Sunday, November 30, 2008


It's a winter wonderland!
It's not the first time it has snowed but this is the first time it has stuck to anything.  I always think it's beautiful when the snow hangs onto the trees and bushes.  At least it's been warm enough that the snow hasn't stayed on the sidewalks or streets.  Last year this time we had loads of snow- and then we didn't see the ground in our backyard until March.  Here's hoping for a bit less of the white stuff this year.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

The Omnivore's 100

Quite a while ago Very Good Taste  offered up the Omnivore's 100:  100 things to try in your life as an omnivore.  Hmmm....I'm a pretty well rounded, adventurous eater.  I know this isn't new but here's how I stack up.

1) Copy this list into your blog or journal, including these instructions.

2) Bold all the items you’ve eaten.

3) Cross out any items that you would never consider eating.

4) Optional extra: Post a comment here at verygoodtaste linking to your results.

The VGT Omnivore’s Hundred:
1. Venison (have an uncle who is an avid bow hunter)

2. Nettle tea

3. Huevos rancheros

4. Steak tartare

5. Crocodile

6. Black pudding

7. Cheese fondue

8. Carp

9. Borscht

10. Baba ghanoush

11. Calamari (even the children have all had this one-  K8 even requested it for his birthday a few years ago)

12. Pho

13. PB&J sandwich

14. Aloo gobi

15. Hot dog from a street cart (I've done them from the ball park, does that count?  I generally don't do hot dogs- not since I learned what the allowable percentage of insect parts and rodent hair is... My allowable percentage is 0)

16. Epoisses

17. Black truffle

18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes (apple, cherry, rhubarb, blackberry, even tomato!)

19. Steamed pork buns

20. Pistachio ice cream

21. Heirloom tomatoes (DUH!!)

22. Fresh wild berries

23. Foie gras

24. Rice and beans

25. Brawn,or head cheese

26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper (I've grown them and like hot peppers but never had the guts to try one raw...maybe next summer.  V says it's like drinking an entire 6-pack at the same time)

27. Dulce de leche

28. Oysters

29. Baklava

30. Bagna cauda

31. Wasabi peas

32. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl (I've had clam chowder and I've had soup in sourdough bowls but not together)

33. Salted lassi

34. Sauerkraut

35. Root beer float

36. Cognac with a fat cigar (cigars make me barf!!!)

37. Clotted cream tea

38. Vodka jelly/Jell-O

39. Gumbo

40. Oxtail

41. Curried goat (roast but not curried)

42. Whole insects (at least not on purpose.  I know I've swallowed bugs, especially gnats while gardening)

43. Phaal

44. Goat’s milk

45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth £60/$120 or more

46. Fugu

47. Chicken tikka masala

48. Eel

49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut

50. Sea urchin

51. Prickly pear

52. Umeboshi

53. Abalone

54. Paneer

55. McDonald’s Big Mac Meal (Yeah, confession time)

56. Spaetzle

57. Dirty gin martini (don't like gin but I've had vodka martinis)

58. Beer above 8% ABV

59. Poutine (french fries, cheese curds and gravy?  Why?)

60. Carob chips

61. S’mores

62. Sweetbreads

63. Kaolin

64. Currywurst

65. Durian (it does stink to high heaven but it actually tastes pretty good)

66. Frogs’ legs

67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake

68. Haggis

69. Fried plantain

70. Chitterlings, or andouillette

71. Gazpacho

72. Caviar and blini

73. Louche absinthe

74. Gjetost, or brunost

75. Roadkill (hmm, if I hit a deer and was able to dress it out on the spot I'd do it but I'm not sure I'd eat anything not fresh)

76. Baijiu

77. Hostess Fruit Pie

78. Snail (too much like slugs for my taste but I've never been offered them prepared well)

79. Lapsang souchong (during my Mom's adventurous tea days)

80. Bellini

81. Tom yum

82. Eggs Benedict

83. Pocky (the children got something similar from their Tae Kwon Do master but not sure)

84. Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant.

85. Kobe beef

86. Hare  (does rabbit count???)

87. Goulash

88. Flowers

89. Horse

90. Criollo chocolate

91. Spam

92. Soft shell crab

93. Rose harissa

94. Catfish

95. Mole poblano

96. Bagel and lox

97. Lobster Thermidor

98. Polenta

99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee

100. Snake

If I counted right I think I'm at 55 of 100.  Not too bad for a girl from the midwest.  I need to work on my Mid-eastern and asian foods.  I had the good fortune of having some quite adventurous eating during a trip to the Philippines in my younger days.    I don't think there is anything I would say I would absolutely refuse to try.  Things I wouldn't line up for but I would try if given the opportunity.  

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving at the farm

My favorite tree.
We spent the day with my parents on the farm.  This is the place where I grew up.  The original house was lost in a fire in 1991 but my parents rebuilt on the same spot and much of the property is just as it was many years ago.  
If you have ever wondered about my tree image.  This is it.  This is a HUGE cottonwood tree that has stood near the corncrib for nearly forever.  You can just see some farm equipment parked on the far side of the tree that gives you a sense of scale.  I have been taking photos of this tree, from about this same spot for years.  Not quite sure why- except that I love that big old tree.  Maybe it is a symbol of the connection I feel, the rootedness (is that even a word) to the land.

I, K and V check out the corn.
After eating waaay too much for Thanksgiving dinner (we ate about 1:00) some of us took a walk.  My Dad has retired from active farming but rents the land to a young man who lives nearby.  Yeah, it's conventional farming, but this guy at least treats the land with respect.  He was out with his combine later, still trying to get the crops in.  This particular field is, I believe, about 70 acres and I think it is one of the last he has to finish.
My Dad on the tractor.
My Dad took advantage of the nice weather as well to disc one of the garden plots.  This old tractor is his pride and joy.  If you notice the big silver tank on the side- it's a propane tank.  My Dad is quite the tinkerer and a few years ago converted this tractor to run on propane.  It definitely isn't new or top of the line but it runs.  I learned my frugality from one of the best!

Hope all here in the states had a wonderful Thanksgiving celebration.  And to all those in other places,  I hope you also enjoyed your day and the bounty of the earth.

Peace,  Judy

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Brussels Sprouts with maple butter and walnuts

Yum, the sample was great!!
This is an adaptation of a dish I have made in the past that originally used chestnuts.  I'm fresh out of chestnuts and not likely to pay the outrageous price to get some so I substituted lightly toasted walnuts for the roast chestnuts.  I'm assembling the entire dish tomorrow at my Mom and Dad's house but thought  should make sure it is OK before I serve it to the family.  Quality control is important.  It works with the walnuts.

