Saturday, January 31, 2009

Seven Things Meme

Joyce at tallgrassworship has tagged me for a meme. At least this one doesn't expect me to make something. I'm much too chicken to sign up for those.

Here are the rules:

Link to your tagger and list these rules on your blog.

Share 7 facts about yourself on your blog - some random, some weird.

Tag 7 people at the end of your post by leaving their names as well as links to their blog

Let them know they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.

Here goes:
1. My first career was as an archaeologist. It was great fun: I traveled all around the state, sleeping in crummy motels, eating bad food but having the opportunity to work with wonderful people and be outside all day playing in the dirt- and get paid for it!

2. I HATE malted milk balls. I never thought I would say that about anything that is covered with chocolate, but there it is. I think it's a texture thing. It's like eating chocolate covered chalk. The only other things I don't eat are hot dogs or bologna. Again, a texture thing- they're too slimy. Other than those 3 things- I'm game for just about anything.

3. My college roommate introduced my husband and I. But first, she warned me about what a horrible person he was.

4. I have been to 49 out of 50 states. Somehow, I have always managed to miss Louisiana. I'm going to have to make a point of going there sometime.

5. I  got lost in the woods with the pastor's son when we were 7 or 8.  We were out hunting mushrooms and got separated from the adults.  We eventually found our way back to civilization by following the sound of cows mooing.  I knew that one our our neighbors had cows and it would lead us close to home. 

6. I have 3 out of 4 of my wisdom teeth (the other was missing). See, I knew I had a big mouth!!

7. Ok, I mentioned this one on Joyce's site. But, I sort and eat my M&M's (and anything else small and colorful) by color before I eat them. And I always eat the colors in the same order. Yellow is always first and red or purple (depending on the candy) is last. I've done this since I was little.

And now, on to the tags.  I realize that not everyone likes participating in memes.  If you don't want to play along, I'm not offended. So now, in no particular order, I tag
Hickchick at A Small Life
LisaZ at The Zahn Zone

Thursday, January 29, 2009

She's so talented

My daughter has posted a wonderful poem on her site.  Who knew she was so talented (why, her Mom of course)!!

No great surprise

While browsing the news today on my lunch break I stumbled across this article on CNN.  It seems that 'they' have discovered that happy cows produce more milk. And that the more personal contact that cows have with people, for example, if the farmer knows them and calls them by name, the happier they are.  I really didn't think it would take a bunch of scientists to figure that one out.  But at least now those people who treat their animals well, with a personal touch and with love, will have some vindication.  More evidence for me to be careful about my food choices. 

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Scary Stuff

I was just reading around and I was reading Robbyn's post about Mercury being found in High Fructose Corn Syrup.  She was citing this article from the Washington Post. It talks about a study where Mercury was found in a frighteningly large percentage of products containing HFCS (something like 1 of 3 products randomly pulled from shelves).   Evidently there is something about the process of making it that contaminates it with Mercury.  I'm not entirely up on the process of making HFCS but I know it is a multi step process.  
This makes me even more determined to eliminate processed foods from our diet. I just need to find a good substitute for granola bars (or learn to make my own).  They are one of the few processed foods that we still buy since they are handy, portable snacks for the children.  I need to look around at ingredient labels and see where else it is hiding (I know it's in the syrup they eat on waffles).  At least I know we eat FAR less HFCS than the average American consumer

Tuesday, January 27, 2009


Mostly peas and beans
My first order of seeds arrived today!  Well, most of it.  They will ship my blue potatoes when it's time to plant them. This is my order from the Vermont Bean Seed Company.  Oddly enough they are based in Wisconsin.   They specialize in beans and have many heritage varieties.  From them I got: Peas (Lincoln), bush beans (green, purple and yellow varieties), Scarlet Runner beans, Christmas Lima beans, Bloody Butcher corn (an heritage variety- can be eaten as sweet corn or allowed to dry for flour) and a blend of hybrid broccoli.  I'm not a fan of hybrids but this is my first time growing broccoli and this is a mix of early, mid and late season varieties so it will keep producing over a period of time without replanting.
They also included 3 packets of free seeds.  They are 'experimental' varieties.  I guess they are ones they are trying out to see if they want to carry them- Other than having sweet corn, peas and green bush beans I have no idea what they are. But FREE is always OK in my book.
Experimental seeds!
I also got an email that another of my orders shipped today so it should be arriving soon as well.  It is the one with my heirloom peppers and eggplant seeds.  It also has another variety of potatoes (fingerlings) that won't ship until it's time to plant them. 
While I waited for I11 to have his teeth pulled I sat with my calendar and planned my planting dates for things.  I think I've finally gotten it worked out.  I'm a bit confused with the broccoli, though.  I've been doing my research and can't figure out if it's better to start the seeds inside and transplant, or to direct sow.  Somewhere I read that the yields are better if you direct sow and that the plants are hardier.  But it seems to me that transplanting would allow a better jump on the season.  I don't know: like I said, broccoli is a new experience for me.  But it is something that we eat a lot of (the children all love it) so I thought I'd better figure it out and try to freeze some.  We're also planting more peas this year.  I usually just plant enough for us to eat fresh while they last. This year I hope to store some.  The same thing with green beans.
We got the Bloody Butcher corn because V wants to plant several hills of 'Three Sisters' to see how it works.  We plan to use the Christmas Limas for that as well, as they are climbers.  I will probably plant butternut seeds that I saved for the third sister.  Supposedly the symbiosis of the three works quite well.  We've got enough room to try it.  If it worked for the Native Americans it should work for us.  
This will be a corn year in the field across from the garden- so I won't plan to try to save seeds from the corn (it's not an open pollinated variety) but at least we won't have to contend with as many bean beetles. When it is a field of soybeans they are fierce in the garden and hard to manage.  And we occasionally get overspray from the herbicide (they plant Round-up ready beans- GRRR!!) when it's beans.  Corn isn't as bad- they don't spray it.
I'm still waiting to hear from or receive my order from Totally Tomatoes.  They are the tomato equivalent of Vermont beans and I'm getting lots of heirloom tomatoes (open pollinated) and I plan to save seeds from them.
Oh, I can't wait till Spring!!!

Monday, January 26, 2009

Weekly meal plan

We've been planning out our meals for the week for a while now.  I know V in his article last week made it sound like it's a new thing but it isn't.  It's been going on for over a year.  It started out of desperation. With both of us working it was too tiring to come home and decide what to have for dinner.  We would never have anything thawed and ended up going to the grocery store multiple times a week.  I finally got fed up with it.  We took a dry erase board with magnets on the back that had been floating around and turned it into the menu board.  I sit down each weekend- usually Saturday, and plan out the weeks evening meals.  I generally take stock of what we have on hand, what needs used and what we have going on.  Certain nights need quick fixes because we have places to be (Tuesdays) and some nights can take longer because we don't eat until later (Mondays).  Here is this week's plan:
Monday- Meatless Monday- Veggie stir fry with tofu over rice- Happy New Year of the Ox!
Tuesday- Chili and cornbread (I11 can have chicken soup due to oral surgery earlier in the day)
Wednesday- Couscous with chicken and veggies (We use chicken sparingly- just to add flavor)
Thursday- Kniep (a family recipe- basically broth with egg dumplings in it)
Friday- Homemade pizza

