Monday, March 23, 2009

Thoughts While Making Tea

Last night I was making myself some tea and turned on the small TV we have in the kitchen (used mainly for news and Yankees!) As the water boils I'm flipping through channels and stop briefly at the vain, vapid and profoundly stupid Kardashians. I'll admit I've never seen an entire episode but I'm betting NO ONE gets up after watching that show feeling better about themselves, the world, or life in general.

In sharp contrast was an African tribal show a few channels down on the travel channel. There were these men who had just sacrificed a goat. Then they were reading the goat's entrails in some kind of tea leaf fashion. Apparently what they saw did NOT please them. They were really worried about what the entrails meant for their tribe. There was a lot of gathering and discussion and worried looks.

Whose reality was really correct, those tribal men or the Kardashians????

It got me thinking. Wouldn't it be crazy if reading goat entrails really held all the answers for us.

Seriously, have you ever tried it???

I haven't.

Do we really know where all the answers come from? The REAL answers? The Truth?

Follow me for a minute. We normally look at those people with a kind of quaint, "Oh isn't that prehistoric?" fascination, while we rely on TV and News and reporters and pundits to tells us about life and how it's going. Who is conjuring more??? I can't really say.....

It made me think. They showed some women and their babies and they loved those children just like I love my girl. No different.

The difference:
No Mortgage payment
No redecorating wants
No one needed new shoes (no one was wearing shoes)
No declining 401K
No wondering about their parents in old age
No day jobs. Living was their day job. And I'll tell you what, none of them seemed to miss the big house, clothing, social competition, play dates, etc..... Good lord, the concept of "play date"-when in history have children ever needed an appointment to play????????

For a few minutes I was kind of jealous of them all.

Oh they had that goat thing to deal with of course.

We all have our crosses to bear I guess.

What kind of tea was I brewing?

African Red Bush! Kind of appropriate don't ya think?

Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Obamas Eat The View!

You may remember when I posted back in January about This website and online petition urged the Obamas to plant a Victory Garden on the White House lawn. In doing so, encouraging eating locally, fresh, homegrown & organic food. (not trucked in from thousands of miles away!)

Well it looks like the petition worked!

From The Washington Post: (click link for complete story)

Today, first lady Michelle Obama will host a groundbreaking for a White House kitchen garden on the South Lawn. She will be joined by students from Bancroft Elementary in Northwest Washington, , whose participation in the project will continue past today, as they help with planting in the coming weeks and harvesting later this year.

The 1,100-square-foot garden will include 55 kinds of vegetables, including peppers, spinach and, yes, arugula. (The selection is a wish list put together by White House chefs.) There will also be berries, herbs and two hives for honey that will be tended by a White House carpenter who is also a beekeeper. The chefs will use the produce to feed the first family, as well as for state dinners and other official events.

The White House will use organic seedlings, as well as organic fertilizers and organic insect repellents. The garden will be near the tennis courts and be visible to passersby on the street. The whole Obama family will be involved in tending the garden, White House spokeswoman Katie McCormick Lelyveld said.

How neat this is!! I hope they really make a big deal out of this and become an example to millions of people across the country in growing & eating locally and sustainably!

St Patrick and St Joseph

This is a neat week for our home. Tuesday we celebrated my Irish (through my Mulcahey Grandmother) roots with a St Patrick's Day dinner that featured Corned Beef and Cabbage, Irish music and dancing (Ok, technically the dancing was NOT Irish it was just the 3 of us bouncing around like rejects from a River Dance Audition.) Oh, and Guiness. But only 2 of us had that!!

This evening we celebrated my husband's Italian roots with a St Joseph's day dinner. (I guess any Catholics could celebrate St Joseph's day but I'm Catholic and had never heard of this before meeting my husband nor have I known anyone besides Italian Catholics to celebrate this. )

After pre-school, my girl and I headed over to Rubino's, the local Italian Specialty Food Store. As soon as you walk in this place you can smell it. That Italian food smell made up of cheese and pastry and spices and olive oil. I simply LOVE that place. They have the BEST home made sausage I have EVER tasted. TO DIE FOR. My favorite-Parsley, Wine & Cheese.