Brussels sprouts with maple butter and walnuts

1/3 to 1/2 cup lightly toasted walnuts (I dry toasted them in a cast iron skillet)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 or 3 tablespoons maple syrup
1 1/2 pounds Brussels sprouts, cooked until tender but not mushy (leave whole if small or cut into halves or quarters)
olive oil
1/2 large red onion, sliced thin
salt and pepper to taste

Cream butter with maple syrup, set aside
Lightly saute onions in olive oil until tender.
Mix sauteed onions into Brussels sprouts, season with salt and pepper to taste.  Allow to cool slightly then mix in maple butter and toasted walnuts. Serve immediately.

For traveling just over an hour tomorrow I've cooked the sprouts and onion, mixed the maple butter and toasted the walnuts.  When we arrive, I plan to  reheat the veggies and add the maple butter and nuts right before we serve.  Hope it turns out well.
I'm also making Pumpkin Praline Pie.  From the scent coming from the oven it promises to be remarkable!!!

Happy Thanksgiving to all.  Enjoy the fruits of your labors!!

What I'm Thankful For...

I'm thankful for many things in my life.  
First and foremost,  I'm thankful for my family.  My loving husband V and my 3 beautiful, talented children.  Oh, we have our moments where things aren't always fabulous, but, that's life.  
I am thankful that I have a stable job that I love, working with people I respect.  I may not always want to go to work and sometimes I resent my work interfering with my life but again, I am grateful.
I am thankful that we have a beautiful, warm home. That we have enough food to feed us and keep our bodies strong.  I'm even thankful for our wild, wonderful dog.
I am thankful for all my friends and family, both near and far, even those I have only recently met.  I am also thankful for this wonderful world that we have been given and I hope to have much opportunity to be a good steward of this earth. 

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Snuffle, Snuffle

Everyone here has a cold.  I11 is hopefully just about over his since I think he had it first.  K8 doesn't seem too bothered but he is sniffling and snotty nosed.  J14 has been coughing, V has been slightly feverish and snuffly.  I've been having the sinus drainage down the back of the throat for about the last week and, frankly, I'm getting a bit tired of it.  V and I both have to work tomorrow (V only til 1:00) but the kids are all off school until next week.  Hopefully if they get a chance to rest up tomorrow they'll be good to go on Thanksgiving.  We'll have to be careful around all the family so we don't share more than a meal.  
My sister from Colorado and her sons will be at my parent's Thursday- they're bringing the turkey with them so it won't exactly be Iowa local.  I still need to decide what to bring.  My Mom was NO help.  I got the traditional midwestern indecision:  "Whatever you want to bring is fine".  ARRGH!!!

Monday, November 24, 2008

I've been tagged! Green Meme #2

Mon at Global Homestead has tagged me!  Green Meme #2.  Wow, I've never been tagged before but here we go.

1) Link back to Green Meme Bloggers. (use image if you like)
2) Link back to whoever tagged you (no need to wait to be tagged!)
3) Include meme number
4) Include these guidelines in your post
5) Tag 3 other green bloggers.

Green Meme #2
1. Do you use baking soda toothpaste or baking soda shampoo?  If not, would you consider it?
I've used baking soda for toothpaste before both in toothpaste and 'straight up'.  I've never tried it for shampoo but I've heard it's hard on the hair and mine tends to be pretty dry anyway.
2. Do you make any home cleaning products?
Oh yeah,  We use lots of vinegar and baking soda.  We even discovered, when the children were young, that a mix of water, vinegar and a bit of soap actually cleans crayon marks off walls better than the commercial cleaners.  
3. What is your top green issue at the moment?
Probably local foods.  I've been trying to be more conscious of where our food comes from and how many miles it has traveled to make it to our plates.
4. Given unlimited cash, what is on your fantasy green wishlist?
Oh,  the acreage with the dream house would be top of the list.  Passive solar, with a wood stove and a fireplace that I can cook in- with a bake oven.  And a root cellar and some wind turbines up on the hill....
5.  Have you implemented any new green act/behaviour/product this month?
Hmm, not really recently, although I did manage to finally get our new rain barrel emptied before it completely froze.

I am planning to tag Stephany at Naturally Simple, Matriarchy at Ramping Up the Garden and Gina at Cauldron Ridge Farm.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Taking advantage of things

I love my slicer.  We got this one for a wedding gift way back in the dark ages.  It is beginning to show it's age but it still works quite well.  It allows us to take advantage of buying things in bulk (or chunks) and slicing it ourselves.  Much cheaper than deli products.  I'll admit, over the past few years I have gotten lazy and we've been buying deli meats, but no more.  The ham pictured is a smoked one (not local unfortunately) that I picked up recently.  I also took advantage of a special deal at the grocery store.  There must have been an error in ordering for the deli because they had a limited number of whole 12 lb deli hams on sale for $11.99.  We got one and cut it into chunks, wrapped it and tucked it away in the freezer.  Talk about a lucky find.  I went back later to pick one up for my mother but they were all gone.
We also took advantage today of the warm weather.  It was up to 51 today.  Not too bad for Iowa the week before Thanksgiving.  V climbed up onto the roof (I was the official ladder holder) to fix the chimney.  The chimney cap was crumbling and he discovered that there are several bricks that will need replacing- but not right now.  He got it patched up enough that it will hold through the winter but we'll have to put some effort into it in the spring when it's warmer.
I also picked up some inexpensive chicken hindquarters at the grocery this afternoon (one final shopping trip for the week while I11 was at band rehearsal).  We're having some of them roast with winter veggies for dinner and I have the rest simmering for stock for other uses.  We'll have several meals from them.  
I got the weekly menu planned, with the exception of Thursday since we will go to my parent's farm to be with family. My brother will be there as will my sister from Colorado. I need to find out from my Mom what she needs me to bring- although I'm sure she has been cooking for the past week already.  I was thinking of maybe the Pumpkin Praline Pie I saw last week. Not that we will need any more desserts.  
LOL.  The boys asked if they could watch a movie while dinner is cooking and since they have finished their homework I said yes.  I just noticed that they are watching a Winnie the Pooh movie- in French- with English subtitles.  Who knew....