By planning ahead I know what I need to get out to thaw or other prep work I need to do in advance.  For example, I put beans on to soak this morning before I left for work so I can par cook them tonight ready for the crockpot for chili tomorrow.  I can also plan to use leftovers later in the week as a new incarnation.  
My sanity is in much firmer a grasp since we started planning ahead.  It also saves me having to answer 'WHAT'S FOR DINNER?' 4 times each day (one for V and one for each child)!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Independence Days- week 8

Whew!  What a week.  Things have been a bit crazy around here.  Monday was a holiday but was probably busier than it would have been if I had been at work.  A co-worker left on vacation for a week and a half so I have been covering for her as well as doing my own work.  Today ended up being very strange.  I had planned to take the boys to get hair cuts but was distracted by our friend Jim calling in a crisis.  He ended up coming over for a few hours which sabotaged all plans for the afternoon.  He had gone out last night and thinks someone slipped something into his drink.  He only vaguely remembers being literally dumped on his doorstep and is covered in bruises and scrapes.  He is gay and thinks that some guys at the bar where he went last night roughed him up.  He was quite upset and still really confused but unwilling to go to the ER or  call the police.  So we calmed him down and as he said, let him spend time with "people who care a s**t" about him.  That was rather emotionally draining.
Today is my usual day to post on the independence days challenge.  I'm actually on time this week.  So here goes:
1. Plant something-  No.  But did get my seed orders in for the year.  I still have a few things to pick up locally but not much.
2. Harvest something- YES!!  We had lovely salads last night with some lettuce from the planter box in the basement.  
3. Preserve something-  No
4. Store something- Got unbleached flour to restock.  Made waffles for the freezer for the week for breakfasts.
5. Manage reserves- We're working our way through a banana squash from my Mom.  Used little end bits of chocolate chip packages to make chocolate chip waffles.  Used some of the last of the tomato sauce from the freezer.
6. Cook something new-  Used our dutch oven (actually a camp oven) to make pot roast and veggies for dinner-  YUM
7. Prep something- No
8. Reduce waste- Recycled, reused, composted and used cloth bags at the grocery as usual.  V salvaged a wooden drying rack out of a dumpster.
9. Learn a new skill- No- didn't get out the knitting at all this week.  Did re-read the manual for my ice cream maker that V's Mom got me for Christmas (it's an attachment for my KitchenAid mixer) since we hope to make sherbet soon.
10.  Work on community food security- Talked to another co-worker who asked me if we really got a side of beef after reading V's article in the paper.
11. Regenerate what is lost- was supportive to neighbor's family at funeral services for her last night.  I've been contemplating if I want to try to organize a neighborhood get together this spring.
12.  Behavior change- procrastinating:  I actually placed my seed orders this week and finally got around to cleaning and organizing my cookbook shelf.  Next project- the bathroom cabinet.  Maybe when I'm off Tuesday for I11's oral surgery.

I really do need to settle down with a calendar and set planting dates for seedlings.  I talked to Roger about bringing over the pick up in the spring to move compost to the garden.  It's another busy week and I'm scheduled to work on Saturday. Oh, Boy!!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

January Dumpsters

I have been looking for a long time for a small wooden drying rack.  I have regulation sized ones that I generally use for drying clothes but I have wanted a small one to sit in front of one of the heat registers for drying gloves and hats.  With two boys and snowy weather we generally have an abundance of wet winter outerwear at our house.  The register we use to dry things is in the dining room by the china cabinet. We have used the large rack because we needed something, but it was always in the way, sticking out into the room, reaching out to grab you as you went by.
But not now!  The dumpster gods have smiled up on us!  V went downtown yesterday on some errands (to the bookstore to get the latest APA style book since he has to take a test for an editorial position he has applied for) and on his way home he saw a lovely little wooden rack poking out of the top of a dumpster,  It had a crack in one of the dowel rods but with a little wood glue and duct tape it is perfect for our needs.  It's only about 8 inches wide and two and a half feet tall, so it fits almost perfectly into it's space. I tried to put in a picture but Blogger is having 'issues' this morning.
Crunchy Chicken has a post today about dumpster diving.  It is something that V has done for years (I'm a mere amateur compared to him).  We have so many wonderful things that others, generally students, have thrown out.  We have 200+ music CDs that have come from dumpsters, a trumpet, a tux, our oak TV stand, and come to think about it, the oak bookshelf headboard on our bed (queen sized).  He has scavenged computers, plants, cleaning supplies, clothing (I have a lovely green silk shirt that he found - still in it's dry cleaning bag with tags attached).  It's amazing that some people throw out.  But it's all good- well, sometimes it is garbage.  You can really tell how the economy is doing based on how good (or slim) the pickings are every year.  In a college town it is cyclical.  The big times are May (graduation) and July when most of the leases expire.  If you're not too proud to pick something from the garbage you can find some great stuff- for free.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

A sad day

I have mentioned before that we live quite near campus in a college town.  As a result, there are very few houses here that are owner occupied.  That number is now one smaller.  I learned this morning that one of our dear neighbors quietly slipped from this world yesterday.  She was 82.  I am afraid of the impact this will have on our little enclave of neighbors.  This particular lady was the one who organized and hosted the annual neighbors get together.  We would gather at her home around the holidays, bringing food and instruments.  We would eat and talk and then sing Christmas carols around the fire.  It was a wonderful time to get to know the few people who live here on a permanent basis.  We are the last family here with young children.  Every Halloween we would make a special trip down the street to her home.  We were the only Trick-or-treaters she had but she always made sure she had candy for the children.  We would take her May baskets of flowers from our yard.  She worked at the polls every election and was an active member of the community band at the Senior Center.  
As I walked down the alley on my way home I passed her home, standing dark, with the holiday greenery still hanging on the house and fence.  I said a prayer for her.  She will be much missed.  I find it hard to believe that she is gone.  Just last week she was waving at me as she drove by as I shoveled snow.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Seed orders

Whew!  They're finally in!  orders to the Vermont Bean Seed Company and Totally Tomatoes as well as a few things from The Cook's Garden.  Most of the things ordered are heirloom varieties. I'll have to post a complete list of what's going into the garden later but tonight I ordered 3 heirloom tomatoes (Amish paste, Amana orange, and Polish Linguisa), peppers (Anaheim, paprika and Jalapeno), peas (shell- I already have some sugar snap), beans (3 colors of snap- green, purple and yellow, Christmas Limas, Scarlet runners), Bloody Butcher corn, broccoli, eggplant, beets and a blend of beets (golden, red and chioggia).  Roger has already ordered Brandywine tomatoes (several colors), black tomatoes- I can't remember which one, cabbage and lots of other things.  We are also planning to plant potatoes this year.  Fingerlings and All Blue.  Maybe by planting blue potatoes I can get K8 to eat them.  We'll see.  It's an ambitious year- lets hope our plans aren't bigger than our abilities!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Independence Days- week 7

