Daily Archives: December 21, 2009

Jobless rate down in Maine, but not everywhere

Spotted a story on the Maine Public Broadcasting Network website about how the unemployment rate in Maine had dipped to 8 percent.

That is below the national rate of about 10 percent.

Here in California things are not so good. The statewide unemployment rate is at 12.2 percent and the county in which I live – San Joaquin County – it is at about 16.9 percent unemployment. Yep, that’s twice the rate of Maine.

I’ve linked the MPBN story and the story from The Record, the newspaper in Stockton, about the situation here. (Note: That newspaper will begin charging for content beginning in January so the link very likely will go bad after the new year.)

Portland is a capital city … once upon a time

OK, I probably should have known this one, but I didn’t. This is the latest from DownEast.com’s collection of trivia questions.

What city was Maine’s first capital?


Portland. In 1832 the capital was moved to the centrally located site of Augusta.

Yummy (nearly one-dish) risotto dish

I rarely follow directions to the letter when cooking. Recipes to me are merely suggestions.

It may come from the way my father cooked. There were times he simply threw things together in a pot and it came out tasting great.

Last night I did a bit of that.

I started out with Trader Joe’s mushroom and herb risotto. But I had a few items in the frig that needed to be used or chucked. That’s the way it goes when you live alone, because food comes packaged for families and there always seems to be extra.

First, I browned some chopped Hillshire Farms Italian turkey sausage in olive oil, approximately the same amount as the suggestion on the risotto package for sautéing the rice. The sausage fell into that category of being used or chucked. Chopped onions went into the pan and the chicken broth (again, Trader Joe’s) went into a second pan to be warmed – and this is what makes this a “nearly one-dish” meal, because I needed a pan to warm up the broth.

As the chicken broth neared “hot” and the sausage and onions were sautéed nicely, I threw in the rice and I sautéed that for a couple of minutes before pouring in the hot chicken broth. The mushroom and herb seasoning packet also went in. I followed the directions for sautéing the rice, reduced the heat and covered it.

More hot broth was needed, because the rice wasn’t quite tender enough after the first three cups were cooked off. It was a hassle, but not a huge one, and I think the effort was well worth it. Again, heat any additional liquid that has to go into the pan or the cooking will be interrupted.

Near the end, I added about a quarter bag of baby spinach (again, Trader Joe’s) and let the steam from the remaining liquid soften the leaves.

The deep green of the cooked spinach was a pleasant visual contrast to the tan of the risotto.

If spinach isn’t your vegetable, pick another. I considered throwing in a handful of baby carrots, which also would have added a visual contrast and a different flavor.

I served the risotto in a bowl topped with grated asaigo cheese (yep, from Trader Joe’s), but I think a nice, bold parmesan might have been better. Instead of a visual contrast, it would have been a flavor contrast.

There you go, a nearly one-dish dish.

Storm crawls into New England, leaving mess behind


Saddling up for a ride with American Western literature

I haven’t taken much time to read for the enjoyment of reading in the past couple of months. I’ve been so focused on trying to find a job that my reading has been limited to job-hunt advice – everyone has an opinion, especially so-called job experts – and the Facebook status updates of my friends, which has helped me maintain a certain degree of sanity while hunting up a job.

But the other evening I picked from my bookshelves a volume of Louis L’Amour novels and other tales. I am enjoying the stories.

As I recall, I picked up the two-volume set at a biannual yard sale that took place just down the street from where I was living on Alamo Drive in Vacaville, Calif. An elderly couple and their son – and I have to assume a legion of their family and friends – cleaned out closets, garages and storage facilities to provide a yard sale known to all Vacans. (Vacan is what a Vacaville resident calls him- or herself.)

Anyway, one year I walked by the book table and spotted the two-volume set and did a double-take. One was brown leather with gold lettering and gold on the edges of the pages. The second volume was green leather with the golden lettering and page edges. I had never read Louis L’Amour, but I figured I couldn’t go wrong with a leather-bound set that put me back less than $8.

The brown volume contains “The Tall Stranger,” “Kilkenny,” “Hondo” and “Showdown at Yellow Butte,” and had an inscription written on the inside of the front cover: “Michel – Happy 19th Birthday 9-27-88.” And it was signed, “Love, Diane & Dad.”

The second volume, the one that I am reading now, contains, “Crossfire Trail,” “Utah Blaine,” “Heller With a Gun,” “Last Stand at Papago Wells,” and “To Tame a Land.”

I had read Zane Grey and Larry McMurtry before, but not Louis L’Amour. Of course, I was familiar with some of his work that had been made into movies for TV or cinema, most notably “Hondo,” “How the West Was Won,” “Crossfire Trail,” the Sackett movies and “Conagher.”

I read the first volume years ago, but have been carrying around the other for some time waiting for a gap in other reading to crack it open. I’m glad I did, because I am enjoying the stories – right-vs.-evil-boy-gets-the-girl-in-the-end stories – and it is proving a nice diversion from the job hunt.

I don’t think the stories are for everyone. The stories are told in a pretty simple fashion, but that’s OK.

Besides, cowboy was one of the things I wanted to be when I grew up … when I was 6 or 7. Forest ranger and truck driver were two other jobs I thought when I was 6 or 7 I’d like to have when I got to be an adult.

Ah, well, a writer-editor-columnist-blogger will have to do for now.