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Thrift store treasures

Since the weather turned colder, J14 has been complaining that she doesn't have many long sleeved shirts that still fit her (that child had the audacity to grow!! although I think she is about done).  I plan to get her some new things for holiday gifts but in the meantime I took her to a local thrift store (run by the local Mennonite community) to pick up some new shirts. We were fortunate that they were having a sale (even at the thrift store!) so she got several shirts for $.25 each.  I also let her get a gorgeous midnight blue formal since she informed me that the winter formal dance is coming up on Dec. 13 and I'm NOT going to pay retail prices for a dress.  It will need hemmed because it is too long but it was definitely a good find. I told her I would only get it if she promised she would wear it more than once.  I think formal dresses are such a waste (hence my thrift store wedding dress). I'll have to post some pictures before the dance.
We also purchased several used books.  J14 got "The Seed Starter's Handbook" that she plans to give me for a holiday gift (Hmm, I wonder who could have clued her in on that $.75  gift idea).  The most interesting we got was a total impulse buy.  We were looking through the foreign language section (since J is taking German) and came across an old book about the Johnstown flood in Pennsylvania. Since V is originally from PA and also knows German we decided to get it for him, especially since it is a first edition printed in 1889.  We paid $.63 for it (a half price item).  This afternoon I did some research online about it.  I only found 2 or 3 sites with information about this particular volume (there were lots about the edition in English) but the ones I did find had it listed for sale anywhere from $38 to $130 depending on condition.  We're not planning to put it up for sale but what a great find.  I love old books and we have quite a collection, many of which I have no idea how much they are worth.  Maybe we should up the home insurance... 

Friday, November 21, 2008

Taking stock

Well, considering the likelihood of leaner times in the next few months I decided it was time to take adequate stock of the pantry.  I've let the inventory of some of the basic staples slide for a while.  I discovered that while I have LOTS of lentils in stock, I was completely out of black beans, kidney/red beans and black eyed peas.  We were getting low on other staples such as rice as well.  I had planned on going shopping today to round things out, only to be reassured at Sharon Astyk's page that it is a good time to take advantage of holiday sales.  She reminded me that not only are baking staples such as flour and sugar on pretty good sales right now but to keep an eye out for spices that rarely go on sale.  So I stocked up on ginger, nutmeg and allspice that were on sale at the local grocery.  In addition I got the following:
10 lbs rice
10 lbs unbleached flour
5 lbs white sugar (it was a one bag limit)
1 lb packages of black beans, kidney beans, black eyed peas and small red beans to refill my mason jars
10 lbs russet potatoes (not organic but a really good deal)
2 packs premium chocolate chips (on sale for 1.99 each with a coupon for $1 off if you buy 2 bags)
4 bags frozen peas (Mine didn't do much this year- too much rain)
2 lbs butter (again, not organic but it's getting close to time for baking holiday goodies and I refuse to use margarine)
A few other items rounded out the trip, ramen noodles for I11, oranges (definitely not local produce!), coffee, eggs and a few items for the food drive at the boys' elementary school.
Hope all have a peaceful, restful weekend.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

It's Official

V got the news that as of the first of the year he does not have a job. I'm glad he isn't one of those who were told that they don't have a job effective immediatly. I'm trying to put a positive spin on this that at least we didn't make an offer on a house first and then find out he's losing his job.
We'll get through. We always have. I just had such high hopes....


Things aren't great here on several fronts. First, I heard back from the realtor that the house that we were going to go look at is no longer available. They accepted an offer last week and all the contingencies should be met soon. So that one is out. Dissapointed sigh...
But the other news is much more disturbing. V just sent me an email that his place of employment has started layoffs, effective today. They let go of some of the senior editorial, marketing and production staff so his job as a lowly temp worker is not likely to survive. His supervisor said she would give him a good recommendation- for what that's worth in today's economy.
So, it's a good thing that I did some preparations, that we have food 'put by' and that we know how to live frugally. We're not going to starve without his income but things definitely won't be as comfortable.
Hmmm. if he gets laid off, maybe I'll have him enclose our South facing front porch and turn it into a greenhouse....

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Going to go look!!

I have talked V into going to look at the house I mentioned yesterday.  True to his form when I initially asked him what he thought he was negative.  One of the 'church ladies' he used to work with at his old job had called him obstreperous (now there's a $10,000 word) which suits him to a T.  After looking again at the pictures online and the description, the best I could get from him was 'The land looks nice and the house has possibilities".  His initial complaint was that the house looks too small.  Of course, at 2500+ square feet it is significantly larger than our current home.
It is located just outside a small town 12.1 miles from our current house (thanks Mapquest).  It is 5 acres of land (from the aerial photos looks like pasture) with an old 4 bedroom house.  Downside: the house has hot water heat- they have never replaced the old radiators. But, it has the original old woodwork and leaded glass windows, 2 fireplaces, outbuildings and a 'guesthouse' that I assume is currently rented.  I was actually thinking of having room for a quilt frame and a summer kitchen.
We'll have to see.  I sent a message to the realtor who is listing the house and am waiting to hear back from him.  The price is such that it is well within our affordable range.  In fact, with the stats they have listed, we could do the down payment and the monthly payment is doable on my salary alone so if V ended up not getting to keep his job things would be TIGHT but not totally unmanageable.  
J14 has raised a fuss declaring that she will NOT  change high schools. I11 has declared that he will only move if he gets a parakeet (no idea where that one came from), and K8 says he wants a horse and chickens.
I feel somewhat uneasy trying to make this move in today's economy with the real estate market the way it is.  Our current home is close enough to downtown and the college campus that I'm not really worried about it selling, unless we put an outrageous price tag on it like the house down the street that hasn't sold.  I am realistic about our finances, we own our current home outright so we would not have to worry about 2 mortgage payments if it takes a while to sell.  The probable sale price of our current home is not quite 2/3 of the price of the potential new place.  
I feel somewhat of a sense of urgency that I can't quite explain to have my new home with my own land.  I think it has to do with wanting more of a sense of security in uncertain times.  That we would have the ability to meet our needs should TSHTF.  I don't think V feels the same way.  He seems to be thinking that the 'perfect' house and land will suddenly appear.  I'm more of the opinion that you find something with potential and build your dream.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

A sick child bonus day

I11 is home sick from school.  He came home last night and fell asleep on the couch before dinner.  That should have been a huge red flag.  He had a temp last night, is complaining of a sore throat and looks pale and washed out. His throat doesn't look so bad that I'm worried about strep  but we let him stay home from school today.  We have let him stay home by himself for a few hours in the past but considering how burnt out I am with my job right now (last week's complaints still stand along with new comments from administration that our 'productivity' doesn't support either more staff or our request to reduce services on weekends) I quickly volunteered to stay home with him.  It also makes financial sense for me to be the one staying home.  I have paid time off- with V still being an hourly temp- if he doesn't work, he doesn't get paid.  
So, I have had a bonus day. I11 is sacked out on the couch under a mountain of blankets, occasionally sipping hot chocolate, watching a movie.  I have gotten 3 loads of laundry washed and hung on the lines so far and have plans to patch some pants and our comforter (Dog claws can be destructive!!!) Maybe I'll even take some more time to work on my knitting quest.  I almost have the hang of casting on but am determined to not give up!  It's cold outside but finally sunny so I'm also going to try to finally empty the rain barrel before it's too late.  
Like I said, a bonus day for catching up on things.  I11 isn't so sick that he needs me around constantly to tend him so I can actually get things done.  