We purchased sauce for our Pasta Con Sarde. (and this was the actual kind we got!) St Joseph's Day Bread, Sausage, and Mini Canoli(Cheese, not cream!) Typically we have these St Joseph's day pastries called Sfinge and Sfogliatella but I didn't feel like driving to the Italian bakery in town too. The Cannoli were just fine!

After we did our shopping we sat at these little tables and had a slice of pizza for lunch. They have a HUGE array of lunch options from sandwiches to hot meals, to a special I saw today, Aunt Hattie's Tripe! We had a blast just sitting there eating and talking and watching people. I usually get the sauce early on account of my mother-in-law scaring me into thinking they might run out. (I took her some in Florida) but I think we may have started a new tradition of getting the sauce & accompaniments on the actual day-Making a special outing out of a simple meal of tradition.

Sometimes after saying grace before a special dinner or holiday we pause and each say "something nice about the holiday." as my daughter says. Tonight my husband said something about how we were celebrating Jeasus' earthly father. I said something relating to carrying on family traditions and my girl piped in with "I'm thankful that we get to eat this yummy bread!"

It was good!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

I'm Not Messing Around

If you have read this blog before you may be familiar with my vendetta against The White Tail Deer.

Last year I did not fence and they ate everything except the leeks, onions, garlic,turnips, hot peppers, eggplant & herbs. I got a (very) few leaf crops in containers and some peas. NOT ONE TOMATO!

I'm planting peas this weekend and I'm going to be prepared. Back in the fall I found 4ft fencing and 4 ft stakes on the side of the road that I thought would be perfect. Today I installed it but I did not have enough fence & needed 3 more stakes. Off to home depot where there was no 4 ft fence. There was, however, a 7 FOOT FENCE!!! SO I bought that. When I got it home I realized that the 4ft posts were not going to hold up a 7ft fence. (I had assumed that the fence might be sturdy enough to support the top but no (and I got the HEAVY DUTY FENCE.) So tomorrow I'm off to buy some 7ft fence posts. (I can actually use the 4ft elsewhere in the garden just fine.)

Next I'm going to tie pieces of white tee-shirt material to the fence. (Apparently deer think this is the tail of another deer running from danger when it flutters in the wind-I have no idea if this is true or not but I'm trying it.) Finally, I will spray it with some anti-deer solution that I got the recipe for at a recent garden club meeting.

By July I will be eating tomato salad.

That heard is going to have to look elsewhere for their salads this year.

I'm through messing around.

**note-The picture shows the 4ft fence. If you click on it to enlarge you can see the small trellis I made from copper pipe I had and some netting as well as some leeks that I left in from the fall-They are still good and very sweet. I'm going to do that this year with turnips as well-I found a few the other day when I was making turnips (from the store) and they were much sweeter than those. (Note to self-look up why this is. Is this due to the fact they were in the ground over winter or were they just better turnips??)

This weekend I will be planting shelling peas, a dwarf bush variety of snow peas and beets.

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PSA-Keep your Crocs out of the dryer!

Public Service Announcement:

If you child comes in from playing outside and you decide to wash her Crocs in the washing machine , make sure that you take BOTH out of the load before it goes into the dryer.

Unless of course, your child has once elf foot that you have been trying to find a shoe for, for years.

I am going to pop them in the mail to the Soles United Program that crocs has to recycle old crocs into new crocs and & donate worldwide.

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Monday, March 16, 2009

Oh Honey!

While staying at my in-laws during the bathroom re-model, I noticed that their Wegman's honey is from Argentina & Canada!

Argentina? Do you know how far that honey had to travel to make it to my tea this week! How much fossil fuel was wasted in this effort?? That honey earned more frequent flier miles than my whole family on a recent trip to Florida!

Honey, unlike anything else I can think of (perhaps Milk) is just about the easiest thing you can get locally. Every state has honey bees.