Whew! What a day!  I'm glad it was a holiday for me and the children.  J14 was a great help this afternoon.  More waffling for the week, picking up our beef, then reorganization and inventory of the freezer.  If I am the keeper of the freezer, J14 is the secretary.  Let me tell you, there were a few tense moments when I didn't think everything would fit.  We did end up getting rid of a few things that had been in there for a long time (we discovered some 3 yr old turkey stock in the bottom of the freezer- ew!) but everything fit except my oatmeal which can come out.
It's time for my weekly check in with the Independence Days Challenge.  It's been a busy week as well as just a busy day.
Little lettuce
1. Plant something- no, but I did meet with Roger on Saturday and we finalized the plans for the garden.  I've got my list finalized and am ready to place my order.  We're planning to  plant at least 5 varieties of heirloom tomatoes, 4 varieties of peppers, potatoes, broccoli, beans (snap and shell) and lots of other stuff.  I'm going to have to figure out how to rig more lights because I'm not going to have enough room to start everything I need to.
2. Harvest something- Other than a few lettuce leaves, no.  But the lettuce is beautiful! and Oh, so tasty.
3. Preserve something- No.
4. Store something- Well- YES!!!  Behold!
Box 1 of 4
We picked up our side of beef from the processors today.  I haven't calculated how much there actually is.  Next time I'm going to have them process things a bit differently.  I opted to have the round ground rather than cut into steaks.  But now we have an overabundance of ground beef- 79 one pound packages to be exact.  I'm really hoping I can get my parents and brother to take a few pounds off our hands.
The inventory list
5. Manage reserves- Wow!  J14 and I did a complete inventory of the freezer.  We found a few old dry erase boards (the cheap, free ones) and we kept a running tally of everything that is in there.  We are heavily on overkill with the meat!  We also discovered some sliced apples from last year that definitely need used so I made more spiced apples for oatmeal- we'll be eating more oatmeal as well since my stash didn't fit back in.
6. Cook something new- Nope, but I'm looking forward to trying some of the cuts of beef we've got.  We have the oxtail so I'm looking forward to having oxtail soup.  We had T-bone steaks for dinner tonight- I can't remember the last time we had those- it's been a few years.  They were fabulous.  Of course, no dinner at our house can't go without some drama.  We ran the steaks under the broiler which created a little smoke- K8 sat at the table whining because of the smoke smell.  He was eventually sent to time out until he could sit at the table without holding his nose.
7. Prep something- well, other than stockpiling food, not much.
8. Reduce waste- Composted, recycled and used cloth bags at the grocery as usual.  
9. Learn a new skill- The story of my life- still working on knitting. Haven't really made the time for it much since the holidays, I've been to engrossed in garden planning and a few other projects. I've also been really tired lately so once I finally sit down on the couch it's pretty much 'game over'.
10. Work on community food security- I've been talking up our beef purchase both at work and at church. V actually did more on this one than I did with his column that was in the paper today.
11.  Regenerate what is lost- Worked on being nice to people.  One of the ladies who was at the party that V and I went to last evening tends to write columns that rub me the wrong way.  I get irritated when I read her work.  I decided that I wasn't going to let that show and she turned out to be much nicer in person than I thought she would be.  
12. Behavior change- I'm borrowing this one from Matriarchy- I love this idea of another category.  I really need to work on not being a procrastinator.  I tend to put things off until the last possible minute (like my seed orders- they've been complete since Sunday morning but have I actually ordered them- NO).  I need to be more of a finisher than a starter.  I have lots of projects that I start but then leave half finished.  Lots of room for improvement there.

I need to get the boys settled into bed.  They actually have school tomorrow after a 6 day stretch due to weather and holidays.  And it's a big day for the country as well tomorrow.

I've made an impact

At least on my family.  Most noticeably V.  He has been a member of the writer's group for our local paper for about a year and a half.  Last evening we were at a party at the opinion page editor's home to honor the writers.  They are an interesting lot and it was much more fun than I thought it would be.
But V... he doesn't usually let me read his articles before they appear in the paper.  I learned last night that his most recent piece would be published today.  He had let hints slip over the past week but nothing definite.  So I open the morning paper and there he is, on the opinion page.  Writing, of all things, about food security.  Well, not in those terms but really that's what he was talking about.  Our decisions to be more deliberate in meal planning, buying our beef, and garden planning.  You can read his article here.  I'm thrilled.  He's getting on the bandwagon with me.  I think J14 is mostly on board as well.  K8 keeps asking if we can have animals:  chickens, goats, sheep, you name it.  I11, well, I think he's along for the ride like it or not.
I'll try to post later on my Independence Days update.  I've got a lot to do today.  We pick up our beef and I've got snow to shovel since V pulled something in his elbow.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Sea Kittens??!!

OK, now I've seen just about everything!  PETA has started a new campaign.  They want to 'rebrand' fish as 'Sea Kittens'.  The theory being that people won't want to eat something called a kitten.  How lame is that!  I'm all for animal rights.  I am a meat eater but I oppose factory farms and animal cruelty- but sea kittens!!!  Someone missed the mark on this one.  I would think they have better things to do with their time.  But creating your own sea kitten was kind of fun.  The children enjoyed it.

You wouldn't think...

That 18 F would be warm.  I got up this morning and let the dog outside- it felt almost tropical.  I checked and it was 18!  Wow! It just shows how acclimated we have become to cold temps.  Of course, that is 42 degrees warmer than it was yesterday.  I try to imagine going from 40 to 80 in a day and that kind of blows my mind.  But the warmer temps are quite welcome.  Maybe now we can actually dig out the van.  We've been using the car all week and the van hasn't made it out of the drive and is under many inches of snow.  I believe it's supposed to get to near freezing today.  That would be over 50 degrees warmer than yesterday morning.  We need to dig out the van because we heard from Bud's Custom Meats that we can pick up our beef on Monday.  While we could probably fit it all in the back of the car, the van will be much easier to load and unload.  I'm glad we will get it Monday. I was really hoping we could pick it up this weekend.  I have Monday off as a holiday and I'm looking forward to having the day to inventory and organize the freezer.
With all the cold temps and school cancellations, I feel sorry for our district superintendent.  While most people are quite supportive of his decision to call off school when it was dangerously cold, there are a few vocal individuals who are complaining.  One guy actually said something to the effect of bureaucrats in suits denying our children an education, talking about deadbeat parents not dressing their children appropriately, etc.  Of course, he finally mentioned that he drives his daughter to school at City High every day.  My daughter WALKS over a mile to City every day and the boys walk 6.5 blocks.  I, for one, applaud the decision to not have kids walking or waiting for the bus in temps that cold.  If even one child was saved from being injured due to waiting in these temps it was worth it.  Not every parentis able to drive their child, or afford coats warm enough for these kind of temps (if any are any warm enough when it's 24 degrees below zero!)  It's not like they won't have to make up the days.  Oh well, I guess some people aren't happy no matter what call is made.  I'm just glad that the complainers are in the minority. 

Friday, January 16, 2009


Another cold day here and another record.  -24F this morning. BRRR! That's cold.  
But I did have something to warm my heart.  Jen at Tales from the Henhouse, gave me an award!
My first!  I feel so honored!

An award for having an attitude/gratitude.  I try.  
Here are the rules: 
1. Put the logo on your blog or post.
2. Nominate at least to blogs which shop great Attitude and/or Gratitude
3. Link to your nominees within your post.
4. Let them know they have received this award by commenting on their blog.
5. Share the love and link this post to the person from whom you received your award.

Oh, I can think of lot of people who I think show exceptional Attitude/Gratitude.   I'm not sure I can name 10 though.  I have a few who I think have been outstanding recently and I'll open up the rest of my honors to those who I've missed who so desperately deserve it. Feel free to claim it.
I'll nominate:
 River at Life Uncomplicated.
 Hickchick at A Small Life
 Mangochild at Living in a Local Zone
 and Sara at MamaCraft
There are so many more who deserve this, I could nominate my own daughter but I'm not always sure of her Attitude!