But a question for folks out there: How old do you think children should be before you leave them home sick alone?  
We've had this debate for a while.  The other consideration is that I11 has ADD (inattentive) for which he takes meds on school days.  That is something I didn't really want to resort to but which has helped him tremendously. But he doesn't take meds if he's not going to school (they affect his appetite and he is too skinny as it is) so having him home alone not necessarily paying attention to what is going on around him can be nerve wracking.

I did take some time to look at real estate adds this morning.  Found another possibility, one that has been advertised for a while- an old 1915 arts and crafts style.  It's a little farther away than we would like and it's out of the school district but it is on 5 acres with the option of wood heat. And a selling point of a fireplace in the master bedroom! Vavoom!!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Cookies and music

It was a busy day here.  J14 had her violin recital this afternoon and I11 had his first rehearsal of the Wittenberg Steamroller.  That is the band that our church puts together for special events.  They are working up Christmas music for the service of lessons and carols in early December.  He has been playing the euphonium since last year (5th grade) and the band is open to all players grade 6 and up so this was his first chance to join them.  He was quite nervous going in, worried that he wouldn't know all the notes or that the music would be too hard. But he did fine and was quite pleased with himself.  He now has new music to practice.  They only have 6 rehearsals before their performance.  
J14 reminded me that all families are to provide treats for the reception following the recital so I had to whip up something in short order.  I made Snickerdoodles.  They are definitely NOT low fat but they have such a rich but light texture that I love them.  They weren't something that my Mom made when I was growing up but we discovered them at the farmer's market when J14 was little.  They quickly became a favorite and my sister gave me a cookbook one year simply because it had a snickerdoodle recipe in it.  She found it while they were on vacation and it is one of those wonderful compilations of recipes from an Amish community with everyone's name (and job) attached to them. 

1 cup shortening
1 1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 3/4 cups flour
1 tsp. cream of tartar
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp baking soda
Mix together shortening, sugar and eggs.  Stir in flour, cream of tartar, soda and salt.  Chill dough (sometimes I make this an optional step).  Roll into balls the size of walnuts.  Then roll in a mixture of cinnamon and sugar (Whatever ratio works for you.  When not taking them elsewhere I make them more cinnamony).  Place 2 inches apart on ungreased baking sheet.  Bake 8 to 10 minutes in a 350 oven.  They should be barely browned on the bottom.  Let sit on the pan for a minute after you take them from the oven then remove to cooling racks.
The cookies will puff as they bake and get wonderful cracks across the top.  The cream of tartar gives them a lovely crispness that you don't often get from other cookies.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Mmmm cheesesteaks

Sorry, no pictures.  They didn't last long enough....
Earlier in the week I opened a jar of the hot pepper relish I made earlier this fall.  It was supposed to be made with all jalapenos but I didn't have enough so it ended up a mixture of jalapenos, chilis, hot wax, golden cayenne and tabasco peppers along with sliced onion and carrots.  Sounds like an odd mix but it's really good.  When we opened it, V commented that it tasted just like the hot pepper relish that his Mom used to get for cheesesteaks when he was a kid.  Being a native from southeast PA- cheesesteak central- he has always complained of never being able to find a REAL one in restaurants.  We have dabbled in making them ourselves before but tonight I think we got it right.  THIN sliced steak sauteed with onions and green peppers on whole wheat hoagie rolls with local organic cheese and homemade hot relish.  Fantastic.  I11 was even persuaded to eat the roll with sesame seeds on top- quite a victory for a kid who normally would have spent half of dinner time picking every seed off the top.  The boys ate some of the green peppers (they're not fans of those) but opted out of the hot relish.  They don't know what they're missing.
I was looking at the real estate adds again this morning.  Found that one place that we had looked at online before has now dropped the price.  Makes it doable but of course V had his negative comment (he finds something wrong with every place I suggest!) that this was the house where the 3 seasons porch was on the north side of the house.  While not ideal- not the reason I would choose to not go look at it.  I need to look again to check what school district it is in before I push him harder.  I think he is also getting nervous about his job.  He is still hired as a temp worker and although he has verbal reassurances that he will be hired permanent in January, he noticed today that the other 2 temp workers who were there are no longer working.  Gulp!  Hopefully he'll find out for sure soon.  We really can't make any move on property until we're sure of his income.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Sweet potato biscuits

Biscuits in process

A few days ago, on Women Not Dabbling, Gina posted a recipe for her Dad's Sweet Potato Biscuits.  It looked lovely.  So, having the day off (when not inventorying my fridge or doing laundry) I cooked up some of the sweets in the basement and tried them.  A hit at our house, even with those reluctant to try new things (read I and K).

The finished product
But as you can see from the nearly empty pan in the back, they evidently were pretty tasty (they were!)  I wasn't sure how many the recipe would make so I ended up with 2 pans.  Maybe I should have rolled them thicker but they seemed to take forever to bake the way they were.

What's in your freezer?

Here it is in all it's glory!
I stopped over at Meadowlark's page and she is following up on a challenge (of sorts) of owning up to what's in your fridge.  I'll play along with that one and add the challenge of what's in your freezer.  No editing or cleaning allowed.

And not to forget the fridge...
We got a new high efficiency fridge about a year ago.  A 4 door!  Yes, we paid through the nose for it but I absolutely love it.  The drawers on the bottom can be set to be used for freezer or fridge space.  The larger drawer on the right is now full of apples and pears, the left drawer is full of stuff I use for baking: nuts, choc. chips, coconut, etc.  And, yes, those are eggo waffles in the freezer section.  I relented and got some for the boys again after a several week hiatus.  They are a quick and easy breakfast for them that they can make themselves.