If flowers & crops are growing then bees are making honey somewhere in your neighborhood. It is also comparable in price. (In the summer I get a big quart jar at the farmers market for under $10, so it's much cheaper!)

Eating local honey also helps allergy sufferers (it needs to be local to work!) and helps local agriculture and local beekeepers (many of whom are also farmers) and your local economy.

I think local honey has a better flavor than the run of the mill stuff that you can get in the plastic Sue Bee bear which seems tailored to the lowest common denominator. Whever I go on vacation I try to bring some home with me because I know I can't get that EXACT same product where I live. (It also makes a cheap and clutter free trip souvenier.)

You can probably also find a larger variety of honey, from mild Wildflower to the darkest Buckwheat honey if you get it from local sources rather than your grocery store.

Where to find local honey? Almost any good farm market, farmers market, public market, some gift shops, food co-ops, small grocery stores. It's easy to come by and really embodies the character of your surroundings!

Seriously? SERIOUSLY???????The Barbie Ban Bill

Now that she’s turning 50, Barbie may find herself an outlaw in West Virginia!

Democratic Delegate Jeff Eldridge proposed a bill Tuesday that would ban the iconic doll and all of her plastic clones. The measure, creatively entitled the "Barbie Ban Bill," claims such toys perpetuate unhealthy, unrealistic stereotypes for young girls and women: "I just hate the image that we give to our kids that if you’re beautiful, you’re beautiful, and you don’t have to be smart."
While Eldridge knows most lawmakers won’t sign on, he’s happy to go it alone: "I knew a lot of people were going to joke about it and poke fun at me. I couldn’t get anybody to sign on the bill with me but I said I’m still going to introduce it."
Yes Jeff Eldridge, even though you know NO ONE IS GOING TO SIGN THIS you feel like wasting taxpayer dollars and public servant's time listening to your crap. Even though we are in a terrible recession you think this is a great way to spend your own time and efforts.
I wish I lived in West Virginia just so I could vote against this turkey.
We don't even have any Barbies at our house and this ticks me off. And really, has this guy even seen the Bratz dolls because I find those way more offensive than Barbie. That said, I can't imagine anyone taking this man seriously after this.
Apparently West Virginia must be in pretty good shape if this is how elected officials are spending their time.

Quinoa for Breakfast!

Recently we tried the grain, Quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wah).
I made it to go with some chicken for dinner. It was much like rice but with a protein punch.
From Wikipedia:
In contemporary times, this crop has become highly appreciated for its nutritional value, as its protein content is very high (12%–18%), making it a healthful choice for vegetarians and vegans. Unlike wheat or rice (which are low in lysine), quinoa contains a balanced set of essential amino acids for humans, making it an unusually complete protein source.[3] It is a good source of dietary fiber and phosphorus and is high in magnesium and iron. Quinoa is gluten-free and considered easy to digest. Because of all these characteristics, quinoa is being considered a possible crop in NASA's Controlled Ecological Life Support System for long-duration manned spaceflights
Last night I came across it in a book used for Breakfast. This morning we had it with blueberries, bananas and vanilla soy milk. Like oatmeal, the possibilities are endless. (Unlike oatmeal, it is not pasty!) My girl ate it up. (Of course I called it porridge. Never underestimate the power of a neat name-My girl will also not go near squash. Call it pumpkin and she's all over it!)
I had to cook it this morning and that took about 15 minutes but if you made a big batch, which is what I plan on next time, you could just scoop it into a bowl, microwave for a few seconds and you could have a quick, healthy breakfast!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Sam I Am

My daughter goes to a co-op pre-school 2x a week. The philosophy of the school is "Learning Through Play" so it's not a rote academic environment, which is one of the reasons we love it. She'll have enough of that when she's older. Having said that, she has leared a ton!

Being the reader than I am and really into children's literature for her, I'm thrilled that the teacher has done many all encompassing author units from, my favorite, Jan Brett, to Eric Carle and now Dr Seuss. These units are awesome because they read the books, and incorporate things like art projects and snacks and games and songs. The Eric Carl unit incorporated makeing a fngerpaint collage and cutting into pictures like Carle, so neat!

