pretzels (but not as spicy as last time)."

  
Lately, I've extended my pretzel repertoire and have added pretzels covered in cinnamon sugar, chocolate and sprinkles to the BBQ potluck rotation. I haven't heard anyone complain about these ones. Just goes to show you that sugary treats are always popular. 

This is another easy way to transform low-fat pretzels into something your doctor would recommend you eat in moderation. 

 
Same basic principle as the spicy pretzels, except that you need a heat source. I use a microwave, but you could probably do this on the stove or in the oven. You mix up cinnamon, brown sugar and white sugar with some vegetable oil. Toss your pretzels in the sugary oil and then heat up for a minute in the microwave. Stir and heat for another minute and repeat again. Then, you sprinkle some chocolate morsels in the bowl, melt slightly in the microwave and give it another stir. I use this recipe here

You're then supposed to spread the pretzels out on some large baking trays. Well, clearly the author of the recipe doesn't live on a boat. Where would I store large baking trays? And considering my oven is the size of a bread box, what would I use large baking trays for?

You learn to adapt when you live on a boat. Some waxed paper spread out on the table works just fine. Let the pretzels set for a while, put in a container and tuck away in the fridge until needed. 
 
Like with the spicy pretzels, I labeled these so that people know what to expect - "Cinnamon sugar pretzels with white chocolate and sprinkles for extra fun." If I were you, I would use semi-sweet chocolate instead. I switched to white chocolate for this last batch and it didn't melt as well, so I ended up with some pretzels having rather ugly white chocolate clumps on them. Make sure you do add sprinkles though. They won't really stick that well to the pretzels, but they're colorful and make you smile when you sprinkle them on.
  

What types of things do you bring to potlucks? Go on, share your recipes! I'm always looking for new ideas, especially things that are easy to make.

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