ADDITION:  Ok here is an abbreviated contents list.  Fridge only.  I'm not starting on the freezers.
Top shelf:
Salsa  x2
Apple jelly and butter
caramel dipping sauce
1 bottle sparkling wine
chocolate covered blueberries, strawberries and cranberries
left over dip from a party (note to self- probably needs thrown out!!!)
Second shelf: 
Pickled japapeno
left over apple sauce
raspberry jam
orange marmalade
steak- from the grocery store not my local guy :(
left over hot dog bun
cheese curds from the local cheese factory
Third shelf:
5 or 6 salad dressings
soup base 
black forest ham (also not local) waiting to be sliced
Bottom shelf:
Bread for I11 (I know- I spoil him by getting a separate loaf for him)
Wheat germ
sliced jalapenos
Sweet pickles, relish
dehydrated buttermilk
parmesan cheese
More milk
Apple cider
flax seed
catsup and a variety of mustard (5 kinds at last count)
chocolate and strawberry syrup
soy, tamari, sriracha, A-1, worchestershire? (I can never spell that one)
capers, sundried tomatoes in oil, wasabi paste
lime juice
produce- carrots, celery, cucumber, peppers, greens, a chunk of fresh ginger
Bottom drawer Right:
Apples, apples and more apples
Shallow drawer with cheeses and tortillas
extra coffee
Bottom drawer- left:
nuts, raisins, craisins, figs, chocolate, peanut butter and butterscotch chips, dried dates, coconut and probably a few other odds and ends.

I'm sure I've missed a few things but like I said- it's pretty empty right now.  I need to go shopping- and we've cleaned out lots of the leftovers in the past few days.  Good timing :)

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Trying to practice what I preach

I'm taking a vacation day from work tomorrow (the 13th) for a mental health day.  Work has been relentless for the past two and a half weeks and I am approaching burn out.  I do love my job but I occasionally have days when I don't feel like getting up and going to work.  I do anyway, because that's what you do.  But this morning was different.  I woke up and realized that I REALLY didn't want to go to work.  I went anyway but made arrangements to have tomorrow off.  I work in the mental health field and am constantly urging my patients to engage in self-nurturing activities and to listen to their bodies and minds to know when to take care of themselves. My co-workers and I often chide each other that we don't practice what we preach but we're all trying to get better.  Work has been so draining and so busy that it's all I can do when I get home to put dinner on the table before collapsing.  We are theorizing that more people are coming through the psych units because of the ongoing stress of the economic crisis.  But since a lot of what I do is to work on stress management with people, that leaves me busy.  I've also seen an upswing in elderly people brought into our geriatric psych unit because they aren't able to care for themselves at home, either physically or financially.  I do comprehensive evaluations to determine level of care for these people so I often get to be the bearer of bad news, telling people that they should no longer drive or that they need to give up their home.  THAT is really emotionally draining, and I feel that I'm taking away their independence- which in a very real way, I am.
Anyway, I'm tired and I'm emotionally at the end of my rope.  Knowing that I'm scheduled to work on Saturday, I knew that I would never make it through 6 days straight and still be therapeutic working with anyone.  So, tomorrow I get a day at home by myself.  Ah, I hear laundry calling my name, and maybe trying a few new recipes I have found recently. At least I won't be at work and I won't have to take on other people's problems.  My own are quite enough.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

We're being profiled!!

No, not by the police, thank goodness.  Our church newsletter periodically prints profiles of congregation members.  J14's confirmation mentor was asked to write a profile for the December newsletter and she chose us.  She sent me interview questions a few weeks ago and today sent me a copy of the article for my approval.  She titled it 'Green Before it was Cool'.  LOL!!  I have worked with her on several committees and we have both attended the series of educational forums on local foods and environmental issues that our church put on.  (It was rather sad.  It was the same 3-5 people at each session but we still try to get the word out there.)  Anyway,  she is aware that I am passionate about environmental issues and during their mentoring sessions J14 shared some information with her.  Some things we've make public in some of the energy conservation sessions we've been in on-  Things like when you do the carbon footprint calculations, we come in well under our Kyoto allotment for a family of 5, that I line dry my clothes, walk to work,  have a big garden and can my own produce.  You know, the usual stuff.  J14 also shared with her the story of my wedding dress. The wedding dress story???
Ok, I'll share:   V and I were married at the church we now attend 22 years ago.  We've lived up and down the east coast in the meantime, but we started out in this town long ago.  My wedding dress was purchased at a local thrift store for $25.  My mom had it dry cleaned and did minor repairs but nothing major.  I don't think at the time I was thinking about environmental or sustainability issues (who really was 22 years ago) but I was definitely frugal, even in my younger years.  I still don't understand spending $400+ on a dress that you will wear once for a few hours.  I liked the dress, it fit and it was a deal.  I guess people think that's strange, I didn't really think about it at the time.  I also shared with her that when we got married, there was another wedding scheduled later the same day.  As I didn't care what kind/colors of flowers were in the church and didn't see the need to have more flowers picked for no good reason, I called the other bride and offered to split the cost of flowers with her, telling her she could pick what she wanted.  Evidently another thing that people seem to find strange... Maybe it's just me.
J's mentor, Kathy, was also fascinated with our rain barrel when she was over picking J14 up for an outing, asking lots of questions and looking at how it fit into the downspout system.  But she is also trying to make changes in her life.  She evidently had her first free range chicken this summer and says she won't go back.  In fact, we are planning an outing to an organic farm just north of here on the 22nd.  The farm is owned by one of the ladies I purchase from at the farmer's market (the one we've dubbed 'the bacon lady').   Kathy evidently has an in at the farm since one of her sons' friends has been working there, raising chickens (the farm has been mostly pork and lamb, I think).  I'm excited to get to go, see the farm and actually place an order for some meat, stocking up even more for the winter.  YEAH!!

Well, after this article comes out.  People won't have to just think we're a bit strange- they'll have it in black and white.  Maybe it will open some eyes.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Kids and food