Last week they started Dr Seuss, and today read "Green Eggs And Ham." After lunch we went over to the library and borrowed more Seuss books and this evening for dinner, I made my girl-GREEN EGGS AND HAM! 2 drops of food coloring and some leftover ham from the freezer and she was good to go! It was a really fun, easy, cheap way to surprise her and bring school learning home!

Drain Strain

The bathroom re-do continues.

I've been to Lowes many times this week and the help is either really great or really not. For the record, I actually prefer Lowes to Home Depot and everyone has been really friendly.

Technical advice however, has varied.

Tonight I needed a drain fitting set. I went alone without the people working on the bathroom. Found a jolly man in bathtubs, told him what I needed and the tub I had purchased and he pointed me to aisle 17. I then asked if there was someone over there who could help me. He said he was that person. We proceeded to drains.

There were at least 20 different drains. I asked what the difference was. He said,

"There is no difference."

I found that hard to believe.

"So why do you have so many?'

"Personal Preference"

"ummm...Ok, well how should I choose one."

"Personal preference", said with a jolly smile.
This personal preference thing when on for about 3 more questions.

Um yeah. Do I look like a woman who has a personal drain preference? And further, this guy told me he was the one to be able to help me. Did he really think telling me to just choose one was helpful? What kind of help is that?
I'm really not as dumb as I may look.

I'm also a project manager by trade and know how to ask A LOT of questions to get to what I need. I'm sure he regretted his offer of help.

"So why are some made out of metal and some PVC?"

"Why are some thicker than others?"

"What is better for an older home?"

"What is the difference between valves?"

"Which ones break more often?"

"Which one is easiest to fix"

And on and on. I finally asked enough to make a decision I was happy with and moved on. But seriously, he was ready to tell me to just pick one. Why bother walking over with me?
I had almost the exact same experience over in toilets the other day when I asked what the difference was between a $89 toilet and a $300 one.
And then, there was the person that actually read the packaging to me.
I AM blond but do I really look like I CAN'T READ???

Friday, March 6, 2009

So You Better Shop Around.....

Two years ago I moved into a beautiful house that I fell in love with as soon as I walked in the door.Actually it has great curb appeal too. It has wonderful molding and high ceilings and a winding staircase and a fireplace with a mantle to die for. It was built in 1932. It had a new bathroom downstairs and 2 70's style bathrooms upstairs.

I'm going to take a minute to tell you a BIG FRUGAL TIP now. And if you listen to this ONE tip you can probably save as much money as by using ALL THE OTHER TIPS ON THIS BLOG. The tip is this-NO MATTER WHAT. DO NOT BUY AN OLD HOUSE WITH OLD BATHROOMS. There now. That was pretty straightforward right? DO NOT be lured in by crown molding or inlaid floors or whatever else it is that gets your personal house hunting heart pumping. If the place has old bathrooms run. JUST run. Thank the Realtor and look for another house.

Um yeah, so I did not do that. 3 mos after buying the house, the shower in the master bath began leaking into the only nice bathroom downstairs. Ruined the ceiling and we called a bath designer who came up with all kinds of lovely bathroom ideas that came with a big price tag. Well no problem we say, we'll just shower in our daughter's full size bathroom while we save up for a beautiful bathroom re-do. That has worked for 2 years until last week when the bathtub in my daughters bathroom began to leak into the kitchen.....

The economy being what it is. And my personal economy being what it is, we decided to go the Home Depot/Lowes route with this redo and let me tell you, I have found some really nice things that will look lovely in that new bathroom. I almost got it all at Home Depot one afternoon. After all, I usually feel like those places are all pretty similar. And regarding the things that they stock, they are pretty similar. What was not similar were the prices. Neither one had ALL of the things cheaper than the other-for instance, Home Depot was clearly the winner with vanity's and faucets while Lowes seemed to beat them out with Toilets and Bathtubs. I also got the tile from Lowes. By comparing places and picking and choosing I have saved over $400 between the places. This took me only an additional few hours at Lowes to do some comparison shopping. All told I have probably spent 6 hours figuring out what I need/want.