Thanks again to Jen for the award.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Is it too cold for goals?

It's COLD!!!  I woke up this morning to -22 F outside.  Tonight is to be as cold or colder.  ENOUGH ALREADY!!!  The children are ending up with a 6 day stretch of no school.  They cancelled on Wednesday because of the 6.5 inches of snow and today and tomorrow were called off due to the extremely cold temps and Monday is a holiday.  The wind chill this morning was somewhere around -40 F.  I did make V give me a ride to and from work today.  Even I'm not that crazy! I walk when the wind chill is in the negative numbers but this cold- no way.  We had a high of -6 this afternoon.  Even the dog is reluctant to go outside and wants in quickly again. I would be fine for spring to arrive now.

But we're 15 days into the new year.  Wow! where does time go? I thought I might check in with my goals for the year.  I'm not feeling very productive so maybe this will help.
1. Food Production-  I'm meeting with Roger on Saturday afternoon to finalize the garden plans.  I have my list of what I want  to plant and  what seeds I will need. I don't want to place my order until we have had a chance to talk about it because I don't want both of us to order the same things and then end up with holes and have to find seeds at the last minute- even though we have several great local places to get seeds.  The lettuce in the basement is looking fabulous.  I'm thinking a fresh salad may be in the works this weekend.
2.  Food Security- We've been eating out of the pantry and freezer a lot recently.  We should have our half of local beef very soon (possibly the end of this week- tomorrow?!).  I do hope we get it tomorrow or Saturday- I plan to do a thorough inventory of the freezer when we're reorganizing. I have been realizing how easy it is to forget things in the freezer (How many packages of cherries do we have!!) and not using them up like we should.  V and I collected a few small dry erase boards that we have magneted to the side of the freezer on which we will keep a running tally of the contents- I hope.  My new canner lid arrived yesterday.  I plan to can some beef when it arrives, just to make sure this one works!
3. Home front- no progress here.  I noticed that a house that I called about last fall is back on Craigslist- but now it is advertised as an  estate auction of the house and land.  Oops- that may explain why the messages I left were never answered.  The auction is to be on Feb 19th with a requirement of 15% on the spot and the remainder due in March.  There is no way we could do that- especially since they are now dividing the land differently and are now auctioning the house with 40 acres.  We can't afford 40 acres of prime Iowa farm land.  Four or five- maybe even up to ten- but 40,  Nope, not at the going rate for farm land here.  Sigh.  There will be others.  The foreclosures are up here but I want to make sure we can afford something so we don't end up a foreclosure ourselves.  Hopefully V will find work but otherwise we will need a few months to see how the finances shake out on only my salary before we try anything. V also plans to use the time to tackle some of the repair/prep work on this house.  If we could find a buyer for this place that would make buying somewhere new quite doable since we no longer have a mortgage on this house.  A few years ago the owner of one of the nearby rental properties asked us if we were willing to sell- I wonder if he's still interested.
4. Health- haven't made much of a dent in this one either.  With the cold weather and V being off he has been giving me rides to work more often so I'm not even getting the exercise I am used to getting.  One positive is that I didn't gain any weight over the holidays and have actually lost a pound in the last week.  I have been trying to eliminate mindless snacking.  The grapefruit peels actually do help- I have no desire to eat anything with that much grapefruit taste in my mouth.
5.  Learn something new.  Not really- I will honestly say I haven't picked up the knitting since the holidays. I have been doing a lot of research in my garden and food storage books recently- which to some extent counts. Well, I guess I did learn something new- I made candied grapefruit peel.  That was definitely something new!
6. The 3 Rs- While not really reducing, since it was a purchase- we got a waffle iron last weekend that will eliminate our purchase of Eggo waffles for the boys for breakfast.  I remembered the cloth bags every trip to the store and we still add things to the compost pile- as frozen and snow covered as it is.  

I guess all in all, not a bad start.  But I do have a few areas in which to improve.  I just can't wait for the weather to warm up so I can get the garden started. I've figured out my seed starting dates but even they aren't until March.  (sigh) So long to wait!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Odd but okay

Today was a bizarre day.  I woke up to the phone ringing. Well, I got up to the phone- my alarm had gone off a few minutes earlier.  It was the automated phone call from the school district announcing that school was cancelled.  I wandered out of bed and let the dog out and realized that we had probably 6 inches of new snow in the yard...and it was still snowing.  So V and the children were at home and I walked to work at the hospital, helping someone get their car unstuck on the way.  People were late or didn't make it in and there was just an 'off' feel to the day- things didn't go as planned.  But I made it through and V offered to come pick me up after work.  Which was nice as the temperature had started to drop.  It was already -1 F when I left work and it has continued to fall.  We are predicted to have near record lows tonight near -20 F with windchills nearing -45.  BRRRR!!!
In better news, the new lid for my canner arrived today. Sent with an invoice that said 'No Charge' and a note of apology for any inconvenience.  Wow!  What great service!  Now we just need to figure out what to do with the old lid.  They didn't tell us to ship it back but I don't know what I'd do with it.  V is going to email them tomorrow and ask them if they want us to return it so they can recycle it- melt it down and recast it.  
I have calmed down a bit about the beef.  I think I just wasn't expecting them to call quite so soon.  For those who don't remember, we ordered a side of grass fed beef from a local Amish farmer at the last Winter Market in early December.  I knew he was taking it to the processor the first week of January and that it would be ready mid month- I just hadn't made the connection that it is, in fact, mid January. Okay, I knew this intellectually, I'm not totally out of touch with reality, but the significance snuck up on me.  I am excited to get the beef.  It will mean many, many months of food security with V's job situation still up in the air.  Right now we can easily afford it and have been saving the money for it, but with no work steady work in sight for V it will be great to have- almost better than money in the bank.  I'm actually looking forward to figuring out what to do with some of the more uncommon cuts of meat we will be receiving. Ah, a food challenge!!!
So, all in all, today was odd but good. I had a day working at a job I enjoy then came home to my loving family, a warm house and good food.  What more could I want?
Oh Yeah! The acreage with room to expand the homestead.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

I'm not ready yet!

I had a call this evening as I was quizzing K8 on his spelling words.  He was in the middle of struggling through Connecticut when my phone rang.  It was a guy from Bud's Custom Meats in Riverside.  He wanted to go over with me how we wanted our beef cut and packaged.  EEEK!  I'm not ready for this yet!  He said we can pick it up at the end of the week.  We also got the bill from the farmer in the mail today.  I loved it!  A hand written invoice and letter in pencil! We'll have to get the check back to him in the mail soon. Maybe when it warms up we will pay them a visit on their farm. It is near the Amish bulk food store we love and the cheese factory.
But the beef!  I hope we have enough room in the freezer- we've been working hard at making space. I took out the last of my stash of flour- we're almost out upstairs and had only 5lb left in my container in the freezer.  I can still take out the oatmeal but hopefully we won't need to.  Supposedly our half a cow was 272.5 lbs.  OMG!!! I've never had that much beef in my house- EVER!!!  What ever possessed us to buy that much!  I know it was a good decision on many levels but we historically haven't eaten that much beef- probably because we couldn't afford it and/or I didn't want to support industrial feed lot beef production.  Toward the end of the farmer's market season we got 10 lbs of ground beef from a guy there and we still have some left.  I'm having some fear of what will we do with this much beef!!! I did pass on the tongue that the guy offered us- I had tongue as a child but I don't think I could sell anyone else here.  
Ok-  Now I'm just rambling.  I need to look at the freezer again.  We were told that we would need approximately 4 cubic feet of space.  EEEK!! 