El on Fast grow the weeds posted today on picky eaters.  It made me think about how we approach food with our children.  They really don't do too bad.  J14 will eat just about anything and everything.  She was hesitant about lima beans for quite a while but she has (pretty much) gotten over that.  She likes brussel sprouts and spinach,  all those things that kids aren't supposed to like.  She is really a fan of hot spicy foods.  Think eggs scrambled with tabasco, chipotle and Louisiana hot sauce!!
I11 is another story.  He has food 'issues'.  He LOVES mashed potatoes and really, potatoes in any form. He is getting better and more adventurous, especially since he wants to be a chef when he grows up and I told him he needs to be willing to try new things if he is a chef.  He has some issues with textures.  He won't eat bread with 'stuff' in it such as nuts, seeds and wheat berries.  He eats whole wheat since that's about the only kind I have in the house but I'll admit, I spoil him by buying a separate loaf of bread for him so he will eat it. He has recently started eating tomato sauce with chunks of tomato in it but still doesn't really like fresh tomatoes but then, more for me!!!
K8 does well.  He HATES potatoes, especially mashed ones, and has since he was a baby.  You know, mashed potatoes are often the first food 'off the table' that is fed (at least at our house).  He spat it out the first time he had it and hasn't liked it since.  He barely even tolerates french fries.  I have stopped trying to fight this one.  If we are having potatoes for dinner, he has the option of having bread and butter instead.  The one thing we're still fighting with him about is tomato sauce.  He doesn't like tomatoes either.  He will eat pizza with red sauce and ketchup but fresh tomatoes or tomato sauce he doesn't want. He would rather eat his spaghetti as plain noodles.    He did eat the lasagna I made last night so I guess we're making progress.  He does LOVE cucumbers and started eating the stuffed chili peppers I make in the late summer.
All the kids like broccoli and carrots and corn.  Getting them to eat their veggies has never been that much of an issue.  The boys each have their dislikes and I'm always tempted to not make that much of a fuss about it.  They aren't starving and they always have to try something new (at least 2 bites) before they can decide they don't like it.  They're much better than some of their friends who have been over:  I remember a friend of J14's several years ago who was over to play.  I made them sandwiches for lunch. She pronounced the cheese 'nasty'.  It seems the only cheese she had ever eaten was processed cheese singles.  Now that doesn't even count as food in my book.  My kids all grew up with 'real' cheese and love it.  They really don't even get that much junk food (unless you count rice cakes and tortilla chips).  We occasionally have soda in the house but it is a treat, not a staple.  They drink milk, juice or water.  
I really don't think we've done too bad....

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Farewell brave pioneers

Lamp lit evenings
It has been an interesting week here.  With the exception of entertainment we did pretty well on the Pioneer Week challenge.  Of course, entertainment was going to be the biggest challenge for us anyway.  We already try to conserve energy and water and I cook most of our meals from scratch or nearly so.  But still, it was an interesting week.  I never did get around to trying to make my own ricotta cheese but we did make pasta and I've got the lasagna in the oven.  A few bread sticks ready to pop in when it comes out, make a tossed salad with the last of the garden veggies and we'll be ready to feast.  
I did do some shopping today.  When we were cleaning before J14's party a few weeks ago, we stumbled across a $50 gift card that my MIL gave me for my birthday in June.  So J14 and I went to Michael's craft store.  I would have liked to shop locally, and I know there are small yarn shops here in town but they were having a yarn sale (50-70%off) and having publicly stated that I am incompetent at either knitting or crochet, I have vowed to learn.  So I got some yarn, a how-to book and some needles.  J14 also scored a beautiful picture frame and mat for  $4.50 to frame a print she received from her mentor. It's been so long since I actually purchased a picture frame I hardly knew what to do.  Most of ours have been salvaged from dumpsters or such and then refurbed.  J14 also got another ball of hemp so she can make some more bracelets for her friends (and I'm guessing herself).
V finally got up on the roof to clean the gutters before winter really sets in.  Unfortunately it was already down to 29 and some of the leaves were frozen in since it was raining recently.  I brought in one last hanging basket from outside.  I hadn't planned to bring it in and was just going to let the annual flowers in it freeze but they had survived last week's killing frost and the pink geranium was bravely blooming up a storm so I relented.  It looks lovely sitting on the floor but I didn't really need ANOTHER plant in the house.
Tomorrow is back to work (SIGH).  Gotta go uncover my lasagna.
Oh, I nearly forgot... For Rob's make do and mend, not much to report this week.  Sewed a button back on but not much else mending.  Did a lot of making do but then don't we always....

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Garlic and pasta

Huge garlic- sorry, a bit out of focus.
My friend Jim brought me 3 huge heads of garlic.  He lives within a block of us and is the guy J14 has dubbed "The gay goth gourmet".  This is, I guess kind of true.  I'm not so sure about the goth part- but he always dresses in black clothes.  I'm not sure that qualifies him as goth.  Anyway, his current love interest is working at an organic farm and brought home 3 crates of garlic to clean and sort. So Jim snagged some for me.  What a treat.  This stuff looks fantastic.  Now all I have to do is figure out how to store it.  Any suggestions?  I use quite a bit of garlic but I already have 2 huge heads that I just got and I'm worried that I won't get through it all before it goes bad. 

Whole wheat spaghetti

J Rolling pasta
We also made pasta today. Not quite pioneer fashion using the KitchenAid, but the hand crank pasta machine I had was lent to a friend years ago and never returned.  The children had fun, mostly, rolling it out and cutting it into spaghetti noodles but they quickly became bored and let me finish rolling, only to return when it was time to cut noodles.  We had enough for spaghetti for dinner and I made a pan of 'spinach' lasagna to put in the oven tomorrow.  It's always better when it has a chance to sit overnight.   I use the term spinach rather loosely, it is actually lambs' quarters that my dad harvested this spring and frozen for me.  He likes it better than spinach because it has smaller leaves and isn't as gritty.  It works really well in lasagna.  
We made a huge floury mess but had fun and it tasted fantastic.  I made a gigantic batch of tomato sauce to use for both meals out of some old sauce that I found in the bottom of the freezer when I reorganized a few weeks ago.  I always forget that I have some frozen.  Usually I freeze when I don't have enough left to make canning another batch worth it.  A nice surprise and it wasn't too old to still be good.  I'm working on being better at managing my stores.

This is lousy weather for laundry

Line drying laundry is something that I do year round, not just during pioneer week.  A few minutes in the dryer to take out wrinkles, soften things up and remove dog fur, then onto the lines, hopefully outside but also inside in the basement.  Today's weather is really bad for laundry. It's 35 and spitting snow. It rained/snowed yesterday so everything is damp anyway.  
My most recent observation (a real DUH moment here) is that winter clothes take up more space and take longer to dry than summer clothes.  Where I have been able to get by with one load in the summer, now with long sleeves and long pants, it's 2 loads through the washer.  And after 3 loads my lines in the basement are full and stuff probably won't be dry until later this afternoon or tomorrow morning.  I hate to resort to using the dryer to dry things all the way but I've got 6 more loads to do in the near future. GRRRR.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Pioneer week- What???

