Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Delectable and Utterly Fabulous Cheez-Its

Sorry it's been so long since I posted here, but we've been cruising the Abacos and the weather has been less than stellar which means I'm not in a very creative mood when it comes to the galley. Soon we'll be back in the States and I'll have much more time to get back into post-it mode.

Since we're talking about cruising the Abacos, this is the place where food is hard to come by and, more specifically, snack food is almost non-existent or it costs a week's paycheck to buy. We've been over here six weeks now and all of the chips and crackers we brought are gone. A trip to Maxwell's in Marsh Harbour revealed that the price of chips ($9.58 for a bag of Doritos) hadn't changed significantly. Even the huge jar of popcorn is gone (our cheap chip backup), so I had to come up with some snack foods. I've tried various crackers before without much success (my husband is a real Ritz snob), but I almost always have flour and butter and various other makings of crackers on board. So I took a deep breath and decided to try one more time. I Googled Cheez-It recipe and the folks at came up with a homemade cheez-its recipe. The last time I tried a homemade Ritz recipe it didn't turn out well so this time I decided on half a recipe to check it out first. I wish I had made the full recipe...and the shocking thing is that there are only four - yes four - ingredients. No chemicals, no FD&C yellow or orange, no preservatives because I promise you that these will never last long enough to need preservatives. They almost didn't last long enough to cool completely. So enjoy - but be prepared because you'll never want the store bought kind again.


8 oz extra sharp cheddar cheese, yellow or white
1/4 c unsalted butter at room temperature
1 tsp salt
1 c all purpose flour
2-3 Tbl ice water


Shred the cheddar with a micro plane or other fine shredder into a medium bowl.

Add the butter and the salt. Mix with a hand mixer (or by hand) until blended.

Add flour and mix until it looks like small pebbles.

Add water a tablespoon at a time until it forms a ball but is not sticky to the touch. Knead 5-6 times just till smooth and cohesive. Wrap with plastic wrap and chill for one hour.

Divide dough in quarters and roll out on parchment paper until very thin. It should not be more than 1/8" thick and thinner if possible. Cut edges square with a pastry wheel if you have one, or use a long knife. Cut rectangle into cheez-it sized squares approximately one inch square. Poke center with the dull end of a bamboo skewer. Bake at 375° for 15-17 minutes depending on your oven.

Remove from oven, let cool slightly, and break apart. Let cool completely and store in an airtight container.

Note: Baking times will differ depending on how thin you roll the dough. Watch these carefully as they will burn quickly. The thinner they are, the crispier they are.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Tuesday Tips #14 - A Good Log Book

We were on a good friend's boat and he made an entry in his logbook which was a calendar. We were intrigued. He told us it's the easiest way for him to remember to write entries After a little experimenting we ended up buying the At-A-Glance Weekly/Monthly appointment book and have been using it for the last three years.

The At-A-Glance has a section for each month that's a two-page month calendar with large blocks for each day. We use that for general entries like, "Had sundowners with..." After the month calendar spread, it has columns of hourly entry lines, one column for each day with a week taking up a two-page spread. When we're underway we use these pages to log our watch changes, to log GPS position, and to log destinations and alternates. When we're not underway we log whatever chores we did or major projects. When we're in the middle of a summer refit like we are right now, we log detailed info about the projects we're working on. In the back of the book there's a section for future planning which we use to log our diesel, gasoline, and propane purchases as well as our water usage and pumpout records.

The book is reasonably priced, easy to write in, and stores easily in our nav station. If you balk at the price of marine logbooks, this just might be the solution for you.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Tuesday Tips #13 - Data Management

We're fortunate enough to have a really large data plan with Verizon, a benefit that comes from being with them from the very beginning of cell phones. Yet, still we come close to using it all before the month is up and have to manage our use. There are some very simple things you can do to help along those lines:

  1. Turn off your mobile data at night so apps don't run in the background
  2. Turn off your automatic update of apps, even over wifi because if you're using a hotspot it will update when it's connected to the hotspot.
  3. Turn off the autoplay of videos in your browser and on Facebook.
  4. Download the Opera mini browser. It has a data save function that blocks some ads.
  5. Download a data tracking widget to your front page on your phone or iPad so you're always aware of how much you have left.
  6. Use the app ShareIt to move photos and videos from you phone to your computer or between phones. It moves them without using data.
These are just a few basic things to try to reduce your data usage. When we go to the Bahamas we make drastic cuts and do with just 4gb of data per month, but then we have some incredibly beautiful water, sky, and beaches to look at and explore so who wants to be staring at a screen anyway?

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Tuesday Tips #12 - Project Fatigue

There's always something begging to be done when you live on a boat. The stainless needs polished, the teak needs touched up, the deck has yesterday's accumulation of salt name it, it needs done. Even worse is the summer refit, a time when most cruisers hide out from hurricane season and work on The List of more major things that need done that didn't get done while turquoise waters and white sand beaches beckoned. We're nearing the end of such a summer refit, and I'm tired. Not just regular "it's close to bed time after a long day" tired, but tired to the bone and that's a dangerous place to be when you live on a boat. It's why a lot of cruisers quit cruising because things get added to the bottom of the list faster than they get taken off the top. It's called project fatigue.