Monday, January 12, 2009

Blizzard Warning

We have a blizzard warning in effect until tomorrow morning.  It snowed heavily here for a large part of the day and now the wind is expected to pick up and blow it all around.  Great....
They are calling for wind chills tomorrow morning to be near -30 F. What a lovely walk to work that will be!!!
V finished another book set for his freelancing and they gave him yet another one on the spot.  He turned in an invoice for 5 1/2 hours of work on this last set. At $15 an hour it should add up nicely. One problem is that since it is freelancing there is no social security or taxes withheld.  Hopefully it won't add up to so much that it causes problems next year. But having the money coming in now will be nice, even just a little bit.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Independence Days- week 6

Wow!  6 weeks of IDC already!  Where does the time go?!  It's been a busy week here.  Lots of things going on and some progress made.  So, here goes:
1. Plant something- No, but have finalized my list of what I want to plant.  I'm meeting with Roger next Saturday to finalize the planting plan for the garden.  Then I need to place my orders.  
2. Harvest something- a few lettuce leaves from the basement experiment.  Yum!
3. Preserve something- Made candied grapefruit peel yesterday. Not exactly a staple food but J and I like it. The boys both made horrible (but hilarious) faces when they tried it.
4. Store something- 2 bags of white sugar and more brown sugar.  The reserves in the basement were getting low and luckily there was a decent sale at the grocery.
5. Manage reserves- brought up another squash that has a bad spot.  We haven't cooked it yet but at least I know it's there.  We've got roast veggies planned for dinner Wednesday so hopefully it won't go too much further down hill before then.
6. Cook something new- Well, I guess the grapefruit peel counts.  I did lots of research before I started, comparing several different methods for making it.  
7. Prep something- nothing new, although V finding out about the new lid for my pressure canner fits- it's a tool that we will definitely be using a lot in the future.
8. Reduce waste- Recycled and composted as usual.  Used cloth bags at the store.  Also purchased a waffle iron to reduce reliance on prepared food (and it's packaging).
9. Learn a new skill- candied citrus peel!  I really need to get back on track with the knitting- I've been too distracted with garden planning and reading my new books to work on knitting.
10.  Work on community food security- introduced the concept of local foods to my new student in casual conversation- I figure I've got a captive audience for 12 weeks and he seems receptive.  Supposedly our beef went to the processor this week so we need to get in touch with them to specify how we want it packaged.
11. Regenerate what is lost- A slow week with this one.  Work has been a bit hectic and I haven't been out much. I do plan to forward emails and photos from my brother to I11 and K8s teachers.  Reaching out to improve those relationships.  It's not everyday that your kids know someone who is doing research in Antarctica and sending regular updates!

It's the beginning of a new week- many things lie in store.  Let's hope it's a good one.  

Here we come a waffling...

or better called:  LEGGO MY EGGO!
We had waffles for breakfast, using our new waffle iron.  You wouldn't believe the trouble it took yesterday to find a plain, basic waffle iron.  Most of them were either belgian wafflers- which I didn't want, or fancy ones with interchangeable plates to make pocket sandwiches- also something I didn't want. J14 finally spotted this one up on a top shelf.  It was a plain, 4 waffle iron.  No bells and whistles and inexpensive- just what I was looking for.  I found it interesting that the store didn't have this one out as a display.  They only had the fancy, expensive ones out as display models.  But this was just what we were looking for and at $20, definitely in the right price range.  One nice feature is that it locks together and can be stored on end so it doesn't take much space to store.
There is definitely a learning curve here- to find out how much batter is enough but not too much, how long is the optimal baking time, etc.  We also need to find a recipe that we like.  I tried 2 different recipes this morning.  The first tasted okay but didn't rise very well and the waffles tended to be flat and soggy, no matter how long I cooked them.  They didn't rise well enough to make good contact with the top plate.  At first I thought I hadn't put in enough batter but even with more batter in the next round they were still soggy.  The second recipe I tried was one I have had my eyes on for years, from a cookbook that was a gift from one of V's sisters years ago (the Crabtree & Evelyn Cookbook).  It is one for oat waffles using buttermilk.  It definitely performed better, the waffles were fluffy and crisp- it also has much less fat in it- 3 tablespoons of butter as opposed to 1/2 cup of oil.  I also like the fact that it has whole grain rolled oats. I'm not sure how well the boys will like them. Maybe next time I'll have to tweak the recipe with vanilla or something else, right now they are plain.
But it's a start!  The boys liked them and said that they would be an okay substitute for Eggos.  I guess I have a new job as waffle maker now.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Grapefruit peels and such things

Wow!  This is my 100th post!  Time sure flies when you're having fun.  Today was a good day.  I managed to get quite a bit accomplished: several loads of laundry (the Saturday usual), a shopping trip with J14 where we purchased a waffle iron, sorting and choosing fabric for J14's practice bag that she is working on right now (I'm giving advice but trying to not tell her what to do) and I made candied grapefruit peel.  
The grapefruit peel, I have decided is one of those things that you will either love or hate.  I LOVE grapefruit and am one of those bizarre heretics who likes to peel and eat grapefruit just like I would an orange.  I don't mind a bit of the white pith that most people think is quite bitter.  J14 is the same way.
I started out with 3 grapefruit peels that I had been saving in a bag in the fridge.  I used my handy-dandy orange peeler tool from Tupperware to score it into quarters and then peeled it.  I put the quartered peels into a large pot with lightly salted water (about a teaspoon to at least 4 cups of water). Bring to a boil and simmer for about 20 minutes- this is to remove a lot of the oil that makes it bitter. 
Simmering peels
They initially float but as they cook they will sink a bit and turn slightly translucent.  After simmering them for the 20 minutes in the salted water, drain, cover again with fresh (unsalted) water, bring to a boil again and simmer for about 10 minutes.  I did some research before trying this and some recipes called for 5 separate 1 minute boils. I also noted that several of the people who tried the frequent, quick boils were unhappy with their results.  I opted to go for the method with the longer simmer.
When the second simmer is complete, drain and let cool slightly.  I'm not sure how long I let them cool- it was however long it took me to hang a load of laundry from the washer and start another.
The next step is to lightly scrape some of the excess pith off the peel.  Several sources suggested using a paring knife but what I found worked best was, of all things, a grapefruit spoon.  I used the serrated edge to scrape off some of the more stringy bits and remove some of pith where it was really thick.  How much you take off is up to you.  Then I used a sharp knife to slice the peels into thin (1/4 inch or smaller) strips.
Little strips of peel. It's a bit messy.
Then I make a syrup of 2 cups of sugar and 1 cup water.  I heated this until the sugar was dissolved, then added the strips of peel and brought the whole mess to a boil.  Then I let it simmer until the syrup was almost entirely absorbed. I forgot to look at the time when I was doing this bit but it seems like it took forever- it was probably at least 45 minutes.  When the syrup gets thick you need to watch it carefully so it doesn't scorch.  The strips of peel will look very clear- kind of like gummy worms.
Then I took them out of the syrup a few at a time into a pan of more sugar and rolled them to coat.  Then I lay them to dry on wax paper covered baking sheets.  You could use cooling racks as well but mine isn't big enough for as much peel as I had.
The finished product!
Rolled in sugar and laid out they look a bit like very heavily salted french fries but taste nothing like that. I'm going to leave them out to dry for at least a day, then I'll put them in an airtight jar in the fridge. 
My father has made candied orange and lemon peels for the past few years. I think all candied citrus peel is an acquired taste.  These are very much a "Hi! How are you! I'm a grapefruit!" experience.  It is a very intense grapefruit flavor with a bit of an aftertaste as well- a little bitter.  J14 has been snacking on them and thinks they're addicting.  I can eat only one or two at a time before I've had enough. For me the are a 'self-limiting snack'. I like that. I'm not tempted to eat too much and with the grapefruit aftertaste, I'm not tempted to eat anything else, so who knows- maybe these are the new grapefruit diet!
In other news, V heard back from the manufacturer of my canner.  He actually got an email from the foundry foreman and not just some customer service person.  They are going to be sending another lid- evidently no questions asked- although V did send photos with his initial email to the company. He had to send them our shipping address but hasn't heard if we need to then ship the original lid back to them.  But things are in the works. Yeah!!
As I mentioned earlier J14 and I went on a quest this afternoon for a waffle iron.  Even though it is a purchase of a new item we figured that it will eventually save us money.  One thing that has been bothering me a lot recently is that we have kept buying Eggo waffles for the children (especially the boys) for breakfast.  They are something that they all enjoy, are reasonably nutritious (but only if you don't read the ingredient list!), and are quick to prepare in the morning.  But I HATE that we have been buying them.  So we plan to make our own waffles and freeze them instead of buying Eggos.  That way I know that the flour won't take 3+ lines of the ingredient list and they will be much less expensive.  We're going to make waffles tomorrow for breakfast to try it out.  I don't know about the children but I'm excited- it's another step toward frugality and away from the grocery store.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Little Things