OK.  Things are not going that well for pioneer week.  Oh, the food has been good- although I'm sure that Ma Ingalls didn't have homemade pizza.  I'll confess, I didn't make the cheese and I'm sure the bottle of Australian Shiraz isn't very authentic either.  V is playing Medal of Honor on the Xbox and J14 is upstairs online- most likely instant messaging her boyfriend.  Probably half the lights in the house are on.  I haven't done very well selling this challenge.  I'm the only one who bought into it.  We did pretty well for the beginning of the week but things have been sliding ever since.   
But let's take stock:
1.  Food.  Except for the cheese for the pizza and the wine for dinner (after surviving this week we deserved it!) everything has been homemade.  The boys survived without their eggo waffles for breakfast and feasted on apple cinnamon muffins and cranberry walnut bread instead. I'm looking forward to making pasta tomorrow afternoon.  We're having spaghetti tomorrow night and I hope to make noodles and homemade ricotta for lasagne for Sunday. 
2. Energy use.  Having much trouble getting everyone to turn off lights!  This is an ongoing problem, though. Later I'll light the oil lamps and candles and V and I will have a romantic candlelight snuggle after the kids have been settled in for the night.  ;0
3.  Conserve water.  Haven't done too bad here. This is an area where we usually don't have much of a problem. V and I are good at short showers and it's usually a struggle to get the boys in the tub at all (LOL- or not really...).  J14 tends to be longer but she's only been in the shower a few times this week.
4. Transportation.  This is an area where we do well most of the time.  I walked home in the mix of snow and rain that has been falling off and on today.  V drives to work and he stopped at the store to pick up more milk and some 'medicinal' rum on his way home (for that late night snuggle).  Generally our driving is kept to a minimum anyway.
5.  Rethink entertainment.  This has been the downfall.  I've been really drained from work this week and haven't had the energy to organize 'alternative' activities.  We really don't watch that much TV anyway and the children aren't allowed to play video games during the school week- only Friday pm, Saturday and Sunday- and then in moderation (aren't we mean parents!).
6.  Watch your wallet.  Not an issue.  I'll confess to buying a Coke the day after the election because I needed some caffeine to keep me going at work. But other than that, the only purchases have been milk, juice and rum- all essentials in this house (oh, and decaf coffee).
Tomorrow is my usual shopping day so I'll need to make my menus for the week and figure out what we need.

OOPS!!! K8 just brought out a 'green slip' from school.  I seems that he scratched another child  while they were goofing around and he missed recess this morning because he 'forgot' to mention that they had been playing.  He has been our trouble maker for several years.  At least we haven't had any emails from the principal this year... yet.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Not much to say

Pioneer week is progressing.  Having trouble weaning the family off the TV but haven't had much energy to fight it.  Normally I love my job, and I still do, but it has been a really tough week and a half.  We were short staffed all last week and it's been too busy this week to get caught up so I'm just barely keeping my head above water.  Today was a little better and I finally had the chance to finalize my documentation from last Friday.  I HATE being behind.  Then to top it off, I have a really difficult patient that I'm seeing right now that is taking lots of emotional energy and just leaves me drained by the end of the day.
In house of the future news (or not) I checked the real estate listings at Craig's list and there was a house and 40 acres advertised.  Now 40 acres is WAY more than we're looking for but I checked it out anyway.  I was shocked- they're asking for a million dollars for a 1-2 bedroom cabin, 2 outbuildings and the land.  I DON'T THINK SO.  I'm not sure what they're thinking- especially in today's economy.   So the search continues.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Pioneer week- day 3

I'm tired.  I was up way too late last night watching election returns (sorry pioneer week, but TV and laptop were both on).  That coupled with a horrendous day at work made me ripe for giving up on pioneering principles.  But I held true.  Well, mostly.  K8 is watching TV right now because I'm too brain dead to argue with him about doing something else.
Cooking from scratch was a challenge for me tonight.  In other circumstances I may have succumbed to ordering a pizza so I wouldn't have to cook.  But I didn't.  We had what was on the menu for tonight and I cooked the beans for chili tomorrow. I had set them soaking this morning before I left for work.  So tomorrow is chili and cornbread- with cornmeal ground from my parent's farm and local honey.
In other news I was reading at Casaubon's Book and Sharon has a new challenge of a sort.  She's calling it The Competence Project.  It's a challenge to get us to try those things/skills that we've never learned or have always been 'too hard'.  So whether it's learning to stop a leaky faucet or build a chicken coop, there are many skills to try.  V and I are both pretty handy when it comes to practical stuff.  Since Santa has promised me a pressure canner this year, that is one of the skills I want to learn.  Even though I grew up with helping my Mom can, doing it on my own has always terrified me.  But I'm ready to try.  I also want to learn to knit or crochet.  I can sew just fine and my Mom tried to teach me to crochet years ago but I quickly gave up.  J14 is better at it than I am since my Mom was teaching her.  I've got several friends and acquaintances who knit so maybe I'll have to ask for lessons.  Hmmm, something to learn in the winter when the snow is flying.  That's coming too soon, I think

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Being a good citizen

Ok.  I'm going to toot my own horn for a minute here today.  I was a good citizen.
Yes, I voted (and got my free cup of coffee from the local Starbuck's- sorry pioneer week) but even before that I engaged in an unselfish act of being a good neighbor.
What, you may ask, is even better than voting??? A very good question.  So let me tell you:  As I was on my way  to vote, coffee, work (in that order) this morning about 700 I was just a few feet from the house walking down the sidewalk toward the stop sign on the corner, I spied out of the corner of my eye several quarters in the gutter.  Now, I have people laugh at me because I pick up change off the sidewalk- but in a good week I can collect enough to buy that coffee from Starbucks- not that I do....  Anyway,  as I was going to pick up the quarters I notice that there is a lot of change in the gutter, and a bit down the street is a wallet, and a bit further along is a credit card just lying there.  'NOW THIS ISN'T RIGHT' I thought to myself, so I collected the change, wallet and credit cards and took them  back home.  I checked the ID in the wallet and V looked up the number and called the girl to come get her things, credit cards, ID and money intact.  Boy, was she thankful.  J14 really made me feel good when she commented that it was a good thing that I had found the wallet instead of someone who may not have been as conscientious as I am.  

For me it's about building community, doing the right thing because it's right, all for someone who I will probably never see again.  Here's hoping she passes it on....