Of course this tip did not save as much as the "No BUYING OLD BATHROOMS tip" but it's all I've got. You however, have a choice, just NEVER BUY AN OLD BATHROOM. Just don't....

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The Home Dairy Continues

We've been rocking the homemade dairy products as of late!

My husband's new health elixir of choice is Kefir, available at my grocery store for $4 per Quart-Yup $1 a cup! He drinks a cup a day. And wants me to put in smoothies for me and my girl! He did his research though and found you can make your own MUCH cheaper.

So we ordered Kefir grains online and have been fermenting milk on the counter ever since. Yup, ON THE COUNTER. It was kind of crazy at first. Basically you put the Kefir grains in the milk and leave it for a day. Then you strain and refrigerate the Kefir and use the grains to make more. This goes on and on.... And the Kefir grains expand so you can make more and more. Seriously, if anyone local to me wants to make some Kefir let me know and I'll give you some grains. (apparently for hardcore Kefir lovers giving the grains away is the most authentic way to pass the kefir along-Sorry we had to buy ours the first time around!)

Using the milk from the Dairy it is $.29 a cup! BIG Difference!

From the same place I got the Kefir grains, I also purchased a starter for Finnish Yogurt called Viili. Knowing my love of all things Finn, I needed to try this out. NEAT! I've made yogurt before but this was (also) made on the counter with no heat source or refrigeration. SCARY. But we've all eaten it and lived to tell. It's a bit more stringy than traditional yogurt but also not as tart. Again, if anyone wants some Finnish yogurt culture please let me know.

We can eat 2 Qts of plain yogurt a week (It would be 3 but I cap it at 2) That costs us $7 a week. Making Villi, I can make the same amount for $2.35. They had a bunch of different yogurts to make from all over the world and I just know I need to go back and try another.

I'm also holding out for the Gourmet Home Dairy from The New England Cheesemaking Supply Company. Where you can make a whole host of dairy products!

One thing I know for sure, no one in this house is going to suffer from a calcium deficiency!!

Another nice benefit is that the milk comes in glass bottles that are returned each week and the kefir and yogurt are made in large glass jars (leftover huge pickle jars from Sam's) so we save 4 plastic containers a week this way!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Grow Your Own Food!

With the financial crisis that the country is currently experiencing, one thing I'm urging friends and family to do is to consider growing some of their own food.

Not only can this defer food costs for you, but it will also get you outside to enjoy the beauty in our world without a constant barrage of bad news. (Can you tell I actually need that distraction the most right now! And with 10 degree weather I'm just not getting it)

Now I'm not telling you to go out and start a farm in your yard if you've never grow anything before. Start small. Buy a patio tomato and a pot of basil. If you've done that already find a spot in your yard you can grow some of your favorite herbs. (Herbs being just about the easiest thing you can grow.) Do you have a chain link fence, cover it with peas and beans.

DON'T SPEND A LOT OF MONEY. You don't need to get fancy here. As with any hobby there is the potential to get spendy pretty quickly and that would quickly negate any potential savings to you. Don't do that. If you don't feel like digging get some used containers from someone (trust me, if you know anyone who gardens, they have some plastic pots somewhere they aren't using.) Grow some lettuce. Grow Arugula. Grow something. Try something new. Even if you fail you'll have a greater sense of what the people who produce your food go through.

Learn a new skill. Except for seeds that I direct sow (peas, beans, lettuce, turnip,) I usually buy transplants rather than starting seeds inside. Tomorrow I'm starting Romanesco Broccoli and Onions. I hope to gain the experience to do more in the future. Anything you can do on the road to helping yourself is a bonus and will repay you in much more than the cost of your tomatoes.

If you really want to feel inspired (or intimadated!) head on over to The Little Homestead in The City for the story of a family of 4 who grow 6000lbs of food a year on their 1/10th of an acre city lot! Amazing!