Sometimes it is the little things that keep you going:  a single flower blooming in the very early spring, a hug, a message from a friend.  V has had a tiny spark of good news in the job front.  His former employer has asked him to do some freelance proofreading.  Granted it's not much but I'm definitely of the opinion that something is better than nothing.  V finished one manuscript yesterday (a 4th grade math study book) and they gave him another set to work on (6th grade math).  It isn't much, a few hours of work at the most, but it is something.  At least, it shows that they really did value his work.  If they are able to keep him supplied with a few manuscripts a month it will be a few hundred dollars rolling in that we weren't expecting.  That is a good thing- especially since he has been turning up the heat during the day when he's home (OK, I have it set to drop to 60 when we're not home- but I usually just put on extra clothes when I'm home by myself).
In work news for me- I had a student start with me this week.  His name is James and he will be working with me on his clinical rotation for 12 weeks.  He has survived week 1.  I do enjoy having students but the first few weeks are rough.  Things take 3 times as long to complete because everything has to be explained and processed.  It will get better quickly- he is a great student and a fast learner- but it has been a LONG week.
Children are all healthy.  J14 has modified her dressmaking plans but we are going to work on the mock-up purse this weekend.  I11 is scheduled for oral surgery at the end of the month (with IV sedation!!).  K8 is plugging along.  
Tomorrow promises to be a busy day.  The usual weekend business plus making a purse and candied grapefruit peel.  We'll see how I hold up.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

A new challenge!

Melinda at One Green Generation has issued a new challenge.  It is a tweak of her challenge last year.  Since I'm a newcomer into this blogging community, I missed out on last year's challenge- but this one is going to be great!  The challenge is to grow something from seed to seed.  That is, plant from seed, harvest and save seeds for next year's garden.  
I did a little bit of seed saving this year but am far from an expert.  This should be a good learning experience for me.  I need to do more research on it- it seems so natural but I'm sure there are tricks to the trade.
I really need to get together with Roger to plan the 2009 garden.  Time's a wastin' and I'm impatient for spring.  I've got my list and I know he's got his- we just need to make them work together.  

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Help... teenager emergency

Okay.  I love it that J14 is a sweet, generous thing but there are limits.  She came home tonight from school and announced that she is planning to make two of her friends dresses. One a formal for prom and one for Homecoming next year.  A noble sentiment but not very practical.  I told her that I wasn't saying 'NO' but I didn't think it was a very well thought out plan.  She proceeded to stomp upstairs and rattle off a rant on her blog about it, essentially saying that she will do it with or without my approval.  
Now, J14's previous sewing experience is making a skirt when she was 10 and piecing the top of a lap sized strip quilt (all straight line sewing).  For the curves on the pockets of the skirt she needed lots of support and help.  So I envision several problems with the prom dress idea:
1. Funding- She thinks she is going to purchase the fabric for these dresses from her savings- money she has been collecting for several years for college expenses.  She would have enough to do it but I hate to see her use so much of her money on something like this.  I don't think she has any concept of the price of good fabric- especially what you would want for a formal dress- or the quantities involved.
2. Time-  She has difficulty already fitting in everything she wants/needs to do- we can barely get her to practice her violin so I don't see her having lots of time to sew... and I will NOT do this for her. 
3. Skill level- Sewing a formal is not an entry level sewing project.  She has very little sewing experience.  I know that improving her sewing skills and making some of her own clothes is one of her goals for the year but I think this is a bit of a big leap.  I know she has until next year to do this but I don't think a year is long enough to really develop her skills to that level.  She doesn't seem to think of this as a barrier.
She already has a grand plan to make her friend Teara a purse for her birthday in February and I'm okay with that.  She has fabric from another project and we went out to get a zipper last week.  I found an old zipper in the craft/sewing cupboard and we need to pick fabric to make a sample purse before she tries on the nice stuff for the gift.  I thought this would be a good time to teach her how to put in zippers (something I can do but dislike intensely).
A purse for a birthday present is a little different than making someone's prom dress for them.
HELP!!! Any advice on how I field this one successfully would be appreciated.  I'm really hoping that this is one of those wild schemes that she will forget about in a few days but then- she's stubborn- just like her Mom.

My favorite cookbooks

My favorites
I love cookbooks.  I haven't counted recently but I probably have close to 50 of them.  Not all of them are big ones.  I have lots that are thin booklets from a variety of sources (a Pennsylvania Dutch one, English cooking, dutch oven cooking, etc).  But I do have my favorites.  I use my 'Joy of Cooking' a LOT.  It was a gift from my Mom when I moved away from home 25+ years ago and is showing it's age.  The spine is cracked, the cover ripped, the dust cover was destroyed long ago and it's definitely not the latest edition.  But I still treasure it.  It has lots of information about a great variety of foods and cooking techniques in addition to recipes.
Another couple of favorites are from the Mennonite Central Committee.  When we lived in Pennsylvania, my MIL got me this great one called 'Extending the Table... A World Community Cookbook'.  It is a collection of world recipes from missionaries with lots of tips for frugal living and cooking since most of the world eats much more frugally than do we here in the US. It's fun if you want to have an African or Latin American meal.
And speaking of frugal cooking.  A few years ago I treated myself to the 'More-with-Less Cookbook'.  It is wonderful!!! It is worth the read even without the recipes! It has information on substitutions, complementary proteins, comparison of protein costs (not recent) and so much more.  I also love it because of the attitude it promotes: That we need to do more with less, to be good stewards and not take more than is our share.  It's definitely worth checking out from your local library if nothing else.  It's worth the read.
I have other cookbooks that I use regularly but these are some of my favorites, just thought I'd share.