If you want to be successful at cruising, you need to learn how to manage project fatigue. Sure, there's times when you just have to push through to get something done, but on the regular project list, you sometimes need to take a step back and remember why you're doing this. Sit in the cockpit and watch the mama manatee lift her new baby up to take a breath. Catch the beautiful sunrise. Go sailing for an afternoon when someone asks if you'll help them with their new boat. Smell the ocean air. Laugh at the antics of the pelicans fishing for their lunch. Ride your bike into town and get a double scoop of Moose Tracks. The project list will still be there when you come back to it and you'll have some new energy to tackle it.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Tuesday Tips #11 - Popcorn

On the subject of limited of the difficult things to try to stock up on when we go to the Bahamas is chips. For the most part, we don't stock up on a lot of things before we go because we try to support the local economy since we're using their resources. There are a few exceptions to this rule though, as some things are just too expensive over there to justify buying and chips is one of them. A bag of Doritos that might cost you $3.79 here in the States is going to set you back about $8.00 over there. And beer? It will set you back between $3.00 and $4.00 per bottle. Some things are just non-existent like good decaf coffee and Fair Trade chocolate, so we stock up on just those few things.

For a while we solved the chips problem by buying Pringles but, let's face it, Pringles are OK for a minor diversion, but when you want a good potato chip they just don't cut it. Don't get me wrong - the packaging is great for boats since they can't crush and they take up a fraction of the space of a bag of chips. They just lack in the taste department.

The last time we went over we decided to go a whole different direction and buy popcorn. We don't have a microwave on Kintala, so we buy the regular organic unpopped popcorn kernels that come in a big bag for just a couple bucks. You get an incredible amount of popcorn for the money. And if you want it flavored? We buy this cheddar powder and butter powder which keep really well in the cupboard. Price wise - one 15.75 ounce bag of Lay's Classic chips has about 13 cups of chips in it for around $4.00. One jar of Orville Redenbacher's popcorn kernels costs about the same amount and it makes 240 cups of popcorn. To make it even more of a contrast, I usually buy the store brand of popcorn which is usually at least a dollar cheaper. Easy on the budget and easy on the storage space. It's a win-win.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Tuesday Tips #10 - Natural Deoderant

Using commercial deoderant really bothers me. Have you ever really studied the label? It's scary. Add to that the fact that it builds up and it was starting to make these very weird dark stains in my underarms and I was ready to try something new.

My daughter, who feels the same way about the stuff, has tried many different natural concoctions, but none of them have worked for me. So color me surprised when I bought a bottle of Magnesium Oil for my husband to use for its alleged properties of helping with insomnia and restless leg syndrome, and read on the label that it also makes a great natural deoderant. I've been using it every since and have been very pleased.

A word of caution: Not everyone can use this stuff. It appears that some people are very sensitive to it and react with severe itching. They tell you that if you are magnesium deficient, you may react more severely. They tell you to try just a small amount on the bottom of your feet, and if you don't react then you can progress to using more of it. I have never reacted to it since we bought it and have been using it as deoderant quite successfully for some time now. My daughter, on the other hand, reacted like she had poison ivy, so if you decide to try it, go slow and see how you do. I'm really happy that I found something that works as deoderant that's actually good for me! Oh, and the insomnia thing? Jury's still out on that one.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Tuesday Tips #9 - Portable Music

One of the things we try to do while cruising is to attend any drum circles we find. We've gone to the Coconut Grove Drum Circle by the Dinner Key Mooring Field that's held on the Saturday of the full moon each month. We've also gone to the very famous and long-standing Siesta Key Drum Circle, that meets every Sunday evening from about 6:00 pm till dark, year round. The problem with being a drummer is that drums take up a lot of room, and space is at a premium on most cruising boats.

A few months ago I happened on a new idea that Remo came up with. Remo is the manufacturer of many styles of replacement drum heads, and they designed a drum head that could be snapped on any 5 or 6 gallon bucket. Hmmm I don't think I've ever run across a cruising boat that didn't have at least one 5 gallon bucket on hand so this seemed like a really great idea. You can buy them in many styles. They have one that's labeled "Comfort Sound Technology" which is more of a fabric skin and produces a softer, more mellow sound that can be played indoors. Their regular heads come in three tones: a low, medium, and high pitch. We ordered the comfort sound technology head and a low tone head from Lone Star Percussion in Dallas, Texas, only because they had the best price at the time with the shortest delivery. The heads come in perfect cardboard boxes to store them in. We also ordered one of their dedicated Rhythm Pal buckets because it was a better shape than the $3 ones you get at Lowes. The drum produces a very nice tone and has been tested repeatedly at the drum circle. The really nice thing about it is that the head snaps off easily so you can store your sticks inside. We also store our maracas and our tambourine inside when we're not using the drum. Remo's bucket comes with a strap as well, so it's easy to carry - an important benefit because a lot of drum circles are a good walk from wherever you are. So if you've always wanted to have a drum on board or even if you're land locked and you want a very inexpensive way to get into drumming, try it out.