Monday, November 3, 2008

Pre-election pioneers

Spiced Fried Potatoes
It's day one of pioneer week.  Besides complaints from the boys that they couldn't have Eggo waffles for breakfast (Yes, we sometimes have those in the freezer. I know- shame on me) things have gone well.  
1. Food- all made from scratch.  We grilled a piece of beef and had the potatoes pictured above.  Fried potatoes and onions with salt, black pepper and cayenne to taste. Add corn (from my Mom), homemade bread and some of the last fresh tomatoes and it was a great dinner.  I just took a batch of apple cinnamon oatmeal muffins out of the oven for breakfast.  
2. Energy use- the heat isn't a problem- I actually wish it was a bit cooler.  It was in the 70s today and with baking more than usual I wish the house could use the heat of the oven.  I generally try to not bake much when the weather is warm.  Trying to get the boys to remember to turn off lights is an ongoing battle.
3. Conserve water- I took a short shower this morning and was quite careful when cooking and washing up some dishes.
4. Transportation- this generally isn't an issue either.  I always walk to  work and the children all walk to school.  I did make a short trip this evening to take J14 to orchestra rehearsal.  I picked up the boys from their after school program on the way back.  V does drive to work but at least it isn't too far.
5. Rethink entertainment-  I was amazed. When the boys got home they finished up their homework and then went upstairs to their room to play- no asking about TV (at least not until after 730).
6. Watch your wallet.  Not a problem- I didn't buy anything today.  V did stop at the grocery store  on his way home and picked up some apple cider (we were out and he needed a current receipt to get the 10 cent discount at the gas station since he was low on fuel).  We really only have to fill the car every 3 weeks, even with V's commute.

Work has been really tough lately. Very emotionally draining, and coupled with the tension over the economy and the election I've been a bit cranky lately.  Hopefully things will settle down soon.

In other news, We were looking through the real estate ads and found several acreages that could be promising.  Unfortunately all but one are out of our current school district.  That one doesn't look too bad but the house is REALLY ugly.  It was formerly used as a vets office and has that look about it.  It's a ranch (not either of our favorite home style) with 3 bedrooms but only the main floor is finished.  The basement isn't finished at all so there is lots of potential there.  Maybe we'll do a drive by to see how ugly it is in person- but that would mess up our pioneer week transportation.  Also, I hate to get too involved in the land search before V is certain that he will be hired permanently at his job.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Challenge check in

Well, since it's November,  I am participating in 3 challenges.  We're in luck with the Freeze Yer Buns challenge since it has been warm the past few days.  It reached 70 today outside and with the sun shining and baking cookies this afternoon it is currently 76 in the house with no heat on.  It looks like the warm weather will last at least part of the week, with forecasts predicting highs near 70 for the next couple of days.  
I"m also doing Rob's Make do and Mend challenge.  Halloween is a great time for making do.  The children did a great job coming up with costumes that really didn't cost much.  The only expense was a pack of cheap mens' white t-shirts for J14.  And those are something that will be used again and again.  I already finished my market basket and repaired a pair of sweatpants for K8 and re-stuffed one of the dog's favorite toys.  He had chewed a hole in it and was happily unstuffing it.  
The final challenge starts tomorrow.  We're heading into Pioneer Week starting tomorrow.  Fortunately the weather is supposed to be nice and I hope to cook outside on the grill since I don't have a fireplace or woodstove at the moment.  Those are both on the list for the 'house of the future'.  I baked bread yesterday using the 7 grain flour I picked up last weekend when my MIL was here.  I think it doesn't have as much gluten in it as whole wheat because it wasn't quite the same.  Different even from when I've made bread with rye flour.  It seemed too sticky and I had to add extra white flour- more than I usually use for the same recipe.  But it tastes great. We started eating it last night and have already gone through half a loaf. K8 requested it  for his sandwich today for lunch- even though we had a bit of 'store bought' bread left.
Busy week ahead.  Especially since NO convenience foods this week.  And there is the election to worry about.
Locally, this election, we have the opportunity to vote on a $20 million bond proposal.  The money is to be used to acquire land for conservation and community use over an extended period of time.  I'm amazed that there are so many people opposed to it, citing the increase in taxes at a difficult economic time.  Considering that the tax burden is going to end up about $2.20 a month for someone owning a $200,000 home I think that's not too bad. If that amount is going to push someone over the edge financially, I think they would have had trouble anyway, even without the bond proposal.  I think the benefits outweigh the cost.  Having the chance to save wetlands (or any other lands) for future generations and for our own use is worth the price of a large coffee a month- not that I generally buy a large coffee a month.
Regardless of whether you have a local bond issue or not,  get out there and exercise your right and responsibility to vote.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Getting ready

Pioneer week is nearly upon us and I've been thinking about it.  We really won't have that many major changes in how we live our lives.  Trying to wean the boys off TV will be the most difficult but hopefully we can plan some family activities to keep them busy.
Over the years we have been  been through periods of being more or less connected with where our food comes from.  I have always had a garden and have always canned (especially tomatoes).   A chest freezer was one of our first major purchases when we moved back to the midwest from the east coast.  But for a few years we became more and more disconnected- relying more on convenience foods.  
We went through a period of very frugal living right after we were married- the poverty years of grad school- that taught us very valuable lessons. (Ah- the days of finding out that we had $5 left at the end of the month and could go out to have a few drinks!) I really perfected my cooking skills during that time and we had almost nothing that was pre-packaged- we simply couldn't afford it.  We learned the lessons of buying in bulk and storing food.  We learned to Make-do.  
That carried on for a while, neither one of us are in jobs that are incredibly lucrative and while the children were small, V was a stay at home dad because it made more economic sense.  I make more money than he does and his salary at the time would have ALMOST covered child care expenses.  But once the children were all in school he went back to work.  That's where the trouble began.  With both of us working full time, time became more valuable and money became more plentiful (not ever over-abundant), and we began the slow slide into convenience....
We didn't plan or worry about where the next meal was coming from and a year and a half ago I realized that one or the other of us was going to the grocery store at least 4 times a week.  That was when I realized that things had to change.   Thank goodness we have never been fast food addicts (about the only time we eat fast food is when we are traveling for over 8 hours). I have always cooked and we have always had family meals together but I was feeling disjointed and disconnected.  So we have been making the change, trying to grow and store more of our own food, trying to rely less on convenience foods. (I will confess to Zatarain's jambalaya mix to use bits of leftover meat).  I have been trying to eat more locally as well, buying a portion of our meat from the farmer's market this year.
I got onto this ramble talking about Pioneer week.  One of the things that I have done in the past year, to help me organize my head, reduce the grocery store trips and help with time management is that every week on Saturday I make out the menu for the week.  It is posted on a dry-erase board on the refrigerator.  This way I can make one shopping trip to get everything I may need for the week, it allows me to make better use of our stores of food and I can prep things in advance if I need to (soak beans the day before you want them, for example, instead of relying on canned ones).  It was kind of funny, this morning I was working on the menu, remembering that I need to cook everything from scratch for Pioneer week.  I finished and showed it to V who commented: "Hm, it doesn't look any different from usual".  That felt like a victory of a sort.
Here's to a productive weekend and a fun week ahead.  I've gotta go bake bread.