Monday, January 5, 2009

On Hangin' Clothes

Drying time.
I was asked about how we dry clothes in the basement.  I'm definitely no expert but we've been line drying year round for a long time. Clothes seem to last longer this way.  The elastic doesn't go bad as fast and things definitely don't shrink.  On the other hand, line drying can leave you with wrinkly, stiff clothes if you're not careful.  
We have probably about 70 feet of line space in our basement.  When the lines are full it gets a bit difficult to walk around in the laundry/utility room but there is a path through.  We have a partially finished basement.  Most of it is carpeted (on a raised platform floor) and nicely finished with built in shelves and all.  But the laundry is way in the back of the unfinished portion, along with the freezer, water heater and furnace.  My pantry shelves are also nestled in there near the dryer along with V's trains and most of the power tools, etc.  From a point near the middle, by the water heater, 5 separate lines go to the back wall, 3 straight and 2 at an angle leaving a triangular work space in front of the washer.  A sixth line runs the opposite direction from the water heater to over the freezer.  Sounds very complicated doesn't it.  We have a 2x4 fixed to the floor joists above that serves as the anchor, with a cross piece holding the ends of the lines.  The far ends are tied into eye bolts in another 2x4 that is anchored into the cinder block wall.  It isn't pretty but it works. Near the washer I have a large box fan (I think V got it from a dumpster) that we turn on to speed drying.
After washing I generally tumble things in the dryer for a few minutes so I'm not totally line drying everything.  The clothes don't have to be dry, just warmed up a bit. Tumbling things briefly (5 min or so) does several things: It removes most of the dog fur (important in our house); It softens things up so you don't have cardboard stiff, scratchy towels; and, most importantly for my work clothes- it takes out the wrinkles- or at least most of them. 
Usually by the time I take a load out of the washer, put it in to tumble and start a new load, I can start hanging things from the dryer.  I'm pretty OCD about how I hang things and V tends to make fun of me.  Depending on the thickness and type of fabric things will take from a few hours to a day to dry.  I can generally get 3 loads of laundry on the lines, depending on size of load and what is in it.  I mostly do my laundry on weekends. My usual MO is to wash and hang in the morning til the lines are full- then let it go until the next day.  The next day I can wash and hang 3 more loads. That usually does it for us.  There are occasional mid-week loads but not often.  
I had a co-worker who discovered that I line dried my clothes a while ago.  She seemed to think that it would be so much more time consuming than doing them in the dryer.  I don't know- I've done both and I think line drying is much more convenient.  I don't have to worry about getting to the dryer before things get wrinkled after it stops.  I can fold as I take things off the lines and then they just need put away.
I'll confess, I occasionally run things all the way through the dryer- usually if it is a load of mostly socks or if I'm washing the blankets off the couch- (those tend to need longer to get the dog fur off of them) and blankets take up LOTS of line space.  
This has been pretty rambling- I hope it makes sense.  I know you probably don't really care how I have my lines set up but I thought it was important to let you know that it can really work on a permanent basis.  

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Independence days- week 5

Dinner to be...
Today has been a good day.  Well, for the most part.  I11 finally succumbed to the stomach malady that we have been sharing and was up most of the night and early morning vomiting.  He is feeling much better by now and has managed to have some soup for dinner. It has now made it's rounds of all of us so we should be done with that phase of our lives.  I11 had soup-The rest of us had roast pork loin with winter veggies.  I rubbed the loin with a little bit of 'magic dust' prior to roasting it. Magic dust is a dry rub that I discovered online a while ago.  We use it for smoking ribs in the summer but a little goes a long way. I also use it on pork roasts and chicken. It adds a lovely, complex spicy flavor.  The butternut squash was the one I needed to use because it was beginning to get squishy toward the stem end. I used one of the last of our fresh onions and the first of the organic garlic that was a gift from my friend Jim (it's HUGE!!).  A little olive oil, fresh pepper, sea salt and rosemary and you have a feast.
Tomorrow is back to school and work, except for V who starts his enforced vacation.  I really hope this doesn't trigger a relapse of the depression that he struggled with in the past few years. We talked about goals for the year today on our way to Best Buy. I know- we're trying to cut down on spending and we're going to buy electronics. Well, the surge protector on the main computer system in the house finally gave up the ghost.  It is probably about 10 years old and went through lots of rough weather this year.  It isn't an expense that we anticipated but replacing it will preserve all of the other equipment plugged into it- including V's computer with the household server. This far into the year and we're already spending money we didn't want to. Grrr.
Well, on to the business at hand, Independence Days:
1. Plant something- No- Still dreaming and sifting through seed catalogues.  I did buy some seeds yesterday.  We were out and about running errands and to the grocery store.  A local store had the 2009 seed displays up already at 40% off!  I'm not sure what varieties I want to plant but I did pick up some sugar snap peas and chard seed.  Briefly talked to Roger today and we're trying to plan a time to get together to plan the garden.
2. Harvest something- Well, kind of...J, V and I each had a little 3 inch leaf of lettuce from the planter in the basement- WOW!  it was tasty. Hopefully soon we can supplement the organic Romaine I've been getting with home grown leaf lettuce. I'm not hopeful that we will ever have enough for salads for all of us from this, but it tastes SO good.
3. Preserve something- Nope.
4. Store something- No, unless you count the pound and a half of macadamia nuts from my sister that finally made their way into the fridge drawer with the other nuts.  Oh, I did get a great deal on an 18 lb. bag of red grapefruit that are now sitting in our fridge fruit drawer.  J14 and I are the only ones who eat them so they will last a while.  Definitely not local but seasonal and Oh so good.  I need to look into candying the peels.  My Dad has done that and they're really yummy.
5. Manage reserves- Brought up and ate the butternut squash that was getting squishy (see above). Still have 4 sweet potatoes that need used before they get much worse.  I have 4 apples left in the fridge from my parents.  They are the least pretty of the bunch.  I plan to dice them and cook them in sugar syrup and spices for on top of oatmeal for breakfasts.  V has discovered the spiced apples I canned this fall and has been devouring them.  I'm glad he likes them but I had hoped they would last a bit longer.  Note to self for next year- can more than 6 pints!
6. Cook something new- Not this week.  
7. Prep something- You are all going to think we're candle crazy around here (well, I am) since I've talked about stocking up on candles before-  but when V and I were out yesterday we picked up some pillar candles and tapers that were 50% off after the holidays. We like to light the oil lamps and a few candles in the evenings and can pretty much heat the downstairs with them. Since we don't have a wood stove or fireplace, they are our alternative heat source should we lose power. Not ideal, but it will keep us from freezing to death.
8. Reduce waste- composted, recycled and used cloth bags as usual.  Boxed up the ribbons, etc after the holidays and finally got them stored again. In the process, I discovered another box that I saved last year.  We won't have to buy ribbons for years!
9. Learn a new skill- Not really.  Didn't make time to work on the knitting this week.  Between holidays, illness and trying to get organized for the new year, it didn't happen.  I also have been spending too much time with the garden porn (seed catalogues).  
10. Work on Community food security- didn't do much with this one either. It was a strange week with the holiday madness.
11. Regenerate what is lost- Hmmm, not sure. I still struggle with what this category means to me.  It would be so much easier to give back when I have a chance to nurture my garden and yard.  I guess I did have a chance to work on some family relationships at my brother's party.  We had a chance to chat with my nephew and fiancee and one of my cousins and her husband. This was my first chance to meet Tim's fiancee. She is very sweet.  She is pursuing graduate work in neuroscience and is studying bee brains of all things- trying to figure out how they form working memory.  We had an interesting chat about Colony Collapse Disorder.

I will try to figure out a good time during the week or month to update my personal goals.  I'm not sure how often I want to report on them.  There is something about reporting weekly that seems to keep me more accountable but I'm not sure they are things that will go that quickly that there will be much to report. Monthly seems so far apart, I don't know.  I'll figure it out.
Hickchick asked about drying laundry in the basement so I'll post on how we do that tomorrow. I'm definitely not an expert but have been doing it for a number of years.
Peace and joy to you all.

Movie Night

One thing we try to do regularly as a family is have Saturday Movie Night. We don't go out much to movies.  They're not a cheap date anymore. But, one of the local grocery stores that also has a movie rental business periodically sells it's used DVDs for cheap.  They're not new releases but generally pretty new (they get rid of the excess after a new movie isn't a hot item anymore).  They usually sell them for about $5 each but recently had then 3/$10.  
So, last night we turned out the lights, all snuggled on the couch and watched 'Forbidden Kingdom' with Jackie Chan and Jet Li.  What fun.  
J14 was fascinated.  Of course, she realized that there were lots of special effects, but she ended up wanting to learn to fight with a staff.  Yeah, she's like that- into weaponry, OLD weaponry.  I told her to ask her Master if he would teach her sometime.  She has a black belt in Tae Kwon Do and she and V are taking Kum Do (Korean sword fighting).  They have progressed to the point where they will need to buy armor soon - a big EEEK right now because armor and uniforms for the two of them will cost about $700.  But they are really enjoying it.  V was a fencer in his younger days and having had a desk job it is good for him to have something physical that he really likes.  It is also a great Dad/Daughter bonding event that I wouldn't deny them.  So, we'll figure out how to make that work when the time comes. 
J14 is also THRILLED to have her internet access back.  I noticed this morning that she posted a new entry on her blog.  She has come up with some good goals for the year.
Back to the grind.  More laundry beckons. I can only fit 3 loads on the lines in the basement at a time so it takes a long time to get through the backlog.  But school and work start back tomorrow.
I'll try to post challenge updates later.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Quiet day

It was a quiet day here.  I am feeling tremendously better. Of course, the fact that I slept for 22 of the last 48 hours helps.  I requested today as a vacation day long ago since it is not a scheduled holiday for the hospital.  The children all start back to school on Monday so it was our last chance to hang out at home for a while.  
I did manage to get a few things done:  three loads of laundry, sorting through the stack of junk mail and other papers that had collected on the kitchen counter, making our black-eyed peas and ham that we would have eaten last night, cuddling I11 who managed to burn his hand by slopping hot soup on himself carrying it from kitchen to table, inventorying the squash and bringing up the one that is getting squishy, colored J14's hair.
V and I plan to sit down tomorrow and make the master to do list for while he is off work.  Unfortunately, lots of the things we want to get done are things better left for warmer weather when you can open windows (stripping wallpaper in the upstairs bath, painting, refinishing the dining room floor).  We have also been talking about making a floorcloth for the dining room because the chairs scratch the wood floor so badly.  But that is another thing that would need lots of airing out in the process.  We'll see what happens.
V has the train track set up again.  We plan to take down the tree tomorrow so this is his last chance with the track before it gets put away.  We normally leave the tree up until 12th night but decided it is close enough, especially since we have the time this weekend. Undecorating is so much less fun than decorating.
Tomorrow starts back up the usual grind.  J14 has her Tae Kwon Do black belt class and then she and V have Kum Do. I need to make my menu and shopping list and make sure we have everything for the week ahead. I need to finish the January calendar so we can keep organized. Back to real life and not this life of leisure I've been living.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Goals for 2009

I have never been good at new years resolutions.  In fact, I once joked that the only time I kept a resolution was when I resolved to never make resolutions again! I think part of my problem with them is, if you want to make a change in your life- do it- you don't need to wait until the beginning of a new year.  That being said, I do think the new year is a good opportunity to reflect on the old and plan for the future.
2008 was tough on us:  Job stress, changes and loss, illness, floods. I don't want to try this one again.  But it has also been a year of growth.  We started looking for an acreage last year in February but didn't have much luck finding one we could afford or that we liked.  One the land was perfect but the house needed a bulldozer, another was too far away, another had a great house but not much useable land.  Another for sale by owner house we wanted to go look at, the guy just never called us back.  But I have managed to bring V on board with the whole thing.  He was very interestedly looking through the root cellar book since that is something we decided we wanted even before we got the book.  I have been working on my food preservation skills and we made much more of a concerted effort to be sure where our food came from.
Yeah, the good and the bad.  But 2009 is a fresh start.  So much of what I want to accomplish this year is dependent of V's ability to find a new job.  That said, here are the goals for 2009:
1. Food production-  Plan, plant, weed and harvest garden.  Last year with all the flooding the weeds got out of control in a large section of the garden so we'll have to try extra hard to keep on top of it this year.  I need to make getting out to the garden more of a priority.  The biggest problem is that I have to drive a few miles to get to the garden so it turns into an expedition rather than being able to take advantage of little bits of time that I may have.
2. Food security- By the end of the year, I would like to have at least 50% of our food be either grown ourselves or locally produced.  I hope for a higher percentage but I'm going to keep it realistic.  Even 50% is better than the average person.
3. Home front-  Find and purchase our homestead acreage.  This one really depends on V's job situation.  This also entails getting our house ready to sell so V has a list of projects that he is going to work on while off work.
4.  Health-  I want to get into better physical shape.  Some of that involves shedding a few of the extra pounds I have acquired over the years but also just getting back into shape.  I do walk back and forth to work but it's easy to use that as my exercise and ignore all the other components. Being able to spend more time in the garden will help but I need to come up with an exercise plan I can stick with.
5. Learn something new-  I want to learn to knit.  I haven't been making time for it lately and I am determined that I'll figure it out.
6.  The 3 R's- I want to reduce more waste at home- both of stuff and money.  We need to be more deliberate about our purchases and decide if we REALLY need something before purchasing.
I hope these are all things I can manage in the year ahead.  They don't seem unreasonable to me.  Granted, finding the homestead will be the biggest challenge.  I'm just glad that I don't have to worry about planting my garden and then moving since we don't garden at our house anyway.

Happy new year!

If the rest of the year goes like the first few hours I'm in trouble.  After spending a few hours last night at my brother's house for his party, we came home to ring the new year in with the children.  Unfortunately, about 5am, I woke up  nauseous and vomiting- evidently I did not escape the stomach virus that K8 brought home.  I just hope I didn't infect my brother who leaves today for 3 weeks in Antarctica.
I had planned to post my hopes and goals for 2009 today.  Maybe that will still happen if I feel better later.  
Here's wishing the best to everyone out there.  May 2009 find you healthy and happy.